Ampleforth Abbey

25 February 2018

Hearts and Ashes - St Valentine's Day or Ash Wednesday?

Our Master of Ceremonies and Chaplain to Support Staff, Fr Kieran, shares his thoughts as Ash Wednesday this year falls on the same day as St Valentine's Day.

Today is a day of crisis – what to do: keep St Valentine’s Day or Ash Wednesday?? The two have come together this year which does not happen very often. So as we mark the beginning of Lent, the season of fasting and penance, how is that going to fit with those dinner dates later today?! What if I have decided to give up chocolate or alcohol for Lent? Crisis!

It would be easy of course to try to pick and choose, or to get lost in what we should or should not do for Ash Wednesday on Valentine’s day but I think this is a wonderful way to begin Lent. At Mass today, where ashes will be placed on our foreheads, we will have listened to a reading from a rather unknown prophet called Joel. He will remind us that we need to ensure our hearts are broken – again, not something we would appreciate on Valentine’s day perhaps but bear with me! If any of us have ever experienced true love then we know how exciting that can really be, to know we are loved and that we love someone so deeply, but we also know that true love means we have to be vulnerable, to be open to hurt, because love means I have to take a risk.

Lent is the season of true love, of broken hearts which begin to heal. It is the season when we are reminded that someone loved us so much that he was willing to give his life for us. This Lent let us call to mind the words of St Paul who tells that that love is patient, kind, never boastful, never seeks to put others down, love always thinks of the other person first, is generous and sees the good in others. This seems a rather good way to approach Lent – perhaps we should focus on just one or two of these things this Lent. How can I be more patient with my work colleagues or family members? Can I be a little more generous with my time in order to support someone?

Yes, Lent is about love, a celebration of love which will lead us to the joy of Easter where love truly triumphed. 

So I wish you all a very holy and love filled Lent this year.