A little information to explain those dark smudges on the foreheads of Catholics and Anglicans today.
In the Roman Rite, the beginning of the forty days of penance is marked with the austere symbol of ashes and on Ash Wednesday (which is Today), the ashes are blessed during Mass; after the homily (sermon).
The blessed ashes are then placed by the Priest (or any other designated Lay Person ) on the foreheads of Catholics and Anglicans as a sign of conversion, penance, fasting and human mortality.
The use of ashes is a survival from an ancient rite according to which converted sinners submitted themselves to canonical (conforming to orthodox or well-established rules) penance.
Certain rituals are strictly adhered to during this period, such as; the Alleluia and the Gloria are suppressed until Easter and abstinence from eating meat on all Fridays during Lent.
The ashes are essentially made from the palm fronds used at the previous Passion Sunday ceremonies.
The act of putting on ashes also symbolizes fragility and mortality, and the need to be redeemed by the mercy of God.
It also reflects that fact that "From dust we came and to dust we shall return".
Praying for God's guidance and strength (it definitely comes in handy) as we begin the Lenten Season.
This is my two cents overview of what Ash Wednesday means, feel free to share additional information in the comment box below.