VaLENTines: Start of Lent on Feb. 14 puts indulgence, abstinence in conflict for some (2024)

Ash Wednesday, the first day of Lent, just so happens to fall on the day of love. While Catholic leaders say they won't give out exemptions, a representative from the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops says the holidays go hand-in-hand with each other.

The Mardi Gras traditions of spending weeks partying and eating king cake all lead up to one day, Ash Wednesday. It's the first day of Lent, the 40-day season, not including Sundays, which leads up to Easter Sunday.

But this year, getting a reservation at the fancy steak house down the street may present a conflict of interest for Roman Catholics.

Father Dustin Dought, the executive director of the Secretariat of Divine Worship of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, told USA Today that it's one of the two days in the year that Roman Catholics are obliged to fast. The other is Good Friday.

"This practice is a way of emptying ourselves so that we can be filled with God," said Dought.

According to Dought, he believes the Church won't give out an exception because Ash Wednesday and Valentine's Day ultimately go together.

The line, "Behold the lamb of God which takes away the sins of the world,” John 1:29, refers to the sacrifice made by God and Jesus.

"The Lord tells us in the Gospels, 'No greater love has a person than this, to lay down his life for his friends,'" said Dought. "So when we think of Valentine's Day, we can think of lots of different things. But the image that Jesus gives us is laying down our lives for another person, and that clarifies what Valentine's Day is about."

VaLENTines: Start of Lent on Feb. 14 puts indulgence, abstinence in conflict for some (2)

The rules of Fasting

The rules for fasting for Roman Catholics are different from those in other faiths that ask believers to abstain for food or drink for extended periods.

"In the Church's directions for fasting, she says [to eat] one regular-sized meal and two smaller meals that don't equal that regular-sized meal," said Dought.

There is no specific portion size set in the rule. Dought says it just depends on the person and their state in life. He says it's "relative."

"A full meal for someone who does very intense bodily work may be different from a full meal for someone who doesn't," said Dought.

According to him, the only Roman Catholics who are obligated to fast are people aged 18 to 59.

What does the start of Lent mean for Valentine's Day plans?

Catholics must abstain from eating meat on Ash Wednesday. But it isn't just Ash Wednesday. It is every Friday during Lent, including Good Friday.

"Since Jesus sacrificed his flesh for us on Good Friday, we refrain from eating flesh meat in his honor on Fridays," says the the Archdiocese of Saint Paul and Minneapolis.

WilliamJohnston, an associate professor of religious studies at the University of Dayton, told USA TODAY that abstaining from eating meat is also a form of penance– admitting to any wrongdoings and sins while turning back to belief in God.

VaLENTines: Start of Lent on Feb. 14 puts indulgence, abstinence in conflict for some (3)

What can Catholics eat while abstaining during Lent?

Catholics might want to trade in the steak house reservation for one at a sushi restaurant.

USA Today reports that on that day, the most popular choice is fish. According to the Archdiocese, the following can be eaten:

  • Fish
  • Shrimp
  • Crab
  • Lobster
  • Shellfish

However, according to Johnson, buying expensive fish is discouraged.

VaLENTines: Start of Lent on Feb. 14 puts indulgence, abstinence in conflict for some (4)

Those who don't have a taste for seafood can opt for non-flesh animal products, like milk, eggs, cheese and butter.

Couples planning to celebrate the night with a bottle of wine don't have to worry.

Some Roman Catholic couples might choose to abstain from alcohol, but the church doesn't require it.

How can fasting be romantic?

Dought says that fasting is always done with an end in mind. People shouldn't just do it to prove that they can and turn it into a competition. It should be done "out of love for God and of my neighbor."

Someone who fasts on Valentine's Day and eats those smaller portions can save the one regular meal they get that day and look forward to sharing it with their partner. Dought believes that kind of sacrifice and love could enrich Valentine's.

"Fasting is not just about 'me,' but about 'us,'" he said. "So, I think Valentine's Day can clarify what Ash Wednesday is really about, and Ash Wednesday can clarify what Valentine's Day is really about."

He goes on to say that someone who keeps their partner in mind when they practice fasting doesn't just ignite a love for God, but a love for their partner, too.

Contributing: Jordan Mendoza, USA Today

VaLENTines: Start of Lent on Feb. 14 puts indulgence, abstinence in conflict for some (2024)


Does Lent start on Valentine's Day? ›

Ash Wednesday, the first day of Lent, just so happens to fall on the day of love. While Catholic leaders say they won't give out exemptions, a representative from the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops says the holidays go hand-in-hand with each other.

Why is Valentine's Day on Feb 14? ›

The 8th-century Gelasian Sacramentary recorded the celebration of the Feast of Saint Valentine on February 14. The day became associated with romantic love in the 14th and 15th centuries, when notions of courtly love flourished, apparently by association with the "lovebirds" of early spring.

What does abstinence mean during Lent? ›

In this context, abstinence refers to “abstaining” from meat on Fridays during Lent. Whereas Catholics fast on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday with just one large meal, Catholics must refrain from eating meat on other Fridays, though they can have three full meals.

