Why Catholics may not be dining out this Valentine's Day

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National Post, 13 February 2018

In a phenomenon that has occurred only three times since 1900, Valentine's Day is falling on Ash Wednesday — a day of fasting

Ash Wednesday this year is also Valentine’s Day, two different ways of marking time. All calendars are liturgical in a broad sense, meaning that our holidays — literally, “holy days” — reflect those things that are most important to us, the realities that we put at the heart of our culture. At the heart of every culture is the common “cult,” whatever God, or gods, or idols that we worship.

The coincidence of Ash Wednesday and Valentine’s Day invites us to think about our common cult.

For Catholics, Ash Wednesday is a day of fasting, and abstinence from meat. That means no festive Valentine’s dinner for couples, or exchanging candies for children at school. Those things should be shifted to another day — Mardi Gras being an obvious example.

It doesn’t happen that often. Since 1900, Ash Wednesday has fallen on Valentine’s Day only three times: in 1923, 1934 and 1945. Looking ahead it will fall on Valentine’s Day again in 2024 and 2029 and then not again for the rest of the century. So in 200 years, it will happen six times. We should be pleased this year that we have the opportunity to think about the important truths upon which we build our lives.

Valentine’s Day is a vague nod toward the liturgical observance of the saints, the feast day of a saint about which few know anything. It has lost any religious character, in the same way that many observe St. Patrick’s Day without any reference to the saint, but as an ethnic or national day, sometimes marked by drunkenness that would make the saint ashamed indeed.

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