Cardinal Wuerl Celebrates Ash Wednesday Mass, Marking First Day of Lent

WASHINGTON D.C. – In a standing room only crowd at the Cathedral of St. Matthew the Apostle, the faithful gathered to receive ashes at Mass celebrated by Cardinal Donald Wuerl, archbishop of Washington. Ash Wednesday marks the first day of Lent, the 40-day penitential period before Easter that invites Catholics to renew and restore their relationship with God through prayer and penance.

Cardinal Wuerl attributed God’s mercy for the full church. In his homily, he explained that ashes are a reminder of God’s enduring mercy. “We come recognizing that the loving forgiveness, the embrace, the compassion of God is always present to us, all we have to do is ask.” The ritual of the signing of the cross and the spoken words signify our human fragility and the salvation in the mercy of God, the cardinal said.

God is always waiting for us, the cardinal continued. Quoting Pope Francis, he said, “We may get tired of asking for God’s mercy and forgiveness, but God never gets tired of forgiving us.”

Ashes were distributed after the homily. The imposition of ashes is an ancient practice found in the Old Testament. Once a public sign of an individual’s repentance, it became part of the Church’s Lenten preparations by the seventh century. People of all faiths are invited to receive ashes as a reminder that life on earth is a preparation for an eternal afterlife with God.

Catholics observe Lent through prayer, penance, and acts of self-denial, a small reminder of the suffering and death of Jesus. There are ample opportunities for Catholic to prepare their souls and experience God’s forgiveness and mercy through the sacrament of reconciliation. The Archdiocese of Washington will again partner with the Diocese of Arlington for The Light is On, an initiative where Catholic churches across the D.C. metropolitan area will be open for quiet prayer and confessions on Wednesday evenings throughout Lent (March 8, 15, 22, 29 and April 5). Parishes will also make confession times more readily available during other days of the week.