U.P. residents observe Ash Wednesday

Christians around the world held mass to observe Ash Wednesday.

A majority of the over 40,000 Catholics in the Upper Peninsula joined billions of others worldwide who took part in this important day.

Ash Wednesday is traditionally the beginning of the Lenten Season.  It’s a time of quiet reflection that begins preparations for the celebration of the passion and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Ashes of burned palms from the previous year’s Palm Sunday are used to mark the foreheads of those attending Ash Wednesday mass.

“So the burning of the ashes symbolizes for us the end of our lives,”Reverend Father Ben J. Paris, Pastor of St. Louis the King Catholic Church in Harvey said, “and then, you know, we must remember that we began as dust and we return as dust, and so, that’s what the symbolism of the ash is.  So, it’s very pertinent to use that during the Lenten season, in this time of reconciliation and seeking mercy of the Lord, because it reminds us of the end times, that we are going to return to the Lord.”

Lent is both a penitential time and a time of hope, reflection, and reconciliation.  It is also a time where believers are encouraged to return to their faith.

“I would encourage people to come back to the Lord. Return with your whole heart, as we heard in the scriptures today,” Paris said. “Return and be with the Lord, because now is the acceptable time. Now is the day of salvation for all of us.”

The celebration of Lent continues until the Thursday before Easter.

Its approximate length of forty days is representative of the time that Jesus spent fasting in the desert according to the gospels.