For the first time since 1945, Ash Wednesday and Valentine’s Day share the same date, and it’s posing a peculiar problem for some members of the Christian faith.
The holy day, which marks the beginning of Lent, is typically observed by devout Catholics and some other denominations of the Christian faith by avoiding indulgences, such as meat, or participating in a fast — two practices that don’t really mesh well with a traditional Valentine’s Day celebration.
Church leaders around the country, however, have been reminding congregations that the rules of Ash Wednesday still apply, despite what many Valentine’s Day revelers have planned.
“Ash Wednesday marks the start of the Lenten season, which is a solemn time of prayer and penance for the Catholic Church, and for many other Christians,” stated Bishop Richard Malone of Buffalo, N.Y., in a video released last week. “Ash Wednesday and Good Friday are the only two days of the whole year on which fasting and abstinence are required.”
“A dispensation or commutation will not be granted,” he later added.
Cardinal Timothy Dolan, the archbishop of New York, added that Ash Wednesday is “a somber day of prayer and penance” that takes precedence over Valentine’s Day, and that the latter “would not lift us from the duty of fasting and self-denial.”
Religious leaders across the country have issued similar statements, the New York Times reported.
However, both Malone and Dolan offered alternatives to the dilemma, with Malone suggesting that parishioners celebrate Valentine’s Day on the Tuesday beforehand, and Dolan asking Catholics to focus on the similar aspect — “both days center on the heart,” he says — of the observances.
Twitter, meanwhile, is having a hard time reconciling the two. Social media users are all too eager to point out the conflicting messages of the holidays, while others were content to merely make jokes.
According to the Times, Catholic Bishops have issued dispensations for the consumption of meat in the past, the most recent being last St. Patrick’s Day — which also fell on a Friday during Lent — when dozens of bishops across America allowed Catholics to break their abstinence from meat and consume corned beef.