The month of February is well underway (where did January go?) and that means we’re one month closer to spring, summer, and…dare I say it…to a new Bills season! Well, whatever the future has in store, we’ll face it head on. As the end of the winter season is in sight (but not super close), we can begin planning for spring. Along with looking towards the next calendar season, we also begin planning for the next liturgical season.
Lent begins with Ash Wednesday on February 22nd, so stay tuned for announcements about Masses and other services for the distribution of blessed ashes. Please make use of the collection baskets by the church doors for any old palms you wish to be disposed of properly. These old palms are burned and the ashes are used for Ash Wednesday.
Besides thinking about Ash Wednesday, now is the time to think about a “spiritual game plan” for the Lenten season. How can I draw closer to Christ during these 40 days so that Easter will truly be a day of rejoicing? What prayers and devotions, acts of penance, or charitable deeds will I engage in so as to keep the spirit of Lent? Will I abstain from certain foods this season, or abstain from a hobby or activity that I really enjoy? Will I take up an “electronic fast” and seriously limit my time on my phone, tablet, or other devices? What about a “social media fast?” Now is the time to start asking these questions so that when Ash Wednesday arrives, we are ready to go for the next 40 days.
Here is a brief article explaining why Ash Wednesday is NOT a holy day of obligation. This is from the website Aleteia.org and published on February 27, 2022, by Philip Kosloski.
“Ash Wednesday is well known among Roman Catholics as the official starting day of Lent. Yet, the Church doesn’t recognize it as a holy day of obligation. Why is that?
The primary reason why Ash Wednesday is not a holy day of obligation is because it is a day of fasting, as opposed to a day of feasting. The Catechism of the Catholic Church spells this out in its section on the Sunday obligation, explaining how Sundays and other days of obligation are days of rest, where we commemorate the Paschal mystery. Sunday is the day on which the Paschal mystery is celebrated in light of the apostolic tradition and is to be observed as the foremost holy day of obligation in the universal Church.
On Sundays and other holy days of obligation the faithful are bound to abstain from those labors and business concerns which impede the worship to be rendered to God, the joy which is proper to the Lord’s Day, or the proper relaxation of mind and body (CCC 2177, 2193). This is also clearly indicated in the Code of Canon Law, which lists holy days of obligation under the heading “Feast Days.” It is followed by the head “Days of Penance,” under which “Ash Wednesday” is specifically mentioned. In other words, Ash Wednesday is not a holy day of obligation because it is a day of penance and not a feast day. Furthermore, since Ash Wednesday is a day when we are obliged to fast from food and abstain from meat, it doesn’t fall in line with Sundays, which are days of feasting and resting. A holy day of obligation is meant to be, like Sundays, “another Easter,” when we rest and rejoice in the resurrection of Jesus.
Still, the Church highly recommends that all Catholics attend Mass on Ash Wednesday, as it sets the mood for the remainder of the 40 days, preparing our hearts for the glorious feast of Easter.”
~Fr. Martin Gallagher