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The Types of Ashes you might get on Ash Wednesday

One of the most visible aspects of Lent, is how it begins: Ash Wednesday.This is the day we all see who is getting ready to enter into the season of Lent, by spotting who has ash on their forehead. This guide will help you identify the types of ash marks you might encounter.

 The Crosscross

A True Classic. The most widely depicted ash in the media. The Cross is probably the most common type of ashes, and also the starting point and root ash type of many others. Frequently, The Cross is attempted only to turn out as one of its many derivatives.

The Thumbprintthumbprint

One of the few ash types not derived from The Cross. Often used when ash supplies are running low or when time is in short supply due to its economic use of ashes and quick application time. Also referred to as ‘The Catholic Bindi” due to its resemblance to the traditional Hindu forehead mark or ” The Missed Spot”, as this is the ash type most frequently confused for a spot of dirt on the forehead left behind from improper face washing technique.

The Double Wide


Simply put, a Cross ash type, whose horizontal line is much longer than proportion allows. The Double Wide can vary from only slightly out of proportion to covering the width of the entire forehead.

The Simba


A Cross or Double Wide with an extremely small or even nonexistent vertical line. So named for its resemblance for the mark young Simba receives in the opening scene of the 1994 Disney animated classic ” The Lion King”

The Unibrow


A Simba or Double Wide whose has a lower latitudinal application than desired. This lower than average location connects the two eyebrows and simulates the appearance of one brow, particularly from mid to long range viewing. Consequently, this is the ash type that is most helpful in growing in humility.

The X Marks the Spot


The classic Cross ash type, tilted anything from 30 – 70 degrees. This may occur when the one applying the ashes is distracted or when the one receiving the ashes tilts their head seconds before application.

The Unsolved Mystery


Any ash type can turn into The Unsolved Mystery, so long as it is concealed by one’s hair.

The Missing Link


An extremely light application of ash. Unless explicitly looking for the ashes, observers may miss them. The Missing Link finds its way to foreheads when older ashes are used, forehead skin is dry or when one absentmindedly wipes their brow.

The Loomster


Closely related to the Double Wide and the Simba, this variety’s most distinctive feature is its prominent vertical line of ash. A complementary horizontal line may or may not be present in all sightings. So names because it brings to mind the longest french fry in an order, particularly on a day of fasting.

The Hash Tag


This ash type usually occurs when the ashes are applied with a very heavy finger, so that the outer lines are thick and prominent, but the inside lines are light and faded. This is also known as the “Ash Tag”

The Been There, Done That


Rarely seen in the wild, this ash type is of particular interest for its resemblance to a check mark. Best chances for a sighting are Masses and Ash services later in the day, when the chances of fatigue for the one applying ashes are at their highest, and your forehead is confused for their to-do list.

If you received your ashes on Ash Wednesday, did you take note of which type you received? Or did you notice someone else with a different type to yours? Post your photos and don’t forget to add the #AshTag

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Holy Thursday Altar of Repose


The first hints of a new theme quickly becomes obvious: an anticipation of suffering and death. The altar table, symbolic of Christ, is stripped in silence.


At times in the past, this action was considered symbolic of the stripping of Jesus before his crucifixion. In early centuries, however, as is again the practice today, the altar table was stripped without ceremony after every Mass. This is an example of the many ancient liturgical customs preserved over the centuries during Holy Week and reinstated in the post-Vatican II liturgical reform. People begin leaving quietly for their homes. An atmosphere of sadness and reflection begins. Until recent times popular thinking considered these hours as a “wake” before the tomb, anticipating Good Friday. More properly, they are hours of “waiting” with Jesus as the saving events begin to unfold.


100_5252At the end of the Holy Thursday liturgy, consecrated communion bread is carried in procession with incense and songs to chapel of adoration. It will be received the next day in communion. After placing the consecrated bread in the tabernacle, an atmosphere of quiet waiting with the Lord begins. It is popular that parishioners spend a holy hour sometime before midnight in the adoration chapel.

