Ash Wednesday do’s and don’ts

Detroit — With Ash Wednesday approaching March 5, the start of the holy season of Lent, archdiocesan officials in a Q&A briefing are reminding Catholics of the Church’s prescriptions for properly observing the occasion.

According to the brief in the February newsletter of the archdiocesan Office of Christian Worship, the ordinary minister for the blessing of ashes is a priest or deacon, but “others may assist with the imposition of ashes where there is genuine need, especially for the sick and shut-ins.”

However, ashes shouldn’t be taken and self-imposed, the brief said, but are intended to be received.

According to the brief, the formulas to be used should be either: “Turn away from sin and be faithful to the Gospel,” or “Remember, man you are dust and to dust you will return.”

Ash Wednesday is also a day of total fast and abstinence — along with Good Friday — which means a person should eat only one full meal, while two smaller meals that don’t add up to a full meal are also allowed. Abstinence means not eating meat, such as chicken or beef, but does not preclude the use of eggs, milk products or condiments made from animal fat. Also permissible are soups flavored with meat, meat gravy and sauces. Fish and shellfish may be eaten.

Those younger than 18 and older than 59 are not required to fast, but any Catholic older than 14 is expected to observe the discipline of abstinence. Every Friday during Lent is also a day of abstinence.