Ash Wednesday is the first day of Lent that regularly falls forty-six days before Easter. It is known as a time for Catholics to reflect on Christ's death and his resurrection through repentance, prayer, and fasting.

Palms symbolize the palm branches placed in Jesus' path when he entered Jerusalem before his arrest on Holy Thursday and his crucifixion on Good Friday. Ashes from the burned palms of the previous year's Palm Sunday are blessed and the priest marks a cross on worshipers' foreheads.

There are 7,101 Catholic adherents of two congregations, according to a survey taken in 2010. Congregations of St. John the Baptist Catholic Church and Holy Family total 30 percent of the citizens of West Baton Rouge Parish.

St. John the Baptist Catholic Church located in Brusly is a Gothic Revival style church built in 1907. The adjacent church cemetery dates to the 1830s when descendants of Acadian exiles first established the church. Since then, it has been the tradition of the church, like other Catholic churches during Lent, to give up luxuries or vices.

Stephen Finley, 29, who attended St. John the Baptist Catholic Church's Ash Wednesday mass said he chose to give up "bad food" like sodas and candy, then added cursing after contemplation.

In addition to giving up pleasures, some church-goers spoke of how they were adding goals for Lent, like reading more.

People of all ages gave up social media, like Paige Hurdle, 22, and Dana Babin, 50. Babin said she has replaced the time she spends on Facebook with reading since Feb. 11.

SBJ Youth made decisions of what they will let go for Lent before Wednesday evening Mass. Some of the answers included texting while driving, cell phone use, jealousy, impulsivity, and chicken nuggets.

The Holy Family Catholic Church in Port Allen goes back to St. Peter and Paul Parish in Lobdell established in 1876, but was moved to Port Allen in 1925 as the area was expanding. Each Friday during the season of Lent, Stations of the Cross at 7:45 every Friday morning is held in celebration of the holiday.

Southerners still adhered to a lot of old Cajun traditions, such as faith healing and covering of the crosses in their homes during Lent, but Lent is special to southerners because it falls during crawfish season.

It is within the tradition that Catholics give up red meats at this time. Because so, several local restaurants like Cou-Yon's Cajun Bar-B-Q, Athenos Greek & Lebanese Cafe, The Best Little Poboy House Restaurant & Catering, Court Street Cafe, DC's Grill and many more provide Lenten specials.

The Knights of Columbus provides seafood dinners every Friday during Lent at the Port Allen KC Hall at 5:30 for $8 a plate. The KoC is the largest Catholic Fraternal organization in the world dedicated to promoting the ideals of charity, unity, fraternity, and patriotism. Each Lenten plate includes fish, potato salad, bread, and dessert.

Staff writer

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