Parishioners have been asked to postpone their Valentines’s Day celebration by the Catholic diocese of Birmingham in Alabama, US, because it falls on Ash Wednesday.
The parishioners were also given the option of celebrating Valentine’s a day prior on February 13.
Robert J Baker, head of the Catholic diocese of Birmingham, made this known in a letter addressed to the church members.
In the letter, he stated the importance of Ash Wednesday and the reason why a dispensation from standard laws of fast and abstinence would not be granted. He wrote:
“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. Out of respect for importance of Ash Wednesday in the lives of so many- including our non-Catholic brethren- and the way this underlines the importance of Lenten season at its outset, a dispensation will not be given.
Those who wish to celebrate Valentine’s day may fittingly do so the day before (Mardi Gras) or on another potential day. The good lord, who suffered so much out of love for us, will surely reward our fidelity and sacrifice.”
Ash Wednesday and Valentine’s Day fall on the same day this year, Feb. 14, and that presents a problem for some people who observe both holidays.
The observance of Ash Wednesday requires fasting in many traditions. Valentine’s Day is a time for celebrating love, often by eating out and giving candy.
Catholic Bishop Robert J. Baker, head of the Catholic Diocese of Birmingham, today issued his official position on the matter.
He said Catholics should fast on Ash Wednesday and celebrate Valentine’s Day dinner either on Mardi Gras – “Fat Tuesday” – the last day of allowable heavy consumption before Ash Wednesday fasting begins, or on another day when penitence is not required.
Ash Wednesday begins the fasting season of the 40 days of Lent. Liturgical fasting during Lent emphasizes eating plainer food and refraining from “pleasurable” foods such as meat, dairy and eggs. Many people “give something up” during Lent as a way to prepare for Easter.
It’s the first time since 1945 that Ash Wednesday and Valentine’s Day have fallen on the same day, Baker noted.
St. Valentine was a priest in Rome during the reign of Emperor Claudius II, according to Christian tradition.
Claudius was having difficulty enlisting enough soldiers for his army, which he attributed to men being reluctant to leave their wives and families. Claudius banned marriages and engagements. Valentine defied the edict and continued to perform marriages. He was arrested, beaten and beheaded. He was executed on Feb. 14, in about 269 A.D., according to church tradition.