What is the real meaning of Valentine's Day? ›

While the date is meant to honor Saint Valentine's death and burial, which supposedly occurred in mid-February around 270 AD, some historians believe the date could reflect the Catholic Church's attempt to replace the ancient Pagan celebration of Lupercalia — a fertility festival for the pagan agricultural god Faunus — ...

What day is the cheat day for Lent? ›

Patrick pointed out that traditionally people observe their penance every day during Lent, and don't consider Sundays in Lent to be a 'cheat day. ' However, others feel that it's not appropriate to do penance on a Sunday, so they feel it is appropriate to indulge in chocolate, TV, or whatever they gave up.

What does love have to do with Lent? ›

These two events may seem contradictory, but actually Love has everything to do with Lent. Lent culminates in Jesus' act of selfless love and self-sacrifice.

Who decided February 14th is Valentine's day? ›

At the end of the 5th century, Pope Gelasius declared February 14 St. Valentine's Day, and since then, February 14th has been a day of celebration—though it was generally more religious than romantic.

What the Bible Says About Valentines day? ›

1 John 4:7-12

Dear friends: let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.

When did Feb 14 become Valentine's day? ›

Centuries later it's said that he was elevated to the altars which drove Pope Gelasio I in the year 494 to declare the 14th of February, on the day of his torture, the official day of Saint Valentine.

What are the rules for abstinence during Lent? ›

On Ash Wednesday, Good Friday, and all Fridays of Lent: Everyone of age 14 and up must abstain from consuming meat. On Ash Wednesday and Good Friday: Everyone of age 18 to 59 must fast, unless exempt due to usually a medical reason.

Are you supposed to be abstinence during Lent? ›

Ash Wednesday and Good Friday are obligatory days of fasting and abstinence for Catholics. In addition, Fridays during Lent are obligatory days of abstinence. For members of the Latin Catholic Church, the norms on fasting are obligatory from age 18 until age 59.

What are examples of Lent abstinence? ›

During Lent, Catholics are also encouraged to undertake some sort of personal penance or abstinence. Examples include giving up sweets, a favorite TV show or not listening to the radio in the car on the way to work.

What is the dark history behind Valentine's day? ›

On February 14, around the year A.D. 270, Valentine, a priest in Rome in the days of Emperor Claudius II, is said to have been executed. Because he was marrying people, after the Emperor explicitly said he wanted the men to fight wars, not marry (Claudius actually banned Marriage for this very reason).

What is the bad history of Valentine's day? ›

One Valentine was a priest in third-century Rome who defied Emperor Claudius II after the ruler outlawed marriage for young men. St. Valentine would perform marriages in secret for young lovers, ultimately leading to his death.

Why is Valentine's day considered a pagan holiday? ›

However, many historians believe the day originated from the Roman pagan festival of fertility called Lupercalia, an event filled with animal sacrifice, random coupling and the whipping of women; not quite the romantic chocolate and roses day that we celebrate today.

How often does Lent fall on Valentine's day? ›

Before 2018, we hadn't seen Ash Wednesday and Valentine's Day line up since 1945, according to USA Today. Before that, the dates aligned in 1923 and 1934. We won't have to wait very long for it to happen again. In 2029, the dates will fall on the same Wednesday (Easter will fall on April Fools' Day, too).

Does Ash Wednesday always fall on Valentine's day? ›

The date of Ash Wednesday changes based on the date of Easter. Each year, Easter is the first Sunday after the first full moon following the spring equinox. Live Wire's research, through, indicates Ash Wednesday and Valentine's Day are sharing the same date for the first time since 1945.

Why did Ash Wednesday fall on Valentine's day? ›

WHY IS ASH WEDNESDAY ON VALENTINE'S DAY THIS YEAR? Ash Wednesday is not a fixed date. Its timing is tied to Easter Sunday, and for most Christians, Easter will fall on March 31 this year. Easter also moves annually, swinging between March 22 and April 25 based on a calendar calculation involving the moon.

What day in February does Lent start? ›

For Christians, there's an additional reason to celebrate, as Ash Wednesday also lands on February 14, marking the start of the Lenten season, a 40-day period of reflection before the joyful celebration that is Easter.


Top Articles
Latest Posts
Article information

Author: Jamar Nader

Last Updated:

Views: 5972

Rating: 4.4 / 5 (75 voted)

Reviews: 90% of readers found this page helpful

Author information

Name: Jamar Nader

Birthday: 1995-02-28

Address: Apt. 536 6162 Reichel Greens, Port Zackaryside, CT 22682-9804

Phone: +9958384818317

Job: IT Representative

Hobby: Scrapbooking, Hiking, Hunting, Kite flying, Blacksmithing, Video gaming, Foraging

Introduction: My name is Jamar Nader, I am a fine, shiny, colorful, bright, nice, perfect, curious person who loves writing and wants to share my knowledge and understanding with you.