What is Ash Wednesday?

Ash Wednesday, Feb. 17, is one of the most popular and important holy days in the liturgical calendar. Ash Wednesday opens Lent, a season of fasting and prayer. Ash Wednesday takes place 46 days before Easter Sunday and is chiefly observed by Catholics, although many other Christians observe it too.

Ash Wednesday Mass will be available on the McNichols Campus at noon on Wednesday, Feb. 17 in St. Ignatius Chapel in the Commerce & Finance Building. Please note there is only space for 35 people. Ashes will be available before and after Mass from 11:30 a.m. to noon and from 12:45 to 1:30 p.m. outside of the chapel. Ashes will also be available between 9:30 a.m. and 5 p.m. in the University Ministry Office, located on the first floor of Shiple Hall.

According to Archdiocese of Detroit Guidelines for distribution of ashes, University Ministry will use a clean ear swab for each person dipped in holy water/oil to make the sign of the cross with ashes on the forehead. These swabs will be burned later that day.
At the Corktown Campus, Mass will be streamed through Facebook Live on a big screen in the lounge and available online. Masses are also available in person at Gesu Catholic Church and Sts. Peter and Paul Church.

Ash Wednesday comes from the ancient Jewish tradition of penance and fasting. The practice includes the wearing of ashes on the head. The ashes symbolize the dust from which God made us. As the priest applies the ashes to a person’s forehead, he speaks the words: “Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return.” Alternatively, the priest may speak the words, “Repent and believe in the Gospel.” Ashes also symbolize grief, in this case, grief that we have sinned and caused division from God.