Sedona Arizona’s Chapel of the Holy Cross

The chapel of the Holy Cross in Sedona, Arizona is considered one of the seven man-made wonders of the state. Located in an area famous for its surroundings (there have been many movies shot in the area), the chapel is a prominent feature, having won the Award of Honor of the American Institute of Architects, in 1957, only a year after being built. It has been drawing visitors from all over the world ever since.

A trip to the chapel would be the ideal opportunity to breathe new life into one’s faith―the scenery and setting are truly some of the most impressive of any church.

The chapel is built on a spur, 250-feet high, and it features a large stone cross inlaid in the glass side of the building that overlooks the valley below. The chapel was constructed to capture the view of the sunset shining through the valley, and it is complemented by the beautiful, sunshiny weather in the area.

It was built in only 18 months, quite a feat, considering the literally ground-breaking amount of work needed. The total cost of building would be $2.7 million, in today’s terms ($300,000 at the time). The interior is left quite bare and undecorated so as not to detract from the atmosphere of the space around it. The glass side of the chapel is supported by the large stone cross built into it. The chapel is a good example of how some churches can really keep the cross at the center of the overall symbolism of the building.

Mass is not celebrated regularly at the chapel since the local parish is served out of the church in Sedona. The chapel is now intended as a place for private prayer and reflection. It is situated in the Coconino National Forest, at 5,000 ft. above sea level.

Visitors to the chapel should be prepared for a short walk from the lower carpark, but, overall, the climate and access are quite agreeable, with not much humidity. This and the wheel-chair accessibility make the site a majestic destination where young and old can marvel at the scenery and the impressive monument to the Catholic faith.

The chapel has a very interesting history. It was conceived by local architect and artist Marguerite Brunswig Staude. After visiting the Empire State Building, the artist was inspired to create a place of worship that was in touch with modern architecture and design. One of the final wishes of her late mother was that she build a church to spread the word of the Lord and provide a place for Catholics to get closer to God.

Altar and tabernacle in Chapel of the Holy Cross in Sedona Arizona

Originally, the project was to take place with the help of architect Lloyd Wright (son of Frank Lloyd Wright) and be modeled on the Empire State Building in style. However, the advent of the Second World War prevented the project from taking place at either of the two sites originally intended. Budapest, Hungary was the original proposed site, but the war made it impossible, and Los Angeles was an early candidate, but it was hard to get permission from the Archdiocese there (and there were also concerns the Japanese could invade the west coast).

Staude then considered Arizona as an alternative. While visiting the local area, she saw Rx engraved in a stone below where the chapel would be built, which she took as a sign from above (the family’s business was pharmaceuticals). Also, one of the surrounding hill formations resembled the Madonna and Child, while another resembled the Three Wise Men.

Several problems stood in the way of building the chapel. Lloyd Wright withdrew from the project as the project was significantly less grand, in his opinion, than originally conceived. Obtaining a building permit proved difficult, as the state owned the land. The latter problem was resolved with the help of Barry Goldwater, who met with Staude in Washington and was so impressed with the plans that he walked over to the Secretary of the Interior and immediately received the permit.

Chapel of the Holy Cross seen from a distance

More Details

The chapel is located about 10 minutes by car outside Sedona (4 miles), which, itself, is located 30 miles south of Phoenix. Access is free, and there is free parking available, also.

Visitors are welcome every day from 9 a.m.-5 p.m., except Thanksgiving, Good Friday, Easter, and Christmas. Adequate footwear should be worn for the climb to the chapel, as the closer parking lot to the building is reserved for the disabled.

Final Thoughts

The chapel is a prime example of how hard work and dedication to one’s faith can literally move mountains. The symbolism of the surroundings of the church is in tune with nature but, existing in its own right, has had parallels drawn between it and the message of Christ to be peaceful while also standing up for one’s beliefs. It has had a colorful history, especially during its development, but it now remains as a tranquil place of reflection that might be a good place to include on any Catholic’s list of places to visit in the southwest.

