Mass on Ash Wednesday

I am curious as to why only Mass is offered on Ash Wednesday as a way to receive ashes and was wondering if anyone could tell me.

A little personal history. I remember as a child receiving ashes, but it wasn't as part of a Mass. I did fall away form the Church for several years, only coming back six years ago when I found out I was pregnant. So there is a gap of time when some things in the Church changed (and it's very obvious to me).

I checked with my mother and she said confirmed that "years ago" there usually wasn't a Mass, just the ashes at a certain time or times (with some prayer). Basically like I remembered.

Since it's not a Holy Day of Obligation, I often don't make it for ashes on Ash Wednesday (it very hard for me to get off work and to Church in the middle of the week so I rather save days off for Holy Days of Obligation). But this year I really wanted to go and bring my daughter since she's been very curious about Lent and Easter (she's 5-years-old) and I am trying to teach her the basics.

I looked around but all the Catholic Churches in my area were only doing Mass. So we just went to the latest Mass at our own Church (it was the one Mass I could make after work and school). Masses at our Church tend to last well over an hour and Ash Wednesday Masses were no exception--in fact they ran extra long. The Homily was great, but extra long as well. The whole time I had a very tired and whiny child on my hands who ended up going to bed over an hour late. What I wanted to be a pleasant and fulfilling experience for my daughter ended up not being so. I kept wishing they offered another option and wondered why they changed things.

Anyone know why things changed? Or is my memory (and my Mom's) faulty? By the way, her Church only offered full Masses as well. Is it just my area or do most Churches do a full Mass for ashes now (the area where I live now isn't where I grew up)?

The Holy Sacrifice of the Mass is the highest form of prayer that the Church has. We should try to put things into perspective. Many times, Ash Wednesday is, lamentably, one of the few times that people will come to Mass, let alone church. While the ash is an important symbol, it should not detract away from the fact that the Paschal Mystery (the Passion, Death and Resurrection of Our Lord) is the central focus of the Church, of our Faith, of our liturgical prayer. Remember, that one does not necessarily need to receive Our Lord in Holy Communion to fully participate in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. Maybe the graces contained in the Mass will be enough to get a heart moving towards conversion.

While the rite of distribution of the ashes can be celebrated as a Liturgy of the Word, it is better to maintain this rite within the context of the Mass. If we don't then, it begs the question: are we there to offer the worship that God deservers, or, are we there simply to get an ash?

It must be your parish, mine still allows you to receive your Ashes with out attending mass. But why you wouldn’t want to go ahead and go to the mass anyway is beyond me personally.

My parish had two masses and two distribution of ashes services. So its not ONLY in the mass that you can receive ashes.

we had 3 Masses yesterday, the usual 7 am, then for the School in the morning, and 6:30 pm for the parish, but also distribution of ashes outside Mass at Noon, 5, and a prayer service with ashes for the youth at 7:45. that is a similar pattern for churches here, which are packed.

are you sure churches around you offered only one opportunity for ashes? did you check?

Mass celebrates the reason for the ashes, Christ's sacrifice on our behalf, and we wear the ashes as a sign of acceptance of his gift and resolution to join our penance with his suffering. Without Mass, there is no significance to the ritual of ashes other than as a personal sentiment. That does not mean receiving ashes, or any sacramental (which all depend on Christ for their grace and merit) must be done always inside Mass, but not to understand the connection gives a flawed understanding of the value of the sacramental.

My parish added a Mass yesterday. I went at 12:15, and it was standing room only. I imagine that 6:30 a.m. wasn't as crowded. Father always stresses that Ashes will ONLY be distributed during Mass on Ash Wednesday. I guess that prevents a steady stream from knocking on the rectory door all day. I would never have thought of not receiving ashes at Mass, but apparently its a well-established custom from somewhere.

Thanks for the answers so far everyone.

[quote="crazzeto, post:3, topic:187408"]
It must be your parish, mine still allows you to receive your Ashes with out attending mass. But why you wouldn't want to go ahead and go to the mass anyway is beyond me personally.

[/quote]

Please don't get me wrong. It's not that I didn't want to go to Mass. My child and I go to Mass every week and on Holy Days of Obligation. It's just that she's young (5-years-old) and our day starts early.

I know her and to ask her to sit though an hour and a half Mass on a weekday night when she's tired from being at school all day is asking for trouble. Sure enough, we went to Mass, but she spent most of the time whining, crying that she was tired, kicking the pew, and wanting to go to the bathroom. When she isn't tired, she's well behaved and participates. Last night she didn't and I could hardly participate I was was trying to keep her pacified enough to not bother the other worshipers. The result was I was upset, angry, and stressed out during Mass and so was she--not exactly the emotions I should have during such a Holy time.

It's that I wanted to introduce my young child to it as part of my teaching her about Lent and wished there was a more child friendly way for me to do so maybe with just ashes or with a shorter Mass like a Daily Mass.

[quote="puzzleannie, post:5, topic:187408"]

are you sure churches around you offered only one opportunity for ashes? did you check?

