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Why it's an inconvenient Lent: St. Valentine's and St. Patrick's

By Marshall Connolly, Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
3/15/2013 (4 years ago)
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

Feast days of both saints falls during time of sacrifice.

For some, this will be an inconvenient Lent. St. Valentine's Day, typically celebrated with sweets, falls a day after Lent begins.However, for Irish Americans who like corned beef and suds on St Patrick's Day, that holiday which often falls on a Friday, which is a day of abstinence, the get a reprieve this year. March 17, 2013 falls on a Sunday when Lenten fasting regulations are dispensed. 

Catholic first, a Valentine second.

Catholic first, a Valentine second.

Highlights

By Marshall Connolly, Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)
3/15/2013 (4 years ago)

Published in Living Faith

Keywords: Catholic, Lent, St. Valentine's, St. Patrick's, Friday, Irish, devotion, abstinence


LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - Two popular American holidays sometimes to fall on inconvenient days for Catholics. St. Valentine's Day is the day after Ash Wednesday and St. Patrick's Day often falls on a Friday. However, this year the Irish (and we are all Irish on St. Patricks Day) get a break. It falls on a Sunday in 2013, when Lenten fasting is dispensed with.

For Catholics who enjoy celebrating these holidays with indulgences of various sorts, the desire to religiously celebrate these days may conflict with genuine religious devotion.

Lent isn't intended to be convenient. In fact, convenience may be the antithesis of the spirit of the season. Lent is a season of sacrifice so that spiritual renewal can happen. It's much like pruning a tree so new growth can occur.

Part of that pruning process includes prayer, fasting, and abstinence. Many people who faithfully embark on these devotions report greater happiness and spiritual fulfillment. In other words, one enjoys a greater reward later in exchange for their sacrifice in the here and now.

This also applies to holidays.

St. Valentine's Day is a secular holiday, in addition to being the feast day for the popular saint. It is the secular trappings which are popularly celebrated. The giving of flowers, sweets, and other romantic gestures that usually cost small fortunes, are products of the modern age of marketing and commercialism. These are not designed to improve one's spirituality, but are instead designed to part you from your money.

For this reason, couples should consider a different devotion, one that may genuinely enhance their love for one another. It may seem a bit odd, but attending mass, or performing an act of service, or simply spending quiet time together make for good alternatives that can be quite romantic while remaining faithful to the season.

For men, you could consider staying in and making dinner at home and watching a romantic movie with your spouse. This in itself, may be considered a Lenten sacrifice for husbands, although we do not yet have this on proper ecclesiastical authority, so don't take our word for it.

In some cases, you may be paired with someone who insists on celebrating anyway, in exception to the spirit of the season. While you may not be under any formal obligation to refrain from anything on Valentine's Day, if you feel that maintaining your sacrifice is meaningful to you and your partner does not, then you may wish to consider if you are equally yoked in your relationship.

When it comes to St. Patrick's Day, the number of Catholics inclined to break their Lenten abstinence may be fewer in number, as Americans of Irish heritage celebrate in the form of consuming corned beef and sudsy beverages. It is an American thing. Still, it is significant. It is also a moot issue in 2013 when March 17 falls on a Sunday. Lenten fasting regulations are dispensed with on Sundays. 

However, it is helpful to remember that abstinence, which characterizes the whole season, does not mean one has license to indulge in all you can eat. Abstinence is a more general concept which includes refraining from excess.

Americans, unlike Irish celebrants across the Atlantic, tend to take advantage of the holiday as an excuse to consume large quantities of alcohol.

The holiday, as celebrated in America, is more an occasion of nationalistic pride, or heritage, than a true religious devotion. As a religious occasion, the devotion to the Saint includes prayers and feasting. Consumption which is permitted, should be reasonable.

One should not use the feast day of a saint as an excuse to break from the spirit of our Lenten devotion to Christ.

That said, there are still plenty of ways to celebrate your heritage on St. Patrick's Day. Attendance at mass is an extremely Irish way to start the day. Wearing green, watching a parade, even dying the local water green (provided it is lawful), can be part of the holiday without entering into excess.

We must remember, that whether Lent is upon us or not, many of our holidays have strong secular traditions built around them. These secular traditions often intrude upon our religious ones, and even crowd them out. Christmas quickly comes to mind.

We may be romantic lovers, we may be Irish, but first and foremost, we are Catholic; We are Christians devoted to God. Where should our first allegiance be if not with God?

NOTE: The original article errantly stated that St Patrick's day fell on a Friday. It often does during Lent. It has been edited to note the correction.

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