Believers across the country will face a unique struggle on Wednesday, which is both a secular holiday (Valentine’s Day) and a religious one (Ash Wednesday), according to The New York Times.
Catholics may especially struggle as they traditionally fast on the first day of Lent, which is Wednesday and, this year, falls on the same day they may feel inclined to buy some chocolate or head to a fancy restaurant for dinner with a significant other.
Most Americans view Valentine's Day as a secular holiday, according to The New York Times, filled with frivolous spending. This year, consumers will spend nearly $19.6 billion on Valentine’s Day on candy, greeting cards, expensive dates and a lot more, according to the National Retail Federation. On average, people will spend close to $143.56.
Religious leaders across the country shared their thoughts on what believers should do for the double holiday.
Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan, the archbishop of New York, said in a blog post that people should not set aside their Ash Wednesday obligations.
“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.
Bishop Richard Malone of Buffalo said something similar in a video.
“Ash Wednesday and Good Friday are the only two days of the whole year on which fasting and abstinence are required,” he said. “Those who are accustomed to celebrating Valentine’s Day might do so, perhaps, the day before. Join it up with Mardi Gras!”
The Archdiocese of Chicago made the same suggestion in a message to parishes this week.
“Catholics throughout the world recognize Ash Wednesday as the solemn beginning of a period of prayerful reflection and penance, as is evident by the large number of churchgoers on this day,” the statement reads. “In view of the significance of Ash Wednesday, the obligation of fast and abstinence must naturally be the priority in the Catholic community.”
But according to American Magazine, Catholics have roots in Valentine’s Day, too. Three saints have had the name St. Valentine. However, the church doesn’t recognize Feb. 14 as St. Valentine’s Day, instead choosing to honor Sts. Cyril and Methodius, who were missionaries born in Greece.
Clergy from other faiths have pointed that Valentine’s Day might be the best way to kick off the season of Lent, the 40-day period of reflection and penitence that leads up to the Easter celebration.
The Rev. Pamela Smith, lead pastor of First Lutheran Church in Nashville, told The Tennessean that the point of Ash Wednesday, like Valentine’s Day, is to share the feeling of love with people.2 comments on this story
"We stand honestly before God and say, 'You are God and I am not. You are God and I am a sinful human being,'" Smith said. "That honesty, that's the foundation for the loving relationship."
Meanwhile, the Rev. Benjamin Butler, associate pastor at St. Stephen Catholic church in Nashville, said people should look to celebrate Valentine’s Day on Tuesday.
"There is nothing that says you can't do that the day before," Butler said.
But on Wednesday, Butler said, think about St. Valentine, a martyr of the Catholic Church.
"It was out of love of God that he was willing to lay down his own life for the defense of Christianity," Butler said.