Archbishop Eamon Martin has said that while Ash Wednesday 2021 will be mostly without ashes, he is encouraging families to pray together, fast and be generous this Lent.  Archbishop Martin was speaking ahead of Ash Wednesday, tomorrow, as he launched the #LivingLent initiative on Twitter and Instagram for Lent 2021.  #LivingLent invites the faithful to use social media to grow closer to God during this sacred season.

Archbishop Eamon said, “The season of Lent is a forty day penitential period leading up to Holy Week and Easter when Christians mark the crucifixion, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.  For Catholics the beginning of  Lent is traditionally marked by a day of fasting and by the distribution of ashes on the foreheads of church-goers.  Believers are encouraged to make a commitment to prayer, charity and fasting or self-denial.  Many Catholics make Lenten promises or resolutions to mark the importance of this holy season.

“This year, with the strong ‘Stay at Home’ message from public health authorities, north and south, it will not be possible for Catholics to gather in Church buildings to receive the ashes, which are normally applied to the forehead in the shape of the Sign of the Cross.  The words used in the blessing are ‘Remember that you are dust and to dust you shall return’, or ‘Repent and believe in the Gospel’.  At this time when gathering for public worship is suspended, parishes will continue to mark Ash Wednesday using online services over webcam, and also by encouraging family prayer services in the home.  Instead of the usual ashes, families are being encouraged to keep the fast, to make their normal Lenten promises.

“Some parishes are making small envelopes of blessed ashes available for those who will be visiting their parish churches in the early days of Lent for individual prayer.  People will also be able to collect their ‘Trócaire Box’ from parishes in the same way.  In some parts of the world, where there are less restrictions on gathering for worship, the Vatican has asked that ashes would not be applied to the forehead in the usual manner, but would be sprinkled on the top of people’s heads

Archbishop Eamon said, “As we prepare for Easter over the next 40 days, our spiritual conversion can be nourished by daily actions, thoughts, prayers and words.  During Lent we also offer a particular sacrifice in our personal lives to help strengthen our relationship with the all-merciful Lord.  In his message for Lent 2021, Pope Francis is inviting the faithful to ‘renew our faith, draw from the living waters of hope, and receive with open hearts the love of God.’

“I invite everyone to read the Holy Father’s short Lenten message and to avail of our #LivingLent initiative on Twitter and Instagram, and online resources on catholicbishops.ie which offer suggestions for fasting, prayer and charity – the three pillars of the Lenten season – and support to observe Lent at home.  Our Lenten digital initiative seeks to assist our spiritual preparation for the joy and hope of the Easter season.”

The #LivingLent initiative offers short daily suggestions on Twitter and Instagram.  These include prayer and Scripture reading suggestions; opportunities for penance and fasting in our daily lives, such as to refrain  from gossip; fast from negativity online; give up certain foods; availing of the Sacrament of Reconciliation/Confession; suggestions for charitable acts like donating to Trócaire and other charities; and donating your time by helping your own family, school, parish.  Hashtag #LivingLent can be used and shared to help put themes of prayer, fasting and charity into practice during this Lenten season.

Archbishop Eamon Martin is Archbishop of Armagh, Apostolic Administrator for the Diocese of Dromore and chair of the Communications Council of the Irish Catholic Bishops’ Conference.

ENDS