Ash Wednesday during COVID-19

brother and sister at piano

My kids at a piano recital.

I just read that the Vatican has instructed priests to sprinkle ashes on the heads of people, rather than the traditional cross on the forehead. I’m going to forgo Ash Wednesday services in person this year and will listen to the service online. That’s a new practice for churchgoers that I hope will go by the wayside by next year.

I do believe that Lent is a good time to reflect on our lives. One Ash Wednesday service in past years stands out to me. Rather than giving something up — like chocolate or alcohol — the priest suggested doing something. He talked about investing more time in prayer or volunteering to help someone else, he felt it should be a time of giving of ourselves. He suggested reading the book of Mark from the Bible during the 40 days of Lent.

I’m a convert to Catholicism so I had to learn about Lent. I didn’t grow up with it. My kids did and my daughter always said she was giving up piano lessons for Lent. Yes, she hated piano. I thought piano had so many benefits and forced her to take lessons, years beyond what I should have done, she often reminds me.

If you don’t observe Lent and wonder what it’s all about, here’s a definition from Britannica:

Lent, in the Christian church, a period of penitential preparation for Easter. In Western churches it begins on Ash Wednesday, six and a half weeks before Easter, and provides for a 40-day fast (Sundays are excluded), in imitation of Jesus Christ’s fasting in the wilderness before he began his public ministry. In Eastern churches Lent begins on the Monday of the seventh week before Easter and ends on the Friday that is nine days before Easter. This 40-day “Great Lent” includes Saturdays and Sundays as relaxed fast days.

Here’s a link to Good Housekeeping’s article called 25 Creative Things to Give Up for Lent in 2021: From gossip and complaining to junk food and coffee, ditching these habits could change your life by Juliana Labianca. There are a lot of good ideas to do in that article that could improve your life — whether or not you observe Lent.

A friend emailed this eight-minute Homily about Lent. It’s a time to be cheerful and transformative.