BILOXI, MS (WLOX) - On Ash Wednesday, many Christians across South Mississippi headed to church to mark the beginning of the Lenten season. Ash Wednesday is one of the most highly-attended masses in the Catholic faith. It was a day of prayer, penance, and personal sacrifice.
Parishioners packed Our Lady of Fatima Catholic Church in Biloxi to observe one of the holiest days on the Christian calendar. For Catholics, Ash Wednesday is a day of tradition and sacrifice and a time to give up meat, fast, and reflect.
"It's the beginning of Lent. That is a period of 40 days, like when Jesus went into the desert, he fasted for 40 days and 40 nights," explained Father John Ralph, a retired priest.
"I think Ash Wednesday is a time to get our thoughts together, to praise God and draw closer to God, repent our lives," said Monty Paggerot of Biloxi. "You look back at the sins you've committed, in your thoughts, your words, and your deeds. It's time to overcome your sinful nature."
Many coast Christians wore a visible sign of their repentance. As the priest or minister placed a cross of ashes on the foreheads of the faithful, it also served as a reminder of their mortality.
"It honestly humbles me that from ashes, we came from ashes, to ashes we will return," said Katie Rockholt of Biloxi.
Rockholt brought her two young children to the mass to share the significance of Ash Wednesday with them.
"I believe it's a fresh start to a new year, and it just symbolizes starting over the reconnecting with God," said Rockholt.
They can do that by praying, fasting, and giving to charity during Lent.
"You add some things that you're going to do extra for Lent, and some things you give up for Lent. For instance, I don't eat between meals during Lent," said James Hinkle of Biloxi.
They considered them small sacrifices as they prepare for the resurrection of Jesus Christ on Easter Sunday.