Ash Wednesday, March 9, will mark the start of the solemn 40-day season of Lent. Parishes throughout the 11-county Diocese of Scranton will distribute ashes to remind individuals of their mortality.
At St. Peter’s Cathedral in Scranton, the Mother Church of the Diocese, ashes will be distributed during the 6:30 a.m., 8 a.m., 12:10 p.m. and 5:15 p.m. Masses. Bishop Joseph C. Bambera will be the principal celebrant of the 12:10 p.m. Pontifical Mass.
On Fridays during Lent, the Stations of the Cross service commemorating the Passion and death of Jesus Christ will follow the 12:10 p.m. Mass at the Cathedral.
Also during the Lenten season, the CTV: Catholic Television live broadcasts of the 12:10 p.m. weekday Masses from St. Peter’s Cathedral will be interpreted for the deaf and hard of hearing by Sister Mary Beth Makuch, SSCM, diocesan director of Ministry with the Deaf and Persons with Disabilities. The Masses are rebroadcast later at 7 p.m. on CTV.
Lent is a time of prayer, penance and sacrifice leading to the most sacred time of the Church year, Holy Week, when the passion, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ are commemorated. The solemn observance culminates in the greatest celebration of the Church, Easter Sunday, which will be observed on April 24.
Ash Wednesday commemorates the ancient rite of placing the sign of the cross on the forehead with the reminder “Remember, you are dust, and unto dust you will return.” Lent’s invitation to repentance and conversion may also be found in the optional words of this rite: “Turn away from sin and be faithful to the Gospel.” These ashes are gathered from the burned branches of palm carried the previous year in the Palm Sunday procession.
Ash Wednesday and Good Friday are days of universal fast and abstinence in the Church. Catholics between 18 years old and the beginning of their 60th year must fast by consuming only one full meal and two partial meals on those sacred days. Catholics who have completed their 14th year must also abstain from eating any meat or meat products on Ash Wednesday and all Fridays during Lent.
There is one exception this year: Friday, March 25, is the Solemnity of the Annunciation of the Lord; abstinence from eating meat is not required on this day.
This Lenten season, which once again reminds the faithful of their sinfulness while being mindful of the great mercy and love of God, St. Peter’s Cathedral Parish Community will celebrate the theme “Remember Your Love” by offering a series of Sunday Evening Prayer services in addition to its regularly scheduled Masses and devotions.
Continuing the practice started in the Advent season, the Cathedral will offer Sung Evening Prayer with Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament on the Sundays of March 13, March 20, March 27 and April 10 at 7 p.m.
On the Fourth Sunday of Lent (April 3), traditionally called Laetare Sunday, a chamber ensemble from St. Peter’s Cathedral will offer “Taizé: Prayer, Meditation and Song.” Prayer in the spirit of the Taizé community is a meditative form of prayer. Gathered around the cross, the faithful sing uncomplicated, repetitive songs, pray with scripture readings, and meditate in silence, allowing the mystery of God to become tangible through the beauty of simplicity. The service will begin at 7 p.m.
On Palm Sunday of the Lord’s Passion (April 17), the first day of Holy Week, the St. Peter’s Cathedral Choir will offer “Tenebrae: Song of the Shadows.” Tenebrae, the Latin word for “shadows,” is a prayer service that utilizes scripture and song to retell the story of Christ’s passion and death. The ceremony includes seven readings. After each reading, one of seven lit candles is extinguished. Those gathered leave in silence when the service concludes after the Gospel account of the crucifixion with the “hiding” of the seventh candle — symbolizing the burial of Christ in the tomb. Tenebrae will begin at 7 p.m.