Catholics had a bit of a quandary on their hands last month with Christmas, a Holy Day of Obligation (HDO), falling on a Monday. Catholics were required to attend regular obligatory Sunday mass on December 24th as well as mass the next day, Monday, December 25th, Christmas day. Failure to attend mass on both days was purported to be a mortal sin that doomed the Catholic to Hell for eternity unless they confessed it to a priest. I wonder what percentage of Catholics actually complied?
Well, leave it to me, but I was scanning the news the other night and I see that Catholics have another difficult situation approaching. The article below says Ash Wednesday falls on the same day this year as Valentine’s Day – February 14th.
What’s the problem with that? Glad you asked, as my former pastor used to say.
For Catholics, Ash Wednesday is the first day of their 40-day penitential Lenten season. Ash Wednesday is NOT an HDO, so Catholics DO NOT have to attend mass that day, although they are strongly encouraged to do so and to receive ashes made from the blessed palm fronds from last year’s Palm Sunday on their forehead. But on Ash Wednesday, Catholics ARE required to spend the day in “fasting and abstinence.” The church’s rule for fasting states that all Catholics between the ages of 18 and 59 may eat only “one full meal, as well as two smaller meals that together are not equal to a full meal.” Break out the food scales! The church defines abstinence as refraining from consuming any meat. All Catholics, from age 14 and up, are obligated to abstain from meat on Ash Wednesday. See here for the rules.
If a Catholic does not fast or abstain from meat on Ash Wednesday they commit mortal sin. Catholics must also abstain from meat on Fridays during Lent. On Good Friday, they are also required to spend the day in “fasting and abstinence.”
So, what’s a Catholic to do with Ash Wednesday and Valentine’s Day falling on the same day this year? The church advises its members to choose another day to romance their sweetie. The Chicago archdiocese recommends they choose Tuesday, February 13th – Mardi Gras, Fat Tuesday, Pączki Day – because that is the day Catholics traditionally whoop it up before they have to buckle down for Lent. Hmm. Even as a young Catholic I thought that “painting the town” the day immediately preceding Lent was just a “tiny bit” contradictory and hypocritical.
Can a Catholic get around this obligation by celebrating Valentine’s Day and postponing their Ash Wednesday fasting and abstinence to some other day? It doesn’t appear at this point that any of the U.S. Catholic bishops are granting dispensations for Ash Wednesday. Many of the bishops did, however, grant a dispensation last year when St. Patrick’s Day fell on a Lenten Friday. Mustn’t interfere with that sacred corned beef and cabbage! So why was it OK to grant a dispensation for St. Patrick but not for St. Valentine? I don’t understand? [sarcastically feigning confusion]
Actually, NONE of the above has ANYTHING to do with the Lord, Jesus Christ, and the Gospel of salvation by God’s grace through faith in Christ alone! It’s just another example of the Catholic church requiring everyone to march to the drumbeat of its liturgical calendar and prescribing a specific amount of time spinning inside its religious hamster wheel in order for its members to “hopefully” merit Heaven. How many Catholics will actually abide by the “fasting and abstinence” rule on Ash Wednesday/Valentine’s Day? Catholic sources report only 20% of its membership attend obligatory mass every Sunday and only 12% go to confession at least once a year as required, but a whopping 45% receive ashes on Ash Wednesday. People just love certain ceremonies and rituals. That’s their “religion.” They won’t attend mass every Sunday or EVER go to confession, which both doom them to Hell with no exceptions according to their church, but they do like to parade around in public with ashes on their forehead throughout the day. Interesting.
Catholic friend, rituals, ceremonies, and man-made traditions don’t save. Repent of your sins and accept Jesus Christ as your Savior by faith alone.
Ash Wednesday trumps Valentine’s, Chicago archdiocese says
Postscript: Only fourteen days until Lent. Could the infamous Chicken-in-a-Biskit post be far behind?