Mardi Gras revelers trade beads for ashes
BATON ROUGE - Today marks the beginning of the Lenten season. Faithful Mardi Gras revelers are hanging up their beads and heading to church.
The ashes come from blessed palm branches from the last Palm Sunday. Hundreds of faithful will fill churches to receive the ashes in the sign of the cross on their forehead. It marks the beginning of 40 days of service and remembrance. People often give up things like food, drink or vice, while others add community service.
"The fasting is heightened by having a little feasting beforehand," Fr. Paul Counce of St. Joseph Cathedral explains. "As long as the Mardi Gras celebrations haven't been totally out of hand, the contrast helps to remind us that life is made up of more than just good times. There's also serious thinking that needs to be done as well."
There are Ash Wednesday services scheduled throughout Baton Rouge. Distribution will take place at St. Joseph Cathedral at 7 a.m. and noon. Services at Our Lady of Mercy begin at 6:30 a.m., 8:00 a.m. and noon. St. Aloysius distributes ashes at 6:00 a.m., 8:00 a.m. and noon.
There are also Ash Wednesday services at local Episcopalian churches. St. James downtown hold services at 7:30 a.m. and noon, while Trinity Episcopal does the same at 7:00 a.m. and noon.