Cardinal Wuerl Marks the First Day of Lent

“May this Lenten faith journey provide all of us an opportunity to draw closer to the Lord and strengthen our determination to share the Good News of his love with others”

March 05, 2014

HYATTSVILLE, Md. – Cardinal Donald Wuerl, archbishop of Washington, celebrated Mass at Cathedral of St. Matthew the Apostle on Ash Wednesday in observance of the beginning of Lent, the 40-day penitential period before Easter and the celebration of Christ’s resurrection from the dead.

In his homily, Cardinal Wuerl reflected on the need to always focus more clearly on our relationship to God and to one another as well as the ashes as a visible, public testimony to our belief in the loving mercy of God.

Regarding our relationship to God and with one another, the cardinal said we can begin with our recognition that we are capable of wonderfully good actions. “But the sad fact of life is that we occasionally fall short, we do the wrong thing,” he said. “Everyone does and when we do we personally feel the burden of our transgressions. Only the grace of God’s forgiveness lifts us from our failure, heals and strengthens us and allows us to continue our journey to God.”

Referencing Pope Francis’ Lenten message, the cardinal reminded everyone that, “The love of God is greater than our sinfulness and God’s mercy is our consolation and joy.” He then reflected on the public witness to our faith. “The ashes we receive today are a sign of our faith in God’s loving mercy and our ability to never tire of asking God’s forgiveness,” he said. “The witness value of the ashes is precisely our willingness to share that Good News – God never tires of forgiving us.”

After the homily, ashes were distributed to those in attendance at the Mass. 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. Catholics around the world receive ashes on their foreheads in the Sign of the Cross as a symbol of penance and conversion.

The Archdiocese of Washington is again partnering with the Diocese of Arlington for the “The Light Is ON” initiative. Beginning March 12, all Catholic churches in the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area and Northern Virginia will be open on Wednesday evenings during Lent for confession and quiet prayer. More than 200 churches will be open on March 12, 19 and 26 as well as April 2, 9 and 16. For resources on the Sacrament of Reconciliation or to learn more about why Catholics go to confession, visit

The Archdiocese of Washington is home to over 620,000 Catholics, 139 parishes and 96 Catholic schools, located in Washington, DC, and five Maryland counties: Calvert, Charles, Montgomery, Prince George’s and St. Mary’s.

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