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Holy Thursday


HOLY THURSDAY begins the Triduum, which from the 4th century celebrated the Paschal Mystery. Originally these three days began on Good Friday. It was natural, however, to include Holy Thursday because Good Friday was reckoned from sunset on the previous evening. The oldest and still official name of the day is Thursday of the Lord’s Supper. it commemorates the historical gospel events surrounding the Last Supper and the institution of the Holy Eucharist. Maundy Thursday, another popular title in English-speaking countries, comes from the solemn ritual of washing of feet in imitation of Jesus at the Last Supper. The title is a corruption of mandatum (Latin, ‘commandment’) from the words Jesus sung as the washing begins: “A new commandment, I give you…” (John 13:34).

Originally Holy Thursday was a practical preparation of the three-day celebration of the Paschal Mystery rather that a part of it. On this day repentant sinners were absolved and re-incorporated into the parish community so that they could participate in the paschal festivities. New oils needed to be consecrated for use at baptisms and confirmations at the Easter Vigil.

The Observance of the Lord’s Supper in Jerusalem at the traditional place and approximate hour eventually influenced the universal church to imitate the tradition. Remembering the institution of the Holy Eucharist is the heart of Holy Thursday observance. Parish liturgies, since 1955, take place in the evening with joyful overtones. Bells ting and festive colors are used for vestments and decorations. The Glory to God, not sung since Ash Wednesday, returns for this brief moment. The Tabernacle is empty so that all might receive communion from bread consecrated at this Mass. The Tradition of avoiding the joyful sound of bells during the rest of the Triduum began int he 9th century in the Carolingian kingdom. It symbolized the humiliation and suffering of Jesus. In place of bells, wooden noisemakers called clappers were used.



The Holy Thursday ritual has included a ceremonial washing of feet by the presiding celebrant. This ritual imitates Jesus’ Last Supper action of humility and service. Appropriate songs are sung during this symbolic washing. Twelve participants are chosen from the parish at large or from those in parish leadership positions. Some parishes deliberately choose these “twelve apostles” from the very poor or “rejected” citizens to emphasize the theme of service. In the early church this ritual was common during the year as an act of charity and was even considered a sacrament.


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Chrism Mass

DSC_0474 70


During the course of Holy Week, the Bishop, Clergy, and parish delegations of the laity gather at the Cathedral church. There, in solemn ritual, the holy oils used during the year in parishes throughout the diocese are consecrated. These are;

  • The oil of catechumens (pure olive oil used to anoint those preparing for baptism)
  • The oil of chrism (pure olive oil mixed with fragrant balm, used in baptism, confirmation and ordination)
  • The oil of the sick (pure olive oil used in the sacrament of the anointing of the sick)

Parish representatives carry these oils back home where they will be part of their parish’s celebrations of sacraments for the coming year, beginning with the Easter Vigil. Holy Thursday has not attracted many popular traditions. The main one is the waiting with the Lord in the parish chapel of adoration until midnight.

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Sedar Meal – Paschal Meal


Another popular tradition today, observed in some parishes, is the eating of the Sedar meal (Hebrew, “order” of the four cups of blessing.) This is the sacred meal eaten by the Jews during the Passover and the meal from which ritual elements of the Mass were taken. The ritual is conducted by the father of the group. It features telling the original story of the Passover and the eating of these symbolic foods:

  • Matzoh (or unleavened bread)
  • Morar (bitter herbs representing the bitterness of slavery in Egypt)
  • Haroset (representing the brick mortar used by the enslaved Hebrews in building the Pharaoh’s cities)
  • Parsley and Boiled eggs (symbolic of springtime and new life)
  • dipped into Salt Water (symbolic of the tears of the Israelite’s)

At the heart of the ritual is the blessing of unleavened bread and cups of wine and a repeat eating and drinking of these symbolic foods. Used in a Christian context, the eating of the Seder often includes references to the actions of Jesus at the Last Supper. Today many liturgists question this Christian celebration of the Sedar meal. It is a very precious Jewish tradition and a Christian use of it might seem disrespectful. Christians, however, might benefit from participating in a real Seder meal with Jewish friends. Some parishes have begun a tradition of a brief memorial ritual and a parish supper preceding the liturgy of the Lord’s Supper.


