Ash Wednesday kicks of Lenten season

Catholics in Craig came to Mass en masse to celebrate Ash Wednesday.

Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of Jesus Christ's temptations in the desert. For 40 days before he was arrested and crucified, Jesus fought against Satan's temptations.

Roman Catholics and some protestant denominations recognize Ash Wednesday by attending church and having their foreheads marked with ashes.

"The ashes are to remind us we come from dust, and to dust we will return," said Father Jose Saenz of St. Michael's Catholic Church.

Saenz wasn't sure when the organized church began the practice of marking oneself with ashes, but he described it as an ancient tradition.

The tradition stems back to the Old Testament.

The prophet Jeremiah covered his body in ashes and wore sackcloth as an act of repentance.

Ash Wednesday is also the beginning of Lent, the season of fasting and penitence in preparation for Easter.

Saenz finds that many people still take Lent seriously.

"I find the faithful keep very strict to it," Saenz said.

Those keeping Lent aren't allowed to eat meat on Fridays. They fast on Ash Wednesday, eating only one small meal, unless they are on medication that requires them to eat or are older than 65 or younger than 14.

Most people give up something they enjoy during Lent.

Saenz said that soda and candy are the most common items people give up. Many also give up television, drinking or meat.

"You're giving it up for the Lord," Saenz said.

St. Michael's will host soup suppers each Wednesday for the duration of Lent. Stations of the cross services will be in English on Wednesday and in Spanish on Fridays.

The stations of the cross relive the last 12 hours of Jesus' life before he was crucified.

The Mel Gibson film, "The Passion of the Christ," portrayed the stations of the cross well, Saenz said.

The movie also rejuvenated interest in the last hours of Jesus' life.

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