The webpage of the Youth Ministry of the Irish Province of Augustinians

Ash Wednesday - The Beginning of Lent

Lent begins on Wednesday the 17th of February this year.  Ash Wednesday is one of the days when churches are visited most as people flock to receive the ashes that are placed on their foreheads as an outward sign of penance.  These ashes are made by burning the leftover palms from the previous Holy Thursday which reminds us that our penance is part of the Easter story.

Lent recalls the forty days that Jesus spent in the desert at the beginning of his public ministry and, just like his public ministry, Lent culminates in the celebrations of Holy Week when we retrace the steps of the last days of Jesus' life on earth.

Both Lent and Holy Week, however, have their focus firmly fixed on the resurrection which we will celebrate at Easter - especially in the Easter Vigil.  Both Lent and Easter are intimately associated with the sacrament of Baptism which is the first step in Christian Initiation.  Lent is the time when Catecumens (those who are preparing for Baptism) are presented to the local Christian community and are entrusted with the Creed as a sign of the faith that they are about to be born into.

We sometimes forget that for the first few centuries of Christianity it was normally adults who were baptised.  The Baptism of infants is something that only began to practised after Christianity was already well established.

Lent is time of penance which is symbolised in the use of purple coloured vestments during the liturgy (when we gather to worship).  However, we must never forget that all Christian penance is done in the light of the resurrection.  Penance is not about making us feel miserable - it is something we take on willingly as a type of training which helps us to focus our minds on the story, mysteries and invitation of Jesus.

Lent is also associated, in Ireland at least, with giving.  We are all invited to contribute to the Trocaire collection by taking a Trocaire box home, putting some money into it during Lent and, REMEMBERING TO BRING IT BACK AFTER EASTER.  Trocaire is the aid agency for the Irish Catholic Church.  Recently we have heard about some of their work in Haiti but they also work in many developing countries throughout the world.  If we all give a little it can help a lot!!!

Article posted on 17th of February 2010

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