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Ash Wednesday marks beginning of 40 days of Lent for Catholics
During the seven oclock service on Wednesday, Father Patrick Walker, pastor of St. Anthony of Padua Catholic Church in Manteca, blesses the ashes that would be taken to parishioners who are homebound or at care homes for Ash Wednesday which marks the 40 days of Lent. - photo by ROSE ALBANO RISSO

The 40 days of Lent started for millions of Catholics throughout the United States and around the world on Ash Wednesday. Joining the faithful worldwide were hundreds of Catholics at St. Anthony of Padua Church in Manteca who went to the early morning and evening services to offer the Mass and to later receive the ashes on their forehead.

The imposition of ashes in the shape of a cross on the forehead is a tradition that officially marks the beginning of Lent that will culminate 40 days later with the resurrection of Jesus on Easter Sunday. The message at the seven o’clock Mass presided over by St. Anthony of Padua pastor, Father Patrick Walker, was about the meaning and significance of fasting which, along with abstinence, are the spiritual hallmarks of Ash Wednesday. His message was taken out of the gospel reading for the day, Matthew 1-6, 16-18, which quotes Jesus teaching about almsgiving and fasting.

“Fasting is not just from food but from criticism,” not criticizing other persons, Father Walker said.

“We need to do things for the love of God, not for the approval of our neighbors…, or our parents. In sports, they say, do it for the team. In this sense, we do it for the Lord,” he added.

He encouraged the faithful not just to fast but to give alms and to pray, and to “do these things without other people noticing.”

He said, “some people fall asleep while praying. What a beautiful way to end the day.”

On Fridays during Lent, as with Ash Wednesday, Catholics abstain from eating meat.