2020 was a whirlwind for sure. With the pandemic, the political unrest, and even the current record breaking weather - some people try to find comfort in a higher power. One of the most holy holidays is fast approaching, and for many Christians this also means Ash Wednesday is coming up.

For those unfamiliar with Ash Wednesday, it marks the first day of Lent which is the season leading up to Easter Sunday. One of the traditions included in this season is ashes being placed on an individual's forehead. This is to represent grief and mourning for an individual's sins.

The pandemic has once again influenced how people celebrate this tradition. Officials from the Vatican have given specific instructions for how to proceed with this auspicious ritual.

After the priest blesses the ashes and sprinkles them with holy water and recites the traditional prayer, the priest will “cleanses his hands, puts on a face mask, and distributes ashes to those who come to him or, if appropriate, he goes to those who are standing in their places.”

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For the Diocese of Des Moines, the priests will be sprinkling ashes on the church goers heads in order to calm the spread of the virus. This is different than them rubbing the ashes onto the forehead.

While the tradition seems pretty similar to what many people are accustomed to, it's actually the policies of the individual churches and the number of parishioners who are permitted at a time.

In Cedar Rapids, there will be an Ash Service, but masses will be held via livestream. Church officials all over the state are still encouraging people to stay home and to wear masks.

The Archbishop of Dubuque Michael Jackels is following CDC guidelines for church events and masses, which applies to the Ash Wednesday ceremony. He is urging people to be responsible and safe in regards to COVID.

"The COVID is a very contagious and life-threatening virus. For the love of God and neighbor, wear a mask even if it isn’t mandated, and get vaccinated when it becomes available to you."

 

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