CATHOLIC NEWS OF THE WEEK . Saturday, 21 July 2018

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A week to celebrate love

This year, in an unusual occurrence, Ash Wednesday falls on Valentine’s Day—February 14 and the first day of Chinese New Year falls on the first Friday of Lent on February 16. Catholic youngsters in particular are in a quandary: is it okay to celebrate Valentine’s Day on Ash Wednesday? 
 
Ash Wednesday, along with Good Friday, is an obligatory day of fasting and abstinence for Catholic adults and the diocesan chancery instructs the faithful who have completed their 14th year to abstain from meat and those who have completed their 18th year but have not yet begun their 60th year are also obliged to fast.
 
The overlap of Ash Wednesday and Valentine’s Day has prompted some dioceses in the United States to issue a directive that “the obligation of fast and abstinence on Ash Wednesday must naturally be the priority in the Catholic community.” 
 
Valentine’s Day has become a highly commercialised festival of cards, candies, flowers and nice dinners, while Ash Wednesday marks the start of 40 days of prayer, fasting and almsgiving in preparation for the liturgical celebration of the passion, death and resurrection of Christ.
 
Let’s set aside the commercial aspect and look at the meaning of the Valentine’s Day. It is a celebration of love. Lent, in fact is nothing but the days in preparation for the greatest celebration of love—of God for his people! 
 
Just two days into the Lent, Chinese Catholics around the world mark the end of the Year of the Rooster and the start of the Year of the Dog on February 16. For many Asians, the Lunar New Year is a special time to recall their shared origin, honour those who came before, give thanks for the past year and pray for a better year. 
 
The traditional expressions of greetings during the Chinese New Year would mean abundance of blessings, lots of happiness, good health and wealth in plenty. In contrast, the season of Lent reminds the faithful not put their focus and hope solely in prosperity and wealth. This is a fix: How to celebrate the Chinese New Year during Lent? A time of prayer, fasting and concern for the needs of the people around should be the best way to begin the New Year!
 
Traditional Chinese New Year festivities give great importance on strengthening family bonds and fostering a culture of generosity. The season of Lent is a time of almsgiving, concern for the needy and fostering relationships both among people and between God and his people. 
 
Considering the deeper meaning of both the Chinese New Year and the season of Lent, can there be a better way to begin the season of Lent than by a family reunion and expressing love and care for one another? Catholics observe this cultural event with Masses of thanksgiving, blessings of cemeteries, family meals and sharing charitable gifts. 
 
May this weeklong celebration of Ash Wednesday, Valentine’s Day and Chinese New Year festivities be a time to unite families in thanksgiving and in sharing their love for each other.  jose