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Catholic Parishes Set Lenten Observances
01:47AM / Tuesday, February 21, 2012
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SPRINGFIELD, Mass. — Christians around the world will mark the commemoration of Ash Wednesday beginning the 40-day Lenten season this Wednesday, Feb. 22.

A schedule for Lenten observances in the Springfield Diocese can be found here.

For Christians, Lent is a somber time that encourages an inward spiritual renewal in preparation for the Feast of Easter. The time-period for the Lenten season varies from year to year because Easter is celebrated on the first Sunday after the first full moon after the spring equinox.

On Ash Wednesday, ashes from burnt palms (from the previous year's Palm Sunday) are placed in the sign of the Cross on the foreheads of Catholics. This is meant as an outward reminder of a Catholic's humanity and need to be aware of sin in our lives.

The word "lent" comes from the Anglo-Saxon word for springtime, lencten. It is a time commonly known for the sacrifices of fast and abstinence. In the Catholic tradition, those ages 18 to 59 are required to fast by eating only one full meal on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday. Through abstinence, Catholics, over the age of 14, must refrain from eating meat or any meat product on all the Fridays of Lent, as well as on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday.

"Lent is a time for the Sacrament of Reconciliation so that we may put things right with God and others. To that end I am asking parishes to designate additional times for the Sacrament of Penance each week of Lent," Springfield Bishop Timothy A. McDonnell wrote in a letter to all pastors. "Ash Wednesday is a time for acts of penance and alms giving, helping those who are less fortunate than ourselves."

Churches throughout the diocese will mark Ash Wednesday with liturgies and services. Ashes will be distributed in downtown Springfield at St. Francis' Chapel, Bridge Street, as part of the 12:05 mid-day Mass. St. Michael's Cathedral will offer its Ash Wednesday liturgies at 12:10 p.m. and at 7 p.m. in Spanish.

The diocese also has a listing of Lenten activities and services across Western Massachusetts, including Ash Wednesday Mass times, at
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