BOSTON -- For the third year in a row, the ashes received during the Ash Wednesday service was listed in an ABC-News/Washington Post poll as most Roman Catholic's favorite sacrament, topping both communion and baptism.
"There is just something about receiving those ashes that makes me feel, well alive," said Katie Stanbury, a lobbyist with Phelps/Dawson Public Relations. "I miss mass quite a bit, but I never, ever miss this service."
Fr. Allen Bannion, of St. Peter Claver Church in Boston, said that the Ash Wednesday service is always standing room only. "People just love that service, as well as the one for Palm Sunday. We always have more people there than any other time of year," he said. "Yeah, people come on Sunday for communion, but at these services they get a little something extra. It is sort of like Bonus Days at the Clinique counter, when you not only get the perfume you went in to purchase, but a kick-ass red lipstick, as well. Or so I've been told."
Maggie Oliver, a retired schoolteacher, said her favorite sacraments are baptism and confirmation. "It's a great chance to take some pictures and see relatives I haven't seen in awhile. Oh, plus we all go out to eat afterwards, which is fun," she said.
Other favorite sacraments listed, in order, included: 2) baptism, 3) "that day when we get to bring in our pets for blessings" 4) communion (if viewed as a symbol only) 4) annulment 5) Confirmation and 6) marriage.
According to the poll, Roman Catholics have different interpretations on what the word sacrament means. Responses given included: "a symbol," "something that makes you feel happy, blessed or relieved," "a church function or practice" or "a tradition."
Kenny Daniels said he thinks so much of the Ash Wednesday service that when he arrived late last night, he simply left. "I could have stayed for communion, but I came for the ashes," he said. "So, I just went to Starbuck's instead. Oh well, there's always next year."