Feasting & Fasting
Back in the days of the Roman Empire, the ancestors of modern day Italians had a big celebration sometime around what we now call mid-February. No, it was not Mardi Gras, but there are some similarities. The Roman feast of Lupercalia was about spring, love, and fertility. It sometimes involved the drawing of names, not for gifts, but for girlfriends. Long before computer dating, young men simply drew names from clay jars and dated the young lady for as long as a year. Some fell in love. Naturally, when Christianity arrived on the scene, it occurred to folks that love was best not left to the luck of the draw.
In the third century, along came the Emperor Claudius II. He was a warrior struggling to hold the empire together and he needed lots of soldiers. He decided that unmarried men made better fighters because they weren’t worrying about wives and kids. So he prohibited marriages in Rome. The priest Valentine responded by performing secret wedding ceremonies for young Christian couples in love. He was eventually found out and suffered a gruesome, 3-part death. As a martyr, his day is celebrated with red vestments.
During the Middle Ages, people noticed that the arrival of spring and the courting of the birds occurred around mid-February. Enthusiastically supported by restaurateurs, florists, candy-makers, jewelers and all manner of retailers, Valentine’s feast day – February 14 – came to be celebrated with great gusto. Americans spend $20 billion celebrating the day and six million couples get engaged. The wise ones phone their parishes quickly and begin wedding preparations…
It is not the intent of this blog to promote or encourage Valentine’s Day hoopla. However, since many people celebrate it (willingly or under duress), Prince of Peace is reminding you at the beginning of January that it is coming. About six weeks from now.
And there is a problem.
February 14 is Ash Wednesday. Yes, it’s true.
The beginning of Lent…
So, make your plans now and don’t wait till the last minute. Some fine options:
- ignore Valentine’s Day, but only by mutual agreement
- move your celebration to the night before (which is Mardi Gras, but who cares)
- shift your celebration to the weekend before, which is also Mardi Gras…
- skip the celebration and purchase some fine chocolates for the priests
- host a creative It’s Not Valentine’s Day party any time before the 14th
- log on to Formed.org and watch an episode of “Beloved” about the Sacrament of Marriage. Better yet, make a date to watch each episode.
We will be reminding you again. Spread the word. February 14 is for ashes and repenting. Get the mushy stuff out of the way before Lent arrives.