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Stations of the cross graphic

Easter is on the horizon and, as I look ahead on my calendar, I am reminded of the history tied in with this beautiful holiday and the prayers it inspires. You may already be very familiar with the Stations of the Cross, but I wanted to take this space to really reflect on Jesus’ walk to His death, the moments He experienced along the way, and the moments of grace we can find in His journey.

Statue of Jesus Christ

You may already have the Stations represented in the nave or main section of your church through pictures or high relief images depicting the different moments. You may have learned about them in bible school or just read about them.

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Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal Parish Church

Medals are an important aspect of Catholic devotion, and it’s worth exploring the topic. Since medals might be a strong and visible point of interest for very young Catholics, knowing the background of the tradition is useful.

The Value in Medals

Wearing of medals has been popular among Catholics in the United States and around the world for a long time, and it has grown more popular in recent times since Pope John-Paul II’s visit in 1979. Medals are an easy way for Catholics to connect with their faith in a discreet way, and one of the more personal aspects of medals is that they can reflect something important to the wearer—maybe you wear a St. Christopher medal if your father was a truck driver or if you were going on a long-haul flight, since he is the patron saint of traveling and transport.

So, with the wide range of medals available, they can be a good way to express yourself through your faith. Exploring the histories of the various patron saints is not only a way to explore the history of the Church, it can also make for very interesting reading!

Il Duomo di Firenze

One of the Oldest Catholic Traditions

Religious medals have been a part of the Catholic tradition for a very long time. In fact, the wearing of medals is thought to have been carried over from pagan times—the Romans of all classes wore amulets personal to their beliefs, which they believed gave them added protection. Jewelry and decoration are common to nearly every creed and religion, so it is no surprise the early Church found medals a useful way to allow the faithful to express their beliefs. The early Church elders were keen, however, to distance the practice from the magic-related pagan beliefs.

This tradition continued, throughout the early years of the Church, andmedals are mentioned in the histories of many saints and in accounts of important historical moments. They are especially associated with baptism, and many pagan kings were given medals as tokens of their baptism. However, the popularity of medals before the Middle Ages was not as strong as afterward.

During the Renaissance and Reformation eras, artistic influence on medals (with some stunning examples created) was one of the reasons for their growth in popularity. This was mainly centered in Italy, where artists such as Antonio Marescotti gave the wearing of medals new life for Popes and clergy. This was bolstered by the giving of medals to pilgrims visiting holy sites.

Modern Times

Miraculous medals are one of the more popular types, and they were designed in the 19th century based on Saint Catherine Labouré’s visions. The Chapel of Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal

in Paris is where the visions occurred. The St. Christopher medals are also very popular, and a French saying for the medals serves as an example of how they can give solace in challenging times (especially for travelers): "Look at St Christopher and go on reassured."

The medals commemorating Papal visits have also been very popular in recent times. As mentioned, Pope John Paul’s visit to America in 1979 spurred interest in the medals here.

Nowadays, there are medals for nearly every saint available, and they can be made from varieties of materials, from low-cost pewter to gold and silver. Miraculous medals are especially popular in countries like Ireland, where they are particularly associated with the Society of St. Vincent de Paul, which is, in fact, the largest charity in that country.

In many places, they are also strongly associated with sacraments and life events, in particular during confirmation.

It is wrongly believed by some that the Church frowns on the devotional practice of medals. This is not the case, and expressions of faith are encouraged if done correctly. Medals also serve as a useful way to open dialogue with other faiths about Catholic teachings.

Saint Faustina Medal with a high relief image of this Patron Saint of Divine Mercy

How Medals Fit with Catholic Belief

As with all practices and traditions, it is important to remember the act of taking part in a practice or wearing a medal is intended to bring us closer to God and help us explore our faith. It is not the act or the possession that we benefit from—instead, it is what theact or possession represents that is important.

This can be a refreshing reminder for some Catholics who can, at times, be intimidated by the examples ofdevotion of other Catholics, since focusing on one’s own relationship with God and not on external tokens of belief can really take the pressure off. Wearing medals can be an even more powerful way to express your belief. They can also bring a personal touch to your devotion.

