Christians mark Ash Wednesday

BILOXI, MS (WLOX) - When the parades are over and the Mardi Gras beads have all been handed out, for many Christians that means the start of Lenten season.

During Lent, followers are urged to spend 40 days praying, fasting and examining what more they can do to live out their faith. This Ash Wednesday was very special for two Biloxi priests.

Father Robert Wethering is a newcomer to the Episcopal Church of the Redeemer. On his first Ash Wednesday in Biloxi, he reminded congregation members why they wear the ashes.

"The whole point of the service is a reminder of our dependence on God's infinite grace," said Father Wethering. "So the marking of ashes again is a reminder of our mortality and our dependence on a power greater than ourselves."

Father Ryan McCoy said the 8:30 AM Mass at Our Lady Of Fatima Catholic Church was a very special service for him. Father McCoy, who grew up in Pascagoula, celebrated his first Ash Wednesday as a priest.

"It was a real great joy to be able to look out at the congregation and see all the everybody with the cross on their forehead," said Father McCoy. "Reminded me of God's promise of salvation for everyone who is present, and what great joy that is."

During the Lenten season, the priests will be encouraging their flocks to move deeper into their faith by studying God's word, reaching out to those in need and by making some kind of personal sacrifice.

Father McCoy said, "That is the message of Lent: is by giving up things, we realize the blessings that we have been given. We're able to give greater joy to God for those blessings."

"That element of fasting is not only an act of purity and preparation," said Father Wethering. "It's also a stripping away, moving aside those things that distract us from the faith that is the center of the Christian's life."

The Lenten season ends on Easter Sunday which is April 8.

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