[Rough Draft]

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"firetrucks receive timely blessing @ church celebration"

the first vehicles to arrive [sunday] for the “blessing of the cars” @ the episcopal church of [the] ascension and st. agnes spent little time proving why they needed to be there. w/in minutes of their arrival, the two d.c. firetrucks turned on their sirens, carefully drove through parishioners attending mass, then sped to an apartment fire six blocks away.

“it was our first run this morning, [but] nobody was hurt,” lt. leo e. handley of engine 16 from tower 3, said of the kitchen fire on seventh street northwest.

the firefighters returned w/ their trucks to church, in the 1200 block of massachusetts avenue northwest, where they were invited to partake of the snacks and drinks on the front lawn. the ceremony was part of the feast day of st. fiacre, who was born and raised in ireland in the seventh century.

st. fiacre was raised in an irish monastery and became known as the “glorious hermit” b/c of his healing power. the hotel de saint fiacre in paris was named after him. the hotel rented carriages and cabs, which became known as “fiacres.” over centuries, the word also came to identify taxicabs.

aug. 30 eventually became the official feast day of st. fiacre for the blessing of cabs and drivers.

“we had just finished blessing the firetrucks when the bells started ringing,” said the rev. father ronald conner. “so we went ahead w/ the blessing of other cars.”

the blessing consisted or prayers, waving of incense and sprinkling of holy water on cars and motorists along massachusetts and 12th street northwest.

the ceremony began about 30 minutes after the 10 a.m. mass. some parishioners drove away after their cars were blessed, but others stayed for the snacks of cookies, crackers and sandwiches, and drinks of coffee, sodas and fruit juice.

yesterday marked the first st. fiacre celebration @ the church of [the] ascension [and st. agnes]. father conner hopes that it will draw the attention of neighbors and visitors in nearby hotels and that more such celebrations will follow.

parishioners such as christopher whittington, an altar aide and native of houston, expects the blessing will become as popular as the animal blessing the church started several years ago.

“parishioners brought their pets, dogs, cats, birds,” mr. whittington said. “someone brought an iguana. ugly. some neighbors came and brought their pets.”

(reprinted from the 28 august 2006 print edition of the washington times, pp. b1, b8; photographs by christopher whittington to be posted separately b/c the stupid blogger uploader won't work again).


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