A bishop in Alabama has advised Catholics on how to mark Ash Wednesday and Valentine’s Day which fall on the same day this year.
Ash Wednesday requires fasting in many Christian traditions. Valentine’s Day is a time for celebrating love, often by fine dining out and giving candy.
“For the first time since 1945, Valentine’s day falls this year on Ash Wednesday. Some have wondered whether a dispensation from the standard laws of fast and abstinence would be granted,” wrote Bishop Robert J. Baker of the Catholic Diocese of Birmingham in Alabama.
“Out of respect for the importance of Ash Wednesday in the lives of so many – including our non-Catholic brethren – and the way this custom underlines the importance of the Lenten season at its outset, a dispensation will not be given,” he said.
“Those who wish to celebrate Valentine’s Day may fittingly do so the day before (Mardi Gras) or on another non-penitential day. The good Lord, who suffered so much out of love for us, will surely reward our fidelity and sacrifice,” Bishop Baker wrote in his letter to the diocese.
Ash Wednesday this year falls on Feb. 14 Valentine’s Day. While Ash Wednesday begins the fasting season of the 40 days of Lent, Valentine’s Day commemorates St. Valentine who was a priest in Rome during the reign of Emperor Claudius II, according to Christian tradition.
The Roman emperor was finding it difficult to enlist soldiers for his army, which he attributed to men being reluctant to leave their wives and so he banned marriages. Valentine defied the edict and continued to perform marriages for which he was beheaded in about 269 A.D.