Catholics mark one-of-a-kind Ash Wednesday

Irene Githinji @gitshee

Kenya’s Catholic faithful yesterday joined the rest of the world in marking Ash Wednesday, a significant day in the church calendar. Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of Lenten period for the church, a season for penance, prayer, reflection and fasting in remembrance of the suffering Jesus Christ endured on his last days on earth.

Lent on the other hand, is a 40-day penitential season that leads to the remembrance of Christ’s death on Good Friday and his resurrection on Easter. In his message, Pope Francis said he wanted to help the entire Church experience this time of grace anew with joy and in truth. He urged members of the Church to take up the Lenten journey with enthusiasm, sustained by alms giving, fasting and prayer. “Fasting wakes us up. It makes us more attentive to God and our neighbour.

It revives our desire to obey God, who alone is capable of satisfying our hunger,” he said. “Lent summons us, and enables us, to come back to the Lord wholeheartedly and in every aspect of our life.

By devoting more time to prayer, we enable our hearts root out our secret lies and forms of self-deception and then to find the consolation God offers. He is our Father and he wants us to live life well,” he added.

He warned against false prophets urging the Church to listen to the gospel and understand the guise such people can assume. “They can appear as “snake charmers”, who manipulate human emotions in order to enslave others and lead them where they would have them go. How many of God’s children are mesmerised by momentary pleasures, mistaking them for true happiness.”

“How many men and women live entranced by the dream of wealth, which only makes them slaves to profit and petty interests. How many go through life believing that they are sufficient unto themselves, and end up entrapped by loneliness.”

The Lenten season this year will be marked under the theme ‘Reconciliation for peaceful co-existence and national integration, justice for all’. Fr Fred Chege led Catholics in celebrating the mass at the Holy Family Minor Basilica on a day that at least nine services were lined up. He urged the congregation to focus on the significance of Ash Wednesday and the entire Lent period and enjoy the salvation of Christ.

“The Church urges Catholics to approach the Lenten season with reflection, prayer and penance. Love one another and live as Christ has taught us,” he said in his sermon. He urged the congregation to focus on the significance of Ash Wednesday, and shift from the pleasures that come with celebrating the worldly day of love.

This year’s Ash Wednesday was one of its kind. It coincided with the celebration of St Valentines. The last time the two days were marked on the same day like yesterday was in 1945.

They will be celebrated on the same day again in 2024 and 2029. Ash Wednesday is done to imitate Jesus Christ’s 40-day fast in the wilderness. Those who fully observe the lent must contend with various sacrifices required by the church.

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