Cupid meets Lent as Ash Wednesday and Valentine's Day coincide

(REUTERS/Erik de Castro)Penitents hang on crosses as they are crucified during Good Friday Lenten rites in Cutud, San Fernando Pampanga in northern Philippines April 22, 2011.

Ash Wednesday and Valentine's Day coincide this year as Pope Francis calls for care of those around us in his Lenten message in the period of preparation for Easter, often considered the holiest of Christian feasts.

Christians commonly celebrate Ash Wednesday with ashes on their forehead and fasting to start the Lenten season before Easter and it does not often coincide with Valentine's Day .

"It's almost that favorite feast day, when love is in the air, red heart-shaped boxes line the shelves from grocery stores to gas stations, and Catholics remember the great devotion of St. Valentine as we shower our spouses or significant others with heartfelt cards and flowers, hoping to score a seat at a romantic restaurant," wrote Alyssa Murphy in the National Catholic Register on Valentine's Day..

"Lent is the Christian season of spiritual preparation before Easter. In Western churches, it begins on Ash Wednesday. During Lent, many Christians observe a period of fasting repentance, moderation, self-denial, and spiritual discipline," .

Easter, is the Christian festival and cultural holiday commemorating the resurrection of Jesus from the dead, described in the New Testament as having occurred on the third day of his burial following his crucifixion by the Romans at Calvary.

Meanwhile, in his message for Lent 2024, Pope Francis invited the faithful to "pause" for prayer and to assist our brothers and sisters in need, in order to change our own lives and the lives of our communities.

"When our God reveals Himself, His message is always one of freedom," Francis says in the opening of his Message to the faithful for Lent 2024.


He recalled the Exodus of the Hebrew people from Egypt, and the Pope explains that the journey through the desert can be a season of grace.

It is not an abstract journey, but a concrete path that involves seeing the world as it is and hearing the cries of humanity's oppressed brothers and sisters said Francis.

He said, however, Lent is a "season of grace, a time of conversion," where the desert can become "a place where our freedom can mature in a personal decision not to fall back into slavery," where "we find new criteria of justice and a community with which we can press forward on a road not yet taken."

The Pope said that the Lenten journey involves a struggle and it is a time for action, but also a time "to pause" – to pause in prayer and to pause "in the presence of a wounded brother or sister."

Going to the convergence of Ash Wednesday and Valentine's Day, Murphy wrote in her  article in the National Catholic Register titled: "Valentine's Day and Ash Wednesday Collide: When Cupid Meets Lent."

But this year, she wrote "Ash Wednesday lands smack-dab right on the calendar at Feb. 14. Ash Wednesday, when we remember that we are dust and to dust we shall return, kicks off the season of Lent, a period of penance, abstinence and fasting."

She asked what is a Catholic to do? "Is it a time of choosing or is there a way to celebrate both in a creative and holy way?"

Murphy quoted Dominican priest Thomas Petri at the Dominican House of Studies giving pastoral guidance to the Register: "A nice romantic meal is certainly contrary to a spirit of fasting for the day."

So he advised:

"Make the best of Tuesday — a Mardi Gras Valentine! Couples can then grow closer on Ash Wednesday by growing closer to Jesus Christ — who suffered and died for us."

Taking to the virtual streets, we asked some of our favorite Catholic couples how they plan to mark the day, and their answers did not disappoint!

"Lent is like date night in marriage. You're always married, but if you're never extra intentional about the relationship, it will die. So it is with God, and that's what Lent is about: a time of next-level focus and intentionality with God," said Chris Stefanick of Real Life Catholic.

Grazie Christie, host of TCA's Conversations With Consequences on EWTN Radio, said, "Valentine's Day is not, as you may be pardoned for thinking, a Hallmark holiday aimed at consumers with disposable incomes and romantic hearts.

"It's a holy day, in which we remember Bishop Valentine, martyred by Emperor Claudius in the third century for marrying young lovers in secret. You see, the emperor needed soldiers for his army and had banned marriages to keep the young men single and available for cannon fodder."

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