Local Christians celebrate beginning of Lent


Christians in Jackson County began the Lenten season with Ash Wednesday services.

The services mark the beginning of the season, which includes the 40 days and nights Jesus Christ spent in the desert leading up to his death and resurrection on Easter Sunday.

Students and parishioners at St. Ambrose Catholic Church in Seymour filled the pews Wednesday during a morning Mass. Students led the hymns and prayers and brought communion forward during the service.

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The observation of Lent is a time for reflection and preparation for Easter, Father Dan Staublin said.

“A retreat, if you will, for Christians to prepare themselves for Easter,” he said. “Ash Wednesday is the beginning of that, and that is why we are marked with the sign of the cross on our foreheads.”

Parishioners lined the middle of the church to walk and have the ashes applied in the shape of a cross upon their foreheads. The ashes come from the previous year’s palm leaves from the Palm Sunday service when Christians recognize Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem the Sunday before Easter.

Staublin said it’s a reminder of the cycle of the church calendar from the focus on mortality during Lent and life during the Easter holiday.

“The ashes remind us of our mortality and we will return to ash,” he said. “It’s also humbling.”

Some traditions through Lent in the church include fasting on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday. The fasting includes having one full meal and two smaller meals that do not equate a full meal to represent the suffering of Jesus throughout the 40 days he spent in the desert.

Church members also abstain from consuming meat on the two holidays and Fridays during Lent.

“Meat was traditionally seen as a luxury, so to give up some luxuries is a simple way to represent the sacrifices Christ made,” Staublin said. “He fasted in the desert, and that’s kind of our connection to that.”

Members also sacrifice something they enjoy or do something special during the season.

“We encourage people if they give something up materially or food that they give the money they save to a charity,” Staublin said.

He said he personally prefers to do something special during Lent, and this year, he has a thoughtful gesture in mind, as he plans to write personal letters to people each day of Lent.

“I just want to touch base with people and use less social media and use the older method of reaching out to people,” Staublin said. “It just takes a little bit of time.”

St. Ambrose has more services and events planned throughout the season, including the Station of the Cross prayer and devotional services on Fridays and Bible studies throughout the week. On March 11, the church will have a Holy Hour of Prayer in the afternoon.

The church also is working with the Knight of Columbus in Seymour to collect cans to give to local food pantries.

John and Kay Beatty brought their 6-month-old grandson, Kai, to the noon service at Redeemer Lutheran Church in Seymour.

The service was traditional with hymns, Bible readings, communion and ashes.

“You try to get your mind set to go through the Lenten season, and it prepares you for Easter,” John Beatty said following the service.

The couple have attended Ash Wednesday services throughout the years.

Kay Beatty said she enjoys attending them.

“It reminds you of what God gave up for us,” she said. “I’ve been a member here my whole life.”

The Rev. Ralph Blomenberg, pastor at Immanuel Lutheran Church in Seymour, said he finds the season inspiring because it is a reminder of how every person deals with the realities of life but are renewed with what comes on Easter.

“I think the most inspiring part of Ash Wednesday is to remember that even though every person faces death, which is what the ashes are to remind us of, and have to deal with sin, there is a solution for every person in Jesus Christ,” he said. “Ash Wednesday begins a season when we look at what Jesus did in order to forgive our sins and give us victory over death.”

Blomenberg said the Lutheran church encourages members to give up or something for others during the season as they think about what Jesus gave up for them. He said it is not a requirement.

“Maybe give up a meal in order to make a donation to missions,” he said. “We encourage members to do something that’s not really for us but something that would help benefit somebody else.”

Blomenberg said he will sacrifice something important to him during the season as a reminder of what Jesus did for him and everyone else.

“Everybody knows I have a sweet tooth,” he said. “I’m giving up some sweets, and I think that’s an important way to remember someone that gave up a whole lot more than me.”

Staublin said he enjoys teaching his parish during the season.

“We’re reminded of our mortality, but also spring is coming and the Earth is being renewed,” he said. “Spiritually, it is a way for us to be renewed with God’s love through fasting and acts of charity so we’re stronger and can be better.”

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