Ash Wednesday Do’s and Dont’s

Tonight’s Republican presidential debate falls on Ash Wednesday, and Catholic candidates Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich may appear on the debate stage with noticeable ash marks. Once you’ve put on ashes for Ash Wednesday, how long do you have to keep them on? It’s up to you.

Ash Wednesday is not a Holy Day of Obligation in the Catholic Church, so Catholics can choose whether to go to church and where the ashes would be placed on their foreheads. They’re also permitted to make their own decisions about when and how to remove the ashes. Many Catholics leave the mark on all day but wash it off before bedtime. Ashes also tend to flake off by themselves, or get rubbed away by absentminded forehead brushings. (Services can happen at any time of day, so it’s at least conceivable that Santorum and Gingrich might receive the ashes after their early-evening debate in Arizona.) [more]