Ash Wednesday is the first day of the 40-day Lenten Fast. Lent is a word that comes to us in English from the Anglo-Saxon word for Spring. In Cajun French, we use the word, careme. Careme comes to us from the Latin word quadragesima. The Latin and French words for this season of the Church both mean “the 40th day”
The Lenten (or 40-day) Fast is period of fasting and penance preceding the Easter Festival; it occurs 40 days before Good Friday.
On Ash Wednesday, Catholics begin this period by attending Mass, where they will receive ashes on their foreheads in the shape of a cross.
This ceremony serves several purposes, among which are 1) to remind all of us that we belong to Jesus Christ, who died on a cross for our salvation; 2) that ashes are a biblical symbol of repentance and mourning; 3) and that, by this visible display of our faith, we are a visible sign to the world of the Body of Christ, His Holy Catholic Church.