It's Ash Wednesday, the beginning of Lent, and forty days meant to mirror the forty days Jesus spent fasting in the desert before the beginning of his public ministry.
"Its a time to help us to prepare to celebrate the death and resurrection of Christ...that we may celebrate it worthily on Good Friday and Easter Sunday," says New Orleans Archbishop Gregory Aymond.
The solemn observance follows the area's most festive season as the mood changes from raucous to religious, almost.
Archbishop Aymond knows that being asked to eat seafood during Lent is not much of a sacrifice in New Orleans. And, then too..."Lent in New Orleans, as we know, is kind of interrupted by St. Joseph's Day parades and St. Patrick's Day parades and a few other festivals that are happening. So I think it is a little more challenging for us, but we are called to make this an important time."
The Archbishop says Lent should be a period of prayer, fasting and works of charity. He says we have these forty days for two reasons.
"One, to help us to prepare to celebrate the death and resurrection of Christ...that we may celebrate it worthily on Good Friday and Easter Sunday."
"Secondly, it's become...and it's very important that we realize...it is a time of repentance," says Aymond. "A time when we're asked to look into the mirror of life and to see ourselves."
"To see our goodness and to be grateful to God for that. But, also to identify a way in which we need to change...an attitude, an action...something that's in our heart that's keeping us from loving God more fully and from loving others."
Listen to Archbishop Aymond's entire Lenten message: