February 10, 2005
In somber silence, lines of Roman Catholics trudged forward to the priest or his volunteers where black ashes were smudged on their foreheads, in the sign of a cross, as they heard the grim words, "Thou art dust and unto dust thou shall return."
With downcast faces, they returned Wednesday morning to their seats at St. Andrew the Apostle Catholic Church in Chandler, the first steps in their Lenten journey of 2005. Moments earlier, Monsignor Thomas Zazella implored them to be self-centered, this one time, so they could better reconcile their relationship with God.
Unlike last year when film director Mel Gibson jumpstarted the Easter season with the blockbuster "The Passion of The Christ," Ash Wednesday came without fanfare this year — just the timeworn reminder to believers that they have 7 1 /2 weeks to prepare themselves for the message of the Resurrection, through such means as selfdenial, prayer, fasting and study.
In his uniform, U.S. Navy recruiter Tim Talbott participated in his first Catholic Ash Wednesday Mass.
The one -time Baptist began his classes for conversion, with Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults instruction, last September and will be confirmed as a Catholic on Easter.
Talbott said the Lenten message to him was that "it’s not just giving up, but giving out" and serving others.
St. Andrew’s parishioner John Faccone, who was among the 550 who attended the first Mass of Lent, said Ash Wednesday is humbling.
"It makes you realize and reminds you that this (life) is only temporary," he said. "We get caught up in everyday experiences and forget there is a very important future ahead of us."
Getting in touch with oneself and God during Lent, Zazella said, opens the way to get in touch with the poor and hungry and to work against injustice and oppression.
Ashes traditionally come from burned palm leaves of the previous year’s Palm