Bishop Robert Deeley celebrates Ash Wednesday Mass, marking the start of Lent

Bishop Robert Deeley celebrated Ash Wednesday Mass at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Portland, marking the start of Lent, a season of repentance.

On Ash Wednesday, Christians around the world receive ashes on their foreheads, as the priest says either the words “repent and believe in the Gospel” or “remember that you are dust and unto dust you shall return.” 

The bishop said while that may seem gloomy, it is, in fact, good news because it is a reminder of God’s love for us.

“The ashes are a reminder of where we come from. Today, they will recall for us how it is that we got from being dust or ashes to being a vibrant human being. It is God who has created us and cares for us. Ash Wednesday, then, becomes a powerful reminder of who we are and who has called us into being,” the bishop said.

Because the ashes are a reminder of God’s love for us, the bishop said having Ash Wednesday fall on Valentine’s Day this year is actually fitting, even though Ash Wednesday is traditionally thought of as a somber day.

“Valentine’s Day is love, and the source of all love is God, whose very name we are told by Jesus, is love. Ash Wednesday, as we begin the season of Lent, is really about reminding ourselves of that love which gives rise to all love, the love God has for each of us. God’s love is not chocolates or jewelry. It tells us we are valued. It is salvation. It is eternal,” the bishop said.

The bishop said that Lent is a call to renew ourselves in God’s love, understanding that we sometimes fail to follow the example that Jesus has set for us. He said that is why during Lent we are called to prayer so that “we will understand what God wants of us,” to fasting so that “we will become more awareness of our dependence on God” and “his goodness to us,” and to almsgiving.

“Lent, no more than life, is not just about me and God. True repentance reminds us that God, in Jesus, has shown us how we are to live with one another. We are called to love one another. We do that by rooting out of our lives those things that threaten the peace of the community: jealousy and envy, anger and bitterness toward others, selfishness and an inordinate concern with my opinion or my needs, cruelty and false judgment. As we do that, we will also come to know that we are called to care for the other. We will see ourselves as called to share ourselves and the fruit of the penance we do by giving to other.”

During the Mass, the bishop blessed paper rice bowls, which parishioners were then invited to take with them to participate in the Catholic Relief Services Rice Bowl program. CRS Rice Bowl seeks to connect the global community and to support the worldwide work of Catholic Relief Services, which is the official international humanitarian agency of the Catholic Church in the United States.

Blessing of the ashes by Bishop Robert Deeley
Blessing of the ashes by Bishop Robert Deeley
Bishop Deeley anoints the forehead of Father Griesbach with ashes.
Father Seamus Griesbach places ashes on the forehead of Bishop Robert Deeley.
Bishop Deeley marks the forehead of a woman with ashes.
Bishop Deeley marks the forehead of a man with ashes.
People line up to receive ashes.
Father Augustine Kifon marks the forehead of a man with ashes.
Blessing of the Rice Bowls
Liturgy of the Eucharist celebrated by Bishop Deeley.