Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of Lent, a period of spiritual renewal which helps us prepare for the celebration of the paschal mystery of Christ, his Passion, death and resurrection.
The ashes we receive on our foreheads on Ash Wednesday are both a reminder of our earthly mortality and a call to repentance.
Ash Wednesday is a day of fasting and a day of abstinence from meat. Fasting applies to Catholics between the ages of 18 and 60 and means you should only eat one full meal and two smaller meals if needed. All Catholics age 14 and above should abstain from eating meat on the day.
Ash Wednesday is not a holy day of obligation, but Catholics are encouraged to attend Mass to begin their Lenten journey. A listing of Mass times organized by parish can be found here. A listing of Mass times by city/town can be found here.
A special collection taken up in all churches on Ash Wednesday will jointly benefit the Church in Central and Eastern Europe and the Solidarity Fund for Africa. The collection supports pastoral, educational and construction projects in Central and Eastern Europe and Central Asia that were formerly under Soviet control. It also supports projects that benefit family life, women, and children in Africa.