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Our mission at Discount Catholic Products is to provide the prayer tools that help people grow closer to God. Granted, we have a vast array of items on our site, but there is a core 5 categories that I think are the most important for those who are looking to deepen their faith.

So whether you are looking for yourself or to help a friend along their own faith journey, here is our list of the 5 items every Catholic should have. But remember – the tools only work when they get used.

1. Bible – The Church encourages us to read the Bible as part of our daily prayer lives. Whether you use your bible to practice lectio divina or simply to become more familiar with the text, having and knowing your bible is important to growing your spiritual life.

2. Scapular – “Whosoever dies in this garment shall not suffer eternal fire” – the promise of Our Lady to St. Simon Stock regarding the Brown Scapular. Wearing a scapular is a prayer in itself. It is a way to show your surrender to the protection of Mary. Any Catholic can be enrolled in the brown scapular, the most common of scapulars, by a priest. Children often receive their first scapular with their First Communion.

Wearing a scapular is certainly a test of your faith and devotion when it become inconvenient or unfashionable to wear. It’s not a commitment to be taken lightly, but the promise it bears far outweighs the temporary uncomfortable moments found in our daily lives.

3. Rosary – Mary promises great graces to those who pray the rosary. By meditating on each mystery, we give Mary the opportunity to turn our eyes to her Son. We see Jesus through her eyes.

4. Crucifix – Having a crucifix displayed in your home is an indication of how your family places Christ above all else. It is a statement that you each first belong to Him, and a way to remind yourself of that very same thing.

5. Holy Water Vessel – Whether kept in your pocket, purse, car, or home, having access to holy water is important. Holy water can heal the sick, evoke graces and banish demons. You can use holy water to bless any space including your home, work and vehicle.

 

May the eyes of your hearts be enlightened, that you may know what is the hope that belongs to his call, what are the riches of glory in his inheritance among the holy ones – Ephesians 1:18

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Have you selected what to give up for Lent yet? I made my decision during Mass on Sunday, and as you can tell from the title – I’m giving up worrying for Lent. God asked me to trust Him in this week’s Gospel, and I want to give Him just that – my full trust.

The catch is that trust in Him means that I have nothing to worry about. We’ll see if I am able to keep my end of the bargain.

So in preparation for Ash Wednesday and the beginning of Lent, I need to prepare myself for the task ahead. I need a few tools to help me on this quest.

Here’s what I came up with. Please feel free to add your own in the comments section below.
1. Attend Adoration
Eucharistic Adoration can clean a whole lot of gunk out of your brain. Start by finding a way to focus by using a prayer or scripture reading. Allow yourself time to just sit and be still and listed to what God has to say.
2. Tell God about it
Empty yourself of your worrying thoughts by bringing them all to God and laying them open before Him. Hold nothing back. Tell Him everything no matter how trivial you may think it is. Use God as a sounding board. You may be surprised at what conclusions the two of you come up with.
3. Don’t try to force it out
It won’t end well. You could get caught in an ugly cycle of worrying about worrying. Give yourself enough slack to recognize that cold turkey isn’t the best way to stop worrying.
4. Exercise-Run the rosary
Nothing silences the voices in my head like exercise. That may be because I loathe exercise. I really do. I have to constantly talk myself into doing the next rep and concentrate on form. There’s no space in my brain for anything other than getting to the end of a workout. This may also be a good time to start Running the Rosary.
5. Get perspective
We have a wonderful place called The Banquet here in Sioux Falls where we can go serve meals to anyone who is searching for food or fellowship. An evening there certainly puts my worries in perspective. I know my children have a safe place to sleep and food to fill their bellies. It doesn’t mean my worries are any less worthy, but it sure sorts out the ones that are completely unnecessary.
6. Be grateful
This is really an extension of #5. All those little things we take for granted like the blanket keeping my feet warm, hot showers, and a beautiful sunset – when is the last time I took a minute to thank God for those things? What about the people who surround you like the room mom who helped organize the Valentine Party when you forgot the treats, or the priest who prayed made time for you when you needed help putting life in perspective? The list of things we should be grateful for is inexhaustible.
Forty days. Lent is 40 days and this exercise in trusting the Lord will hopefully make me a better Catholic. What are your thoughts on what to give up for Lent?

