“Beloved, let us love one another; for love is of God, and he who loves is born of God and knows God.”
1 John 4: 7
On Feb. 14 this year, we will witness a more rare occasion. The date of Ash Wednesday varies depending on when Easter falls, which is determined as the first Sunday after the first full moon following the spring equinox. This year, February 14 holds a double significance as it is both Valentine’s Day and Ash Wednesday. The last time this happened was in 2018. The time before that was 1945 and the next time we will encounter this phenomenon is in 2029.
St. Valentine’s Day has become widely popular throughout the world as a day to celebrate love and it is the memorial of an Italian bishop who was declared a saint by the Catholic Church. Nonetheless, Ash Wednesday, the first day of Lent, a period of 40 days dedicated to prayer, fasting, and almsgiving in preparation for Easter, holds great significance in the Catholic Church. It is a holy day of obligation. Since Ash Wednesday is a day of fasting and abstinence, it rules out the traditional sweets and feasts of Valentine’s Day. As Catholics, we are familiar with the profound relationship between love and sacrifice. By combining the celebrations of Valentine’s Day and Ash Wednesday, perhaps you can enter into the Lenten season with a powerful opportunity to deepen your bond with both God and your spouse.
As Lent approaches, it can be challenging to detach oneself from the busyness of the world and enter into this solemn season, especially this year when it is paired with Valentine’s Day. However, rather than deprive yourself of the opportunity to celebrate Valentine’s Day, perhaps you can see this as an opportunity to celebrate the profound gift of your love for each other by remembering the profound sacrifice of love made for you by Christ Jesus who is love incarnate.
There are a number of ways that you and your spouse can grow in your relationships with each other by engaging in a form of prayer, fasting, or almsgiving together as a couple. Intertwining the traditions of Ash Wednesday and Valentine’s Day can be a beautiful way to enrich your spiritual and married life simultaneously. Consider incorporating the following practical suggestions:
- Dual Acts of Love and Sacrifice: Embrace the spirit of Valentine’s Day by performing acts of love for your partner, while also observing Ash Wednesday by engaging in acts of self-sacrifice and penance.
- Charitable Donations: Instead of traditional gifts, channel the spirit of giving by donating to a charitable cause in honour of each other.
- Quality Time vs. Material Gifts: Opt for spending quality time together or engaging in activities that hold sentimental value over material gifts.
- Acts of Service: Spend the day performing acts of service together, such as volunteering at a local shelter, assisting those in need, or doing a difficult task that you need to accomplish around your home together.
- Shared Devotions: Attend Mass together to mark Ash Wednesday and follow it up with a heart-to-heart conversation about your shared beliefs and values.
- Love Letters with Lenten Resolutions: Exchange heartfelt letters expressing your love and accompany them with Lenten resolutions that focus on personal growth and spiritual connection.
Other options for nurturing your marriage and faith life involve prioritizing regular date nights to strengthen your bond or embarking on a journey of spiritual growth by reading a Catholic marriage enrichment book like To Know, Love and Serve: A Path to Marital Fulfilment together. A powerful way to strengthen your bond and honour the individuality bestowed upon you by God is by exploring and sharing what makes each of you feel loved. Once you have identified a good list of things that make both of you feel loved, brainstorm creative ways to incorporate these acts of love into a date.
You can also deepen the loving feelings you have for each other by dedicating time to cherish your favourite memories of dates, experiences, or moments where you learned something new about each other. To honour the tradition of giving cards on Valentine’s Day, you can explore these free Catholic valentines
Alternatively, for a fresh and adventurous approach, why not sign up for the weekly Catholic Date Night subscription on the Found Together website. As part of their Lenten promotion, they have a special discount and an exciting challenge designed to foster personal growth and spiritual development.
Regardless of what Lenten observance you decide to engage in, as you embark on the journey of Lent, we hope that you will take up this unique opportunity to deepen your love for each other and your faith through the combined observance of Ash Wednesday and Valentine’s Day. By committing to relationship growth, understanding each other’s love languages, cherishing memories, and incorporating Catholic traditions, you can observe Lent in a way that strengthens your bond and enriches your faith. We pray that love and faith intertwine as you embark on this journey of preparing your hearts for the coming resurrection of Christ.
-Melissa Guzik and Jean MacKenzie are registered psychologists who work in private practice in Edmonton. Melissa and Jean work with Catholic couples to help them have marriages that are both fulfilling and pleasing to God. Melissa has been married since 2002 and has four children and Jean has been married since 2001 and has seven children. They are co-authors of the Catholic marriage enrichment book and workbook To Know, Love and Serve: A Path to Marital Fulfilment. For more information, see: www.knowloveserve.info.