Christians celebrate Ash Wednesday with social media selfies, drive-thru ashes

Ariana Taylor
The Detroit News

The Archdiocese of Detroit celebrated Ash Wednesday with homily, prayer and selfies on social media. 

In a mix of centuries-old tradition and more modern habits, the local Catholic diocese invited the faithful on Wednesday to post pictures of themselves with ashes spread across their foreheads in a cross while using #ashtag. 

Archbishop Allen Vigneron said the selfies that everyone takes are "cute" but there's also a purpose to them. 

"We are called to witness to others the meaning of our ashes, and that's the whole point of the selfies we've been invited to take," Vigneron said during the annual Ash Wednesday mass at St. Aloysius Parish Church in Detroit.

During Mass, attendees lined up to receive the ashes, which are made from the burned palms of last year's Palm Sunday.

Madeline Lorio, 21 and Francisco Javier Hernandez, 35, take a selfie of their ashes to post on social media.

As soon as ashes were distributed, the selfies were taken. 

"I am on social media so it's kind of natural for me and it's pretty cool," said Francisco Hernandez, 35, of Allen Park.

Ash Wednesday is the start of the Lenten season — a time where people sacrifice indulgences and practice abstinence in preparation of Easter. 

"If we're talking about being engaged with people who are Christians and other communities... you can even share some ideas of what you are doing to get ready for Easter," Vigneron said.

Francisco Javier Hernandez, 35, and Madeline Lorio, 21, take a selfie of their ashes to post on social media.

Not everyone could take time from their day for a full Mass. Some area churches, like St. David's Episcopal Church in Southfield, offered up a simple solution — drive-through ashes. 

Father Chris Yaw said the church has been offering ashes and a prayer to those who drive up throughout the day for the past six years.

"We noticed a need in the community. People wanted to have more time to pray, more time for God so we went ahead and said 'why don't we open up our driveway,'" Yaw said. 

Parishioner Linda Taylor, right, dispenses ash on the forehead of Nancy Lambert, of Royal Oak, utilizing a drive-through lane during Ash Wednesday at St. David's Episcopal Church on Wednesday.

The first year, Yaw said about 50 people went to the drive-through. Last year, about 500 people showed up and the church expected a similar, if not better, turn out this year.

St. David's recommends spending Ash Wednesday attending Mass. However, Yaw said community members are thankful they can get their ashes this way. Even some UPS drivers stopped by on route to deliveries elsewhere. 

"The message is still the same either way... the message of Lent and Ash Wednesday is self-examination," said Yaw, "and it's also one of hope that we can change."