Ash Wednesday services have large turnout

Xavier College Church saw many faces this week during the four masses celebrated in the church on Ash Wednesday, which was Feb. 6 this year. Other Catholic masses were celebrated at the Medical School Chapel, Saint Louis University Hospital Chapel, School of Nursing and the Law School Courtroom. Crave Coffee House also held a service with Ash distribution.

Lisa Reiter, SLU’s director of campus ministry, said that there was a full church at the 5:15 mass in College Church. She estimated that 700 students and faculty attended the 10 p.m. mass, which is the largest attendance she can recall at an Ash Wednesday mass.

Ash Wednesday, which is not a Catholic holy day of obligation, is “the holy day of the people,” Reiter said. “I think there’s something in our psyches as Catholics that other Christians share . This call to step aside from what is our normal life and to reflect and to examine how we’re living out our Christian values. There’s something really powerful about doing that as a faith community.

“We don’t have to be in a church in order to find God,” she continued, “but we find Him in the ordinariness of our lives.”

Jennie Zelenak, a sophomore in the College of Arts and Sciences, calls Ash Wednesday a “family tradition.” She said that she is giving up cookies and trying to attend mass more often during Lent.

“When I was little, living at home, it was a little easier to stick to it,” said Zelenak. Reiter said that Lent is about more than a personal sacrifice. “It’s not just about giving up chocolate or giving up beer, but how do I live a true Christian life?”

Marking the beginning of the season of Lent, Ash Wednesday is a “journey of prayer and penance,” Pope Benedict XVI observed in his homily on Feb. 6. “The Lenten season is a privileged moment of conversion and spiritual renewal for the whole Church.”

The ashes are made from the palms of the previous year’s Palm Sunday. Catholics do not eat meat on Ash Wednesday and all of the Fridays during Lent, which ends on Easter. On Ash Wednesday and Good Friday, Catholics fast. Fasting, said Reiter, is about purification and adjusting one’s normal routine.

“It makes you feel a sense of gratitude for the blessings we do have in our lives,” she said.

The SLU Council 4561 of the Knights of Columbus sponsors the yearly fish fry in the quad on Fridays during Lent. From 11 a.m. to dinnertime, the Knights will serve fish sandwiches, grilled cheese, homemade chips and other food to contribute to a scholarship fund that Students for Life is attempting to set up, said Grand Knight Tim Wright. The scholarship would benefit any SLU student having an unexpected or crisis pregnancy, he said.

“If you have more money as an option, you would feel like you had more options,” said Wright, a second-year SLU law student.

Wright also said that the Daughters of Isabella is sponsoring the stations of the cross Fridays at 4 p.m. in College Church during Lent.