Catholic parishioners at the Church of Saint Paul, in Ham Lake, celebrated the commencement of the season of Lent with an Ash Wednesday mass Feb. 17.

Due to COVID-19, the Church of Saint Paul used individual, disposable cotton swabs to distribute the ashes. Parishioners also received their ash cross on the way out at the end of the masses in order to spread out people as they exited the church.

The Church of Saint Paul held Ash Wednesday masses at 7 a.m. and 7 p.m., both in person and online. In addition, there was a noon drive-thru where parishioners could receive ashes.

Ash Wednesday officially marks the start of the Lenten season that lasts 40 days and nights. Lent is considered a time of reflection, prayer, penitence and fasting before Easter, which celebrates the resurrection of Jesus Christ after his death by crucifixion. This year Easter is Sunday, April 4.

This 40-day period of Lent signifies Jesus’ time spent fasting in the desert where, according to the biblical account, he resisted temptations by Satan.

Ash Wednesday is observed by many Christians, including Anglicans, Episcopalians, Lutherans, Methodists and Presbyterians in addition to Roman Catholics.

During the Ash Wednesday service, the leader of the church uses ashes to mark a cross on parishioners’ foreheads to signify the start of Lent. As parishioners receive the ashes the minister reminds them of their mortality, saying, “Remember that you are dust, and unto dust you shall return.”

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