My soul rests in God alone, from whom comes my salvation. God alone is my rock and salvation, my fortress; I shall never fall.
Psalm 62:2-3

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Last week I wrote about St. Alphonsus’s “How to Converse with God”. Many of you have that book in hand by now. Have you started reading it?

I’ve had an edge of excitement for the last two weeks since I read it. This feeling is ever-present. In trying to name the source I wrote in my notebook “A deep relationship with God can change your life.” But I don’t think those words mean what I initially thought they meant.

Usually the words “change your life” invoke an idea of material difference – position, home, surroundings. We pick out the things in life we don’t like – our job, physique, financial situation — and imagine those as “changed”.

But in reality, even if all of that stuff were to remain the same and the only difference was a vastly deeper relationship with God, our lives would be different because of how it changed our hearts.

I’m a day dreamer. I like to envision my future. But I can’t tell you the last time God had any place in those day dreams. I can tell you what my ideal vegetable garden would look like, or beach vacation, but I’ve never taken the time to daydream about the most important relationship of my life.

So that’s my challenge for myself in these coming weeks: To use what I learned from How to Converse with God, make Him a part of my day dream and everyday inner monologue.

Thoughts?

A good person out of the store of goodness in his heart produces good, but an evil person out of a store of evil produces evil; for from the fullness of the heart the mouth speaks. Luke 6:45

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I’m a “follow-the-directions” type of gal. I’m a master at Ikea furniture and complicated Lego mechanisms if you give me the instructions. I like knowing the end result ahead of time and having a clear path to that goal. Put the words “How to” in the title of a book, and I’ll read it. Even if it’s something obscure that I know I’ll never do – like “How to Build Your Own Apple Press”, I want to read it.

Maybe this harkens back to my days watching Mr. Rogers’ Picture Picture videos about how to make things like candles, crayons and violins.

So when I came across St. Alphonsus Liguori’s work “How to Converse with God,” I was all over it. The book is small enough to carry with me – it can fit in a jeans pocket, but intricate enough to read over and over again.

The basis of St. Alphonsus’ book is confidence and love. It is simple, so why don’t we do it? It’s one of those habits that take time to build. But this one is majestic in its outcome and a pleasure to practice.

Below is my own summary of only a few of the wonderful parts of this book. Do not treat this list as if it were complete. The depth and breadth of the contents of this small book stand in stark contrast the petite size.

  • God loves you with the greatest love possible, and wants to be the greatest love of your life.
  • God wants you to talk to Him with confidence, because that means you trust him. To lack confidence when speaking to Him shows there is a lack of complete, confident love.
  • If you want to spend eternity with God, start now by speaking with Him as you would your closest friend – don’t be timid or cower.
  • “God is not wont to speak to a soul that does not speak to Him.” Speak to Him all the time. That inner monolog you have throughout the day can easily be turned towards addressing Him.
  • These conversations with God are not tedious or restrained. Talk about what you want to talk about. Tell Him your plans, griefs, worries, fears and hopes.
  • You will find peace by putting your confidence in God and conversing with Him regularly.
  • Beg His pardon when you sin.

Truly, I want to emphasize to you the importance of St. Alphonsus’ message in that God does not want us to talk to him with a fear so great that we cannot treat him like an intimate friend. Confidence is key.

Learn more than I can convey by reading and studying the book How to Converse with God.

And if you can’t muster the confidence, then fake it ‘til you make it.

So let us confidently approach the throne of grace to receive mercy and to find grace for timely help. (Hebrews 4:16)

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Saint Valentine is easily one of the most famous, and most misunderstood, saints within the canon of Roman Catholic priests. It’s possible he was more than one person whose stories were put together, or he may have simply moved around and let his legend follow him. Whatever the case, the story is endlessly inspiring, and Saint Valentine is worthy of a prayer and devotion this February.

Prayer to St. Valentine Card

Why Do We Celebrate Valentine’s Day?

