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: Father Jan Mucha remembered for his ‘joy and simplicity’

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When Father Marek Ciesla was 11 years old, he encountered a priest in his hometown in northern Poland who was visiting his parish on mission.

“I was impressed,” said Father Ciesla. “A couple of my friends and I were talking about how energetic, how wonderful this priest was. I think in this way he inspired us a little bit to follow the call to the priesthood.”

The priest was Father Jan Mucha, and little did Father Ciesla know that decades later and an ocean away, he would reunite with the man that inspired him and his friend to pursue the priesthood.

In 2010 when Father Mucha was retiring from his role as pastor of St. Joseph Polish Catholic Church in Denver, Father Ciesla was sent from Poland to the Archdiocese of Denver to take his place.

The priests spent two days together, and Father Ciesla was struck by the familiarity of Father Mucha.

“For some reason, the way he was talking and the words he was using, something rang a bell,” he said. “I asked him if he remembers visiting my parish. And he said, ‘Oh, yeah, I had it on my list. I remember.’”

Father Ciesla was amazed that the man he was there to replace was the same one who had impacted his life all those years ago.

“God works in mysterious ways,” said Father Ciesla. “I never thought I would meet him again.”

Father Mucha passed away March 21 after serving the archdiocese for 40 years. He was 88 years old.

Father Mucha was born March 16, 1930 in Gron, Poland to parents Kazimierz and Aniela Mucha. He was one of five children. Father Mucha attended high school in Kraków and went on to study philosophy and theology at a seminary in Tarnów.

Father Mucha was ordained December 19, 1954 in Tarnów by Auxiliary Bishop Karol Pękala. He served at St. Theresa Parish in Lublin, Sacred Heart Parish in Florynka and as a Latin teacher at Sacred Heart Novice House in Mszana Dolna.

He was incardinated into the Archdiocese of Denver on April 20, 1978. Before he was granted retirement status in August of 2010, he served at St. Joseph Polish for nearly 40 years.

“Father Mucha was dedicated to his people and there was a joy about him,” said Msgr. Bernard Schmitz, who had known Father Mucha since his own ordination in 1974 and more recently within his former role as Vicar for Clergy.

“I admired his joy and simplicity,” said Msgr. Schmitz. “He seemed to have no guile and what you saw is what you got. He was very proud of his Polish heritage and was unafraid to be Polish.”

Father Mucha’s move to the United States came about after he visited St. Joseph Polish while on vacation. The pastor at the time was sick, and parishioners asked Father Mucha to stay.

After receiving approval from his superiors in Poland and the archbishop in Denver, Father Mucha did stay, and ended up serving the parish for nearly four decades.

“He was happy to serve here,” said Father Ciesla. “All the time, he was a man of faith. He kept his eye on Jesus.”

Msgr. Schmitz believes Father Mucha’s faithfulness and tenacity as a priest will leave a lasting impression on those he served.

“He was dedicated to the priesthood and didn’t want to retire until he was sure his people would be well taken care of,” said Msgr. Schmitz. “He could come across as tough, but really he was a compassionate person [with] a heart open to the Lord’s work.”