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Daily Catholic Question

Why do we receive ashes on Ash Wednesday?

Christians seem to have taken the use of ashes as a sign of penance from Jewish tradition. According to the New Catholic Encyclopedia, ashes were originally signs of private penance. But early on they became part of the ritual for public penance.

Pope Urban II (1088-1099) recommended the custom of all receiving ashes to all the churches. Ashes were put on the heads of men and the sign of the cross traced with ashes on the foreheads of women, presumably because their heads were covered.

In the 11th century there appeared a special prayer for the blessing of ashes. And the 12th century gave rise to the rule that the ashes used on Ash Wednesday are to be made from the palm branches of the previous year.

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Thursday, February 7, 2013
Daily Catholic Question for 2/6/2013 Daily Catholic Question for 2/8/2013


Giles: Despite the fact that much about St. Giles is shrouded in mystery, we can say that he was one of the most popular saints in the Middle Ages. Likely, he was born in the first half of the seventh century in southeastern France. That is where he built a monastery that became a popular stopping-off point for pilgrims making their way to Compostela in Spain and the Holy Land.<br /><br />In England, many ancient churches and hospitals were dedicated to Giles. One of the sections of the city of Brussels is named after him. In Germany, Giles was included among the so-called 14 Holy Helpers, a popular group of saints to whom people prayed, especially for recovery from disease and for strength at the hour of death. Also among the 14 were Sts. Christopher, Barbara and Blaise. Interestingly, Giles was the only non-martyr among them. Devotion to the "Holy Helpers" was especially strong in parts of Germany and in Hungary and Sweden. Such devotion made his popularity spread. Giles was soon invoked as the patron of the poor and the disabled.<br /><br />The pilgrimage center that once drew so many fell into disrepair some centuries after Giles' death. American Catholic Blog The ascension is about the final reunion of what appeared to be separated for a while: earth and heaven, human and divine, matter and Spirit. If the Christ is the archetype of the full human journey, now we know how it all resolves itself in the end. “So that where I am, you also will be” (John 14:3).

 
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