Ash Wednesday marks the first day of Lent

SAN BENITO — Giving up selfies is a good way to start thinking of others during the 40 days of Lent.

Father Joe Villalon of Saint Theresa Catholic Church said sacrificing something and thinking more about others is symbolic, as when Jesus was in the desert fasting and fighting temptation to get closer to God for 40 days.

Ash Wednesday is today and marks the first day of Lent.

Lent, which means “spring,” is the 40-day period of fasting and prayer that Christians observe in preparation for the celebration of Easter.

Leftover palms from Palm Sunday are burned and blessed so the ashes can be used for Ash Wednesday. The mark on the forehead serves as an outward sign proclaiming their faith.

“It serves as a sign of our sinfulness and that we need forgiveness,” Villalon said. “The ashes also symbolize our mortality and one day we will die.”

Villalon will have a morning mass at 7 a.m., a noon service, 7 p.m. services for youth and 8:15 p.m. service at Saint Theresa Catholic Church.

The Most Reverend Daniel E. Flores, Bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Brownsville, will celebrate the opening of Lent with a noon Mass in the Grand Ballroom at the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley in Brownsville.

He also will celebrate Mass at 7 p.m. at the Immaculate Conception Cathedral.

Sandy Landrum, 51, a Harlingen resident, said, “To me it’s when we go back and reflect about what Jesus did for us.”

The long tradition started when Pope Urban II in 1095 ordered that laymen were prevented from eating meat after the imposition of ashes on Ash Wednesday until Easter.

Landrum said she is very passionate about adding prayer into her 40 days of Lent and going to daily Mass and praying the rosary more.

“I don’t focus on the giving up part, to me it’s more about service to people and to be more helpful,” Landrum said.

Landrum said Jesus knew what was going to happen and he’s asking us to connect with God if we put our faith in him.

“The 40 days is how he prepared and that’s how we prepare,” Landrum said.

Lent goes back to the early Church when the new Christians-to-be were preparing to be baptized on Easter. They were called catechumens and during the 40 days prior to Easter they repented, studied and sacrificed.

The 40-day period of Lent serves as a time for spiritual renewal in preparation for Easter. It is a time when Christians can grow in their faith.

The number of days represents the 40 days Jesus spent alone praying in the desert before he began his public ministry.

Ash Wednesday is the day Christians choose what they will do in preparation for Easter. These include prayer, fasting and almsgiving.

Ash Wednesday gets its name from the ancient Catholic custom of receiving a dab of blessed ashes on the forehead.

The blessed ashes, symbolic of penance, are used to mark the forehead with the sign of the cross, with the reminder: “Remember you are dust, and to dust you will return,” or “Turn away from sin and be faithful to the Gospel.”