Ash Wednesday marked the beginning of Christians’ annual 40-day journey to Easter with Masses and Liturgies of the Word throughout the world, and locally, Cardinal Joseph W. Tobin, the archbishop of Newark, celebrated the Eucharist at St. Patrick’s Pro Cathedral in Newark that day at noontime, a long-standing tradition for archbishops that predates his arrival here from Indianapolis.
The cardinal imposed ashes on the foreheads of hundreds of faithful, many of whom took time away from the office and busy schedules for the special Mass.
After the liturgy, Cardinal Tobin, dressed in purple vestments, the color designated for Lent (and Advent), took time to address the media assembled — and to explain why the Lenten season is an important time of year in the life of the Roman Catholic Church (and in other Christian churches, as well.)
“In the spiritual world, this is a new beginning,” Cardinal Tobin said. “The church begins to walk together for 40 days where we pay special attention to the word of God. We want to be especially generous to the needs of God’s children, especially the poor. So I got out of bed in a pretty good mood this morning because it.
“The ashes, if you read the Bible at different points, when people change their mind when they come back to God, they sprinkled Ashes on their foreheads a sign of repentance to God. Traditionally it’s a sign of immortality — you know that none of us is here forever and often the words that are said, ‘Remember that you’re dust — just like what you have on your forehead — it is dust that you return,’ so why hold resentments?
“Why stay away from God? Come back. This is basically a good time to reconcile. This is primetime. Anytime is a good time to be reconciled with God, but Lent is especially important because with church rolls out all of its good stuff, you know special readings, times of Bible study, penance services and generosity to the poor.”
Stephen X. Williams, of Harrison, says he took his lunch hour — he works on Broad Street in Newark — to attend the Mass because he feels a special bond with Cardinal Tobin.
“There’s something about the guy that exudes holiness,” Williams said. “And yet, he’s a very simple guy, too. He’s approachable. He listens. His words actually mean something. He lives as he preaches. And as Lent begins, I couldn’t have thought of a better way to begin.”
Marie Pierre, a resident of Belleville, says she is a Catholic who will always seek ashes to offer an outward sign of her faith. She decided to come to the cardinal’s Mass since she lives not too far away.
“It may seem somewhat morbid, but it’s true,” Pierre said. “We come from dust — and we become dust, after death … at least our physical bodies do. We don’t get a long time on this earth but it’s more about what we do with our time here. I always so my best to ‘Turn away from sin and be faithful to the Gospel’ as the priest can sometimes say at the imposition of ashes. I try my best to live that way — doesn’t always happen — but I do try.”
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Kevin A. Canessa Jr. is the editor of and broadcaster at The Observer, a place where he has served on and off since 2006. He is responsible for the editorial content of the newspaper and website, the production of the e-Newspaper, writing several stories per week (including the weekly editorial), conducting live broadcasts on Facebook Live, including a weekly recap of the news — and much more behind the scenes. Between 2006 and 2008, he introduced the newspaper to its first-ever blog — which included podcasts, audio and video. Originally from Jersey City, Kevin lived in Kearny until 2004, lived in Port St. Lucie. Florida, for four years until February 2016 and in March of that year, he moved back to West Hudson to return to The Observer full time. Click Here to send Kevin an email.