This year, due to COVID-19, parishioners may receive ashes in a different way.  The manner in which non-English speaking countries receive ashes is by having them sprinkled on the crown of their heads.  Sprinkling ashes on the crown of the head recalls the biblical method of putting on sackcloth and ashes as a sign of penance: “Now on the twenty-fourth day of this month the people of Israel were assembled with fasting and in sackcloth, and with earth upon their heads” (Neh 9:1).  The American method of putting ashes on the forehead, usually in the sign of the cross, allows the ashes to be visible to others so that the communal, penitential nature of the day might be more readily visible.  As ashes will be distributed by the manner of sprinkling, there are some things of which one should be aware. First, when receiving ashes, simply bow your head.  Second, since ashes may fall off of your head, it may be best to wear something that will not show the dark ashes.

Photo Credit: Rome