Ash Wednesday and Valentine’s Day are here, and this puts many Catholics into a quandary. What options do Catholics have for celebrating Valentine’s Day on Ash Wednesday?
No bishops have issued a dispensation for Ash Wednesday. That means Ash Wednesday supersedes Valentine’s celebrations. All are required to attend Mass, receive their ashes, and spend the day in prayer and fasting.
So, what does this mean for Valentine’s? It means Catholics need to be creative!
Valentine’s Day has been commercialized to the point it involves a fancy dinner date and gifts. It is a carnival of commercialism and indulgence. Dinner, gifts, and affection are virtually expected by all. This is largely at odds with the nature of Ash Wednesday.
There are ways around this. The first is to reevaluate our Valentine’s customs and to recognize them for the excesses they have become in our modern, consumer society.
The most simple solution is to observe Valentine’s on a different day. This has the advantage of dodging the crowds and inflated prices that go with the holiday. Mardi Gras, which is the evening before Ash Wednesday is a natural choice. The next best choice is Sunday. Sundays are not part of Lent, so fasting is not required. That makes Sunday an excellent choice for dining out with your spouse.
Couples should also consider that Valentine’s Day can be celebrated in other ways. Handwritten love notes, flowers, and other kind gestures show love without venturing into excess. Doing chores for one another, or making a sacrifice for your loved one can also serve as a worthy gesture.
It may not be boast-worthy at the office tomorrow, but a couple could attend Mass, receive their ashes, and prepare a humble meal together for supper in the privacy and comfort of home. What is love if it isn’t the ability to attend Mass together and face the mundane as a couple?
There will be other Valentine’s Days, and love should not be celebrated on one day, but on every day of the year.
Finally, let us remember that Ash Wednesday is a reminder of the ultimate love that God has for us, which was so deep and profound that He gave His Son, Jesus Christ, so that we may be restored to grace. If that isn’t the ultimate gesture of love, then we know not what love is.