SOUTH BEND Christians around the world mark the beginning of the Lenten season on Ash Wednesday. Historically, the ashes are imposed on one's forehead as a reminder of mortality.
Lent is a roughly six week period before the Easter holiday. Today, the beginning of Lent means "giving something up" for most people.
Monsignor Michael Heintz, the rector at St. Matthew Cathedral in South Bend, says the idea of sacrifice is only half of the story.
"The whole point of the sacrifice is it actually makes it easier to do something positive," said Monsignor Heintz. "The whole point of being freed up is to be more generous, more charitable toward others."
Monsignor Heintz says even those who are not religious can appreciate and learn from Ash Wednesday and the Lenten season.
"It's interesting we have full churches on Ash Wednesday, everyone who may not go to church regularly comes on Ash Wednesday," said Monsignor Heintz. "Everybody can identify with Ash Wednesday because everyone of us recognizes, if we're honest with ourselves, that we're far less than the people we ought to be, that is, we have a lot of growing to do."
Real-life sacrifices, common during the Lenten season, are things like giving up candy, coffee or alcohol.
"The money you would spend on the candy you could give as a charitable donation," said Monsignor Heintz. "It also just may discipline you better to watch your intake of things you don't need."
Others often give up social media like Facebook and Twitter.
"How much time do we spend for example squandered just looking at Facebook on a computer, or surfing the web? What starts as 5 minutes turns into an hour, and we've lost an hour of our day that could be better used," said Monsignor Heintz.
Another tough sacrifice is the cell phone.
"We're a very, very connected society, and that's not always a good thing, that is, despite all of our means of being connected to one another the quality of our communication is actually worse than it was before we got twitter, and facebook and cell phones and texting," said Monsignor Heintz.
In all, Monsignor Heintz, says anyone can learn from the true meaning of Lent and the season of sacrifice.
"One of the great historical and theological purposes of fasting was to remind ourselves that most of us have far more than we need," said Monsignor Heintz. "There are many people in the world, vast numbers, far too many, who go to bed hungry each day, who have needs. We whine if the Internet goes down for an hour. We whine if the microwave seems to take too long cooking our dinner, we're impatient, we all feel entitled and we are very spoiled."