Ash Wednesday starts Lent season

HARLINGEN — “I am going to give up drinking on the weekends, watching TV and eating meat Wednesdays and Fridays,” Jesse Esparza said.

Esparza and his wife attended the 12:15 p.m. service for Ash Wednesday at Queen of Peace church in Harlingen.

“We come to Mass on Sundays but we usually come to this service and wanted to be here early. Ash Wednesday reminds us we came from ashes and Adam and Eve were created from ashes as were our parents,” he said.

“When we leave this world we go back to being ashes,” Esparza said.

Men and women as well as children gathered at Queen of Peace to receive their ashes and listen to the words of Father Pat Fanning.

He reminded the crowd about the beginning of Lent which includes two important factors for the Catholic community, fasting and abstinence.

Fasting means skipping breakfast and abstinence is the avoidance of eating meat on “Good Fridays.”

Rose Torres and Anne Garza both attended the service and said they never miss it.

“As a Catholic it is very important to come today. I am going to stop buying the lottery for Lent,” Torres said.

For Anne, attending is significant for her faith and she said she would be giving up sweets.

The name comes from the placing of ashes on the foreheads of participants and typical phrases used are “Repent, and believe in the Gospel” or the dictum “Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return.”

Most of the time, the ashes are prepared by burning palm leaves from the previous year’s Palm Sunday celebrations.

In San Benito, Our Lady Queen of the Universe and St. Joseph Catholic Church prepared a Mass and service as early as 7 a.m.

Reverend Mario Alberto Castro said the practice of Ash Wednesday not only is the beginning of Lent season but it serves as a preparation of the Easter Vigil.

“The reason many people do go to church on Ash Wednesday is because it is a preparation. We prepare ourselves for what’s coming like when someone gets married and they prepare,” he said.

“There are some church norms like fasting and abstinence. The idea is sacrifice and I encourage people if they can avoid eating fish too they should. The idea is to make sacrifices to focus on spiritual matters and not so much on the physical,” Castro said.