Roanoke Catholic, Others Mark Ash Wednesday

Humble yourselves before the Lord (….) –James 4:10a

Although the phrase “Ash Wednesday” does not appear in the Bible, the liturgical use of ashes to represent penance and mourning date to the days of the Old Testament. For example, Job (42:6), Mordecai in the Book of Esther (4:10), and others in Judaism clad themselves in sackcloth and ashes to represent a profound humbling and seeking of the Almighty.

Much later, during the Middle Ages, ashes were applied to the foreheads of the faithful on what is now called Ash Wednesday. That day is the first day of Lent, the 40-day period before Easter when Christians of certain traditions deny themselves some particular worldly or physical pleasure and seek to humble themselves before God in hopes of preparing themselves spiritually for Easter. Moreover, in today’s culture that worships youth and physical beauty, the ashes are a silent reminder of our own mortality.

Each year, Roanoke Catholic commemorates Ash Wednesday and Lent. Below is an account from Ellen Vanden Eykel, campus minister.

Roanoke Catholic students having received the ashes
Roanoke Catholic students having received the ashes

“Yesterday, in preparation for Ash Wednesday, our students met with their prayer buddies. These are pairs/groups of older and younger students throughout the school who help us build community throughout Roanoke Catholic School. There, we prayed together for a good start to Lent and that our prayers, fasting, and almsgiving during Lent would help unite us better to Jesus and to the poor. The students also thought about what little sacrifices they could commit to making during Lent that would help them grow closer to Jesus.”

“Today we celebrated Ash Wednesday with Mass at St. Andrew’s [Cathedral]. At Mass, we were marked with ashes (made from burned palms) to mark this season. We also participated in our traditional bread and broth day. Instead of our usual lunch, we fasted and had bread and broth. The extra proceeds from the simple lunch will be donated to serve the poor in the Roanoke Valley. We also had several hours of Eucharistic Adoration in our chapel, where classes rotated through to spend quiet time in prayer, praying for the special intention of peace in Ukraine as Pope Francis has asked Catholics throughout the world to do today.”

Lent broth and bread lunch at Roanoke Catholic School
Ash Wednesday: Lent broth and bread lunch at Roanoke Catholic School
“Throughout Lent, students will spend time reflecting and praying. We will collect loose change in our classrooms for Catholic Relief Services to serve those in need throughout the world. We will end Lent with a school-wide Holy Thursday Retreat right before Easter, where we will look toward Easter and celebrate our community of faith.”
The practice of commemorating Ash Wednesday and Lent is not universal among Christians. In addition to Catholics, Protestants of more liturgical or formal backgrounds also may mark this season in the church calendar. Examples include Presbyterians Lutherans, Anglicans, and Methodists. In contrast, churches with less formality usually do not emphasize Ash Wednesday.
Being resourceful because of Covid, Vinton Baptist and Thrasher Memorial Methodist also in Vinton both offered an “Ashes To Go” event. According to Vinton Baptist’s social media post, one could drive through the church parking lot and “receive the imposition of ashes from your own vehicle, as well as a Lenten devotional.”
A “movable feast” based on the Lunar calendar, Easter in 2022 will be observed on Sunday, April 17.
– Scott Dreyer



Latest Articles

Latest Articles

Related Articles