March 12th, 2011
01:34 PM ET
By John Couwels, CNN
I bless you in the name of BMW, Honda and Harley Davidson, amen, could have been the blessing from a local Catholic priest to bikers attending Bike Week in Daytona Beach, Florida.
Instead the Rev. Philip Egitto, pastor of Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic Church in Daytona, offered more traditional blessings for bikers and their motorcycles in the parish parking lot following Ash Wednesday services.
For Christians, Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of a 40-day period of reconciliation, fasting and abstinence. Christians are encouraged to attend services in which clergy place ashes in the shape of the cross on the forehead of a worshipper.
“As bikers, they deserve the same as everyone else,” said Egitto, who has been offering what he calls “bike blessings” since coming to the church 15 years ago. He said the prayers are “to bless their lives and their bikes.”
Beyond the blessings, Egitto said his parish of 400 families has always welcomed bikers with open arms.
“It’s about hospitality,” he said. “All are welcomed at our church to give him thanks and praise.”
This year Bike Week coincidentally fell on the same week as Ash Wednesday. Following the evening Ash Wednesday service, two couples pulled their motorcycles near the church vestibule, and Egitto prayed while the cyclists stayed on their bikes, still wearing their leather protective jackets, gloves and helmets.
Egitto sprinkled them with holy water, asking God to bless them and their bikes for a safe journey during Bike Week and on their return trip home.
A Tampa couple who received the blessing said they were grateful. Barbara Presnel, 55, with a black ash cross on her forehead after attending Catholic Mass, said she didn't realize that Ash Wednesday was the same week when she booked the trip to Daytona.
“I always observe Ash Wednesday,” Presnel said. “It’s an important day for me. I always pop into church and talk to God a little bit and get my ashes to get Lent off to a spiritual foot.”
Presnel said she felt it’s right to do so, especially during Bike Week.
“In the middle of all the craziness, I felt it was important to take a few moments out to count our blessings and to pray for the family,” she said.
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