By Tony DeGol
Catholics will have the opportunity to fully participate in Ash Wednesday observances, but they will not receive the familiar cross of ashes on their forehead this year.
Bishop Mark has announced the method for distributing ashes on Ash Wednesday, February 17. It follows the modified directives during a pandemic from the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments issued earlier this month by the Holy See.
According to the instructions, the priest will recite the prayer for blessing the ashes and sprinkle the ashes with holy water. He is to then address the assembly by reciting “Repent and believe in the Gospel” or “Remember that you are dust and unto dust you shall return.”
The priest is to then cleanse his hands and, while wearing a face mask, sprinkle ashes on the head of those who approach. The priest will say nothing while sprinkling each head.
“The most important variance is the sprinkling of ashes on the top of each person’s head,” Bishop Mark noted. “This is to avoid the physical contact which occurs when the ashes are placed on the forehead in the sign of the cross. This method of distributing ashes is common in Europe and elsewhere.”
Deacons and lay persons, as extraordinary ministers, may assist in the distribution of ashes at Mass or by taking them to the sick or homebound,” the Bishop reminded.