Quite a few years ago, a member of my extended family who had not grown up around lots of Catholics encountered a woman she knew who had a dark smudge on her forehead.
So my relative, who was a teen or young adult at the time, got a handkerchief or a paper towel and wiped it off.
Yes, that smudge had been applied by a priest at an Ash Wednesday service.
As I remember the story, the lady was nice enough about the misunderstanding but then hurried back to church to get more ashes applied to her face.
Apparently the lingering spirit of the occasion wasn't enough for her. She had to have the visible symbol.
One reason some people think Catholics are nuts is that some of them are.
But I suppose you could say that about any group of more than four or five people.