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Diocese of Venice Bishop Explains Ash Wednesday and Lent

Jennifer Balaska
Ashes imposed on the forehead of a Catholic on Ash Wednesday.

Tomorrow is Ash Wednesday, the first day of Lent in the Roman Catholic faith.
WGCU's Rachel Iacovone spoke with Diocese of Venice Bishop Frank Dewane today about what it all means heading into this season of Lent.

Iacovone: People are going to see Catholics in their community tomorrow maybe with the ashes on their forehead. Can you explain that?

Dewane: Right. Ashes are placed on the forehead, and there's a couple different phrases that can be said. They're placed in the sign of the cross, and we talk about the fact, remember, thou art dust and unto dust thou shalt return, about the body when it dies, but we believe there is an eternal life, and the idea of, after death, resurrection. But, you're absolutely right. Tomorrow, those ashes are placed on a forehead, and hopefully, people leave them there and go through the day with that as a sign of who they are. Ash Wednesday is beginning of that Lenten season, those 40 days, and it really typically commemorates the 40 days that Jesus spent in the desert before he began his public ministry. So, it symbolizes a time of sacrifice where we, in a sense, look toward the Easter celebration of the suffering, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Iacovone: So, a lot of people who might not be familiar with Lent probably have heard about how Catholics give something up for Lent, how they eat fish on Fridays. So, can you tell me a little bit about some of the cultural aspects to actually practicing Lent?

Dewane: There's three principal parts that we look toward, and that's prayer, fasting and almsgiving. Don't  just think about what you're going to give up. But, think about what you're going to do, and that doing might be prayer. That doing might be somebody stepping out of their comfort zone and maybe helping out at a soup kitchen or a food pantry or something that they haven't done in terms of sacrifice. The other is fasting, and you kind of mentioned that. For example, tomorrow, Catholics won't eat meat. And, on the Fridays throughout, we won't eat meat. But, tomorrow, on Ash Wednesday, and also on Good Friday – that is the Friday before Easter Sunday – we abstain. That is two very small meals in the course of the day and one kind of normal meal, kind of just cutting down as a real demonstration of one's sacrifice.