To-day, some of us have a cross daubed by thumb on our foreheads, from the ashes, of the previous year's palms, mixed with oil and incensed.Considering how large this society is, in this country, it is somewhat odd that some people do not recognise the sight. I remember receiving incredulous looks and odd comments in college, and I know other people have when they have moved to a different area of the country, with a different demographic.
Most protestants do not engage in this practice, although in the last few years some congregations, even those who do not recognise a lenten season, have instituted a distribution of ashes. Whether this is a sign of ecumenism, or exploring an older tradition, or a passing novelty, I know not. But, for some adopting and searching the catholic roots of christianity is a path of return. The more people read the church fathers and doctors, and engage the traditional devotions, the more they see what they lost. People trickle out of the faith, people trickle in. Such catholica has a certain draw beyond curiosity. There is more within, than without, in catholic christianity as opposed to the branches of western christianity.
Other lenten practices include prayer, christian study, certain devotions, donation of alms and restrictions of diet, most of these are suggested, but some compliance is mandated. Fasting is now of a mild form excluding some athletes of asceticism. Friday fishing is easy for some, and fast food is lenten fare and not corporate franchaise products.
in sudore vultus tui vesceris pane donec revertaris in terram de qua sumptus es quia pulvis es et in pulverem reverteris
In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread till thou return to the earth, out of which thou wast taken: for dust thou art, and into dust thou shalt return. — Genesis iii. 19.
Remember man that thou art dust and unto dust thou shalt return. — dies cinerum formula