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Bishop Burbidge Celebrates Ash Wednesday Mass at Cathedral

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Catholics throughout the Diocese of Raleigh attended Ash Wednesday Masses, marking the beginning of the Lenten season. During the Mass, the faithful receive ash on their foreheads in the sign of the cross, a symbol of penance and continuing conversion. 

The Most Reverend Michael F. Burbidge celebrated Ash Wednesday Mass at Sacred Heart Cathedral in Raleigh, attended by an overflow gathering. In his homily, Bishop Burbidge told the faithful, “Lent reminds us of what we must do: turn away from sin and be faithful to the Gospel.” The Bishop said that, in order to turn away from sin, we must first acknowledge it and then “give them (our improper actions and behavior) to the Lord in the Sacrament of Penance so that you may celebrate His infinite mercy and receive His amazing graces.”


The ash serves as a visible reminder of our mortality. As the ash is placed on the forehead, the Priest or minister says, “Thou art dust and to dust thou shall return,” or a variation of those words. Leaving the ash on the forehead is a sign of humility. On Ash Wednesday and Good Friday, Catholics between the ages of 18 and 59 are asked to fast, with guidelines allowing for one full meal a day. Catholics age 18 and older are to abstain from meat on Ash Wednesday and every Friday during Lent. (See Norms and Guidelines for the Season of Lent, the Easter Triduum and the Season of Easter (PDF).) The Triduum begins the evening of Holy Thursday with the Mass of the Last Supper and ends the evening of Easter Day. This year, Easter will be observed April 24.

Above: Faithful attending noon Ash Wednesday Mass, celebrated by Bishop Michael F. Burbidge, at Sacred Heart Cathedral.

Above: Bishop Burbidge blessing ashes with Holy Water prior to distribution.

Above: Bishop Burbidge and Msgr. David D. Brockman distributing ashes to faithful at Sacred Heart Cathedral.