Ash Wednesday kicks off the Lenten season. This is a significant day in the Catholic Church year beginning a period of forty days of prayer, fasting and charity which prepares the faithful and newcomers to the faith to celebrate Easter with renewed hearts. At services, people traditionally are marked with ashes of burnt palm branches as a sign of their recognition of their human frailty as well as sinfulness and need for repentance in their lifelong journey of conversion.
Ash Wednesday and Good Friday (April 18) are days of fasting within the Church for those between the ages of 18 and 59. They may eat only one full meal and two other meals consisting of substantially less food. There should be no food taken between meals. Anyone whose health is threatened by fasting is exempted. Catholics age 14 and older also abstain from meat on Ash Wednesday, Good Friday and all Fridays of Lent.
Signing with ashes will be held throughout the diocese on Ash Wednesday. Anyone may call their local Catholic church for times. Ashes will be distributed at St. Ambrose Cathedral, at 6th and High Streets in Des Moines, on Wednesday during the 12:10 p.m. Mass. Bishop Richard Pates will be the celebrant of the Mass. Attendance at services and being signed with ashes is open to anyone who desires it, regardless of whether they are a member of the Catholic Church.