Ash Wednesday marks the start of Lent for Christians

Published 6:16 am Saturday, February 21, 2004

By By JAMES COLLINS / Niles Daily Star
NILES -- Lent is right around the corner and with that comes preparation for one of the most important religious holidays, Easter Sunday.
Reverend Canon Marian Kencik, of St. Mary's Catholic Church in Niles, referred to Easter as the biggest of all church holidays for the Catholic religion.
Kencik said the significance of Lent is that it is a time for turning our lives more completely over to Christ.
The Lenten season encompasses the 40 days leading up to Easter and is also celebrated by the Lutheran Church.
Reverend Carl Bassett, Senior Pastor at St. Paul's Lutheran Church in Niles, said Lent is "a time of reflection and a time of returning to the Lord."
Along with Christmas, Bassett said Easter is one of the high festivals of the church year.
For many Catholics, the first thought that Lent brings to mind is making a sacrifice and giving something up for the duration of the 40 days.
Kencik said the sacrifices serve as preparation for Easter and can include giving up things such as smoking, drinking and bad eating practices.
He said sacrifices for some can also mean performing charitable actions, attending daily masses, extra prayers and devotion.
It is also Catholic tradition to abstain from eating all meats on Fridays during Lent. This action reminds them of the fasting that Jesus endured in the desert for 40 days.
Rev. Bassett explained while Lutherans can make sacrifices if they choose to do so, it is not something that they believe is mandatory.
St. Mary's will begin the Lenten season next week with Ash Wednesday services at 8 a.m, 12:10 p.m. and 7 p.m.
Kencik explained the significance of the distribution of the ashes to Catholics.
St. Paul's Lutheran Church will be holding their Ash Wednesday service at 7 p.m.
Unlike the Catholic Church, Bassett said St. Paul's will not be distributing ashes. He said the focus of the service will be to stress the need for repentance.
St. Paul's will be providing special Lenten services every Wednesday evening at 7 p.m. until March 31.
St. Mary's will be offering a Stations of the Cross devotion every Friday at 7 p.m. during Lent.
Kencik said this involves the 14 pictures which commemorate the passion and death of Christ. The service is primarily a meditation of his suffering at each station.
St. Mary's will also be offering confessions every Saturday during Lent with a special service for penance on Palm Sunday (April 3) with 15 area priests available to accommodate a large number of people for their individual confessions.
Kencik said the journey through these 40 days should bring us closer to Christ and to the way of life he has exemplified for us.