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SIOUX CITY, Iowa (CNS) -- Holy Cross-Blessed Sacrament sixth-graders started Lent on Valentine's Day -- sort of.
Father Daniel Rupp, pastor of Blessed Sacrament Church in Sioux City, took time Feb. 14 to talk to the students about the importance of Ash Wednesday, the first day of the Lenten season. This year it is March 1.
"How many days is Lent?" the priest asked.
"Forty!" was the nearly unanimous response.
The 40 days associated with Lent is an imitation of the 40 days Jesus spent in the wilderness after his baptism, explained Linda Harrington, former associate professor of theology at Briar Cliff University in Sioux City.
"There are other 40s in the Bible -- the 40 days it rained when Noah took the animals into the ark and the 40 years the Israelites wandered in the desert after leaving Egypt before entering the Promised Land," she said. "Some sources say periods of 40 days -- or years -- designate times of testing or trial."
Harrington pointed out that since Sundays are not fast days, counting back 40 days beginning with Holy Saturday, and skipping the Sundays, one lands on a Wednesday.
"Hence, Lent begins on Wednesday," she told The Catholic Globe, Sioux City's diocesan newspaper. "Since we use ashes as a symbol of our intent to 'turn away from sin and believe in the Gospel,' it's called Ash Wednesday."