[/quote]

It's not that there was only one opportunity, it was that there was only one opportunity where I could make it with my work schedule (and it happened to be the Mass from 7:30-9:00 pm). I only have 10 days off a year, so I tend to save taking days off for religious reasons when it's a Holy Day of Obligation. I don't take Ash Wednesday off. It would have been nice if they offered ashes and prayer first and then a Mass following for those who wanted an even more fulfilling experience.

My parish offered 3 masses and a service. Since it isn’t a Holy Day of Obligation you could have arrived later to receive the ashes without it in any way being “wrong”.

I actually don't like attending Mass on Ash Wednesday because of the majority of people who go to "get ashes" and have no idea why. The ashes are a sacramental, not a sacrament. They are a reminder of our sinfullness and mortality, but will not save us from punishment. It is only in the Eucharist within the Holy Sacrafice of the Mass that we are redeemed. Why would you want to go to just get ashes when we have the fullness of the faith contained in the Mass?

What's really important to some people (and I in no way include the OP in this) became evident last night when a few people walked out after they had received ashes; they didn't even bother staying for the rest of the Mass, a measly 20 more minutes. I admire the OP for wanting her daughter to experience this ritual and am rather saddened that at my parish's only Mass at 6:30 pm there weren't very many children.

[quote="idrum677, post:9, topic:187408"]
I actually don't like attending Mass on Ash Wednesday because of the majority of people who go to "get ashes" and have no idea why. The ashes are a sacramental, not a sacrament. They are a reminder of our sinfullness and mortality, but will not save us from punishment. It is only in the Eucharist within the Holy Sacrafice of the Mass that we are redeemed. Why would you want to go to just get ashes when we have the fullness of the faith contained in the Mass?

[/quote]

Please see my clarification above as to the why. The point of getting ashes was to help teach my daughter about our faith.

Honestly, I didn't expect so much animosity and judgment over a question. It seems like a few people want to focus in on a perceived notion of me not wanting to attend Mass (which isn't accurate).

[quote="Seatuck, post:8, topic:187408"]
My parish offered 3 masses and a service. Since it isn't a Holy Day of Obligation you could have arrived later to receive the ashes without it in any way being "wrong".

[/quote]

I would disagree, if you're going to bother participating at all then I think one is compelled to fully participate by showing up on time. The fact that it's not a holy day of obligation only means that you don't have to be there at all, you are in no way compelled to go get ashes.

I think the best solution would have been to more throughly research what parishes are offering "ashes only", I'm sure the OP had more options than they thought they had.

[quote="crazzeto, post:12, topic:187408"]
I would disagree, if you're going to bother participating at all then I think one is compelled to fully participate by showing up on time. The fact that it's not a holy day of obligation only means that you don't have to be there at all, you are in no way compelled to go get ashes.

I think the best solution would have been to more throughly research what parishes are offering "ashes only", I'm sure the OP had more options than they thought they had.

[/quote]

You can disagree . That is fine. When I worked as a nurse in a Catholic hospital there was no way I could go to a service or Mass for Ash Wednesday on more than one occaison. There was no reason why I could not receive the sacramental of ashes in the hallway from the priest when he visited the sick. Now , yes it is best to participate in the Ash Wednesday liturgy to start off Lent. Of course it is.

We had one early mass and four other services for ashes. Many churches do not have a full time priest and there is no one to cover all the needs. This aside, I am glad that many parishes gave a lot of opportunities for ashes. This may be the little spark that brings someone back to full communion with the church. If only one soul is saved, it is worth it!:)

[quote="mellowcalico, post:11, topic:187408"]
Please see my clarification above as to the why. The point of getting ashes was to help teach my daughter about our faith.

Honestly, I didn't expect so much animosity and judgment over a question. It seems like a few people want to focus in on a perceived notion of me not wanting to attend Mass (which isn't accurate).

[/quote]

I don't think that poster was referring to you. More like he was musing out loud about the people who only show up on Ash Wednesday to "get ashes" and not the rest of the year to receive Jesus.

[quote="mellowcalico, post:11, topic:187408"]
Please see my clarification above as to the why. The point of getting ashes was to help teach my daughter about our faith.

Honestly, I didn't expect so much animosity and judgment over a question. It seems like a few people want to focus in on a perceived notion of me not wanting to attend Mass (which isn't accurate).

[/quote]

[quote="1ke, post:15, topic:187408"]
I don't think that poster was referring to you. More like he was musing out loud about the people who only show up on Ash Wednesday to "get ashes" and not the rest of the year to receive Jesus.

[/quote]

Yea, 1ke is correct. I was not referring to you. If I offended you, please accept my apology. That was my usual post- Ash Wednesday rant. I admire you wanting to teach your daughter about her faith and understand time restraints of having children and a job.

In my area there are two clusters. One has 3 parishes and they all had Mass with distribution of ashes on Ash Wednesday. One of them also had an afternoon Liturgy of the Word service with distribution of Ashes.
In my cluster there are 5 parishes including the one which hosts the EF of the Mass. In that cluster there were no Liturgy of the Word services and ashes were distributed at 6 OF and 1 EF Masses.

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