Make use of Lenten time of reflection

Published 12:00 am Saturday, March 8, 2014

A black cross or smudge on the forehead the day after Mardi Gras is no accident or dirt left over from Carnival revelry. Instead, known as primarily a Roman Catholic tradition, getting ashes on Ash Wednesday is a mark of faith for many.

Long known as a sign of piety in the Catholic faith, the ashes are derived from the burned palms of the previous year’s Palm Sunday. Those little sprigs given out in remembrance of Jesus’ entrance into Jerusalem are burned the following year to make the ashes distributed on Ash Wednesday, the official beginning of Lent.

In the Catholic faith, Lent is the 40-day period prior to Easter in remembrance of Jesus’ 40 days in the desert. It is 40 days not counting Sundays between Ash Wednesday and Holy Thursday, the beginning of the Triduum, the three days of Easter. It is customary for Catholics to give something up during this 40-day period.

The most popular sacrifices are timeless: giving up smoking, a particular food such as chocolate or perhaps coffee or soda. It has been traditionally a great time to restart those pesky New Year’s resolutions to diet or quit an unhealthy habit.

Lent is a religious community celebration as much as it is a season of somber prayers. Since Fridays during Lent are a day of abstinence from meat for Catholics and others, many churches offer Friday night

fish frys and use this as an opportunity to increase fellowship among parishioners by offering a low-cost seafood meal.

And mostly, while it is very easy to get caught up in one’s job, social life, family, gadgets and whatever else consumes the modern citizen to the point of forgetting one’s true nature, this Lenten season should be a time for personal reflection for all.