PORTLAND — To mark the beginning of the Lenten season, Bishop Robert P. Deeley will celebrate Ash Wednesday Mass at 12:15 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 10, at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception.

Listings of Masses scheduled for Catholic churches in Maine on Ash Wednesday are available on the Diocese of Portland’s website. To search by city or town, visit www.portlanddiocese.org/ashwednesday. To search by parish, visit www.portlanddiocese.org/ash-wednesday-masses-parishes.

Lent is a period of intense spiritual renewal for both Christians who prepare to celebrate the annual commemoration of the Paschal mystery of Christ’s passion, death and resurrection, as well as for the elect, who will be baptized and received into the full communion of the church at Easter.

During the Mass at the Cathedral, the ashes will be blessed by Bishop Deeley. The bishop, along with concelebrating priests, will use their thumbs to impose ashes on each person’s forehead, making the Sign of the Cross and saying either: “Remember that you are dust and to dust you shall return” (Genesis 3:19) or “Repent and believe in the Gospel” (Mark 1:15).

The ashes are made from the burning of palms used in last year’s Palm Sunday celebrations. The bishop offers a special prayer of blessing over the ashes and sprinkles them with Holy Water. While the ashes symbolize penance and contrition, they are also a reminder that God is gracious and merciful to those who call on Him with repentant hearts.

Ash Wednesday is a day of fasting and a day of abstinence from meat. Fasting applies to Catholics between the ages of 18 and 60 and means they should only eat one full meal and two smaller meals if needed.

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