Catholics began the season of Lent by attending Ash Wednesday services in Merced County and worldwide. Believers observe Lent as a period of reflection and repentance.
The season lasts 40 days, excludes Sundays and ends on Easter, which this year is April 5. During Ash Wednesday rituals, a member of the clergy will dab ashes on churchgoers’ foreheads and form a cross as a symbol of mortality.
The clergy quote a biblical phrase from the book of Genesis: “Remember, man is dust, and unto dust you shall return,” as a reminder that God created man from the earth.
The 40-day observance is meant to symbolize the 40 days Jesus spent fasting in the desert. At Sacred Heart Roman Catholic Church in Merced, services were held throughout the day to give Catholics the opportunity to drop by at a convenient time.