Today is Shrove Tuesday, or pancake day, a time when people cleared out the kitchen and prepared for the period of 'doing without' in Lent. The night before they used up milk, eggs and flour to make pancakes as a celebration meal before the self-denial of Lent.
The forty days of Lent are modeled on Jesus' own forty days of fasting in the wilderness before beginning his public ministry of preaching the Gospel. His followers to this day take this time to prepare for the events of Holy Week and Easter by spending the Season of Lent reflecting on the conduct of their lives and how, with the grace of God, they could better live out the call to holiness in the Good News of Jesus Christ.
The period of Lent is also when adults who are preparing for Baptism at Easter, make a final spiritual preparation before accepting new life through the gift of the Holy Spirit in the Sacraments they will receive at the Easter Vigil. By participating in the Lenten Season, the whole community makes this journey with the Candidates, supporting them with prayer and good example.
On Ash Wednesday, at Mass or at prayer services, we mark our foreheads with Blessed Ash in the shape of a cross to remind us at the beginning of this journey, how our Saviour calls upon us all to pick up our cross and follow him daily.