NAIROBI, Kenya, Mar 1 – Catholics across the World on Wednesday marked the start of the Lenten period in the Christian calendar, known as Ash Wednesday.
In Nairobi, the Holy Family Basilica situated in the Central Business District increased the number of its services from four to nine to cater for the big number of people showing up for Ash Wednesday.
The climax of the important day in the liturgical calendar was the 1pm mass that saw Catholics show up in their hundreds to receive the symbolic mark of a cross marked with ashes on their forehead to remind them that from dust they came and to dust they will return.
“The first death is lack of life of God, which is spiritual poverty. During this time of Lent we remember and we join Jesus Christ who fasted for 40 days in the wilderness,” Auxiliary Bishop David Kamau who presided the lunchtime mass explained.
He said it was a day to remind Christians across the world that self purification was important in strengthening their spiritual lives and praying for those others in need.
During his homily to the faithful, Bishop Kamau called on Kenyans especially leaders to use the 40 days to reflect on their service to the people, repent and dedicate themselves to fostering peace.
But even as fasting and prayer will remain the essence of the lent period, he urged Christians not to fast and pray for the sake of being seen to do so but to do it from their hearts with a purpose.
He appealed to them to remember people suffering in the country because of drought and also for the country that will be facing a General Election in a few months time.
For Mary Macharia, Ash Wednesday marked her dedication to praying for Kenyans especially those suffering because of prevailing situations of unrest.
“Right now we have a problem in the country, we have famine and we have unrest in some areas and since it is an election year, we are praying for a free and fair election,” she stated.
Chief John who also attended mass to mark the beginning of the Lenten period said he will concentrate his prayers to pray for people and areas affected by the ravaging drought.
“The meaning of fasting is when we dedicate our lives to a certain issue, for me I am dedicating my prayer for the rain and for the country,” he stated.
Last Saturday, the Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops launched the Lent Campaign through the Catholic Justice and Peace Commission with special focus on prayers for peace, and security as the country readies for the August General Election.