Several congregations offered Ash Wednesday services in Lampasas this week to mark the start of Lent.
Local priests and pastors also provided guidance on Lenten practices.
ABOUT ASH WEDNESDAY AND LENT
The Rev. Paul Hudson, priest of St. Mary Catholic Church in Lampasas and Good Shepherd Catholic Church in Lometa, said Lent is a penitential time during which Christians are particularly called to prayer, fasting and almsgiving.
“It’s a time for prayer and to reflect on our lives,” he said. “We think of where over the year we’ve gone astray and work our way back to the fidelity God calls us to.”
Ashes symbolize repentance, he said. Hudson sprinkled ashes on parishioners’ heads instead of imprinting ashes on their foreheads during Ash Wednesday Mass this year, in accordance with a directive from the Vatican aimed to prevent COVID-19 from spreading.
Faith Lutheran Church in Lampasas also offered an Ash Wednesday service. Pastor Timothy Ochsner said he tells congregants to remember they are but dust as he imposes ashes on their foreheads.
Lent, Ochsner said, is a 40-day season of repentance and seeking forgiveness, and the church invites congregants and non-membe alike to partake in Ash Wednesday services.
“The concept is turning to God,” he said. “Repenting has two elements: turning away from sin and turning to God for forgiveness. That is a message for all people, because tha forgiveness is for all people.”
Lent is also a time to anticipate Holy Week and Easter, and the celebration of Christ’s “ultimate work” — His crucifixion, Ochsner sai
Hudson said Catholic priests often utilize the ashes from burned palm leaves used in the prio
Ashes symbolize repentance, he said. year’s Palm Sunday Mass for the Ash Wednesday service, while Ochsner said ashes used in Lutheran services have no traditional origin.
St. Mary’s Episcopal Church and Lampasas’ First Presbyterian Church also had Ash Wednesday services planned for Feb. 17 – although the event at First Presbyterian has been rescheduled for Feb. 24, due to the extreme weather conditions. The church will offer a drive-through event in its parking lot, where participants can pick up ashes and a special prayer.
For those who still wish to participate in an inperson observance, First Presbyterian will hold a service in its sanctuary on Feb. 24 at 6 p.m.
SPECIFIC PRACTICES DURING LENT
For Catholics, Ash Wednesday is a “day of fasting and abstinence,” Hudson said. For Ash Wednesday and Good Friday, he advises those who are in good health to eat one normal meal and two subsequent meals whose quantities total less than that of one typical meal.
In an interview earlier this week, Hudson instructed Catholics to abstain from eating pork, beef and chicken on Ash Wednesday and every Friday of Lent.
Later, during an Ash Wednesday evening Mass, Hudson said notice recently arrived that Bishop Joe Vásquez has dispensed all Catholics in the Diocese of Austin from the obligation to fast and abstain from eating meat for this Ash Wednesday and Feb. 19 – the first Friday of Lent this year.
A pastoral message on the Diocese of Austin website said the dispensation is made in recognition of “the difficulties experienced over the past few days by so many, including the inability for some to secure food for themselves and their families.”
The message continued: “This unprecedented weather event only compounds the suffering our community has endured together throughout the pandemic. Bishop Vásquez asks each of us to pray for those who are suffering in the cold and, if possible, to offer support where we can. On this Ash Wednesday, he also calls each of us to turn to God, knowing that God will never leave us to face our challenges alone.”
Hudson made similar remarks about prayer during his Ash Wednesday homily. He said to combat temptations during Lent, one can receive spiritual strength – and invite God’s help for others – by praying for those in need.
Hudson said many Catholics give up possessions or activities or make a special effort to do good deeds during Lent.
“They try to do something over and beyond what they would normally do,” the priest said. “I always encourage them to make a sacrifice of time, talent or treasure.”
Ochsner said this year’s Lenten service was inspired by the Old Testament chapter Joel 2 and featured a “return to the Lord” theme.
He encourages congregants to observe evening devotions throughout Lent.
-- Staff Writer David Lowe contributed to this report.