As COVID precautions continue to play a major role in daily life, the beginning of Lent will look different this year. In January, the Vatican announced modifications to the distribution of ashes on Ash Wednesday, replacing the usual application of an ash cross by a thumb with a “sprinkling” of ashes on the head.
The ritual application of ashes dates back to ancient Jewish tradition and serves two main purposes: to remind us of our physical death (and therefore our need for God) and to serve as a form of public penance.
The ashes received at mass are sacramentals that draw their sanctification from the blessed palms from which they are made and the blessing received from a priest. As such, they are uniquely physical.
This year however, with many churches providing limited services and with many Catholics still quarantining, there will be a large number of people who will be unable to receive ashes and even more who will not have the opportunity to publicly embrace their penance.
In response, Hallow is proud to announce the launch of a digital “AshTag” effect on both Facebook and Instagram.
Ashes symbolize grief and in the case of Lent, are a reminder that we have sinned, separating ourselves from God.
Rather than an exercise in vanity, publicly wearing ashes allows Catholics around the world to embrace humility in penance as part of a community of faith.
What better place to embrace solidarity with the global Church than on social media.
By pairing digital ashes with the hashtag “#ashtag2021” we are literally connected together in a discoverable and shareable way.
Whenever we make public proclamations of penance or prayer, especially on social media, there is always the very real temptation of pride. Proclaiming holiness outwardly while internally feeding into our egos is sinful hypocrisy.
One way of ensuring we embrace a true spirit of humility while embracing our faith online is to combine it with physical and spiritual acts of repentance.
During Lent, we are specifically called toward prayer, fasting, and almsgiving.
When you post your digital ashes, say a prayer for someone in your life who is struggling. Fast from social media for the rest of the day (or even for the rest of Lent). Make an anonymous donation to a local charity. Seek out confession.
Hallow is a Catholic prayer and meditation app that helps users deepen their relationship with God through audio-guided prayer and music. The app has over 1,000 sessions from meditations on the daily Gospel, to the Rosary, to daily Examens, to novenas, to litanies, to prayers before bed, and much more. Launched in December, 2018 Hallow is already the #1 Catholic app in the US and Canadian app stores and has been used to pray over 5 million times in over 150 countries.
Hallow recently launched a #Pray40 Challenge. Join almost 30,000 people in praying every day this Lent, with prayers such as the 7 Sorrows Rosary, the Litany of St. Joseph, Examinations, meditations on the virtues of St. Joseph, Lectio Divina, and sacred music.