Five things to do for your beloved on Ash Valentine’s Day

Aaron Lambert

Please note: This article is meant to be a fun take on celebrating Valentine’s Day on Ash Wednesday. 

It’s not every year that Ash Wednesday and Valentine’s Day fall on the same day. In fact, the last time such an occurrence happened was 73 years ago in 1945.

While Valentine’s Day has its roots in the Catholic Church, originally a feast day honoring various saints named Valentine who were martyred in the 2nd century, it has since become a day dedicated to love and romance. As such, it has become a tradition in society to take your beloved out for an extravagant date – a tough thing to do if the date also happens to fall on the beginning of the penitential season of Lent.

So, what’s a smitten Catholic to do?

A few bishops in the U.S. have issued statements saying that the observance of Ash Wednesday should take precedence over that of Valentine’s Day, and of course, we agree. This means that for Christians, it’s probably not appropriate to gorge on bottles of champagne, boxes of chocolates and buckets of candy hearts with your sweetheart.

That said, there are still ways for Catholic lovers to indulge in the romance of Valentine’s Day and still fulfill the requirements of Ash Wednesday. Here are five.

Take her out for the best salad in Denver

Fasting and abstinence from meat are both important parts of Ash Wednesday and should be practiced as such. However, fasting doesn’t mean you can’t eat at all for that day; it just means you need to eat less (USCCB guidelines say one full meal and two smaller meals not equal to a full meal). With that in mind, why not take your darling out for a salad? Not just any salad though – a delicious, gourmet, downright to-die-for salad. Denver is home to a wealth of restaurants that feature healthy, vegetarian options that are also delectable. Just Google “best salad in Denver” and see for yourself.

Take her to Mass and confession

It’s the man’s job in a relationship to the be spiritual leader and head of his family, and this same mentality applies to men who aren’t married. Whether it’s a crush you finally gathered the courage to ask out, a new girlfriend, or a wife of 10 years, the role of a man to ensure that special girl in his life has a clean soul doesn’t change. Before you go scarf down that salad, take her to confession and get some ashes together at your parish.

While The Passion of the Christ isn’t exactly your typical “date movie,” it is the greatest love story ever told.

Cuddle up to the Passion of the Christ

While the Passion of the Christ isn’t exactly your typical “date movie,” it is the ultimate love story. Watching this extremely visceral depiction of the sacrifice Christ made for mankind on the Cross serves as a potent reminder of what we are all called to as Christian husbands and wives. Cuddling is optional, but remember: this is a movie about Jesus.

Get her a box of salmon hearts

Because who doesn’t love getting a box of treats on Valentine’s Day? Granted, a box of salmon hearts may be a bit, um, fishier, than the contents of a box of chocolates, but at least you know you’re still well within the bounds of your Ash Wednesday obligations when indulging in them.

Salmon hearts. Give it a few years, they’ll be huge.

Offer up your penance during Lent in service to her

Finally, it would be wise – and quite chivalrous – to consider making your penance during Lent something that benefits her. For married couples, this could mean offering to do some sort of household chore each day or taking the kids in the morning to let your wife sleep in a little bit. For dating couples, it could mean being more intentional about doing something little each day to let her know that you care about her. Whatever the Lord calls you to, it’s virtually guaranteed that doing something along these lines will only benefit your relationship with your significant other, and what’s not to love about that?

COMING UP: A caveat on the great Tom Wolfe

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When the great Tom Wolfe died on May 14 — he of the white suits, the spats, and the prose style as exuberant as his wardrobe — I, like millions of others, remembered the many moments of pleasure I had gotten from his work.

My Wolfe-addiction began on a cross-country flight in 1979, shortly after The Right Stuff was published. Always an airplane and space nut, I was fascinated by Wolfe’s re-creation of the culture of America’s test pilots and astronauts at the height of the Cold War. And there was that extraordinarily vivid writing. At one point I burst out laughing, scaring the daylights of the elderly lady sitting next to me but not daring to show her the passage — it must have involved Pancho Barnes’ Happy Bottom Riding Club, a saloon outside Edwards Air Force Base — that set me off.

After The Right Stuff got me going on Tom Wolfe, it was impossible to stop. The first half of Radical Chic and Mau-Mauing the Flak Catchers — Wolfe’s scathing account of a reception thrown for the Black Panthers by Leonard and Felicia Bernstein — remains the quintessential smack-down of political correctness among the 1% cultural elites. From Bauhaus to Our House explains why anyone with an aesthetic sense thinks something is seriously wrong with modernist architecture, and does so in a way that makes you laugh rather than cry.

Then there was Wolfe’s first novel, The Bonfire of the Vanities. One of its chapters, “The Masque of the Red Death,” takes its title from Edgar Allan Poe and with mordant humor dissects the vacuity of Manhattanites consumed (and in some cases destroyed) by their grotesque, over-the-top consumerism. I recently re-read that stunning set-piece and the thought occurred, as it had before, that it was a far more effective polemic against materialism than anything ever issued by the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace. Bonfire was also brilliant in skewering the destructiveness of New York’s race hustlers, the obtuseness of a values-free media, and the fecklessness of too many politicians.

Asked once by monks who run a prestigious prep school what they might do to disabuse parents of the notion that their sons were doomed if they didn’t get into Harvard, Duke, Stanford, and the like, I suggested giving a copy of I Am Charlotte Simmons to the parents of every incoming senior. Wolfe’s fictional tale of life on elite American university campuses in the 21st century is a sometimes-jarring exercise in the social realism practiced (a bit less brutally) by Dickens and Balzac. But Charlotte Simmons, like Wolfe’s other fiction, has a serious moral core and an important cultural message. The young innocent, the brightest girl in town who makes it to an elite university, gets corrupted by stages: and her moral corruption is preceded by intellectual corruption — the class in which she’s taught that there’s really nothing properly called “the truth.”

I do have one post-mortem caveat to register about Tom Wolfe’s oeuvre, which takes me back to The Right Stuff (and while we’re on that subject again, forget the inane movie). The central figure in Wolfe’s tale of aeronautical daring-do is Chuck Yeager, the man who first broke the “sound barrier” in the Bell X-1, and did so with a couple of broken ribs, which he managed in flight with the aid of a sawed-off broom handle. Yeager was an extraordinary figure who never became a national celebrity because of the (absurd) news blackout surrounding the X-1 project, and Wolfe clearly wanted to pay tribute to him as an unsung American hero.

To do so, however, Tom Wolfe seemed to think he needed a foil, and he cast astronaut Gus Grissom in that role: “L’il Gus,” the Hoosier grit lampooned as a bumbler to make Yeager look even better. And that was a grave disservice to the memory of Virgil I. Grissom, who did not mess up the second Mercury space flight (Wolfe’s account notwithstanding), and who gave his life for his country in the launch pad fire that consumed Apollo 1 — which Grissom knew to be a deeply flawed spacecraft and had urged NASA to improve.

So now that Tom Wolfe and Gus Grissom have both crossed what Wolfe once called the Halusian Gulp, I hope these two American patriots are reconciled. Both had the right stuff.