Of Hearts and Ashes
Here’s a heads-up for all you love-birds out there: Ash Wednesday falls on February 14th this year -- and that’s also traditionally St Valentine’s Day. So the practices of these two days conflict in great ways.
Ash Wednesday: a day of fasting. Valentine’s Day: a feast of a romantic dinner.
Ash Wednesday: giving up something. Valentine’s Day: Gift of chocolate.
Ash Wednesday: no eating meat. Valentine’s Day: that dinner? Meat on the menu.
So... what are Catholic lovers to do? I was recently asked if the church was giving dispensations on Ash Wednesday so people didn’t have to keep the traditions of Ash Wednesday. The quick answer? No. We invite people to enter a deep time of fasting, prayer and good works each Lent and it would be odd to say: “this year don’t bother because Ash Wednesday falls on February 14th.” It’s only a sacrifice if you sacrifice something.
People who are Valentines Day aficionados will need to find a creative response to this confluence of dates. Perhaps they’ll do their “Valentining” the night before as part of Mardi Gras. Perhaps they’ll use this day of love to grow together in the love of God by coming to church together and having a simple meal together. Love doesn’t have to be extravagant when people do simple things with intentional care.
I’d be interested in hearing from people about your plans for this special day. How will you share love with the beloved and at the same time enter the holy season of Lent? How do you plan on making this work for you? You can fill out the online form below and I can share your idea with others in the next weeks.
I’ll close with this thought: Lent is not primarily about deprivation, but rather it’s about sacrificial love. Perhaps the best way to enter into the forty days is to think about how to be more loving to the significant people in our lives. We can give up nagging and a criticism; we can choose to do helping acts that show we really care about those we love; we can take time to communicate better and we can plan on coming to church each week pray with and for the ones we love.
-- Father Ralph