14 Feb 2018 – St. Valentine’s Day and Ash Wednesday

Each year that St. Patrick’s Day falls on a Friday, in Lent, we witness the lunacy of dispensations so that people don’t have to do their regular Friday, lenten penance.

This year, the Feast of St. Valentine – transmogrified, commercialized and warped by big business into something nearly perverse – coincides with Ash Wednesday, one of only two days remaining in the Church year when most Catholics are bound to both fasting and abstinence.

The UK’s best Catholic weekly, the Catholic Herald, has a piece about how this year Catholics are bound to fast and abstain on Ash Wednesday – St. Valentine’s Day insanity notwithstanding.

Catholic in good health aged 18 to 59 must fast and abstain from meat on Ash Wednesday. They may eat one full meal, supplemented by two smaller meals that together do not equal the full meal.

If you have been successfully programed and pressured through incessant advertising into a secular observance of St. Valentine’s Day, perhaps you can shift your observance to the day before Ash Wednesday, Shrove Tuesday.

Yes, I think that would work well.  After all, “shrive” (whence, “shrove”) means both to present oneself for sacramental confession and, for the priest, to absolve a penitent.

So, by all means, this year, anticipate your celebration of St. Valentine’s Day on the day before Ash Wednesday and…


About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. Michael Haz says:

    Heh. My wife and I have planned to have a “St. Valentine’s Day Dinner of Anticipation” the evening or Tuesday, February 13th.

  2. APX says:

    It will make it easier to get dinner reservations. Failing that, if God forbid, someone has a non-Catholic girlfriend who will get up in arms over this, one could fast all day and leave their main meal to the evening and order something fish, and share dessert…or take this as a sign the relationship isn’t marriage material.

  3. steve-s says:

    There was actually a statement about this in my bulletin last week. Our bishop (diocese of Trenton) said, basically, that since there are only two days all year Catholics are required to fast, no dispensations would be issued for Valentines Day falling on Ash Wednesday.

  4. rhhenry says:

    There’s always this approach (sorry, don’t know how to embed graphics):



  5. acardnal says:

    Valentine’s Day on Ash Wednesday. . . that is the least of it. Easter Sunday falls on April Fool’s Day this year. Makes me wonder what craziness will occur in the church that day! Abrogation of Humanae Vitae? Divorce and remarriage allowed? The bible is a novel?

  6. Fr. W says:

    Excellent commentary and comments. I would just suggest (somewhat tongue and cheek) that in my experience as a priest for almost 29 years I imagine that in some situations, the boyfriend or husband “celebrating” with a fine and romantic dinner might be a greater penance.

  7. LarryW2LJ says:

    Holy crow! I don’t have to fast anymore?

    I will, anyway.

  8. Suburbanbanshee says:

    So I guess St.Valentine’s isn’t getting moved?

    Hmm. Perhaps fasting is for lovers? Internal hunger and lovesickness reflected in external practices?

  9. Peter Stuart says:

    For some of us SSA Catholics in the Courage Apostolate, Valentine’s Day is the toughest in the year. Please offer up a prayer for us that day. Thanks.

  10. Imrahil says:

    Well, the official definition of a “meal” (though it stems from times where people had to do just such fasting 40 days in a row with Sunday breaks, not twice a year) is that it takes at most 2 hours from beginning to end of the food intake, and that it doesn’t contain meat (but may fish). Beer and even wine do not break the fast, though milk does. [I’d venture to say that cocktails count as wine, and while I’m not sure what you’d technically say to hard liquor, you don’t drink that for a Valentine’s dinner either, do you?]

    The usual time for the fast-day meal is midday, but people are quite at liberty to eat it in the evening – if only they haven’t had a full meal before.

    So, with a bit of enduring hunger during the day, it seems quite possible to eat a Valentine’s dinner without the meat in the evening and do so in keeping with fasting rules.

  11. Atra Dicenda, Rubra Agenda says:

    I thought it was Sts. Cyril and Methodius Day now? Those are great saints not associated with modern commercialized Insanity. I’ll give Bugnini/Consilium credit for this *one* boon…

  12. JonPatrick says:

    Not a big deal in this household as we have never payed much attention to Valentines or any of these manufactured holidays (what I call “Hallmark Holidays”).

    More of an issue for us is usually our anniversary which is April 14th. Not this year but on other years it has fallen in Lent and even on Good Friday a couple of times. So we just “translate” it to the nearest weekend after Easter.

  13. MrsMacD says:

    It’s appropriate that, living in Sodom, we can fast for the triumph of the Holy Family, and true Love, this Valentines day.

  14. MrsMacD says:

    And I intend [here my Irish eyes twinkle] to celebrate the Feast of Our Glorious St. Patrick with Mass and a roast and a glass of wine, and maybe conclude our family rosary with the breastplate of St. Patrick, and read his life to my children and put his statue on our table. We owe him our Faith, it’s no snall debt we pay when celebrating his feast. That besides we live in his patronal docese, thank God.

  15. frjim4321 says:

    It could be a teachable moment to impress upon the Faithful that Ash Wednesday and Good Fridays are days of particular piety, over and above the typical Lenten Friday. For a bishop to say, “In part I’d like to dispense with this, but this is a matter of particular observance for all Catholics.

    I also wish a bishop would help people realize that the late days of Advent also have a particularly high rank. I don’t think that is typically understood; nor that all the days of Easter rank equally.

  16. dallenl says:

    Shrove Tuesday before Ash Wednesday has been the traditional last day of merriment and feasting before lent. I dare say the flowers and cards for St. Valentine’s day are just as well presented at the first Lenten breakfast as would have been at an unnecessarily sumptuous second dinner in two days at evening meal.

  17. Imrahil says:

    Only, dear reverend Father Jim, that all days of Easter (even of eight-day easter, to be silent of fifty-day Easter) do not rank equally.

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