In 2024, Ash Wednesday and Valentine’s Day both fall on Feb. 14. Valentine’s Day is a time for chocolate roses, pink teddy bears and perhaps a special dinner.
Ash Wednesday is a day of fasting and abstinence that begins the 40-day Lenten season of penitence. It’s not a simple task to reconcile this calendar clash. This can become a conflicting experience for families since the themes of these days are not quite synonymous with one another.
I feel it’s extremely important to let your family and friends know you love them. We are called to love like Jesus – and Jesus loved immensely. Having a day dedicated to love is beautiful, but we also need to make sure that we are focusing on God’s love. We want our children, our family members and friends to feel loved by us. More importantly, we want them to feel loved by God. Lent is the penultimate way in which God reveals his outpouring love for each one of us. It is in his Death and Resurrection that we truly see love. The season of Lent is our chance to prepare ourselves for the goodness of God and the self-giving sacrifice of Jesus. Ash Wednesday is the first day of this preparedness and calls for us to fast and remain abstinent. As the highest attended day worldwide in the Catholic Church, Ash Wednesday plays a significant role in Catholic life and speaks volumes to humankind.
For weeks the aisles of stores have been stocked with boxes of chocolates, sweethearts and lots of red and pink stuffies. Parents have purchased the packed boxes of valentines for their kids to bring into class. Our littles have spent time in class creating mailboxes in which they’ll collect their valentines from their peers. Our teens have spent the last few weeks texting their crushes with sweet nothings and heart-eyed emojis. It’s unavoidable in some instances, but you can make sure your family is celebrating more intentionally this year.
Lent is a wonderful time to do acts of service, both individually and as a family, to show our love. Remind your children that helping a sibling with homework, doing the dishes, feeding their pets or lightening the load of someone else’s chores in the house is an act of self-giving love.
As a family, think about donating lightly used clothes to a shelter, giving up your time at a food pantry, visiting elderly neighbors, joining a meal train or something as simple as adding more family prayer to your daily routine.
Try your best to indulge in your Valentine’s treats after Ash Wednesday. You can choose to move your Valentine’s celebration to another day of that week entirely, or to take your family to your parish’s Ash Wednesday service before your light meal of the day and follow it up with special family time.
Faith comes first this Feb. 14. I urge you to keep the theme of Valentine’s Day rooted in Christ’s Love.
Be intentional with the words you write in your Valentine’s Day cards this year. It’s important to root some of your language of love in God’s love. Here are a few examples of phrases:
Phrases for Valentine’s Day Cards:
- Jesus loves you and the way you love others.
- You radiate the light of Jesus Christ.
- You are an image of Christ in the world.
- Who does not love does not know God; for God is love.” 1 John 4:8
- “It is love alone that gives worth to all things.” St. Teresa of Avila
Try something brand new this year and write Valentine’s Day cards to Jesus! We should always be showing our love to God in new ways and growing our relationship with Him. You and your children can write about what you’ll be doing during Lent to prepare to receive His great Love.
Lisa Limongello is the parish catechetical leader in St. Luke Parish, Toms River, as well as the three parishes that compose the Catholic Community of Hopewell Valley – St. James, Pennington; St. Alphonsus, Hopewell, and St. George, Titusville.