How To Survive Valentine’s Day When It’s Also Ash Wednesday

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It’s that time of year again. If you want proof that God has a sick and twisted sense of humor, look at your calendar. Not only does Ash Wednesday fall today, which is also Valentine’s Day, but Easter falls on April Fool’s Day.

For today, I want to focus on how you, fellow Catholics, can survive this day, whether you are single or in a relationship, because Valentine’s Day is hard enough as it is!

  1. If you’re in a relationship, be creative with what you cook for dinner tonight. If dinner is your “big meal,” try making a cheese pizza (no meat) or some nice salmon filets. Or make plans to eat out at a restaurant on Saturday and use today as an opportunity to practice patience!
  2. If you’re single, make breakfast your “big meal.” Having a healthy breakfast will help you have enough energy for the rest of the day.
  3. Drink plenty of liquids throughout the day: water, orange juice, vegetable juice, milk, or hot chocolate if you’re in the Valentine’s mood. Hot chocolate doesn’t count as a meal or a snack, at least not for me.
  4. Whether you’re single or in a relationship, spend time in Adoration today! Check if your local church has the Blessed Sacrament exposed or just spend time in prayer.
  5. Remember that all the Valentine’s Day candy will be very cheap tomorrow. But don’t be a glutton!
  6. Use today as an opportunity to practice charity, which is a higher form of love than just romantic love. Be kind to everyone you meet today, even the person who cuts you off in traffic.
  7. If you’re sick of the Fifty Shades hype, check out Fight The New Drug’s anti-abuse campaign!
  8. If you’re wondering what romantic-related show you should watch today, the 1995 version of Pride and Prejudice is on Hulu, as well as Sense and Sensibility (mini-series, not the Ang Lee version). You can’t beat the classics!
  9. Enjoy these penitential Valentine cards from Jason Bach Cartoons!
  10. #MementoMori: Remember that death is inevitable, even on Valentine’s Day.

 

Happy VaLENTine’s Day, everyone!

 

Why I Will Not #Ashtag

I am giving up selfies for Lent.

 

Don’t get me wrong. I love taking pictures. And usually, I am all for selfies. Selfies are not bad in and of themselves. Watch this video to see how selfies are more than what people think. But for Lent, I am not gonna take any selfies and I’m changing all my profile pictures so that you don’t see my face.

 

I bet you’re wondering why am I giving up selfies and having my face on my social media profile pictures for Lent.

 

Because it’s not all about me. Or whatever status updates I have in mind when I take my selfies. It’s because He must increase and I must decrease. And it’s because we rise again from ashes from the good we failed to do. (Yes, I still have nostalgia for that song. #cradleCatholicproblems)

 

Whenever Lent comes around, I often recall a homily or a conversation about a homily back in my college days where Fr. Ted (no, not the guy from that UK TV show) told everyone to wipe off the ashes after Mass is over as a sign of hiding the fact that you’re fasting. It’s a modern perspective on the familiar verse from tomorrow’s Gospel (Matthew 6:16-18):

 

When you fast,

do not look gloomy like the hypocrites.

They neglect their appearance,

so that they may appear to others to be fasting.

Amen, I say to you, they have received their reward.

But when you fast,

anoint your head and wash your face,

so that you may not appear to be fasting,

except to your Father who is hidden.

And your Father who sees what is hidden will repay you

 

Lent is not about acting depressed. It’s about improving yourself, body and soul, through prayer, fasting, and almsgiving. Ashes aren’t supposed to be a sign of pride, but a sign of humility, as Mark Hart goes into detail about. So what’s the problem with showing off your ashes? Let’s just say we probably know some people who are Catholic in name only who only show up during Ash Wednesday and show off their ashes throughout the day. (*coughNANCYPELOSIcough*) So no, I’m not gonna show off my ashes tomorrow. And you won’t see my face in any of my posts until Lent is over.

 

Selfies aren’t the only thing I’m giving up, but I’m not exactly gonna tell you what else. Why? Well, watch this video from The Catholic Apologist. Again, it’s so I can keep in mind that Lent is all about God and not about what I’m planning on giving up.

 

Instead, I want to tell you about the extra things I have planned for Lent. I am going to do a lot more reading. You’ll see posts about the books I read throughout the next several weeks. I’m also adding Lectio Divina to my daily prayer routine. And finally, I’ll be posting photos from Lenten photo challenges on my Instagram and on this blog.

 

For this Lent, I challenge you guys to do something extra on top of giving something up. Just keep in mind that God comes first and you shouldn’t do something way too extreme. Taylor Marshall found that out the hard way. Instead, think of something that you know will push you out of your comfort zone and offer it up to God.

Lent Day 1: Ash Wednesday

Today, I learned a lesson in patience. I got an e-mail from my Sunday School Supervisors that there would be an Ash Wednesday prayer service just for the kids, so I decided to wait until 7:30 to get my ashes.

The rest of the day proved to be a test of patience. My co-teacher and I were planning on getting pretzels and juice for the kids, but I wanted to be efficient, so I decided to buy the food about an hour before class started.

What did I do between the time I got up and the time I actually had to go to CCE? I spent the day like I normally did, except I fasted. I made a lot of tea. I started reading Thomas A. Kempis’s The Imitation of Christ. (I seriously love that book and I highly recommend it as a Lenten reading.)

In the end, I found that my patience was still tested. My first graders were restless and excited and the prayer service didn’t leave time for snacks and juice. Thankfully, my co-teacher and I decided that we would give the kids snacks after Spring Break.

So like I told my friend: “Patience is a fruit of the Holy Spirit.” And boy did I learn a lesson in that today.

In a way, Lent is a period where our patience is tested constantly. Sometimes it comes in the form of fasting. Sometimes, it comes when you aren’t sure if you can finish that extra prayer or give that spare change to the homeless person on the street. Last year, many Catholics learned patience during the Sede Vacante period between Benedict and Francis. But as last year taught us, there is always something better waiting for us when Lent is over.

Here’s what Fr. Robert Barron has to say about today:

From Fr. Robert Barron:

Judged According to Love

The Spanish mystic Saint John of the Cross said that in the evening of life we shall be judged according to our love. In Matthew 25 the nature of love is specified. It is not primarily a feeling, an attitude, or a conviction, but rather a concrete act on behalf of those in need–the hungry, the homeless, the lonely, the imprisoned, the forgotten. It is the bearing of another’s burden.

Here’s a challenge: Over the next forty-seven days, resolve to perform a particular and sustained act of love.

Make several visits to your relative in the nursing home. Converse regularly with a lonely person on your block. Tutor and befriend a kid who might be in danger of losing his way. Repair a broken friendship. Bring together bickering factions at your place of work. Make a number of financial contributions to a worthy organization that needs help.

Numerous spiritual masters have witnessed to something odd: Belief in God is confirmed and strengthened not so much from intellectual effort as from moral action.

When a man once asked the English Jesuit poet Gerard Manley Hopkins what he must do in order to believe, Hopkins replied, “Give alms.”

As you love through tangible acts, you will come to believe more deeply and to enter more fully into friendship with God.’

And finally, here’s my #ashtag selfie.

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