A Day of Prayer and Penitence

BRIDGEPORT—Thousands throughout the diocese are receiving ashes today in their parishes and in public spaces as they seek to begin the Lenten season in an atmosphere of humility, reverence and personal conversion.

“Ashes on the Bus,” the well received outreach of St. Matthew Parish in Norwalk, is once again on the road distributing ashes in a wide variety of locations including Norwalk Community College, Briggs Tire, Stamford Lincoln Ford, and St. John Cemetery among other stops.

“Today is a working day,” said Fr. Tomi Thomas, Parochial Vicar of St. Matthew Parish. “Many people aren’t able to come to church even if they want to. This is our way of letting them know how much we love them and how much we appreciate their faith.”

“Dust you are and dust you shall return” are the words that priests throughout the diocese intone as they make the sign of the cross in ashes on the foreheads of the faithful. The ashes are made from the blessed burnt palms that were used in last year’s Palm Sunday observance.

Ash Wednesday takes place 46 days before Easter Sunday, and is chiefly observed by Catholics, although many other Christian denominations observe it too. It derives from the ancient Jewish tradition of penance and fasting.. The ashes symbolize the dust from which God made men and women. They also symbolize grief, in this case, grief that we have sinned and caused division from God.

Ash Wednesday at St. Steven, Trumbull
Photos by Michelle Babyak

“The beginning of Lent is a penitential time for each of us to prepare for the celebration of the Lord’s Paschal Mystery- His Suffering, Death and Resurrection.

For the next 40 days, we will walk together, examine our conscience, face our faults and sins, turn to the Lord for His grace, seek conversion of mind and heart and be renewed in spirit,” said Bishop Frank J. Caggiano.

“It is a privileged time that we should not squander or take for granted. This is the time for us to follow the Lenten disciplines of the Church so that we can grow in faith, hope and love,” the bishop said.

All those interested in receiving ashes today should check with their local parishes for further information.

Ash Wednesday Van at St. Matthew
Photos by Amy Mortensen