Protocol for Ash Wednesday, February 17, 2021
The reception of blessed ashes by the Catholic faithful is important for our people. However, in the time of the pandemic, the imposition of ashes in the usual manner is not possible. It is also prudent to remind the faithful that Ash Wednesday is not a Holy Day of Obligation, and that one is not obliged to attend Mass, nor is one obliged to receive ashes.
Because of the instruction from Cardinal Sarah and due to the current state of the pandemic, this year the Diocese of Rockville Centre will administer ashes by sprinkling the blessed ashes on the top of the head of the recipient. While imposition of ashes with the sign of the cross on the forehead has been customary in the United States, in many other parts of the world, the Roman Rite’s tradition of sprinkling of dry ashes on top of the head is, in fact, the more common practice.
The Priest will say the prayer for blessing the ashes. He will sprinkle the ashes with holy water, without saying anything. Then he addresses all those present and only once says the formula as it appears in the Roman Missal, applying it to all in general: “Repent, and believe in the Gospel”, or “Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return“. The priest after cleansing his hands and putting on his mask will distribute the ashes to those who come to him. The priest will take the ashes and sprinkle them on the head of each one without saying anything.