Due to the ongoing COVID-19 restrictions, this year the distribution of ashes will not take place and we are instead encouraged to celebrate Ash Wednesday at home in prayer.
Cardinal Vincent Nichols has issued a pastoral letter for this coming weekend which can be downloaded in full here: Download Pastoral Letter – Ash Wednesday. You can also listen to it below:
Cardinal Vincent writes:
“This year receiving ashes in church is going to be difficult. Yes, our churches are safe if the protective measures are fulfilled. But we must all be very careful about travelling too far. Some churches will of course be open for the celebration of Mass as usual. But I have asked them not to make extra provision for Ash Wednesday. We must be so careful and cooperative in the measures we must take, to protect ourselves and to protect others.
I now want to emphasise an important point. Receiving ashes is an outward sign of an inner step, a movement of the heart towards our beloved Lord. This year I invite you to concentrate much more on this inner, spiritual movement than on its outward manifestation in the imposition of ashes.
My suggestion is this: celebrate Ash Wednesday at home, with your family, in the household or ‘support bubble’ of which you are a part. Gather for a while. Read the prayer which I offer. Bless each other by making the sign of the cross on each other’s forehead. Spent some time praying in a way that you know. But please, make this a prayer of your heart for God’s mercy upon this world struggling to cope with the terrible pandemic and the devastation it is bringing”
Cardinal Vincent recommends this prayer:
‘Lord God, with all our hearts we beseech you:
have mercy on your people; spare your people;
strengthen all people in the struggle against the havoc of this pandemic.
Lord our God, without you we are so weak and our courage so limited.
Give us your strength; give us your love;
give us wisdom and skill to continue this fight.
Spare your people, O Lord we pray.
Comfort those who mourn and gather into your kingdom all who have died.
We make this prayer through Christ our Lord,
who died and rose to life, who lives and reigns with you, for ever and ever.