LUFKIN, TX (KTRE) - Several hundred Catholics took time out of their work day to observe Ash Wednesday at St. Andrew the Apostle Catholic Church.
The noon mass was special as the parishioners joined millions of other Christians around the world in marking the day that starts the Lenten season.
"It's a sense of urgency, Father Joe Kannampuzha said." God said right now, it is the appropriate time."
Those who took time to kneel in the pew believe the Season of Lent offers a time for them to do self-examination.
"It gives us a chance to stop and reflect more in these 40 days then we do any other time of year," Tim Healey said.
The practice of putting ashes in the shape of a cross on the forehead has been going on for centuries and came from ancient Jewish traditions of penance and fasting. Kannampuzha told his parishioners that the act symbolizes the dust from which the Bible says humans were formed from.
"God is our best friend, and it is so wonderful, and I am so glad I get to be here," Barb Flournoy said. "It's more than the service. At home, I play hymns and read scripture several hours everyday."
Kannampuzha said the season is a way for Christians to come to peace with God.
"You reconcile to God, so Christians take this very seriously," Kannampuzha said.
During Lent, Christians are asked to give up something they feel is holding them back.
"it could be your attitude," Kannampuzha said. "It could be your behavior or anything you do in terms of sacrifice."
"You might say I have fasted all year from Blue Bell, but I'm going to try to give up on the sweets because I do like those," Healey said.
However, it is more than fasting; members are also encourages to look at their feelings as well.
"I'm not much into fasting," Hugh Anderson said. "It's not just sacrifices, but I reflect a whole year to see if I can be a better person than I was."
Kannampuzha said the observance of Lent will not just be on Ash Wednesday but will last through the weeks leading up to Easter. Every Friday night the church will hold a special Stations of the Cross Mass. The services will be at 5:30 pm.