Christians crowded into local churches Wednesday, joining their counterparts around the world to mark the start of Lent with the traditional application of ashes to the forehead.
The 40-day Lenten season is regarded by Roman Catholics and others as the most sacred time of the year. It culminates with Holy Week and Easter Sunday, recognized as the day of the resurrection of Jesus Christ.
The ashes, applied as a sign of repentance to the forehead in the form of a cross by a priest or Eucharistic minister, traditionally come from palm fronds collected on the previous Palm Sunday and then burned.
Churches including St. Bede in La Cañada Flintridge, St. James in La Crescenta and Holy Family in Glendale added additional services Wednesday to accommodate parishioners, as well as their grade school and high school students.
At 8 a.m. Mass at Holy Redeemer Church in Montrose, the Rev. Tim McGowan told parishioners that the fasting and penance asked of Christians in the weeks leading up to Easter are not meant for public show.