"You have 40 special days" St. Michael's students observe Ash Wednesday
by Charita M. Goshay
For the world's Protestant and Catholic Christians, Ash Wednesday marks the start of Lent, the 40-day period of penitence leading up to Easter on April 17.
Lent activities include fasting or abstaining from certain foods, as well as prayer, repentance and personal reflection.
For the world's 260 million Orthodox Christians, who follow the lunar calendar, Lent begins on April 7.
Hundreds of youngsters took part in an Ash Wednesday Mass at St. Michael the Archangel Catholic Church at 3430 St. Michael Drive NW in Plain Township.
The Rev. Benson Okpara informed the children, students at St. Michael the Archangel Catholic School, that the word Lent is Old English meaning "spring."
"And what do we do in the spring?" he asked.
"We get stung by bees," came the answer, drawing laughter.
Benson told the students that just as spring is a time for cleaning, the same applies to the Lenten season.
"We have 40 days to clean ourselves, getting ready for the new life of Easter," he said. "It's time we grow close to the Lord. We're giving ashes today because ashes are our sign of inner repentance. When you receive your ashes, it's a sign that, 'I'm going to do good, I'm going to be a better person.'"
Okpara also encouraged the students to follow the pope's lead in praying for peace in Ukraine, to pray the rosary daily, to pray before bedtime and read their Bibles.
"Inside of you, promise God you're making a better effort," he said. "You have 40 special days."