On Ash Wednesday, Philippine archdiocese to let families distribute ashes
A diocese in the Philippines will allow churchgoers to distribute ashes among family members at home to mark the beginning of Lent on Feb. 17.
Cebu Archdiocese in the central Philippines released a prayer guide on Feb. 10 for the celebration of Ash Wednesday at home for those unable to go to church due to coronavirus restrictions.
Children and elderly people are disqualified by government protocols to attend large gatherings such as those in churches.
“Those who cannot come to church on this day can join the celebration of the Mass of Ash Wednesday on a live TV broadcast or livestreaming,” the archdiocese said.
The head of the family would lead the entire family in prayer according to the guidelines.
After the prayers, he should sprinkle ash on the head of each family member to avoid contact with them.
“They can then receive ashes from family members who were able to go to church for the celebration,” the guidelines say.
Families would conclude the celebration with a prayer and the sign of the cross.
Cebu Archdiocese also reminded Catholics that Ash Wednesday was a day of fasting and abstinence like all Fridays during Lent.
“Ash Wednesday is a day of universal fast and abstinence in the Catholic Church. Fasting is required from ages 18-60, and abstinence is from age 14,” the diocese added.
The guidelines were posted on social media for Catholics from other dioceses to follow.
Cebu Archbishop Jose D. Palma said Lenten season is the time for Catholics to deepen their relationship with Jesus.
“It is Jesus who calls us to be his followers so that people may know that we have a loving and caring God,” Archbishop Palma said in a recent homily.
Local Catholics said the archdiocese was offering a practical solution to limitations being imposed by the pandemic.
“This is a new way of marking the beginning of Lent. People usually flock to churches but the pandemic has made Ash Wednesday different this year, so this is a good way to prevent the spread of Covid-19,” Cebu churchgoer Frances Cespon said.
There is another deviation from Ash Wednesday norms for those who do wish to go to church.
According to the bishops’ conference, people will be allowed to use any dried plant or tree leaves in place of old palm leaves to make ash.
Normally the ash comes from old palm leaves used during Palm Sunday celebrations the year before but there is a shortage this year because of Covid-19 restrictions imposed last year.
“Those able to go to church for the celebration are requested to bring with them a small amount of ash … placed in a small container or sachet to be blessed by the priest during the Mass,” the archdiocese’s guidelines said.