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With Ash Wednesday and Valentine’s Day on same date, Catholics face balancing act

By in Press Enterprise on February 11, 2018

By Alejandra Molina

Elizabeth and Ray Almanza typically celebrate their dating anniversary on Valentine’s Day, indulging in a hearty lamb or steak meal.

This year, it will be different.

They’ll be spending the evening at Mass, participating in the distribution of ashes.

That’s because, this year, Ash Wednesday falls on Feb. 14 — Valentine’s Day.

The coincidence hasn’t occurred since 1945, according to the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate, a nonprofit research center at Georgetown University.

“Having both of these events land on the same day gives us a new perspective on both events,” said Elizabeth Almanza, a 32-year-old Colton resident.

The two days have religious roots, but could not be more different.

Valentine’s Day, named after St. Valentine, celebrates love and friendship with chocolate, cards, flowers and fancy dinners. Ash Wednesday starts the solemn season of Lent — a time of reflection and repentance for Roman Catholics and other Christians. On this day, the faithful have black ash smudged on their forehead in the shape of a cross. The ashes symbolize repentance and are an acknowledgement of mortality.

Catholics and some Protestants fast and abstain from meat on Ash Wednesday, as well as on Good Friday, which precedes Easter Sunday. They also are asked to skip meat on Fridays during Lent (though fish is allowed). The faithful do this practice to follow Jesus Christ’s example of sacrifice when he died on the cross.

In the past, Catholic bishops have granted dispensation from the day’s fasting requirements, such as last year, when St. Patrick’s Day fell on a Friday during Lent. The Friday Lenten tradition clashed with the Irish-American tradition of eating corned beef and cabbage.

Valentine’s Day, however, may not be treated the same.

One reason is because not much is known about St. Valentine, according to an article on the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate website.

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