FAIRFIELD — Catholics by the hundreds celebrated Ash Wednesday during Masses throughout the day in Fairfield.
“We can seat about 800 people and it looks like we had standing room for this one service,” the Rev. Antonio Racela said after an afternoon service at Holy Spirit Catholic Church – one of eight such Masses scheduled during the day at the North Texas Street church.
Ceremonial ash for the services comes from palm leaves burned last year on Palm Sunday. Racela said the ash represents a conversion that is irreversible.
Ash Wednesday begins the 40 days of Lent. It is the beginning of a time of renewal, rebirth and change from one time to another for the world’s estimated 1.2 billion Catholics.
“Lent is a time for preparation for Easter. It is a time to do some winter cleaning,” the Rev. Michael Downey said.
Reflecting on the meaning of this time of year is different for everyone. For Kenya Avalos of Fairfield, it was the first time she has been to church in a long time, but she thought it was time to bring her son, Ricky to the service
“This is the first time he has been to Ash Wednesday,” she said. “It is important for him to learn about it.”
Avalos had not thought much about giving something up for Lent, because for her it was about the experience of the day with her son.
Ricky was excited and a little overwhelmed with the service and found himself a little short on words. But he avidly watched the people and took in the ambiance.
Ester Alfonso, who works in Fairfield but lives in Vallejo, said that her bus was late and she missed most of the service. She was nearly in tears as a result. Alfonso said Ash Wednesday for her is about the experience of being closer to her maker.
“He made us and this is important,” she said.
The message from Pope Francis from the Vatican website is that “Lent is a fitting time for self-denial; we would do well to ask ourselves what we can give up in order to help and enrich others by our own poverty. Let us not forget that real poverty hurts: no self-denial is real without this dimension of penance. I distrust a charity that costs nothing and does not hurt.”
For the Rev. Downey, it isn’t about giving up something, but looking inward for the next 40 days.
“I am trying to refresh my spiritual life,” he said.
Helping the poor and the those less fortune is one way to sacrifice by putting those other people’s needs ahead of our own.
“It is about turning away from selfishness and greed of the world and looking into our hearts,” the Rev. Racela said.
Reach Susan Hiland at 427-6981 or firstname.lastname@example.org.