Ash Wednesday is February 14 Print E-mail
Around the Diocese
Thursday, Feb. 08, 2018 -- 12:00 AM
ash wednesday
Fr. Gary Wankerl, pastor of Holy Mother of Consolation Parish in Oregon, places ashes on a woman’s forehead during Ash Wednesday Mass last year. (Catholic Herald photo/Kevin Wondrash)

WASHINGTON, D.C. (CNS) -- Many people looking at their February calendars are doing a double-take with Ash Wednesday falling on February 14, Valentine’s Day.

The two days, steeped in tradition, don’t have too much in common beyond their religious roots.

Valentine’s Day, named after St. Valentine, a third-century martyr, is all about romance with its emphasis on cards, candy, flowers, and nice dinners, where Ash Wednesday takes a more somber tone as the start of 40 days of prayer, fasting, and almsgiving of Lent.

Ash Wednesday also is one of two days, along with Good Friday, that are obligatory days of fasting and abstinence for Catholic adults -- meaning no eating meat and eating only one full meal and two smaller meals.

In other words, not a day for consuming candy hearts, chocolate cakes, or fancy steak dinners.

No dispensation likely

And for those who wonder if Catholic bishops might grant a dispensation from the day’s fasting requirements, as they sometimes have with the no meat rule when St. Patrick’s Day falls on a Friday in Lent, they should probably think again.

Despite the rarity of this year’s Ash Wednesday date, the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate notes that it is unlikely the U.S. bishops would give an Ash Wednesday dispensation as some of them have on St. Patrick’s Day mainly because not much is known about St. Valentine.

Not only are there few details of the saint, there are also mixed accounts of possibly three different martyrs named Valentine that share a February 14 feast day.

The confusion and lack of details led the Church to remove the feast of St. Valentine from the general Church calendar in the late 1960s.

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