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Ash Wednesday observances to take place today

March 5, 2003

By Milani Arguelles

More than 600 students are expected to attend the Lenten services or Mass at the Catholic Student Center today to observe Ash Wednesday and mark the first day of Lent.

'The Ash Wednesday Mass is the most largely attended than any other Mass during the rest of the year,' said the Rev. Jim Deaconson, director and chaplain of the Catholic Student Center at Baylor.

Dr. Todd Lake, dean of university ministries, and Deaconson will hold Lenten services together at 12:15 p.m. and 1:15 p.m. at the Catholic Student Center, and they will perform the Ash Wednesday custom of marking students' foreheads with ashes that were made by burning the remains of the palms blessed on the Palm Sunday of last year.

'We make a cross on the forehead with the ashes and read from either Mark 1:15 or Genesis 3:19,' Deaconson said. 'We say, 'Repent and believe in the Gospel,' or 'Remember that you are of dust, and to dust you shall return.''

Deaconson said ashes are used throughout the Old Testament to signify penitence, and having ashes on one's forehead reminds others of Ash Wednesday and Lent.

Lent, the 46 days before Easter, not counting the six Sundays, commemorates the 40 days Jesus Christ spent in the desert, Deaconson said.

'During Lent people get more somber, more reflective,' he said. 'It is a time in which Catholic Christians repent and return more fully to their Lord.'

Whether Catholic or not, many students mark Lent by fasting or abstinence, eating no meat on Ash Wednesday or Fridays during Lent. Deaconson said this custom symbolizes a true sacrifice to God to repent for sins.

'Traditionally people give up their favorite food, like chocolate or Coke, or give up an indulgence that they enjoy and can sacrifice, like bowling or watching a TV show,' he said.

Deaconson said doing community service is also an appropriate way for people to observe Lent.

Some Catholic students have discovered that many theological views overlap despite religious affiliations.

'The Catholic view is essentially the same as the Protestant view: Lent is giving up something for God,' Jillian Law, a Sugar Land sophomore, said. 'It helps to understand Easter better. You tend to focus more on God during those 40 days because every time you want to do something that you gave up, you think of the promise you made to God.'

Ash Wednesday and Lent also are observed by Lutheran, Episcopal, Presbyterian and some Baptist churches, Deaconson said, and students who are non-Catholic also have found significance in the meaning of Lent.

'I'm not going to service, but I have respect for those who do,' Dana Phillips, a Springfield, Mo., junior, said. 'During Lent, I try to give up something, but not necessarily for Lent. To give up something that is distracting you from God should be a year-round experience, not just during one season.'