Liturgy for the Distribution of Ashes at Home

This liturgy/prayer service can be done at home in a suitable location where family members can gather. If possible and appropriate, place a crucifix/sacred image along with bless candles & holy water on a white cloth on a table in a place where it is visible for everyone.

Adapt the liturgy/prayer service to suit needs, assigning readings to people present.



The leader of the liturgy begins:

Let us begin our prayer together . . .

In the name of the Father, + and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.



Either the leader or someone else should introduce the liturgy using these or similar words:


Today we gather, with Christians across the world, to mark the beginning of the holy season of Lent.  Today is Ash Wednesday. God calls us to repentance,

to bring our sins and burdens before him and ask his healing and forgiveness. We come into the presence of the God who is always forgiving, always merciful, always compassionate, always loving.


Collect (Opening Prayer)

Let us pray.

Lord, as we begin this holy season of Lent, may we turn back to you with all our hearts, in prayer, in fasting, and in giving alms to the poor; that our sins be forgiven, and our hearts mended. Through our Lord, Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.



Scripture Reading

A reading from the prophet Joel.

‘Now, now (is the Lord who speaks), come back to me with all your heart, fasting, weeping, mourning.’  Let your hearts be broken, not your garments torn, turn to the Lord your God again, for he is all tenderness and compassion, slow to anger, rich in graciousness, and ready to relent.  Who knows if he will not turn again, will not relent, will not leave a blessing as he passes, oblation and libation for the Lord your God?  Sound the trumpet in Zion!  Order a fast, proclaim a solemn assembly, call the people together, summon the community, assemble the elders, gather the children, even the infants at the breast.  Let the bridegroom leave his bedroom and the bride her alcove.  Between vestibule and altar let the priests, the ministers of the Lord, lament.  Let them say, ‘Spare your people, Lord!  Do not make your heritage a thing of shame, a byword for the nations.  Why should it be said among the nations, ‘Where is their God?’’   Then the Lord, jealous on behalf of his land, took pity on his people.

The word of the Lord.

AllThanks be to God.




Psalm 50:3-6, 12-14, 17 (Grail)


ResponseHave mercy on us, O Lord, for we have sinned.


Have mercy on me, God, in your kindness;

in your compassion blot out my offense.

O wash me more and more from my guilt

and cleanse me from my sin.

ResponseHave mercy on us, O Lord, for we have sinned.


My offences truly I know them;

my sin is always before me

Against you, you alone, have I sinned;

what is evil in your sight I have done.

ResponseHave mercy on us, O Lord, for we have sinned.


A pure heart create for me, O God,

put a steadfast spirit within me.

Do not cast me away from your presence,

nor deprive me of your holy spirit.

ResponseHave mercy on us, O Lord, for we have sinned.


Give me again the joy of your help;

with a spirit of fervour sustain me,

O Lord, open my lips

and my mouth shall declare your praise.

ResponseHave mercy on us, O Lord, for we have sinned.



Blessing and Distribution of Ashes


The leader says:

My friends in Christ, let us ask God our Father,

to bless these ashes which we will use as the mark of our repentance.


Pause for a moment of silent prayer.

we gather in your presence on this Ash Wednesday, to seek your forgiveness and to ask your help in living our lives better.  For the times when we have failed to love; have mercy, Lord. For the times when we have not noticed the needs of others: have mercy, Lord. For the times when we have refused to forgive; have mercy, Lord. These ashes are a sign of our repentance.


Holding a hand outstretched over the ashes . . .

Bless them, Lord,

and make them a sign to the world of our desire to change, and to follow in the footsteps of Jesus your Son.



The ashes may be sprinkled with holy water in silence.


Ashes are placed on the heads of all those present with the words:


Repent and believe in the gospel.


Remember that you are dust and to dust you shall return.


Prayers of the Faithful

The response is ‘Lord have mercy’.


Leader:  As we begin this season of Lent, let us pray for ourselves and for the whole world that all people may come back to God, repenting their sins, and seeking his forgiveness.


Reader:  Let us pray that we may hear God’s call this Lent to come back to him, asking his mercy and forgiveness.  Lord, have mercy.

All:  Lord, have mercy.


Reader:  Let us pray that, when we lose confidence in ourselves, in others, and in God, we may be blessed with the gift of faith.  Lord, have mercy.

All:  Lord, have mercy.


Reader:  Let us pray that, when we are tempted to despair, we may find hope.  Lord, have mercy.

AllLord, have mercy.


Reader:  Let us pray that, when our hearts are filled with anger and resentment, we may find compassion and love.  Lord, have mercy.

AllLord, have mercy.



As we forgive those who sin against us, let us ask for God’s mercy in the words that Jesus taught us:

AllOur Father, who art in heaven . . .


Blessing and Dismissal


The leader prays:

Let us pray.


Father, through our observance of Lent, help us to understand the meaning of your Son’s death and resurrection, and teach us to reflect it in our lives. Through Christ our Lord.



AllIn the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.


Source: Jesuit Institute