Today is Ash Wednesday -- though it's probably safe to say the annual celebration marking the beginning of Lent has been overshadowed by the shocking news this week that Pope Benedict XVI is resigning.

This Ash Wednesday will be Benedict’s last major liturgical celebration before he vacates the papacy on Feb. 28.
Ash Wednesday is celebrated by Catholic as well as Episcopal, Methodist and Lutheran churches.

In Minnesota, one of the largest events will be held at theBasilica of St. Mary in Minneapolis. The church is distributing the Eucharist and ashes at 7 a.m., noon, 5:30 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. services.

More and more churches are also offering “drive-thru” Ash Wednesday services for those with hectic work schedules -- just drive up in your vehicle and receive ashes. St. Nicholas Episcopal in Richfield is offering such a “drive-thru” as well as regular Ash Wednesday services.  For more information, check out