SAN ANTONIO (CNN) -- Today marks Ash Wednesday, the first day of Lent for practicing Catholics, Anglicans, Lutherans and many other Christian denominations.
It's a season of prayer and penance -- and a period of preparation for the Easter season.
Lent lasts six and a half weeks, ending on Easter. Observances of Lent date back to the Fourth Century.
Christian churches in the Eastern world follow a different timetable for Lent.
San Fernando Cathedral
Catholics will have several chances to get ashes at San Fernando Cathedral.
Ashes will be distributed every half hour starting at 7:30 a.m. until 11 a.m. They then will offer ashes from 1:30 p.m. to 6 p.m. later in the day. Three masses will be held today. The first is at 6:15 a.m., then again at noon, and finally 7 p.m. Ashes will be distributed at all masses.