Ash Wednesday changes

Ash Wednesday services on February 17 will be different this year due to health guidelines put in place for the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments announced that clergy are to first bless the ashes, sprinkle them with holy water, and address all those present by saying one time, “Repent, and believe in the Gospel,” or “Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return.”

Then, instead of making the sign of the cross with ashes on the forehead of each person, this year ashes will be sprinkled on top of the head.

“It will help the priest or deacon to avoid having direct contact with a large amount of people,” said Father Tom Kunz, diocesan associate general secretary and vicar for canonical services. “This method of receiving ashes is common in other countries.”

The Blessing of Throats on the memorial of Saint Blaise on Wednesday, February 3 also will be socially- distanced. A priest or deacon may give the blessing to those assembled by extending hands, without the crossed candles, over the people while saying the prayer of blessing.

“Even in a pandemic, Lent is a season of grace and an important moment in the Church’s penitential practice,” Father Kunz said. “The Church encourages us towards ever-deeper conversion through acts of penance, including prayer, fasting and almsgiving.

“We then rejoice in the mystery of the resurrection of the Lord during the Solemnity of Easter and throughout the Easter season,” he said.

2021 Dates- Lent and Easter Triduum

  • Ash Wednesday – February 17
  • Holy Thursday – April 1
  • Good Friday – April 2
  • Easter Vigil – Saturday, April 3 (Masses may begin at 8:30 p.m.)
  • Easter Sunday – April 4

Lenten Regulations

1. Ash Wednesday and Good Friday are days of fast and abstinence. The Fridays of Lent are days of abstinence in the United States.

2. The obligation of abstinence (refraining from eating meat) begins at age 14. The law of fasting (limiting oneself to one full meal and two lighter meals) obliges all between the ages of 18-59. No one should consider this obligation lightly.

3. Those individuals who have a medical condition in which fasting may be considered harmful are not obliged to fast, but should perform some other act of penance or charity.

4. Pastors and parents are asked that minors, though not bound by the law of fast and abstinence, are educated in the authentic sense of penance and encouraged to do acts of penance suitable to their age.

5. Notable during this Lenten season is that the Solemnity of Saint Joseph falls on a Friday. Because of this, there is not an obligation to abstain from meat on Friday, March 19, 2021, the Solemnity of Saint Joseph, according to the norm of canon 1251.

6. The faithful are encouraged to do acts of penance and charity during the Lenten season beyond what is prescribed by the law.

COMING SOON: The Pittsburgh Catholic’s annual Fish Fry Guide and Lenten resources on