‘Drive-thru ashes’? A new craze among time-strapped Christians for Ash Wednesday
GLENAMADDY, Galway, Ireland, March 8, 2019 (LifeSiteNews) — On Ash Wednesday, the Catholic faithful receive a cross of black ashes on their foreheads. Among Protestant denominations, many of whom also partake of the daubing of ashes, a new custom has arisen for the convenience of their members: "drive-thru ashes."
Instead of attending a liturgical service, Episcopalians, Lutherans, and others across the United States can find "drive-thru locations," where a minister or a "volunteer" will distribute ashes through open driver-side windows. Episcopalians in New Jersey and Southern California offered the drive-thru this past Wednesday, plus Methodists (and more Episcopalians) in Louisiana.
It is not just Protestants, however, who receive the ashes. At St. Mark's Episcopal Church in Upland, Calif., a spokeswoman declared that a number of recipients of the Lutheran drive-thru ashes were Catholic.
Gianluca D'Elia, who "grew up in a devout, Italian, Roman Catholic household in Bergen County," New Jersey, wrote, "I realized that sometimes, worshipping from the seat of my own car could be just as powerful as worshipping from a church pew."
The North Branford Congregational Church in Connecticut dubbed its version "Ash on Your Dash." The penitential daubing of ashes — a reminder of man's sins and mortality — was followed in Branford with coffee, donuts, and socializing.
News 12, reporting out of New Providence, N.J., wrote, "The Catholic Church does not do drive-thru ashes — but News 12 New Jersey found many practicing Catholics who came to St. Andrew's [Episcopal] looking for the convenience. Some asked not to be filmed in case their parish priest was watching."
Parishioners of St. Patrick's Church in Glenamaddy, Galway, would not have to worry about their pastor, Fr. Paddy Mooney, seeing them receive drive-thru ashes on television. Fr. Mooney himself started the custom some years ago to provide his congregation what the Irish Times calls "a quick and easy service" and an opportunity "to maintain their faith, albeit in a timely manner."
According to St. Patrick's bulletin, the process goes as follows: "Our church lends itself to a drive through facility where you can drive in one gate, receive your ashes after answering the question 'Do you wish to live a holy lent? (Receive the ashes) Turn away from sin and be faithful to the gospel. You don't have to leave your car and when finished you can drive out the other gate."
Fr. Mooney offers the following explanation for the practice, which "was welcomed by people from all over the world": "Jesus himself left the synagogue and went out to meet his people."
St. Patrick's offers no confession times on its bulletin, website, or Facebook page.