On 9 March Catholics across England and Wales are being invited to wear their ashes with confidence to witness to their faith. Speaking ahead of the day, Bishop Kieran Conry, Chair of the Department for Evangelisation and Catechesis, said:
"Ash Wednesday is the start of Lent when we are invited for forty days to set aside more time for prayer and fasting in preparation for Easter. The Ashes, made in the sign of the cross on our foreheads on this day, are an outward sign of our inward sorrow for our sins and of our commitment to Jesus as Our Lord and Saviour.
"The wearing of the ashes provides us with a wonderful opportunity to share with people how important our faith is to us and to point them to the cross of Christ. I invite you where possible to attend a morning or lunchtime Mass. Please try not to rub off your ashes as soon as you leave church, but take the sign of the cross to all those that you meet - in your school, office, factory, wherever you may be. This might just make people curious and wonder why you would do this. If you explain about Lent and Easter it might just make them think and may even awaken in them the questions that might lead to faith. Many people have a dim awareness of Lent and even ashes. It would be good to make this clear rather than dim.
"Don't underestimate the power of this simple action and wear your ashes as not only a sign of the beginning of your Lenten journey, but also to witness to your greatest treasure in life. This small step could awaken faith in the hearts of many that you meet in a way that words could never do so."