Valentine’s Day and Ash Wednesday both take place Wednesday, which could change some Lenten observers’ Valentine’s plans
Unless you’ve been married 73 years or more, Valentine’s Day will be a first this week.
That’s because it will be first time since 1945 it has shared the same day as Ash Wednesday, according to the blog 1964, which is written by the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate (CARA) at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C.
While that dual-day revelation still may be 24 hours off for guys used to last-minute Valentine’s Day gift shopping, it will affect plans for area Catholics and some people of other Christian faiths.
For those abstaining from eating meat Wednesday, that will mean picking seafood or vegetarian options for dinner rather than prime rib or lemon-pepper chicken. And if your true love intends to give up chocolate or other sweets for Lent, you’d better open the box today or Tuesday.
The Catholic Church has very clear rules for Ash Wednesday, Good Friday and Lent. Able-bodied Catholics are supposed to fast on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday by not eating meat and by limiting themselves to one main meal and two small meals.
Catholics also are supposed to avoid eating meat on Fridays during Lent, which begins Wednesday and continues to Easter. In another quirk this year, Easter also happens to share the date — April 1 — with April Fools’ Day.
Other faiths observe Ash Wednesday, Good Friday and Lent, but fasting and abstinence from meat generally are voluntary in the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod (LCMS), Evangelical Lutheran Church in America and Episcopal Church, all of which also will mark the start of Lent on Ash Wednesday.
The LCMS, for example, lets individual congregations decide whether they will offer imposition of ashes on Ash Wednesday, said the Rev. Daniel May, president of the denomination’s Indiana District, which has its office in Fort Wayne. It also is up to individuals whether they want to fast or abstain from anything during Lent.
In a recent writing, May said he offered a suggestion for how congregations and people can mark the two holidays together.
“Valentine’s Day is all about love, and the beginning of Lent also is about God expressing his sacrificial love for us,” May said.
The Episcopal Church encourages repentance during Lent and fasting on Ash Wednesday and Fridays during Lent, but each person decides whether to fast and what he or she will fast from, said Rev. T.J. Freeman, rector of Trinity Episcopal Church in downtown Fort Wayne.
In the Catholic Church, there have been years where an area’s bishop has granted a special dispensation to allow Catholics to eat meat on a Friday during Lent. Typically, that has involved St. Patrick’s Day with its traditional corn beef and cabbage.
Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades of the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend isn’t making any exceptions for Ash Wednesday, and he’s not aware of any other U.S. Catholic bishops doing so, said Stephanie Patka, of the diocese’s secretariat for communications.
Some Catholic bishops instead suggest celebrating Valentine’s Day on Tuesday, which is Mardi Gras, or Fat Tuesday, a traditional day to indulge before beginning the penitential season of Lent, reported a Catholic News Service article the Fort Wayne-South Bend diocese published Feb. 6 in its Today’s Catholic newspaper.
Whatever you decide to do, it will be good practice for the future: Ash Wednesday and Valentine’s Day will share the same date again in 2024 and 2029, the CARA blog said.
To read the 1964 blog’s full post about Valentine’s Day and Ash Wednesday falling on the same date this year, go to http://nineteensixty-four.blogspot.com/2018/01/got-valentines-date-check-date.html.