Catholic Culture Resources
Catholic Culture Resources
Move to: Previous Day | Next Day

Lent: February 17th

Ash Wednesday


February 17, 2021 (Readings on USCCB website)


Grant, O Lord, that we may begin with holy fasting this campaign of Christian service, so that, as we take up battle against spiritual evils, we may be armed with weapons of self-restraint. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, God, for ever and ever.


Recipes (11)


Activities (32)


Prayers (9)


Library (2)


Blog (6)

» Enjoy our Liturgical Seasons series of e-books!

Previous Calendar: Ash Wednesday

The time has now come in the Church year for the solemn observance of the great central act of history, the redemption of the human race by our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. In the Roman Rite, the beginning of the forty days of penance is marked with the austere symbol of ashes which is used in today's liturgy. The use of ashes is a survival from an ancient rite according to which converted sinners submitted themselves to canonical penance. The Alleluia and the Gloria are suppressed until Easter.

Abstinence from eating meat is to be observed on all Fridays during Lent. This applies to all persons 14 and older. The law of fasting on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday applies to all Catholics who have completed their eighteenth year to the beginning of the sixtieth year.

Today the Church ordinarily celebrates the feast of Seven Founders of the Order of Servites but the Ash Wednesday liturgy supersedes it.

Stational Church

Ash Wednesday
At the beginning of Lent, on Ash Wednesday, ashes are blessed during Mass, after the homily. The blessed ashes are then "imposed" on the faithful as a sign of conversion, penance, fasting and human mortality. The ashes are blessed at least during the first Mass of the day, but they may also be imposed during all the Masses of the day, after the homily, and even outside the time of Mass to meet the needs of the faithful. Priests or deacons normally impart this sacramental, but instituted acolytes, other extraordinary ministers or designated lay people may be delegated to impart ashes, if the bishop judges that this is necessary. The ashes are made from the palms used at the previous Passion Sunday ceremonies.
Ceremonies of the Liturgical Year, Msgr. Peter J. Elliott

The act of putting on ashes symbolizes fragility and mortality, and the need to be redeemed by the mercy of God. Far from being a merely external act, the Church has retained the use of ashes to symbolize that attitude of internal penance to which all the baptized are called during Lent.
Directory on Popular Piety and the Liturgy

From the very early times the commemoration of the approach of Christ's passion and death was observed by a period of self-denial. St. Athanasius in the year 339 enjoined upon the people of Alexandria the 40 days' fast he saw practiced in Rome and elsewhere, "to the end that while all the world is fasting, we who are in Egypt should not become a laughing stock as the only people who do not fast but take our pleasure in those days." On Ash Wednesday in the early days, the Pope went barefoot to St. Sabina's in Rome "to begin with holy fasts the exercises of Christian warfare, that as we do battle with the spirits of evil, we may be protected by the help of self-denial."
Daily Missal of the Mystical Body

Meditations on the Liturgy
The readings on Ash Wednesday tell us the authentic spirit that must characterize Lent: Rend your hearts and not your garments. We must struggle against the spirit of evil (opening prayer for Ash Wednesday) and — to look at the positive side — have a pure heart that has been renewed by the Lord (Psalm 51, responsorial psalm for Ash Wednesday). The new optional formal for the imposition of ashes is meaningful in this context: “Turn away from sin and be faithful to the gospel” (Mark 1:15), as are the antiphons to be sung while the ashes are being imposed: “Come back to the Lord with all your heart…” (first antiphon), “Lord, take away our wickedness” (third antiphon) and “Let the priests and ministers of the Lord…say, Spare us, Lord; spare your people!…” (second antiphon). We must indeed be cleansed of our sins if we are celebrate more effectively the Passion fo Christ (prayer over the gifts, Ash Wednesday). But when we pray, it should be in secret, just as we should do our good works in secret.

The Lord desires the sinners conversion; he wants us to become a holy people and to be perfect as he is perfect. We must therefore cease doing evil and cleanse ourselves; we must once again learn a proper scale of values. All this has to be more than a mere abstraction; we must practice what we preach. Such a conversion supposes that we have listened to the word that effects whatever God wills. If the Jews are to be accused by Moses at the judgment, it is because they have not listened to the word.

The kind of conversion Chirst preaches requires of us a deep inwardnesss: we must choose to follow God’s way, be willing to lose our life in order to save it, be always attentive to God’s will, and take advantage of the acceptable time; in short, we must be either with Christ or against him. The Lord is our only source of help, and of happiness; he alone must be loved, and to him we must pray. What wins his good will toward us, however, is not outwards rites but charity and interior worship. —The Liturgical Year, Volume 2, Lent, by Adrian Nocent, OSB

My Daily Thought from the Following of Christ
Happy is the man that can cast away all the hindrance of distraction, and recollect himself in the unity o holy compunction! Happy the man who casteth away from him whatever may stain or burden his conscience.

Things to Do:

  • Go with your family to receive ashes at Mass today. Leave them on your forehead as a witness to your faith. Here is a Lenten reflection on the meaning of the ashes on Ash Wednesday. If you have children, you may want to share this with them in terms that they can understand.

  • Today parents should encourage their children to reflect upon what regular penances they will perform throughout this season of Lent. Ideally, each member of the family should choose his own personal penance as well as some good act that he will perform (daily spiritual reading, daily Mass, extra prayers, almsgiving, volunteer work, housecleaning, etc.), and the whole family may wish to give up one thing together (TV, movies, desserts) or do something extra (family rosary, Holy Hour, Lenten Alms Jar).

  • The use of Sacrifice Beans may help children to keep track of their Lenten penances. Some families begin this activity (with undyed beans!) on Ash Wednesday and then use the collected beans to cook a penitential bean dish for Good Friday at the end of Lent.

  • Here is a Lenten prayer that the family may pray every night from Ash Wednesday to the first Saturday in Lent, to turn the family's spiritual focus towards this holy season.

  • Read Pope Francis's 2020 Message for Lent with the theme: “We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God” (2 Cor 5:20).

Stational Churches
Stational churches are the churches that are appointed for special morning and evening services during Lent, Easter and some other important days during the Liturgical Year. This ancient Roman tradition started in order to strengthen the sense of community within the Church in Rome, as this system meant that the Holy Father would visit each part of the city and celebrate Mass with the congregation.

"So vividly was the station saint before the minds of the assembled people that he seemed present in their very midst, spoke and worshiped with them. Therefore the missal still reads, "Statio ad sanctum Paulum," i.e., the service is not merely in the church of St. Paul, but rather in his very presence. In the stational liturgy, then, St. Paul was considered as actually present and acting in his capacity as head and pattern for the worshipers. Yes, even more, the assembled congregation entered into a mystical union with the saint by sharing in his glory and by seeing in him beforehand the Lord's advent in the Mass" (Pius Parsch, The Church's Year of Grace, Vol. 2, p. 71).

For more information, see:

Ash Wednesday:
Station at St. Sabina (Santa Sabina all'Aventino):

The first stational church during Lent is Santa Sabina at the Aventine (Basilica of St. Sabina). It was built in the 5th century, presumably at the site of the original Titulus Sabinae, a church in the home of St. Sabina who had been martyred c. 114. The tituli were the first parish churches in Rome. St. Dominic lived in the adjacent monastery for a period soon before his death in 1221. Among other residents of the monastery were St. Thomas Aquinas.