SLIDESHOW: Beginning of Lent marked at Ash Wednesday services

Wednesday, February 17, 2010 | 3:26 p.m. CST; updated 4:41 p.m. CST, Wednesday, February 17, 2010
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Parishioners from Sacred Heart Catholic Church in Columbia gathered Wednesday for the annual Ash Wednesday service.

Sacred Heart Catholic Church parishioners participated in an Ash Wednesday service, led by Deacon John Weaver at noon Wednesday. Ash Wednesday marks the first day of Lent, a Christian religious period during which practitioners are instructed to lead a more pure life through fasting, repentance of sin and typically the giving up of some vice or indulgence for the weeks leading up to Easter.

During the service, Weaver spoke about the importance of not only giving something up during Lent, but also adding a more positive and fulfilling practice. His readings from the Bible focused on the importance of observing Lent in an inward and personal way.

After the liturgy and prayers, participants gathered in the center of the church to be anointed with ashes.

Weaver said he hoped the service would help people get back on track with their religious practice. "This is the hour, this is the time," Deacon Weaver said. "The ashes symbolize a milestone where we recognize it is time to think about this conversion of heart we seek."

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