Ash Wednesday and the distribution of Ashes
On Ash Wednesday, February 17, Mother Church invites us to mark the beginning of Lent with Holy Mass, and receive ashes as a sign of humility and penitence. At Saint Peter's, we will celebrate Masses at 8:30 AM, 12:00 Noon, and 5:30 PM (all in English) and 7:30 PM (in Spanish).
While the substance of the call to Lenten observance remains unchanged, you will see some changes in the way we carry out the liturgy this Ash Wednesday in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. In ordinary times, ministers distributing ashes would call each individual recipient to "Repent and believe in the Gospel" or "Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return." This year, Father Linsky will address those words to the entire assembly at once prior to distribution of ashes, rather than speaking to each individual recipient as they come forward.
In some parishes, the manner in which ashes are distributed is changing, based on the presiding minister's preference. The American tradition of using blessed ashes to trace a cross on the forehead of an individual may be maintained with due caution. The Congregation for Divine Worship has also drawn attention to an option for contactless distribution (sprinkling on the crown of the head) commonly used in Rome and other countries every year. Father Linsky, after consulting with the Bishop and priests of the Diocese, will maintain the traditional means of distributing Ashes by marking each individual's forehead. As reception of Ashes is not obligatory, those uncomfortable with this means of reception are not compelled to come forward to receive.
No matter whether you receive, or in what manner you receive, our prayer remains the same: "that we, who acknowledge we are but ashes and shall return to dust, may, through a steadfast observance of Lent, gain pardon for sins and newness of life after the likeness of your Risen Son."