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The meaning of Palm Sunday and the Palms

Palm Sunday


Holy week begins with Palm Sunday – called Passion Sunday today – because the theme of Jesus’ suffering and death begins with the reading of the passion. Parish liturgies begin with the blessing of palms somewhere outside of the usual assembly area, in imitation of the triumphant “parade” of Jesus from ‘Bethany’ to ‘Jerusalem’ (Matthew 21:1-11). The gospel of Jesus’ triumphant entry into Jerusalem is read, followed by a procession into the church, with people holding blessed palms and singing festive songs. Soon afterward, however, the theme of the triumph changes radically with the reading of the passion narrative from the gospel of Matthew, Mark, or Luke (depending on what year of the liturgical cycle is being celebrated).

Palm Sunday liturgy is devoted, therefore, more to the suffering of Jesus that to his triumphant reception by the people. By telescoping these events, the church emphasizes the meaning of Holy Week rather than presents and accurate historical progression of saving events. On Palm Sunday the church celebrates the beginning of Jesus’ passage from life to death to new life: the Paschal Mystery.



Originally, people paraded or Blessed palms have always been respected as holy objects or sacramentals. Some families place one or more on the wall behind a crucifix or holy picture until the nest Palm Sunday, or they might braid them into crosses for wall decorations. Others save them and burn a little when some crisis, such as a storm, threats. This custom may have originated in Austria, Bavaria and Slavic countries where it was common to scatter bits of blessed palms around on the farm to protect fields and animals against weather an diseases. Some of these traditions may very well be superstitious practices, presuming that there is a special power in the plants themselves. Already in ancient times Greeks and Romans believed that certain plants possessed mystical powers. Such was the case of mistletoe among the Druides in Celtic lands.processed in the original footsteps of Jesus from the little village of Bethany into the city of Jerusalem. As part of the festivities they carried real palm fronds or olive branches, the two most common trees in Palestine (see Matthew 21:18). These were replaced with local versions of “palms” as the celebration of Palm Sunday spread throughout Europe and then the entire world: willow branches, cedar branches, pussy willows, and flowers.

Before the beginning of Lent the following year, blessed palms are burned at the local church and the ashes used in the Ash Wednesday ritual

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How to make a Palm Cross


On the Sunday before Easter, many Christians celebrate Palm Sunday. Recalling the entrance of Jesus into Jerusalem, churches distribute palm leaves in remembrance of people who waved them and carpeted his path with them. One of the things many people do is to fold the palm leaves into crosses. These are great to give out as little gifts or hide as secret presents! Many have asked, how to make these beautiful Palm Crosses,    below is a short tutorial on how to make your very own.


1. Gently tear or snap off a palm blade off the palm stalk. The type of palm doesn’t matter       provided it bends easily; just test its give before snipping and keep testing until you find       blades that are adequately flexible.


2. Hold the palm blade pointy side up.


3. Fold the blade to the right to make a 90 degree angle.


4. Fold down once. Then, fold down again. You should now have a small square shape.


5. Push the pointy end around the back of the square and fold over.


6. Take the pointy end on the left, and loop it towards you without making any turns. Then:
  • Push then pull the pointy end through the square until it comes out of the square.


  • Pull through all the way.


7. Hold onto the square with one hand and tug on the fat and pointed ends to secure it.
    You should now have a locked 90 degree angle.


8. Take the pointy end and turning it towards yourself, push through the square.                       This is the head and base of the cross.


9. Turn 45 degrees to where the pointy end is facing downward and the fat end is facing to     your right.
10. Flip it so that the fat end is now on your left.Make-a-Palm-Frond-Cross-Step-12
11. Take the fat end and loop it away from you into the square. Pull it until it reaches about       the same length as the head.
12. Turn it over to where the straight fat end faces left again.


