The Archdiocese of Cincinnati, along with Catholics around the world, will observe Ash Wednesday, on February 17, 2021. Ash Wednesday begins the season of Lent in the Catholic Church in preparation for Easter (that will fall on April 4 this year). Ash Wednesday is an obligatory day of fasting (one full meal and two smaller meals that together do not add up to the one full meal) and abstinence from meat for Catholics.
This year the health situation caused by COVID-19 will have an impact on the means of distribution for ashes on Ash Wednesday. The Rite of the Church allows for the distribution of ashes on the forehead, common place in the Roman Catholic Church in the United States, and the sprinkling of ashes over a person’s head. This year guidance was issued in mid-January from the Holy See that the global Catholic Church use the means of sprinkling ashes over the heads of the faithful.
The guidance issued from the Archdiocese of Cincinnati to distribute ashes this year:
“The Priest says the prayer for blessing the ashes. He sprinkles the ashes with holy water, without saying anything. Then he addresses all those present and only once says the formula as it appears in the Roman Missal, applying it to all in general: “Repent, and believe in the Gospel”, or “Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return.”
The Priest then cleanses his hands, puts on a face mask and distributes the ashes to those who come to him or, if appropriate, he goes to those who are standing in their places. The Priest takes the ashes and sprinkles them on the head of each one without saying anything.
In addition, again this year the Archdiocese has launched a digital initiative to assist the faithful in their Lenten observance. We are inviting local Catholics to download The Ultimate Guide to Lent – an inspirational and helpful digital guide to having a life-changing Lent. The Guide was produced by The Catholic Telegraph, the media arm of the Archdiocese of Cincinnati. It includes information on traditional Lenten observances, local Lenten traditions, details about Holy Week, ways to observe Lent as a family, vegetarian recipes and even a playlist of songs for Lent.
The Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Cincinnati is the 44th largest Catholic diocese in the country, with more than 440,000 Catholics, and has the sixth largest Catholic school system in terms of enrollment with more than 40,000 students. The 19-county territory includes 211 parishes and 110 Catholic primary and secondary schools.