Skip to main contentAccessibility feedback

Dear Catholic.com visitor: Summer is here, and you may be thinking about a well-deserved vacation, family get-togethers, BBQs with neighborhood friends. More than likely, making a donation to Catholic Answers is not on your radar right now. But this is exactly the time we most need your help. The “summer slowdown” in donations is upon us, but the work of spreading the gospel and explaining and defending the Faith never takes a break. Your gift today will change lives and save souls for Christ this summer! The reward is eternal. Thank you and God bless.

Dear Catholic.com visitor: Summer is here, and you may be thinking about a well-deserved vacation, family get-togethers, BBQs with neighborhood friends. More than likely, making a donation to Catholic Answers is not on your radar right now. But this is exactly the time we most need your help. The “summer slowdown” in donations is upon us, but the work of spreading the gospel and explaining and defending the Faith never takes a break. Your gift today will change lives and save souls for Christ this summer! The reward is eternal. Thank you and God bless.

Why do Italians sprinkle ashes on the head, instead of marking the forehead with them?

Question:

When I was in Rome, I noticed that blessed ashes were administered by sprinkling them on the crown of the head, rather than by marking the forehead with a cross, as is generally done in the U.S. Why?

Answer:

Sprinkling ashes on the crown of the head recalls the biblical method of putting on sackcloth and ashes as a sign of penance: “Now on the twenty-fourth day of this month the people of Israel were assembled with fasting and in sackcloth, and with earth upon their heads” (Neh 9:1). The American method of putting ashes on the forehead, usually in the sign of the cross, allows the ashes to be visible to others so that the communal, penitential nature of the day might be more readily visible.

Did you like this content? Please help keep us ad-free
Enjoying this content?  Please support our mission!Donatewww.catholic.com/support-us