TWFT Bonus: Ash Wednesday Fun Facts
Catechesis At Home – Fun Facts
- The Latin for Ash Wednesday is Dies Cinerum, meaning “ash day.”
- Lent originally started on a Sunday. Pope Gregory the Great set it to start on Ash Wednesday at the end of the Seventh Century, more than 1400 years ago.
- Recorded from as early as Pope Celestine I’s pontificate, 422 – 432, 1600 years ago, the pope has received ashes on his head.
- Traditionally, popes received ashes at the Basilica of Santa Sabina on Aventine Hill, overlooking the Colosseum. The pope would walk from Santa Atanasia to Santa Sabina, which is difficult because of the climb up the hill that links the two churches. This may have been to symbolize the Lenten journey pursuing spiritual perfection. The rite of sprinkling ashes on the pope’s head would then be performed.
- Pope John Paul II revived this ancient tradition during his pontificate, until he was physically incapable of the climb. 2004, a year before his death, was the first time he did not make the journey.
- Ashes used to be sprinkled on the head, not rubbed in the form of a cross on the forehead. Either form is acceptable.
- Ashes must be from the burned palm fronds (leaves) of a previous year’s Palm Sunday.
- Though the palm fronds were blessed at Palm Sunday, the ashes must be blessed because they are changed in form – no longer being palm fronds.
- We do not eat meat on Ash Wednesday.
- Ash Wednesday is not a Holy Day of Obligation.
- Ash Wednesday Mass is one of the most attended Masses of the year. Most priests experience the number of attendees at Ash Wednesday Masses rivaling the attendance at Easter and Christmas Masses.
- Anybody, not just Catholics, can receive ashes at an Ash Wednesday Mass. But they should be penitent, and not just doing it for ceremony or to be a part of the crowd.
- As with all rites, receiving ashes is ineffective and can be hypocritical if we do not connect it to our repentance and change. Leaving ashes on the forehead should not be a matter of hypocrisy (see Matthew 6: 16-18), but evidence of solidarity that we are sinners and need repentance, and are not better than others.
- Ashes can be wiped off at any time, and should be if the penitent begins to think of the ashes as a sign for others to know they went to Mass or otherwise consider it decoration or a badge of honor.
- Ash Wednesday is not in the Bible, but the practice of putting ashes on the head as a sign of repentance is: Job 42:6, Isaiah 58:5, Jonah 3:5-7, among others.
What trivia or fun facts do you know about Ash Wednesday?
Other Help on HOO
In this episode of On the Road to Perfection, Mama and Daddy talk about Peace. What is Peace? When do we have Peace? Who grants us Peace? Mama and Daddy tell us all about this important Fruit of the Spirit, and how it leads us all to a, not only peaceful, but more faithful and joyful life!