Ash Wednesday observances took place today at all of the places where Viatorians minister, including at morning Mass at the Province Center in Arlington Heights. Fr. Michael Keliher, CSV, presided over the liturgy and he quietly reinforced the importance of the season of Lent.

Fr. Michael Keliher celebrates Mass.

“Turn away from sin and believe in the gospel,” Fr. Keliher said as he distributed the ashes.

Br. John Eustice explains the ritual of distributing ashes.

A prayer service at Saint Viator High School featured students distributing ashes to one another. Br. John Eustice, CSV, explained that the distribution had significance for all of the students, whether they were Catholic or not.

“(The distribution of ashes) is not a sacrament, but it is sacramental,” Br. Eustice said. “It’s a sign of our commitment to deepening our relationship with God and with others.”

In a reflection in the Sunday bulletin at St. Viator Parish in Chicago, Fr. Patrick Render, CSV, reminded parishioners that prayer and fasting are traditional spiritual practices during Lent, as well as almsgiving and making sacrifices. But there are other ways to make this spiritual journey, he said.

Fr. Patrick Render, CSV

“Expanding our ordinary practice of prayer may take many forms based on our personal situations and needs,” he said. “Daily Mass is a strong suggestion.”

But it is the ashes at the beginning of Lent, that ground us, Fr. Render added.

“Ashes are a reminder of our mortality and as a symbol of repentance which we choose to embrace during the entire season of Lent,” he said. “They are not a public sign to others that we went to church on Ash Wednesday; they are a personal sign meant for us alone.”