So, why do we celebrate this odd moment in February? No one knows for sure, and there are several accounts. However, according to the legend, Saint Valentine was a priest around 280 A.D. He served under Emperor Claudius II and was a staunch Christian during a time when believers were persecuted.

However, Valentine persevered and spoke to anyone who would listen about his faith. In the meantime, Claudius needed soldiers and had a theory: if young men were single, they would fight more valiantly and be willing to die more than married men. Therefore, Claudius decided to pass an edict that no young people could marry, and he worked to bring young men into his army.

Despite Claudius’ ruling, Valentine felt that any young couple ready to take their vows should have access to a Christian wedding. He began marrying couples in secret in the Christian church. Keep in mind, this was a time when the old pagan faiths were the dominant belief system. Many people were polygamous but were drawn to the idea of being in a more simplified, monogamous couple. Many of them came to see Valentine and ask for his help to convert and, consequently, keep the young male off the battlefield.

The priest was eventually caught and jailed by the Emperor and locked up in jail for a time. His jailer, or so the story goes, had a blind daughter that Valentine grew very fond of, and the two became good friends. The jailer was dismissive of their relationship and Valentine’s faith, and, one day, he challenged Valentine to restore his daughter’s sight if his god was so powerful.

There are several versions of what happened next; some claim that Valentine prayed with his hands over the girl’s eyes and restored her vision while her father watched. Others claim the girl found she could see again after Valentine’s death. However the miracle happened, it inspired the girl and her father to become Catholics themselves.

Painting of St. Valentine

The priest Valentine was tortured throughout his stay in prison and, on February 14th, was killed and beheaded at the hands of Emperor Claudius. The day he died he wrote a letter to the jailer’s daughter and signed it “Your Valentine.” He was canonized by Pope Gelasius I in 496, and the day of his death was marked as a feast day that became associated with romantic love.

More than anything, the story of Saint Valentine is a reminder that true faith sometimes means a Catholic must be willing to break laws or even lay down their lives to stay true to what they believe. He is also there to remind us that our love, sexuality, and marriages are sacred and blessed by God, but they forever have the shadow of the cross over them and come with very real responsibilities.

Saint Valentine's Day Devotion and Prayer

Saint Valentine is deserving of prayer. Here are some devotional words to offer up this February.

Saint Valentine taught those around him how to devote their love to one another and to our heavenly father. He defied the powerful men around him in the name of the Lord our God and helped young lovers marry and express their love in the purest form possible. He died for his faith so that we might devote ourselves to those we love now, in life and without fear of persecution.

Young woman praying

Let us pray:

Oh glorious protector Saint Valentine,

Defender of marriage and true believers,

Defier of pagans and idols, I offer this prayer to you.

Help me in my marriage and in my daily battle to keep my faith,

Help me to defy doubts and forget my fears,

Help me devote my life to the Lord as you devoted yours.

Saint Valentine, I ask you to bless me in my time of need.

I will devote the 14th of February to you and hold your name in my heart.

Please help me see the truth and the way and the light.

Just as you fought for the young people who needed your guidance, draw your sword for me, carve a path for me. Forgive me for the sin of temptation and help me to leave temptation behind.

One Our Father

One Hail Mary

One Glory Be

Final Thoughts

May your February be a time of joy and celebration for the loves in your life. Remember those who fought for your freedom to love and be with the person you choose, and be sure to offer up your thanks this Valentine’s Day.

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Baptism of St. Augustine stained glass window

What Is the Cathedral Basilica?

The Cathedral Basilica of St Augustine is the oldest Catholic Church in St Augustine, Florida, as well as the seat of the Bishop of the Diocese of St. Augustine. Looking at the cathedral walls, a visitor will see adornments reminiscent of the old New World and Spain’s expansion into Florida and the Caribbean: exquisite stained glass windows and murals depicting the city’s rich history of Catholic expansion and French-British-Spanish conflict. Prominently featured is Saint Augustine of Hippo, a popular saint for whom the city was named.

For 450 years, worshipers of St. Augustine and travelers have gathered each Sunday to praise the Lord in this congregation.

