Ash Wednesday/Valentines Day
Feb 2, 2018
My beloved parishioners,
St. Valentine’s Day is just around the corner and Love is in the air- or at least the world’s vision of it. Often in the seminary, our teachers would distinguish between “LUV” (that passing feeling which causes so much trouble) and authentic “Love” which is from God, who is Love. True Love as any faithful spouse or parent knows is about sacrifice and responsibility and not just about fleeting pleasures and fancy. The symbol of Love is the crucifix, which is why they have had a prominent place in our churches and in our homes since Christianity was able to come out of the catacombs. They are reminders of God’s perfect love. St. Valentine, an early martyr of the Church, lovingly gave his life in witness to that love.
Just as we were asked to show our love for the Lord this past Christmas, when we had to “Keep Mass in Christmas” twice in two days, we are being called to be witnesses to our love once again on February 14, 2018. Ironically, the world will be celebrating this day as “Valentine’s Day” while St. Valentine himself, if he were still among us in the flesh, would be celebrating Ash Wednesday with the rest of the Universal Church. The same people who forget the Saint whose feast they celebrate in ways which would offend him, are wed to the date on which he gave his life in witness to our loving God but will refuse to recognize the truth for which he died. They will claim that the “The Church is being hypocritical” or “silly” in insisting on prayer and fasting on a particular day, when the very reason people are accustomed to celebrating February 14 is because of the very Church they are now criticizing as “unreasonable” or “arbitrary”. I have even heard the objection raised that, “If it were St. Patrick’s Day, we would be dispensed.” That is not true (a Friday dispensation in Lent is not the same as Ash Wednesday), but even if it were- we do things for those that we love when they ask us. St. Valentine loved the Lord and His Church over the demands of a godless world, we ought to do the same.
Ever since I was a kid, my family would have a nice meal and good dessert for Mardi Gras (Fat Tuesday), the day before Lent begins. When I lived in Brazil in High School as an exchange student, I was amazed at how the carnival mayhem which lasted five days came to an abrupt halt at midnight when the day of fasting and abstinence began. It was repeated in Ponce, Puerto Rico when I was a student at the Catholic University there. I humbly suggest that if it is necessary for you to celebrate St. Valentine’s feast day with dinner and dancing or jewelry and dessert that it be done as an anticipatory celebration and be coupled with your pre-Lent celebrations. Will not chocolate and champagne taste as good on February 13? Won’t jewels glisten in her eyes just the same or roses smell just as sweet? I would propose that they would taste, glisten, and smell even better because the God who gave you your beloved would likewise be honored in the giving. God is Love. Let Love be loved!
On a more mundane note, feel free to give us your old palms so that we may burn them before February 14, Ash Wednesday.
May your celebrations of St. Valentine be holy, and may your Lent bring you closer to God.
In Jesus, Mary, and Joseph,
†Fr. Peter Idler