US Eat, Pray, Love: An Ash Wednesday and Valentine’s Day Dilemma

17:09  13 february  2018
17:09  13 february  2018 Source:   The New York Times

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Ash Wednesday and Valentine ’ s Day . “God’s Love Creates Loving Hearts”. Members of our downtown churches are encouraged to pray for the community, one another, and to meditate on upon the Beatitudes in Matthew 5:1-12 during the forty days of the Lenten Season.

Four Spiritual Books Invite Us to Pray With Scripture This Lent. You are at:Home»Articles from Our Contributors»CM Hangout: The Ash Wednesday / Valentine ' s Day Dilemma . Here’s a calendar situation that will require a little advance planning: this year Valentine ’ s Day falls on Ash Wednesday !

a group of people wearing costumes: Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan celebrated Mass at St. Patrick’s Cathedral on Ash Wednesday in 2013.© Fred R. Conrad/The New York Times Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan celebrated Mass at St. Patrick’s Cathedral on Ash Wednesday in 2013.

Ah, steak and chocolate, the indulgent mainstays of Valentine’s Day dinners. And exactly the kind of extravagances that observers of Lent, which also starts on Wednesday with Ash Wednesday, are asked to avoid.

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The confluence of the events — occurring for the first time since 1945 — has created a dilemma for Roman Catholics and followers of other Christian denominations who observe Ash Wednesday. How can one simultaneously mark a solemn day when foreheads are tapped with a symbol of mortality as a call to humility and repentance, while celebrating one that glorifies the kisses and champagne of romantic love?

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On Wednesday , as Catholics, we celebrate Ash Wednesday , while in the United States, we cele-brate Valentine ' s Day . Some pray in the morning, some at night and others at every meal. Take time with the One you love .

Valentine ’ s Day is also Ash Wednesday , the beginning of the Lenten season where Christians fast, pray While numerous Christian denominations observe Lent, a dilemma may be most felt among Roman Catholics, who are obligated to abstain from eating meat and to fast on Ash Wednesday .

Around the country, Roman Catholic bishops have been issuing reminders to parishioners that the holy obligations of Ash Wednesday still apply. They include receiving ashes, abstaining from meat and fasting — which Catholics define as eating one normal meal and two small meals that don’t add up to the normal meal in quantity.

“Ash Wednesday and Good Friday are the only two days of the whole year on which fasting and abstinence are required,” Bishop Richard Malone of Buffalo told parishioners in a video posted online Friday. “Those who are accustomed to celebrating Valentine’s Day might do so, perhaps, the day before. Join it up with Mardi Gras!”

Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan, the archbishop of New York, took a similarly somber approach, despite his reputation as perhaps the most jovial of American bishops.

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As for my writing assignments, Ash Wednesday and Valentine ’ s Day , the providence of God again took care of me. A very good friend often makes her own valentine cards. Pen and ink combine with water color designs to convey her heartfelt greetings.

During Lent, many believers give up something they love , such as eating chocolates or other sweets, as a way of replicating Christ's journey into the desert for 40 days . For the first time since 1945, Ash Wednesday , Photo by Staff photo illustration/Getty Images. Valentine ' s Day , on the other hand, is

“Ash Wednesday has precedence, and the coincidence of St. Valentine’s Day would not lift for us the duty of fasting and self-denial,” he wrote in a blog post on Monday.

“St. Valentine willingly bows to this Sacred Heart, for which even he lovingly gave his life 18 centuries ago,” Cardinal Dolan wrote, in a reference to the martyrdom of St. Valentine in the third century.

He called for celebrations in line with the day’s spirit. “Why don’t we do an act of charity for somebody else? Why don’t we do an act of penance for one another as a sign of our love?” he told reporters Monday..

Last year, when St. Patrick’s Day fell on a Lenten Friday, when Catholics are asked to abstain from eating meat, Cardinal Dolan was a voice of leniency. Like at least 80 other bishops around the country, he issued a dispensation to permit New York Catholics to eat corned beef and cabbage, the traditional Irish dish.

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NAN reports that on Ash Wednesday , Christians are expected to receive Ash on their foreheads, fast by not eating foods and refrain from some social activities. “It is not only on Valentine ’ s Day that is about showing love to your spouse alone or others.”

tags: Ash Wednesday , Lent, love , Marriage, Martyr, Sacrifice, St. Valentine , Valentine ' s Day . I wonder how different the church could be if during the season of Lent this year, we Christians chose not to see Valentine ’ s Day as an awkward dilemma to deal with but as a guide for our practices.

Ash Wednesday is considered a holier day than a regular Friday in Lent, so no bishops have issued a dispensation this time. Still, it’s possible to find a more liberal outlook among the region’s clergy.

Just across the Hudson River, for example, Cardinal Joseph W. Tobin, the archbishop of Newark, said he sees no harm in marking both days at once.

The reason, Cardinal Tobin explained, is found in the Ash Wednesday Gospel reading from the Book of Matthew. Joy and religious obligation can, and in fact should, coexist.

The Gospel reads in part: “When you fast, do not look gloomy like the hypocrites. They neglect their appearance, so that they may appear to others to be fasting.

“But when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, so that you may not appear to be fasting, except to your Father who is hidden. And your Father, who sees what is hidden, will repay you.”

What does this mean?

“You can be happy and enjoy the day, and you certainly shouldn’t be dour, because then all the attention is on you, on your discomfort,” said Cardinal Tobin, who is known for his pastoral approach.

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But if Ash Wednesday is a day of fasting and abstinence for Catholics, whereby we abstain from eating meat and consume only one main meal and two smaller meals, how can we celebrate St. Valentine ’ s Day ? If Valentine ’ s Day is really about love

Ash Wednesday signals the beginning of Lent, the 40- day period when Catholics practice different acts of self-denial as a sign of penance. He also cited the three pillars of Lent as ways to express love this Valentine ' s day : fasting, praying , and alms-giving.

“Take your heartthrob to a small-plates place, because fasting in the Catholic Church doesn’t mean that you go without, or with just water,” he said. “It’s the kind of dilemma you might have if your grandmother’s birthday and Valentine’s Day fell on the same day. They are both values for you, so you conjugate them; you try to figure out how to do it.”

That doesn’t mean Catholics should give fasting short shrift, he added. Not only is it required, but it links believers to a worldwide community, and to the experience of those who don’t have enough to eat.

But there is a way to use spiritual love to deepen the love between couples. Before heading off to get those vegetarian tapas, “go to church first, and get some ashes, especially if the two of you are on the same spiritual wavelength,” Cardinal Tobin suggested. “And it might be another thing that unites you.”

Given this, it might not come as a surprise that Cardinal Tobin also doesn’t see a conflict between celebrating Easter and April Fool’s on the same day — within reason. That’s the next rare coincidence coming up on this year’s calendar, on April 1.

“The worst that could happen is that you hide someone’s Easter basket where they can’t find it, or give them diet eggs that have nothing inside,” Cardinal Tobin said, brainstorming some appropriate April Fool’s Easter gags. “Or diet chocolate,” he added. “Wouldn’t that be awful!”

Follow Sharon Otterman on Twitter: @sharonNYT

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