Ash Wednesday is the day that always begins the liturgical season of Lent. On this day, Catholics attend a Mass or a service where ashes are marked on the foreheads of the faithful in the sign of the cross. Sometimes these crosses are clear, but they may look like smudges. For some, a mark on the forehead is an embarrassment, or just an external sign that means nothing more. However, the faithful do not wash off these marks, but wear them proudly at work, and wherever they may be that day. The mark is a symbol, but also a sacramental: a means of grace and encouragement to love God at a deeper level. The ashes represent repentance and a commitment to a permanent change. Ash Wednesday is the start date for all Catholics to recommit to their baptismal call and challenge their spiritual health. An examination of conscious is to be made with a mindful commitment to reform whatever is spiritually ill. To help with this change all are to be held accountable for 40 days, since it takes about 30 day to break a habit. The repentance comes from recognition and gratitude for being given a gift from God that is not deserved. This gift is threefold: more...