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Father Dave Explains 2021 Ash Wednesday Guidelines

Father Dave explains the Vatican’s new guidance for distributing ashes on Ash Wednesday due to the pandemic. 

Father Dave first shares how Ash Wednesday typically works. “At some point during the Mass, the priest blesses the ashes… When the congregation starts coming up he’s got a little bowl, sticks his thumb in and smudges it on your forehead. Then he would either say, ‘Remember that you are dust and to dust you shall return’ or ‘Repent and believe in the Gospel.’ This year, the priest will bless the ashes and then say one of those lines to the congregation as a whole, rather than each person individually. And when you come up, they’re going to sprinkle the ashes over your head.”

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Sprinkling ashes over people’s heads is already the typical Ash Wednesday practice at the Vatican, and this year, it’s suggested that the tradition be adopted globally to help prevent the spread of COVID-19. Dioceses will respond to the guidelines based on the current state of the pandemic in their regions. “What they’re eliminating is the physical touch transmit,” Father Dave says. “It’s not, I touch your forehead with my thumb and then stick my thumb back into the bowl and touch someone else’s forehead. Some churches may not do much with distributing ashes at all, but I think the Congregation for Divine Worship is giving us a way to limit spreading the virus.” Original Air 1-14-21