Take the 2-minute tour ×
Christianity Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for committed Christians, experts in Christianity and those interested in learning more. It's 100% free, no registration required.

Since I have learnt of this practice, I thought that placing ashes on Ash Wednesday is practiced worldwide, at least within Roman Catholic Church. But now I have been on a Mass (from first Lent Sunday, when ashes may be placed for those who didn't receive this sacramental on Ash Wednesday) attended by some Portuguese. They seemed puzzled when they saw the priest placing ashes on other worshippers - they apparently didn't know the practice.

I checked Czech (I'm Czech) and English wikipedia, and they both highlight the practice of placing ashes. I don't speak Portuguese, but Portuguese wikipedia has no ashes-themed picture and from the little I understand it seems that this practice is not even mentioned there. Anyway, Portugal is unlikely to be the only country not observing imposition of ashes. English wikipedia gives a list of churches observing Ash Wednesday, but not of countries where the practice of placing ashes is (or is not) observed in Roman Catholic Church. Is there any such list?

share|improve this question
They may not have been puzzled by the imposition of ashes per se, but imposing it on a Sunday. As there is no rule that says ashes may be imposed on first Lent Sunday. (although afaik there is no rule prohibiting it either) –  Jayarathina Madharasan Mar 9 '14 at 4:47
Incidentally, I'm interested if anyone knows whether or not the Orthodox practice the imposition of ashes. –  Matthew Moisen Mar 9 '14 at 8:44
@MatthewMoisen: look at wikipedia, the answer for your question is there - en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ash_Wednesday. –  Pavel Mar 9 '14 at 12:52
@Pavel Thank you. "The Eastern Orthodox Church does not, in general, observe Ash Wednesday; instead, Orthodox Great Lent begins on Clean Monday. There are, however, a relatively small number of Orthodox Christians who follow the Western Rite; these do observe Ash Wednesday, although often on a different day from the previously mentioned denominations, as its date is determined from the Orthodox calculation of Pascha, which may be as much as a month later than the Western observance of Easter." –  Matthew Moisen Mar 9 '14 at 20:08

1 Answer 1

When I was in the U.S. Episcopal, now Anglican, church for 12-18 years, the parish I worshipped with observed Ash Wednesday with the imposition of ashes. My understanding is this is more common in the "high" or more formal Episcopal churches and less common in the "low" or less formal churches.

share|improve this answer
Yes, it's mostly found in "mainstream" and "liturgical" faith communities here in the US. It is also associated with many ethnic faith communities such as Vietnamese, Korean, Hispanic, and European background of all denominations. Based on working in a hospital setting with a large international presence, I would agree that most countries are aware of the practice... what might be seen as unusual is imposition of the ashes outside an Ash Wednesday service. –  Chaplain Weasle M. S. Forsythe Feb 26 at 20:54
This is a question about Catholic parishes, not practice within the Protestant factions. –  the dark wanderer Apr 19 at 17:15

Your Answer


By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.