13. Take the fat end and loop it towards you back into the square. Pull until it is about the           same length as the other two parts. Be sure to tuck it inside the other loop so that you         can’t see it. You’re done!


14. Finished!

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Media Resources to Break your Lenten Fast


We all know “the interwebs” are full of dirty, vicious things that are trying to destroy us. Did you know they’re also full of awesome Catholic resources? The websites, apps, and podcasts below can help you learn your faith, and even help you with your prayer.

Note: Despite all appearances, I am not actually trying to get you to spend more time on the web during Lent. Please use prudence.


Sancte Pater

You can download PDFs of virtually all classical spiritual works for free at this website. If it’s amazing, approved, and public domain, it’s here. Selections include everything from Introduction to the Devout Life to the The Imitation of Christ to my personal favorite, The Roman Index of Forbidden Books.

(Note: Some classics are better reads than others.)

New Advent

It’s basically Buzzfeed on steroids for Catholics. The homepage is a collection of the best Catholic blogs, talks, and web pages and is constantly updated. They also have many of the classical works available.

Covenant Eyes

This is technically accountability software to help with pornography addictions. However, it can also be used to keep you off any website where you spend too much time. You simply enter all the websites you need to avoid. Any time you visit those sites, a friend will receive an email. Subscriptions start at $8.99 a month, with deals for additional users.


This is designed to bring traditional Catholic resources to modern readers. Resources include a saint of the day, daily Mass readings, a blog, apologetics, prayers and more.

Real Life Catholic

Chris Stefanick’s website is dedicated to bringing the Catholic faith to young people in an engaging way. He has the normal articles, speaking information, etc., but what really sets his site apart are the well-done, compelling videos.  This one on sufferingthis one on mercy, and this one on Confession are some of my favorites. They’re all great reflections for Lent.


Check out Jonathan’s post for more free Catholic apps.


Don’t question–just download this.

It’s contains TONS of prayers, the Bible, the liturgical calendar, daily Mass readings, and all the public domain spiritual classics previously mentioned. It also has a twin app,iDoctrina, in which you quiz yourself over the catechism. These apps are 99 cents each. Make room in your budget.

Via Crucis

This is the traditional Stations of the Cross, with classical works of art and reflections by St. Francis of Assisi to help you meditate. It costs $1.99.

Scriptural Rosary

This is similar to the Via Crucis App, as it is by the same developer. It also uses classical works of art and scripture passages to help bring the mysteries of the rosary to life. You can record yourself or someone else saying the prayers. The light version is free, the full version is $3.99.


Get access to FOCUS talks, videos, Bible studies, and blog for free!


It will send you reminders not to eat meat on fast days. It also contains our daily reflections, Lenten blog posts, and Meat Police videos.


UMD Catholic

Father Mike Schmitz is a gifted Catholic speaker and apologist. He records his homilies every Sunday and puts them online, and they are wonderful. They’re also a great way to keep Sunday’s theme with you throughout the week.

Catholic Stuff You Should Know

It’s exactly what it sounds like: A Catholic version of the popular Stuff You Should Know podcast. They cover tons of diverse topics, from saint stories to the seal of Confession to Batman. They’re on a hiatus right now, so you have plenty of time to listen your way through!

Divine Office

Recordings of all the Liturgy of the Hours prayers every day. It’s great if you’re just starting and need help figuring out what to say, or if you’re doing it alone and are easily distracted. You can download the podcasts every night, or buy the app for $20.


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Paschal / Easter Candles – what are they and why do we use them?

Purchase your Pascal candle from our Online Store today, we have a selection of 4 sizes to choose from as well as the Incense grains and self application candle design.

