By SUE SUCHYTA
DEARBORN – As Christians entered the 40 days of Lent last week with Ash Wednesday observances, the forehead marking served as a reminder to keep Lenten resolutions and become a better person.
For many Christians, the six weeks before Easter Sunday serve as a period of prayer, penance, service to others and self-reflection.
On the first day of Lent, the ashes from palms blessed the year before on Palm Sunday are used to mark a cross on a worshiper’s forehead as a reminder that mankind comes from and will return to dust, and should remember the Gospel teachings of Christ.
The Rev. Ken Chase of Sacred Heart Roman Catholic Church of Dearborn said the ashes are a reminder that there are things that are not right in our lives.
“We are not always as honest as we wish we were, we’re not always as fair,” Chase said. “We are not always as generous, not always as forgiving. We all have those things in our lives.”
He said the ashes remind us and others of both our imperfections and the opportunity to become better people if we so choose.
Christ provided us with an example of how to live our lives, Chase said.
“He gave us a whole way of life,” Chase said. “Not hatred, but love. Not fear, but courage. Not unkindness, but kindness. Even when we don’t get it together, His dying and rising made it all possible.”
Chase said Lent provides people with a chance to examine and clean up their lives.
“Stand in front of the mirror and take a good look,” Chase said, “and see if that is the best in you, and then think about the things that should change.”
Sacred Heart School principal Melissa Lambrecht said the entire school community attended Feb. 10 Ash Wednesday services together.
Lambrecht said Lent is less about giving things up and more about making changes for the better. She said the student body will focus on corporal and spiritual acts of mercy, or charity during Lent.
Lambrecht said the school community performed a corporal act of mercy by raising money for water filtration systems for Flint Catholic churches St. John Vianney, and St. Pius X, which also has a school.
Gavin Zafarana, 12, of Dearborn said he plans to help others more during Lent by carrying grocery bags and shoveling snow, and by thinking about ways he can become a better person.
“Kind of cleaning out and reorganizing our thoughts, to make it better for others,” Zafarana said.
Nicholas Ilderton, 13, of Dearborn, who will celebrate the rite of confirmation after Easter, said the Lenten time of reflection gives him the chance to get in touch with his heart and to reflect on ways he can be a better person in his everyday life, and the ashes on his forehead serve as a tradition and a reminder.
“It reminds us that things will get better throughout our lives,” Ilderton said.
“The ashes are not the important thing,” Chase said, “It is what is going on in our hearts.”
Elise Sikora, 13, of Dearborn, said her reflection has encouraged her to do more service work during Lent.
“One of the pillars of Lent is alms giving, which is also service,” Sikora said. “Last week we made cards for the children at Covenant House, and for members of the (military) service, and we also made blankets for those who don’t have a lot.”
Covenant House is one of the largest privately funded agencies in the United States that services homeless and runaway youth.
Natalia Sultana, 13, of Dearborn said another pillar of Lent is prayer, so she plans to try to pray more. She also sees it as a chance to do some internal spring cleaning.
“We are going to turn away from sin and get back to God, so that by Easter, Jesus will be proud of us and what we have been doing,” Sultana said.
Catherine Lehmkuhl, 13, of Dearborn, a middle child, said she is going to try harder to get along with her siblings better during Lent.
“It means repentance and trying to make ourselves a better person, the person that God wants us to be,” Lehmkuhl said, “and try to get back on track with where God wants us to go in life.”
She also plans to devote more time to prayer and service.
Sultana said that while prayer is a key part of Lent, doing things for other people is also important.
“If somebody needs help with homework, you could just help them out,” Sultana said.
Sikora said many people have the misconception that Lent is just about giving up something.
“A lot of people think you just give up something for 40 days, but really it’s a lot more,” Sikora said. “But really it’s a lot more, like doing service projects, a fasting, and adding a lot of prayer into your life.”