AUSTIN -- Churches and congregations across the nation celebrated the start of the Lenten season Wednesday. Thousands in Austin also took part.
The ringing bells at St. Louis Catholic Church in North Austin was a call to the faithful Wednesday.
This Ash Wednesday, many used their lunch hour to practice their faith. The day marks the beginning of Lent, a time of fasting, prayer and repentance.
“This is for us to start preparing ourselves, preparing our hearts for when he does resurrect,” said Acolyte Greg Herdlitchka. He says it’s an emotional time for him as well.
Wednesday he took time off from his job in the National Guard to help serve his congregation.
“God has gotten me through a lot, when I was deployed in Iraq,” Herdlitchka said. “In the military we've lost so many people, and I've lost so many friends. I thank God everyday for giving me the ability to continue on with life and my family and many of my friends haven't. This is just a small portion of thanking God and helping us cleanse our sins and our bodies to help us get to heaven so I can be back with my friends,” he said.
As hundreds waited inside the church to receive the mark of the cross on their forehead, others were getting their ashes elsewhere.
“Obviously we're not in a church,” said Rev. Billy Tweedie of St. David’s Episcopal Church. “We recognize that not everyone can make it to church.”
Throughout the day Rev. Tweedie and other priests stood on the corners of 6th Street and Congress and 6th Street and Lamar, helping those too busy to attend church services observe the holy day.
“This is a special day that starts a special season. So for us it's more important to go outside our church walls and break tradition a little bit,” Tweedie said.
The priests said it doesn't matter where busy believers receive their cross of ashes, as long as they remember what and who Ash Wednesday is all about.