Stocks are limited, so order your Paschal Candle today

Different Paschal CandlesThe Paschal Candle

The flame of the Paschal candle symbolizes the eternal presence of Christ, light of the world in the midst of his people; he who is the Second Person of the Trinity, the Alpha and Omega. The Paschal candle is sometimes referred to as the “Easter candle” or the “Christ candle.” The term “Paschal” comes from the word Pesach, which in Hebrew means Passover, and relates to the Paschal mystery of salvation.The tall white candle in many ways signifies the Divine pillar of cloud by day and the pillar of fire by night that lead the Israelites in their Exodus from slavery in Egypt..

Description of the Paschal candle

For congregations that use a Paschal candle it is the largest candle in the worship space. In most cases today the candle will display several common symbols:
  1. paschalcandle2013-mini

    The cross is always the central symbol, most clearly identifying it as the Paschal candle

  2. The Greek letters alpha and omega signify that God is the beginning and the end (from the Book of Revelation)
  3. The current year represents God in the present amidst the congregation
  4. Five grains of incense are embedded in the candle during the Easter Vigil to represent the five wounds of Jesus: the three nails that pierced his hands and feet, the spear thrust into his side, and the thorns that crowned his head.

The Paschal candle in the Easter Vigil

For churches that celebrate the Easter Vigil on the night of Black Saturday, the ceremonial lighting of the Paschal candle is one of the most solemn moments of the service.

On Maundy Thursday of the same week the entire church is darkened by extinguishing all candles and lamps. This represents the darkness of a world without God.

At the opening of the Easter Vigil a “new fire” is lit and blessed. The minister will trace the symbols (mentioned above) on the Paschal candle, saying words similar to: “Christ, yesterday and today, the beginning and the ending. To Christ belongs all time and all the ages; to Christ belongs glory and dominion now and forever. Amen.”

The Paschal candle is the first candle to be lit with a flame from this sacred fire, representing the light of Christ coming into the world. This represents the risen Christ, as a symbol of light (life) dispelling darkness (death). As it is lit, the minister may say words similar to: “The light of Christ, rising in Glory, dispel the darkness of our hearts and minds.”

Typically, the worshiping assembly then processes into the church led by the Paschal candle. The candle is raised three times during the procession, accompanied by the chant “The light of Christ” to which the assembly responds “Thanks be to God”. Following the procession the Exultet is chanted, traditionally by a deacon, but it may be chanted by the priest or a cantor. The Exultet concludes with a blessing of the candle:

Accept this Easter candle,
a flame divided but undimmed,
a pillar of fire that glows to the honor of God.
(For it is fed by the holy melting wax, which the mother bee brought forth
to make this precious candle.)
Let it mingle with the lights of heaven
and continue bravely burning
to dispel the darkness of this night!
May the Morning Star which never sets
find this flame still burning:
Christ, that Morning Star,
who came back from the dead,
and shed his peaceful light on all humanity,
your Son, who lives and reigns for ever and ever.

In some traditions the base of the candle may be ritually immersed in the baptismal font before proceeding with the remainder of the service.

This candle is traditionally the one from which all other lights are taken for the Easter service.

Use of the Paschal candle during other times of the year

The candle remains lit at all worship services throughout Easter season (or in some traditions until Ascension Day, when it is extinguished just after the Gospel), during which time it is located in the sanctuary close to the altar. After the Easter season, it is frequently placed near the baptismal font. Before 1955, the option existed of blessing the baptismal font on the Vigil of Pentecost, and this was the only time the Paschal candle would be lit at services after Ascension.

The Paschal candle is also lit during baptisms to signify the Holy Spirit and fire that John the Baptist promised to those who were baptised in Christ. During the baptismal rite in many traditions, a small lit candle will be given to the newly baptised by a member of the community, with words similar to, “Let your light so shine before others, that they might see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.” (Matthew 5:16)

The Paschal candle is also lit and placed near the casket or urn during funeral services such as the Mass of Repose, and Mass of Requiem. This is to signify the hope of the resurrection into which Christians are baptised.

Purchase your Pascal candle from our Online Store today, we have a selection of 4 sizes to choose from as well as the Incense grains and self application candle design.

Stocks are limited, so order your Paschal Candle today