HAMILTON TOWNSHIP, NJ -- As devout Christians across the world prepare for Ash Wednesday, the reality of the ongoing health pandemic has churches making adjustments to keep their parishioners healthy.  

Father Matt from The Christ Church Parish in Bordentown explained the changes in their parish from the normal three to four services usually held on Ash Wednesday and noted that actually "the ashes are the least important part of the day."

"Because the church building is presently closed to public worship, this year we will have three brief outdoor services in the front churchyard and one service that's streamed from inside the church. Following protocol, we will be sprinkling ashes on the heads of the faithful, rather than imposing ashes on their foreheads," said Father Matt.

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They will be holding public services in the courtyard outside. Instead of imposing ashes in the form of a cross on the foreheads of the penitent, ashes will be sprinkled in keeping with a more ancient practice. 

The Archdiocese of Newark issued a guidance for Catholic churches suggesting that the "Priest says the prayer for blessing the ashes. He sprinkles the ashes with holy water" he then "cleanses his hands, puts on a face mask, and distributes the ashes to those who come to him or, if appropriate goes to those who are standing in their places.The Priest take the ashes and sprinkles then on the head." 

St. Raphael-Holy Angels Parish and Our Lady of Sorrows - St. Anthony's Parish, both located in Hamilton, will be placing ashes on the foreheads of parishioners by using a Q-tip.  

"The purpose of the day is for the Church Universal to come together to confess our sins, both personal and corporate, and to pledge ourselves to true repentance and amendment of life," said Father Matt. "On Ash Wednesday, we are charged to observe a holy season of Lent, by self-examination and repentance; by prayer, fasting, and self-denial; and by reading and meditating on Scripture. Everyone, regardless of the ability to attend a service in person, can respond to that charge."

Father Matt also encourage Faith-filled individuals to find services and other Lenten resources, like the Stations of the Cross, online.

For Ash Wednesday service times, visit the website of your church parish. 

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