Its History

Painting in basilica of St Augustine

This cathedral serves one of the oldest Catholic congregations in America. The Catholic congregation of St. Augustine was originally established in 1565, with the arrival of Don Pedro Menendez de Aviles and his four accompanying priests. St. Augustine’s first mass, as depicted above, took place on the following September 8th, the day of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

The original cathedral constructed in 1565 was a humble wooden structure, which had to repeatedly be rebuilt due to destruction from enemies and natural forces. In 1786, King Felipe V ordered that a new cathedral should be built. This Cathedral Basilica is designed in the Spanish mission and Neoclassical styles of the 18th century, featuring arched corridors, buttresses, terraced bell towers, wide eaves, and low, sloping tile roofs.

Construction of the Cathedral Basilica started on December 8th, 1786 and ended in 1797. Significantly, December 8th is the Feast Day of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary. On December 8th of 1797, the cathedral was dedicated to this day. In celebration, Father Miguel O’Reilly (an Irish priest) led a procession of parishioners from St. Augustine’s Catholic parish’s bishop’s rectory to the new cathedral, carrying the Blessed Sacrament.

The Cathedral as a Minor Basilica

Technically, a basilica is a cathedral of elevated status to the Catholic Church. The Cathedral Basilica of St. Augustine was not immediately given this status. It was not until December 4th, 1976 that Pope Paul VI deemed St. Augustine’s cathedral to be a “minor basilica.” In order for a cathedral to be elevated to a minor basilica, four conditions must be met:

1) The church must have stood out as a center for active liturgy and have been dedicated to God in a liturgical rite.

2) The cathedral should be sufficiently large, including a spacious sanctuary, so that further religious celebrations can be carried out exemplarily.

3) The church must have a historical renown because it was dedicated to God in a particular historical or religious fashion, significant relics of saints are present in it, or a sacred image is venerated especially.

4) Religious celebrations throughout the liturgical year are performed in a praiseworthy manner.

The cathedral stood for 200 years before the Catholic Church formally recognized its surpassing of the above requirements.

The Beacon of Faith

Crucifix in Catholic Church

You may have seen the image of The Beacon of Faith in popular Christian media, but have not known where in the world it was or what it signified. It is the towering, 208-foot, 70-ton steel cross free-standing on the grounds of the Mission Nombre de Dios, where Menendez and his priests landed on in 1565. Although not directly at the basilica’s location, this Great Cross is a celebration of St. Augustine’s long history of Catholic praise.

Miraculously, St. Augustine has not been devastated by a major hurricane since the Great Cross was erected.

Marker of Catholic Heritage

Located in the Cathedral Basilica’s narthex is the Catholic Heritage of Florida Plaque, erected in 1999 by the International Order of Alhambra, noting how the Franciscan missionaries spread their Catholic faith throughout the region:

“LONG BEFORE THE AMERICAN REVOLUTION, CATHOLIC

MISSIONARIES FOUNDED MORE THAN A HUNDRED MISSIONS

IN WHAT IS NOW THE STATE OF FLORIDA WHERE AT

LEAST TEN MISSIONARIES BECAME MARTYRS FOR THE FAITH.

THOUGH DOMINICANS AND JESUITS WERE ALSO INVOLVED IN

PLANTING THE SEEDS OF RELIGION AND CULTURE IN FLORIDA,

THE FRANCISCANS WERE EXCEPTIONAL BECAUSE THEY SPREAD

OUT FROM THE ST. AUGUSTINE MISSION TO ESTABLISH MOST

OF THESE MISSIONS. RECOGNIZING THIS, WE HAVE ERECTED

THIS PLAQUE AND PROCLAIMED THIS CATHEDRAL–BASILICA

OF THE DIOCESE, WITHIN WHICH MANY OF THESE MISSIONS

EXISTED, A NATIONAL CATHOLIC HISTORICAL SITE.”

The Franciscans of St. Augustine were notable in traveling and spreading Catholicism to the indigenous peoples of southeastern America and the Caribbean.

Today and Now

The Cathedral Basilica of Saint Augustine is a stately edifice, with a grandeur all the public may enjoy. If you ever find yourself in the St. Augustine, Florida area, do make the pilgrimage to see “The First Parish” and appreciate its centuries-old beauty.

