Directives for Distribution of Ashes and Fasting/Abstinence

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Faithful are invited to Ash Wednesday Masses at parishes throughout the Diocese of Altoona-Johnstown. Click HERE for a schedule of Masses at parishes. This year, because of the pandemic, and as previously announced, Bishop Mark has directed that ashes are to be sprinkled on the heads of those who approach. This is a common way of distributing ashes in Europe and elsewhere. Ashes will not be placed on individual foreheads in the form of a cross. 

Per Bishop Mark’s directives, the priest will recite the prayer of blessing and sprinkle the ashes with holy water. He will then address those present and say, “Repent, and believe in the Gospel,” or “Remember that you are dust, and unto dust you shall return.”  

The priest will then cleanse his hands, put on a face mask, and distribute ashes to those who come to him or, if appropriate, go to those in their places. When the priest sprinkles the ashes, he will do so without saying anything.

Ash Wednesday and Good Friday are days of fasting and abstinence, and all Fridays of Lent are days of abstinence. Those 18-59 are obligated to fast. When fasting, a person is permitted to eat one full meal, as well as two smaller meals that together are not equal to a full meal. Those 14 and older are obligated to abstain from meat.