REV. JOSEPH FORD spreads ashes on the forehead of St. John Catholic School fourth-grader Andrew Slocum as classmate Noah Grondin waits his turn during the Ash Wednesday Mass at St. John’s the Baptist Church.

REV. JOSEPH FORD spreads ashes on the forehead of St. John Catholic School fourth-grader Andrew Slocum as classmate Noah Grondin waits his turn during the Ash Wednesday Mass at St. John’s the Baptist Church.

BRUNSWICK

Ash Wednesday tends to be a quiet and contemplative day at St. John’s Catholic School, as students kick off Lent thinking about sacrifice.

The Ash Wednesday Mass took place that morning in the John the Baptist Church next door to the school, where light streamed through the stained glass windows as students and family members filled the pews.

ST. JOHN’S CATHOLIC SCHOOL second-grader Eliza Davis receives her ashes on Wednesday.

ST. JOHN’S CATHOLIC SCHOOL second-grader Eliza Davis receives her ashes on Wednesday.

Rev. Joseph Ford said during Mass that Ash Wednesday is the one day students may have a dirty face. The ash on their foreheads remind them they are ambassadors of Jesus Christ, and allows them to see Jesus Christ in each other.

The ashes are made by burning the palms that were distributed the previous year on Palm Sunday. The ashes are blessed by the priest, who then dips his thumb in them and makes the Sign of the Cross on each person’s forehead, while saying: “Remember that you are dust and to dust you shall return’ (Genesis 3:19) or ‘Repent, and believe in the Gospel.’”

Episcopals, too, marked Ash Wednesday yesterday. Episcopal clergy planned to offer Ashes to Go on the streets of Maine — including Bath and Brunswick — as “a way of bringing the church’s presence outside a building and offering an opportunity for people to practice their faith as they go about their daily life and work,” according to a statement by Rev. Larry Weeks of Trinity Episcopal and St. Peter’s Episcopal Portland.

According to the Episcopal Diocese of Maine: “In the Christian tradition, Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of Lent, the six weeks leading up to Easter. As a time of self-reflection for believers, Lent is often marked by prayer, penance, and charity.”

Back at St. John’s, Liam Doherty, an eighth-grader and President of the Student Council, recalled his first Ash Wednesday Mass when he was younger. He remembered at the time being confused by the idea of having ash spread on his forehead, and found himself trying to wipe it off.

After a decade of attending Ash Wednesday Mass, he has a much better understanding of the observance that starts Lent. During this period, he and fellow students give up things, fast and don’t eat meat on Fridays.

“For example this year I’m going to give up sweets but I’m going to run for a half an hour every day on my mom’s treadmill,” said eighth-grader Nick Homan, also a student council member.

Students can also do acts of kindness. Doherty tries to be more caring, asking people how their day was. He’s still working on ideas for some new ways to observe Lent this year. It is a very internal process, not something students proclaim or brag to their friends about.

Homan said as he misses the things he gives up, he thinks about the sacrifices Jesus made while fasting in the desert for 40 days straight, and the trials he was met with on a regular basis.

That included being tempted by the Devil, Doherty added.

Doherty said when he feels himself craving the sweets or whatever luxury he’s given up during Lent, he thinks, “This must have been what it was like for Jesus,” though to a much greater extent.

“It’s always an interesting Mass,” Homan said of the Ash Wednesday celebration. “You get ashes and it’s a symbol of our faith.”

Wearing the ash “can bring you closer to God, but also together, it can make you feel as one,” Homan said.

“Because it shows we’re all together, doing the same thing,” Doherty said.


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