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“Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return.”

Every Catholic is familiar with this phrase. It acts as a reminder of who we are, where we came from, and why we are here. Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of Lent. For Catholics, it is the beginning of a period of reflection, modesty, and prayer. A number of enduring practices and traditions make Ash Wednesday a particularly symbolic and important date on the liturgical calendar.

Symbolism and Practice

Palm Crosses on Palm Sunday

The ashes are a sign of penance and a symbol of the dust from which God made us. The tradition of wearing ashes comes from centuries-old Jewish traditions stemming from occasions of fasting and repentance. The ashes themselves are the burned remains of palm branches from the previous Palm Sunday.

Generally, everyone is welcome to receive ashes during the Mass, even non-practicing Catholics and those who follow other faiths. Because of Ash Wednesday’s focus on renewal and preparation, it can make for a particularly powerful time to invite newcomers to the faith, as well as welcome home those who no longer practice the faith.

Fasting

As Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of the Lenten season, it also begins a period of fasting and abstinence. Barring a serious health condition, Catholics between the ages of 18 and 59 are encouraged to fast on Ash Wednesday by refraining from eating meat, including poultry. Catholics are permitted one meal on Ash Wednesday, and two smaller helpings of food that are not equal to the larger meal of the day.

Fasting continues for each Friday throughout the Lenten season. Many Catholics follow additional fasting practices by refraining from eating completely on Ash Wednesday or only permitting themselves to eat bread or water.

Prayer

Rosary Beads

Many Catholics choose to refrain from partaking in an action or eating a particular food for Lent. Kids might choose to avoid eating candy or chocolate starting on Ash Wednesday and lasting throughout the Lenten season. However, it can be far more spiritually fulfilling to add to your life, rather than subtract.

Ash Wednesday and Lent offer an opportunity to rethink your prayer life. Rather than give up chocolate, you can make a vow to pray more during the day and choose to say a full rosary each day. Use your rosary beads and choose to say a full rosary each day.

If you find yourself too busy, spread it out throughout the day, starting by saying one decade of the rosary when you wake up in the morning. By making a commitment to prayer, you can use the season of Lent to grow closer to God.

Changes at Mass

Ash Wednesday brings several notable changes to our regular Sunday masses. Beginning with Ash Wednesday and lasting through Lent, the Alleluia and the Gloria are omitted. These joyous songs return on Easter to proclaim the Resurrection. Many parishes also insert Latin phrases and hymns during Lent. This is also true of the Greek phrasing of the Kyrie. Lent is meant to be a solemn time of reflection and our mass changes to reflect this.

Reconciliation

Centuries ago, the day before Ash Wednesday was a mandatory day of penance and reconciliation. Today, many parishes offer additional reconciliation services during Lent. It is common to find community reconciliation services where parishes have several priests available to hear confessions, and a short mass is held.

This is an ideal time to grow closer together, perhaps with friends or family, by attending confession together. It may also be a good time for those with reconciliation anxiety to make it to church. Confession is required at least once a year for every Catholic.

Scheduling

Ash Wednesday is observed 46 days prior to Easter Sunday. The 40-day period of Lent is a reminder of Jesus’ 40 days in the desert. Sundays are not counted in the 40-day tally. The scheduling of Easter, and, by extension, Lent, is something that is confusing to many people.

Easter is observed on the Sunday that follows the first full moon on or after the vernal equinox. Because of this, the date of Easter changes year-to-year, which is why Ash Wednesday is also not observed on a fixed date. Ash Wednesday is not recognized as a Holy Day of Obligation.

Ashes on Ash Wednesday

However, Ash Wednesday begins our journey to Easter, a season of joy and renewal. To prepare us, Ash Wednesday and Lent serve as a period of reflection, prayer, and sacrifice. The traditions and customs of Ash Wednesday have endured over several centuries. Utilize this time to increase your devotion to prayer and grow your faith. You will get out what you put in, so focus on making Ash Wednesday a day of solemn reflection.

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