By Mark Abrams
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – In the Roman Catholic Church, Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of a 40-day period in which church members are asked to engage in prayer, fasting and doing good works in preparation for Easter, commemorating the resurrection of Jesus Christ.
Fr. Dennis Gill, director of the Philadelphia Archdiocese office for Divine Worship, says ashes are reminder of the commitment Christians make to preparing themselves for a renewal of faith.
Gill says in the past veteran Catholics were instructed to give up something, some form of entertainment, food or beverage, in a sacrificial way.
Now, he says the church asks even more.
“It’s not meant to be simply a superficial giving up of something, perhaps rather a giving over ourselves, in time and talent. Perhaps in an obvious and deliberate way of helping people, especially helping people in need.”
Gill says the church also asks its members to observe today and Good Friday as days of fast and abstinence, and abstinence from meat on all the Fridays during Lent, as a form of penance.