The Vatican Congregation for Divine Worship and the Sacraments has reminded priests to take special precautions in this year’s Ash Wednesday celebrations on February 17.
Instead of the usual practice of using ashes to make a cross on people’s foreheads, priests are now instructed to sprinkle ashes on the heads of the faithful.
Ash Wednesday Guidelines
As mentioned in the note, priests are instructed to say “the prayer for blessing the ashes” at the beginning of the celebrations and then sprinkle “the ashes with holy water, without saying anything.” (Read: My Pope’s List of Do’s and Don’ts for Holy Week)
Following this, the priest must address those present and recite once the formula found in the Roman Missal: “Repent, and believe in the Gospel” or “Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return.”
At that point, the priest must cleanse his hands, put on a face mask, and distribute ashes to those who come to him — or, if appropriate, he must go to those who are standing in their places and sprinkle ashes on them on the head “without saying anything,” the note reads.
Filipino Priests Oblige
On January 13, a day after the congregation published the note, Catholic bishops and priests in the Philippines announced that they would strictly follow the guidelines released by the Vatican.
“Actually, sprinkling of ashes on the head is the original way,” said Manila Apostolic Administrator, Bishop Broderick Pabillo. “Last year, priests [had] a choice [of whether to sprinkle the ashes on people’s heads or not]. We are waiting for CBCP instructions still.”
Bishop Honesto Ongtioco of Cubao shared the same sentiment and said that they would follow the Vatican guidelines. “We would just do the sprinkling, which goes back to ancient times,” he said. (Read: There might be changes in how we celebrate Ash Wednesday this year)
This year’s Ash Wednesday falls on the 17th of February. The event marks the start of the Lenten season for Catholics all over the world.