Ash wednesday not a obligation

If I’ve got this right, Ash wednesday is not a “holy” day of obligation, and we’re not obliged to receive Ashes. But why not? Ash weds is the start lent where we are foscusing on self sacrifice, prayer and spiritual delevopment.
Personally I never knew it wasn’t a obligation to receive ashes and hear the words “repent and believe in the Gospel” because I have never missed a Ash weds.
But I think its very important to start lent this way and try to continue on the journey from start to finish…

Yep, you are correct that it’s not a holy day of obligation. The only time I haven’t gone to Mass on Ash Wednesday was the year that I had a nasty stomach bug and my mother didn’t want me inflicting myself on other people…:wink:

But it’s a way to start Lent that I’ve always treasured. It gets me in the right mindset to begin to penitential season, and I always feel like it makes the start of Lent “official.”

I seem to recall there used to be many more holy days of obligation then there are now. But I found this article than might be useful:

I always felt that the fast with the rest of the Church along with confession at the beginning of Lent were my strongest leads to getting in the correct mindset.

Yet I wouldn’t want to miss Mass on Ash Wednesday.

AW is not a day of obligation and I haven’t gone to Mass that day since the 1900s.

I will continue to keep the Fast until I am 59, because that is part of being Catholic, but I do not need to go out of my way to hear about going back to dust! That is a hideous weight on my mind already!

God bless each and everybody, whether you keep AW or not,


Attending mass on Ash Wednesday is not obligatory, but we are obliged to fast and abstain - and thus “beginning” Lent on Ash Wednesday is not an option with or without holy mass.

I have never gone to a Mass on Ash Wednesday before. So is it a lot of talk about death? Returning to “dust”? I have a lot of anxiety regarding death, and not sure how I’d handle it.

Oddly, though Ash Wednesday is not a Holy Day of Obligation, more people go to Mass on Ash Wednesday than any other day of the year, or at least it seems that way. There’s a reason why churches have multiple services on Ash Wednesday - some being Masses, and others simply distribution of ashes outside of Mass.

Ash Wednesday’s Gospel is always from the Gospel of Matthew, talking about making sure your prayer, fasting, and almsgiving is something that comes from the heart and not being for show. “When you give alms, do not give alms like the hypocrites, who blow horns so that everyone knows they are giving alms. I tell you, they have received their reward. But when you give alms, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that you can store treasure with your Heavenly Father,” etc. It’s actually somewhat ironic, as on Ash Wednesday, we get ashes - which show everyone that we’re fasting. Truly, though, the purpose of ashes (and fasting, for that matter) has always been to show grief, and often repentance. This has been true since ancient times, as there are many cases shown in the OT of people in mourning or showing repentance covering themselves in ashes. We get ashes because we are sad for all of our sins.

There are actually two different phrases the priest can say when distributing ashes.
(1) Remember, man, that you are dust, and to dust you will return.
(2) Repent, and be faithful to the Gospel.

Yes, the same with me. I actually thought it was a holy day of obligation.

Not a lot of “talk”, unless the Fr. preaches a homily about it.

Everybody lines up as for Holy Communion, and is marked on the forehead with ash from the preceding year’s Palm Sunday palms. The priest may say either, “Remember man, thou art dust and unto dust shalt thou return;” or, “Repent and believe the Gospel.”

Maybe the Church in her wisdom has decided that some need to be reminded of death; for me, that would be like needing a reminder of a spider on the back of one’s neck!


Thanks for the article :thumbsup:

I love going to mass on AW and I think it is a very sobering experience to hear the words to remind us of where our ultimate destiny is. We will all die at some point, whether it is sooner or later, we should be ready for it. Best to be ready now than have it surprise us later. I don’t want to be shocked that suddenly my time is up.

I used to be deathly afraid of death. Now I think it is not so terrifying. I just pray I will be ready when my time is up.

Good way to think.

Have been and received my ashes, hearing the words “repent and believe in the Gospels” is the reminder we all need.

Good luck and blessings to all this lenten season


Late to this party, but…

I actually like that Ash Wednesday is not an HDO. We are invited, but not required, to participate. As I looked around me at the parish’s evening Mass on Ash Wednesday, I was moved by all the people (nearly full church) who came to start Lent off with prayerful reflection even though they were not obligated to do so. Really warmed my heart. :heart:

God bless you all during this Lenten season. :signofcross:

I always thought the same thing. I think that people feel the need to be reminded about more sombre things in life: like death. :smiley:

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