A young mother and her daughters were on hand at Corpus Christi Parish March 5 to receive blessed ashes.
A young mother and her daughters were on hand at Corpus Christi Parish March 5 to receive blessed ashes.

It’s not a holy day of obligation, but Catholics showed up in droves on Ash Wednesday to be marked with blessed ashes.

At. St. Matthew Parish, Fr. Ray Ritari told schoolchildren and adults gathered March 5 that Lent was a time to think and move in a different way. Referring to a documentary on the devastation of the Dust Bowl during the 1930s, he said Lent is a time of self-reflection and penance to “ensure that we don’t have a spiritual disaster in our lives.”

At St. Timothy Parish, Fr. John Greb preached to a packed church that Lent was the perfect opportunity to go to confession. Reminding them that canon law requires Catholics to confess their sins sacramentally at least once a year, he encouraged them to pray about seeking reconciliation more often.

At the Diocesan Pastoral Center, Fr. Fred Adamson, vicar general and moderator of the Curia, told staff that Lent is a journey.

“It’s not just about giving up something,” Fr. Adamson said. “It’s about coming to realize we are called to share with our brothers and sisters. It gives us a chance to let go of things we cling to.”

During a Mass at Rome’s Basilica of Santa Sabina, Pope Francis noted that Lent is a time that is meant to wake up Christians and help them see that God can give them the strength to change their lives and their surroundings. It’s also a time of conversion.

Conversion starts with recognizing that “we are creatures, that we are not God,” the pope said in his homily at Mass. Too many people today, he said, think they have power and “play at being God the creator.”

During Lent, he said, Christians are called to use the three elements the Gospel recommends for spiritual growth: prayer, fasting and almsgiving.

“In the face of so many wounds that hurt us and could lead to a hardness of heart, we are called to dive into the sea of prayer, which is the sea of the boundless love of God, in order to experience his tenderness,” the pope said.

Catholic News Service contributed to this story.