Should a Catholic Attend a Protestant Ash Wednesday Service? (The Patrick Madrid Show)

When you go to get the ashes on your forehead, should it be at a Catholic church?

In a recent episode of The Patrick Madrid Show, a caller named Grace from Irvine, California, asked about the appropriateness of a Catholic attending an Ash Wednesday service at a Protestant church. She asked because a friend’s son, attending a Protestant school, had the opportunity to participate in such a service.

Patrick Madrid responded with a nuanced perspective, emphasizing the importance of maintaining one’s Catholic identity. He advised that, as a rule of thumb, Catholics should prioritize attending Ash Wednesday services at a Catholic church to receive ashes and participate in Mass. This preference stems from the desire to fully engage with the sacramental and liturgical richness of the Catholic faith, especially during significant liturgical seasons.

However, Patrick acknowledged that attending a Protestant Ash Wednesday service, in addition to the Catholic observance, might be considered reasonable under specific circumstances, such as being a student at the Protestant school in question. So, it would have to involve going to both the Protestant and the Catholic service.

There is concern, though, about the potential for confusion, especially in younger Catholics, regarding their faith identity when participating in Protestant services.  He stressed the importance of reinforcing Catholic identity in children and cautioned against practices that might distract from this identity. Drawing an analogy with physical health, Patrick suggested that just as certain habits promote bodily health while others take away from it, spiritual practices and choices can similarly affect one’s faith health. Engaging in activities that strengthen Catholic identity is beneficial, whereas those that could cause confusion or dilution of faith should be approached with caution. Parents should always keep this rule in mind when it comes to keeping their children’s faith life healthy.

Jake Moore serves as a Digital Audio Content Producer for Relevant Radio®. He is a graduate of Franciscan University of Steubenville, and is passionate about classic movies, Christian music, young adult ministry, and leading this generation to Christ through compelling media. You can listen to more of his podcasts at and on the Relevant Radio® app.