Mar. 1, 2017

March 1, 2017: ASH WEDNESDAY

March 1, 2017: ASH WEDNESDAY

(Fasting & Complete Abstinence to be observed this day)

Let us change our dress for ashes and sackcloth; let us fast and weep in the presence of the Lord; for our God is very merciful to forgive our sins.


Image of a French Holy card published by R. Pannier, Paris, in the late 19th century.
Make a Choice: Eternal Heaven or Eternal Hell
In French, top of the card: “Eternity. You, mortal, who has an immortal soul, study, meditate, ponder over this great word: ETERNITY.” Frame: “Do the good while there is time. Ponder over Death to live well and to die well. Think about death, give up sin, stay out of the world, give yourself up to God. Death is certain, only its hour is uncertain.” Inside the frame: “Prepare for a good death through a good life, for time is short. Today is my turn, tomorrow yours. I have been, you shall be what I am. Pray for the souls in Purgatory. They expect your prayers and the relief of their plight. Make a choice. Eternal Heaven. Eternal Hell.”


The ceremony of putting ashes on the heads of the faithful on this day is a relic of the ancient discipline of the Church, which, at the beginning of Lent, subjected public and scandalous sinners to a public and canonical penance. The priests, having first received their confessions, put on them sackcloth, laid ashes on their heads, sprinkled them with holy water, and recited aloud over them the Seven Penitential Psalms, assisted therein by all the Clergy prostrate on the ground. After the procession, in which they walked bare-foot in the penitential dress above described, they were dismissed the Church, not to be re-admitted to assist at the sacred mysteries, till Maundy-Thursday. The Church doors were shut, and the Mass of the faithful began.

Though public penances are not so frequent as they formerly were, the Council of Trent expressly orders them for public crimes. And the directions given in the Roman Ritual, de Sacram. Pænit. are: “Let not the Priest absolve those who have given public scandal, till they have made public satisfaction, and removed sandal.”

We are therefore to perform this holy ceremony with a humble and contrite soul, with a firm resolution of entering upon penitential practices in order to punish our sins, and to satisfy for them in a manner that may bear some proportion to the enormity of our offences.

Prayer (Collect)

Grant, O Lord, that thy faithful may enter on this solemn fast with suitable piety, and go thro’ it with unmolested devotion. Thro’ Christ our Lord. Amen.


For meditation during the holy Season of Lent, read The Meditations for Lent from St. Thomas Aquinas

Remember not, O Lord, our past offenses;
let thy mercy soon overtake us,
for we are reduced to the greatest misery.