Once we get past the basic logistics of praying the Rosary and learn the order of the mysteries, we might ask: "OK, so now I am doing this. What am I supposed to be getting out of it?" To help, there are many aids to help us to pray the Rosary.
The purpose of symbols is to move our minds to think about the reality being represented. For instance, the waters of baptism call to mind the washing away of sin that occurs in this sacrament. When we fail to understand the meaning of a symbol, it becomes a meaningless gesture. To question the meaning of a symbol, then, is a good thing. It helps us understand what it means and how it is to move our minds and hearts.
You raise a valid point, to wit, that the penitential nature of these two days ought not to be compromised.
However, there are a couple of points:
• Church law does define Ash Wednesday and Good Friday as days on which Catholics must fast, but not all Catholics. Only those aged 18-59 are obligated to fast, and even then, those whose health would be seriously injured by a strict fast are allowed to consume as much food as necessary.
Growing up, I remember Mother Angelica on EWTN commenting to callers who had been away from the sacrament of reconciliation or were afraid to go that they would feel so good afterward, that they should go out and buy a pizza. Such a comment came from a heart that had approached the sacrament and found peace in the deep mercy of God.