Now that I've given it more thought this year, I've come to a slightly different conclusion.
A coworker asked me why there were ash crosses on everyone's forehead. I explained that they were a sacramental, and it suddenly hit me as to why I shouldn't be so upset about priests doling out ashes to folks in planes, on train platforms, or in a sort of drive-by service.
Ashes are a sacramental the same as a rosary or scapular. What makes handing out ashes any different from handing out rosaries or scapulars? Heck, even small pocket Bibles have been known to be passed around during rush hour, so why should ashes be looked on as anything different?
I still prefer ashes to be utilized during (or immediately following) Mass, because the focus is on the Eucharist and not the ashes, but I can understand why some clerics have chosen to go this route to help with evangelization. Ashes unite Christians in a way that the Eucharist currently cannot. The simple existence of these marks on our foreheads each year inevitably spark conversation that, hopefully, leads to conversion.
So hopefully these "drive-through" programs will serve to reach out to bring others back to the Church more than they enable the faithful to become lazy in their practice. After all, just because I'm handed a rosary on a train platform doesn't mean I figure Mass is no longer necessary. I wouldn't assume that the rosary is somehow more important than the Eucharist.
These clerics give what they can to those who are open to receive. I can't fault them for that.
So while I'm still not in love with the idea, I can at least appreciate it for what it is.
Any of you come across this? The photo above was taken by my coworker who saw this priest at a train station in Philly. I'd love to know if any of you have seen it firsthand and what your thoughts are on it.
Also, here is our obligatory #ShowYourAsh photo. Vince was bummed his cross wasn't darker. I think it's because he kept wiping at it throughout Mass. *Grin*