LOS ANGELES (CNS) - Today is Ash Wednesday, which this year is not only the start of the 40-day season of Lent, but also a day of fasting for peace as declared by Pope Francis.
The pope appealed to everyone -- believers and non-believers alike -- to make Wednesday ``a day of fasting for peace,'' including encouraging believers ``in a special way to dedicate themselves intensely to prayer and fasting,'' citing Jesus' teaching that the ``senselessness of violence is answered with God's weapons, with prayer and fasting.''
During Lent, the faithful prepare for Easter by doing penance for sins and seeking spiritual renewal through prayer, discipline and good works.
Ash Wednesday gets its name from the practice of placing ashes on the foreheads of the faithful in the shape of a cross as a sign of penance.
Catholic priests and lay ministers also have the option this year of the more ancient practice of sprinkling ashes on a person's head which was done last year because of the coronavirus pandemic. While the priest or lay minister imposes the ashes, he or she says, ``Repent, and believe in the Gospel'' or ``Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return.''
The Archdiocese has created a new page on its website, lacatholics.org/lent, to provide faithful with daily Lenten reflections, prayers and resources for almsgiving and service.
Los Angeles Archbishop José H. Gomez told the faithful to concentrate this Lent on ``some essentials for our spiritual growth -- the daily examination of conscience, regular confession, praying for others and practicing mercy and tenderness.''
``Ask the Holy Spirit to help you review the day -- the blessings you received, the good you have done during the day, and the ways you have sinned or fallen short,'' Gomez wrote in his weekly column in the archdiocesan multimedia publication Angelus News.
``Thank God for the good, tell him you are sorry for your failures and make a resolution to improve. Praying for others every day is another important habit that we ought to develop. It helps us to grow in compassion, and to become less selfish and self-centered.
``And our prayer must be matched by our actions. Which is why during Lent I am urging that we become more intentional about practicing tenderness.''
Gomez will celebrate a bilingual Ash Wednesday Mass at noon at the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels in downtown Los Angeles. The Mass will be livestreamed at facebook.com/lacatholics, facebook.com/olacathedral and olacathedral.org/live.