Lent thus offers a cluster of possibilities: fasting — or at least giving up something for Lent; repenting; joining Jesus in a wilderness experience; and experiencing the lengthening of days. Can everyone take part?
Lent is the 40-day period leads up to Holy Week. Some of the most sacred days in the church calendar happen during this time – including Easter, which commemorates Christians’ central belief that Jesus was crucified and buried before rising from the dead.
In his decade as pope, Francis has tried to usher in a more positive, frank approach to the topic of sex in the Catholic Church, urging the institution to reckon with the real-life experiences of faithful today and addressing topics ranging from pornography, abstinence and dating apps to orgasms.
With Ash Wednesday falling on Valentine’s Day this year, West Central Abbey found a way to couple their usual Lenten season kick-off with something unique to the holiday. “Our plan is to make Valentines from God for each other,” the Rev. Katy Shedlock said in an email.
For the first time since 2018, Ash Wednesday and Valentine’s Day fall on the same day. It has happened three times in the last century – 1923, 1934 and 1945 – and will happen again in 2029 for the final time this century.
This Ash Wednesday many Christians will arrive at work with a black cross smudged on their foreheads; countless more will slip into a church or a chapel during their lunch break or after work to receive the sign that tells the arrival of the traditional start of the Christian season of Lent.