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Ash Wednesday: Lent, fasting, and giving

If you’re not of the Catholic faith, then you may be puzzled when you see a black smudge on someone’s forehead today.

Today is Ash Wednesday, the beginning of Lent.

“Other Christian churches have started with the ashes,” said Bishop Joseph Kopacz, with the Catholic Diocese of Jackson. “Not as pervasively, but it is starting to spread.”

Ash Wednesday, according to Kopacz, is the clear sign of the beginning of Lent. Ashes are smudged on the forehead to mark the beginning of the period of fasting and abstinence.

“You abstain from meat,” said Kopacz. “And fasting, for the healthy, over 18 and under 59, even though that’s not considered so old anymore.”

Fasting is more than food, according to the bishop, who said people have pledged to give up Facebook, addictive hobbies, and even behaviors for Lent.

“You may give up anger,” said Kopacz. “Or the unwillingness to forgive… you empty of yourself, to let God fill you, and then in turn, the inclination of being more generous in our lives.”

Ash Wednesday also follows Fat Tuesday, and lasts through 40 days leading up to Easter, excluding Sundays. Sundays included, it is 46 days total.

“When we give up for the Lord,” said Kopacz. “We’ll be enriched. That’s the paradox there.”

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