(CBS SF) – For the first time in more than seven decades, the start of Lent and Valentine’s Day fall on the same day, posing a dilemma for Christians who have marked the day in the past by indulging in a steak dinner or chocolates.
Valentine’s Day is also Ash Wednesday, the beginning of the Lenten season where Christians fast, pray, and give up luxuries in preparation for Easter.
The last time where Ash Wednesday and Valentine’s fell on the same day was in 1945.
While numerous Christian denominations observe Lent, a dilemma may be most felt among Roman Catholics, who are obligated to abstain from eating meat and to fast on Ash Wednesday.
Bishops across the country have said there will be no dispensation from the rule.
“In view of the significance of Ash Wednesday the obligation of fast and abstinence must naturally be the priority in the Catholic community,” said a statement from the Archdiocese of Chicago, which urged the faithful to celebrate Valentine’s Day on Tuesday instead.
Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York, former president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, addressed what some have called a “conflict.”
“The answer is that Ash Wednesday has precedence, and the coincidence of St. Valentine’s Day would not lift for us the duty of fasting and self-denial,” Dolan said on his blog.
Some bishops have granted dispensations from the obligation of abstaining from meat during Fridays of Lent when Saint Patrick’s Day falls on a Friday, particularly in dioceses with large Irish-American communities.
In the Diocese of San Jose, which has a large Asian-American community, Bishop Patrick McGrath granted a dispensation for this Friday, allowing the faithful who are celebrating the Lunar New Year to consume meat.
According to the USCCB, women who are nursing or pregnant and those suffering from chronic illnesses such as diabetes are excused from the dietary restrictions. “In all cases, common sense should prevail, and ill persons should not further jeopardize their health by fasting,” according to a statement on their website.