HAGERSTOWN, Md.More than one thousand Catholics attended Ash Wednesday services at Saint Mary’s in Hagerstown, joining other Christians around the world as Lent begins.

Christians focus on simple living, prayer, and fasting to grow closer to God during this time, which marks 40 days before Easter, excluding Sundays. This year it is February 18th to April 5th, which is Easter Sunday.

Father Collin Poston, pastor of Saint Mary’s Catholic Church in Hagerstown, says, “We receive ashes on our forehead to show that we are sorry for the ways that we have turned away from God. But also we’re reminded that God has mercy and longs to take us back.”

The palms from Palm Sunday are burned and mixed with a little water or oil to create the ashes for Ash Wednesday.