Romance, chocolate candies, rich food and drink and highly social activity. That’s Valentine’s Day
Fasting or giving up foods one craves, introspection or self-reflection, acts of repentance or acts of service to mankind. That’s Ash Wednesday, the first day in the 40-day Christian Season of Lent that ends the day before Easter.
Fortunately, the two days of opposites usually don’t meet on the calendar.
But this year, for the first time in 73 years, Valentine’s Day falls on the same day as Ash Wednesday.
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So, should Catholics, Lutherans, Methodists and other Christians in Manatee and Sarasota counties skip the usual Valentine’s Day festivities Wednesday in order to observe Ash Wednesday?
If a couple is not getting along, Feb. 14 might be the exact time to think about all those buttons we all push to hurt those we love. If we avoid those buttons during Lent it could become a habit.
Bishop Frank Joseph Dewane, Catholic Diocese of Venice
It’s a personal decision that everyone must make on their own, said several local religious figures.
The Rev. Tracie Ashley of Emmanuel United Methodist Church, 5115 Cortez Road, Bradenton, has decided to celebrate Valentine’s Day with her husband of nearly 25 years, The Rev. Erick Ashley of Grace Community Church in the Tampa suburb of Lithia, by dining out this weekend, four days before the actual Valentine’s Day, and devoting Valentine’s Day to personal reflection.
“Lent is a self-reflective time of the year where we open ourselves up to the Lord like no other time,” Rev. Ashley said. “We are asking for God’s guidance to reveal to us areas and places in our hearts and minds, actions and thoughts where, perhaps, we are not fully allowing God’s grace to transform us.”
“Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of that process,” said Tracie Ashley, whose church is offering a worship service at 7 p.m. on Wednesday and “Ashes to Go” delivered to motorists passing by from 7:30-10:30 a.m. Wednesday in the church parking lot. “It’s the day to realize we are mortal beings and that we will one day come before the Lord.”
Ash Wednesday derives its name from the ashes that many churches keep from the previous year’s Palm Sunday and then burn to ashes, which are then placed on the foreheads or palms of believers with the reminder, “You are dust and to dust you shall return.”
Traditionally, during Lent, people might give up fatty foods such as milk, butter and meats.
“You might have a big pancake dinner the night before Ash Wednesday to get rid of all of them,” Ashley said. “Quite a few people give up chocolate.”
The Rev. Erick Ashley has something romantic planned, but it is four days before Valentine’s Day this year.
“We will go away for a couple of days this weekend, get a good meal at Bern’s Steak House and see Billy Joel on Friday in Tampa,” The Rev. Erick Ashley said. “We will save Ash Wednesday to contemplate our mortality on that day and that God is a perfect God who is all loving and forgives everybody.”
Catholic leader says to offer ‘Valentine to God’
Bishop Frank Dewane, leader of the Catholic Diocese of Venice, which includes numerous Catholic churches in Manatee and Sarasota counties, said he he would be thrilled if people let Tuesday be the day they go out for romance and chocolate and, “make Ash Wednesday kind of a Valentine to the Lord.”
“I don’t want to take romance away from anyone,” Bishop Dewane said. “But I think offering a Valentine to the Lord on Wednesday would be a beautiful thing to do.”
So, how do you offer a Valentine to God?
“You know, Ash Wednesday is not just about giving up but also doing things you don’t always do,” Dewane said. “As a couple, go to a soup kitchen. Do something for someone out of the ordinary. Sacrifice some time to do something special. Those are Valentine’s to God for sure.”
Talking about God is a Valentine to God, Dewane said.
“I often talk about Adam and Eve,” Dewane said. “After Adam ate the apple (in the Garden of Eden) he encountered the Lord and the Lord reminded him he came from dust and would return to dust. The Lord was addressing mankind’s dependence on God. I often tell people that Ash Wednesday should be a reminder of our dependence on the Lord.”
Ash Wednesday might be the perfect time for a couple whose relationship is broken to get back to romance and chocolate, the bishop said.
“If a couple is not getting along, Feb. 14 might be the exact time to think about all those buttons we all push to hurt those we love,” Dewane said. “If we avoid those buttons during Lent it could become a habit.”
When Dewane was asked what he planned to give up for Lent, the bishop replied: “Well, in Wisconsin, where I am from, we don’t drink beer! That’s the big thing and it has stayed in my blood.”
Information: The Rev. Tracie Ashley, 941-792-3497 or firstname.lastname@example.org