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Ash to be applied differently amid pandemic

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SAN DIEGO — Pastors in the San Diego Diocese will distribute ash in a different way on Ash Wednesday, Feb. 17, to protect all participants amid the pandemic.

Bishop Robert McElroy directed the pastors to administer the ash after the general prayer using a cotton swab to make the cross on the person’s forehead. Nothing will be said at that point and all will be wearing masks. A new swab will be used for each person.

Ash will be distributed after the homily or at the end of the Mass. The faithful may check their parish website for Mass times.

Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of the penitential season of Lent, which consists of 40 days of prayer, fasting and almsgiving in preparation for Easter.

The blessed palms from the previous year’s Palm Sunday are burned prior to Ash Wednesday to produce the ashes, which are blessed and distributed at that day’s Mass. The ashes are an acknowledgment that we are sinners and must make reparation for our sins.

Ash Wednesday is a day of fasting and abstinence. Only one regular-sized meal is permitted for those ages 18 to 59 (two smaller meals that together do not equal a second full-size meal are also allowed, with no snacking between meals), and abstinence from meat is required for all Catholics age 14 and older. The same rules also are in effect on Good Friday, April 2. The other Fridays of Lent are days of abstinence, but fasting is not required.

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