Mark of faith: Suburban Christians observe Ash Wednesday

With foreheads marked by ashes in the shape of a cross, many suburban Catholics and other Christians observed Ash Wednesday, ushering in the Lenten season.

Throughout Cook and Lake counties, Catholic parishes celebrated Masses and hosted liturgical services Wednesday where the faithful could receive ashes from the burning of last year’s palms, the Archdiocese of Chicago said.

Commuters also could take their ashes to go from clergy distributing them at Chicago Transit Authority stations, Union Station, and at O'Hare International Airport and Midway International Airport.

Churches across the suburbs, including in St. Charles and Wheaton, observed the ritual services marking the beginning of a solemn 40-day period devoted to reflection, prayer, spiritual preparation and fasting before Easter.

Ash Wednesday stems from the ancient Jewish tradition of penance and fasting.

The practice includes the wearing of ashes on the head as a visible symbol of penance. The ashes symbolize the dust from which God made humans and the grief of sin.

Wendy Bennett receives ashes for Ash Wednesday from Lee Kolodziej of St. Charles Episcopal Church at the Geneva Metra station Wednesday. Sandy Bressner/Shaw Local News Network
  The Rev. John Ouper distributes ashes Wednesday during Mass at St. Daniel in Wheaton. Ash Wednesday signifies the beginning of the Lenten season for Catholics and other Christians. Brian Hill/
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