LAKE CHARLES, LA (KPLC) - The Wednesday following the celebration of Mardi Gras is observed as Ash Wednesday for many Christian denominations.
Wednesday is a day of repentance in the Catholic faith and many Protestant denominations as well.
Extra masses were held at churches across southwest Louisiana for people to come and remember what this time of year is all about.
Catholics, Lutherans, Anglicans and many other denominations observe the day that marks the start of Lenten season.
"Ash Wednesday for us is the beginning of the Lenten season," said Pastor Charles Miller of St. John Lutheran Church. "Ash Wednesday and Lent is always about repentance and remembering that we are our sinful people before god."
People attend mass on Ash Wednesday to hear a message, take the Lord's Supper and receive the drawing of an ash cross on their foreheads. According to Monsignor Ronald Groth, the marking of the cross of ashes is a gift.
"It's a special blessing for them to receive the ashes and it's a consecration of their desire to do some spiritual renewal, some sacrifice on their part in order to become closer to the lord," said Monsignor Ronald Groth, pastor at Sacred Heart Catholic Church.
For Anglicans the ashes symbolize the fact that humans are mortal but for all observers the ashes symbolize one other principle.
"The ashes even from the time of the Old Testament were a sign of repentance and sorrow for sin," Pastor Miller said.
Father Peter Cook from the Anglican Church St. Michael's says the cross can also hold another message for others.
"It's amazing," said Father Cook. A lot of people are very happy to wear the sign of the ashes as they go back to work. And that's just a little witness that they take their Christian faith seriously. Without shouting about it, other people might notice."
With Lenten season now underway, both Miller and Groth hope their congregations have hope and renewal over the next few weeks.
"I hope that they take away not only this desire to be faithful to some type of sacrifice of denial but that they would have some goal of spiritual renewal in mind for themselves," said Monsignor Groth.
"I hope they take away an attitude of hope to know that even though we are sinful people that we are also forgiven people," said Pastor Miller. "God's grace is the most wondrous gift of all."
The Lenten season will go on for the next 46 days until Easter.
Those participating are asked to sacrifice one item or idea that they desire...the sacrifice symbolizes the fasting of Jesus for forty days and forty nights.