After 2 years, physical Ash Wednesday resumes

Robertzon Ramirez - The Philippine Star
After 2 years, physical Ash Wednesday resumes
Catholic devotees receive ash on their foreheads in observance of Ash Wednesday at the Our Lady of the Abandoned Parish Church in Marikina City on March 2, 2022.
Walter Bollozos

MANILA, Philippines — The Catholic Church is inviting the faithful to participate in the daubing of ashes on their forehead as it resumes today the physical observance of Ash Wednesday, marking the beginning of the penitential 40-day Lenten season for the Roman Catholic Church.

Apostolic Vicariate of Taytay, Palawan Bishop Broderick Pabillo said they are ready to welcome the Catholic faithful who will attend today’s masses as he emphasized that they have made the usual preparations that most parishes do for Ash Wednesday.

“When they go to church, they will receive ash as a symbol of entering a period of repentance. It is expected that they will fast,” Pabillo said in Filipino when asked what the Catholic faithful have to expect in preparation for the Lenten season.

Nuestra Señora Dela Soledad parish priest Douglas Badong said the Catholic faithful should not miss Ash Wednesday for them to receive catechism or an explanation on the important lessons on why ashes are smeared on their forehead.

Badong said they are also allowing the physical daubing of ashes on the faithful’s forehead, a few years after it was restricted when the Philippine government imposed strict quarantine rules when the country was hit by the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020.

A circular signed by Archdiocese of Manila vice chancellor Carmelo Arada Jr. stated that the archdiocese “will revert to the imposition of ashes on the forehead of the faithful” as he laid out the reminders for the celebration of Ash Wednesday.

Arada said the “formula” for putting ashes on the forehead of the faithful will be used, which means reciting the phrases “repent and believe in the Gospel” or “Remember that you are dust and to dust you shall return” and its Filipino translation.

He also reminded church personnel to discourage self-imposition of ashes as he emphasized that people receive ashes “because the call to repentance is addressed” to them by Christ through the Church and it is also through the ministry of the Church that they “reconciled with God and each other.”

In the same manner, Diocesan Liturgical Commission Director of the Diocese of Kalibo Fr. Justy More said in a two-page circular that “the practice of the celebration of Ash Wednesday is reverted to its usual manner.”

More added that the reconciliation and penance throughout the Lenten season will also be held.

Daily prayer

While fewer Filipino Catholics attend weekly religious services, majority said that they pray at least once a day, a recent survey conducted by Social Weather Stations (SWS) found.

Results of the Dec. 10 to 14 survey released on Tuesday showed that 79 percent of the 1,200 respondents are Catholics.

Of this number, 35 percent of Catholic respondents pray several times a day while another 34 percent pray once daily.

Ten percent said they pray several times a week, while six percent pray every week. Two percent said they pray nearly every week, four percent two to three times a month and another four percent about once a month. Only a percentage each of the Catholic respondents said they pray several times per year, about once or twice per year, less than once a year and never.

In terms of attendance at religious services, only 38 percent said they attend at least once per week, 24 percent said they attend two or more times a month, 20 percent attend once a month, nine percent attend religious services only two to 11 times a year, with another seven percent attending once a year. The remaining three percent said they never attended a religious service.

Almost all or 93 percent of the Filipino Catholic respondents said they personally went to a place of worship in the past three months, three percent watched religious services online or on television, while two percent attended both in-person and online or television. One percent said they did not attend any religious service in the past three months.

The survey was conducted using face-to-face interviews and had an error margin of +/- 2.8 percent.

Divine intervention

In response, an official of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) considered the recent SWS survey a testament on how the Catholic faithful value divine intervention.

“It’s a testament to how people value divine intervention at this time when perhaps the most pragmatic solutions to our concerns are ineffective,” CBCP executive secretary of the episcopal commission on public affairs Fr. Jerome Secillano said. “Their participation may be weak, but perhaps they have reasons for not fully participating in what the church offers.”

For his part, Pabillo said he is “happy” with the results of the survey as he hopes that it is “true,” but emphasized that they have to work harder “to help people know how to pray and pray well.”

Badong echoed Pabillo’s sentiment, saying that the SWS survey only showed that the majority of the Catholic faithful are still giving importance to prayer as it serves as their guide in their daily lives. – Janvic Mateo

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