GIVING up chocolate and alcohol may be among the most popular Lenten sacrifices for Irish Catholics. However this year Cardinal Sean Brady is calling on the faithful to do "something positive" and become more engaged in their faith and parish life.
In his Ash Wednesday homily, the cardinal encouraged people to think more deeply about their Lenten resolutions.
"People often make resolutions at the beginning of Lent, very often these are decisions to give up something, alcohol, chocolate, even television.
"Whilst these are worthy sacrifices, they risk being too narrow," he said.
"Lent is also a time for something positive. Why don't we consider, for example, reading a piece of scripture, to pray more, perhaps join in parish life, commit ourselves to get to know more about the history of salvation, to resolve to think of others before we speak," he said.
Speaking at the Institute of Technology in Dundalk, Co Louth, Cardinal Brady said: "Lent is the interplay of prayer and fasting and alms giving. They are not ends in themselves but means to an end. The goal is to draw closer to God."
Meanwhile in his homily, Archbishop of Dublin Diarmuid Martin said the Lenten practice of prayer, penance and good work, must switch Catholics' focus away from "crude consumerism" and "attachment to what lasts just for the day".
Celebrating Mass at University College Dublin, Dr Martin said: "Lent is not just ashes for one day; it is a serious business about the more serious things in life." He said we live in a time when image is considered to be as important as substance.
"In our time, good news has to be got out there quickly. Good deeds must be known, if possible even before they have been done. Even bad news must be sold as good news."
He said the great divisions in our world – including access to food, healthcare and knowledge – show how the selfishness or the indifference of some has "displaced the original design of God".
"Ash Wednesday is a unique day in which, within the Catholic tradition, we are called to reflect on where we stand in our own lives and on what our value system is.
"It means renouncing any tendency to live as if the purpose of life was just our own fulfilment and our own rights and our own image," he added.