HomedotMagisReflectionsWhen Valentine’s Day Meets Ash Wednesday

When Valentine’s Day Meets Ash Wednesday

heart on foggy window - photo by Gaelle Marcel on Unsplash

Sometimes it’s easier to invite God into the bad moments than the good ones. I’ve noticed I tend to my friendship with God more intently—this friendship I may have neglected for a time—when stuff has completely fallen apart.

Two weeks into January every year, my family celebrates most of our milestones. My boys’ birthdays are first on back-to-back days, followed the next day by our wedding anniversary. It can be quite the busy rush right at the start of a new year.

It’s also the time of year that I usually get sick. Typically I come down with a cold, a sinus infection, or the flu. Two years ago, it was COVID. This year an old childhood favorite decided to pay me a visit, and I got knocked down with strep throat after the sun set on the boys’ birthdays and before it rose again on my husband’s and my 12th wedding anniversary.

Spending the next few nights sitting upright in a chair, wondering if this is what it feels like to swallow razor blades, I had a great amount of time to reflect. I had some time to slow down. I sat up in the dimly lit living room while my family rested peacefully and was acutely aware of the presence of my friend, God, sitting beside me.

Aside from the intense throat pain, it was actually nice to slow down and just be with my friend, the friend I had neglected almost all of December as well as the start of the new year because other priorities (like giving my kids great birthday memories) took precedence. I was really glad God and I caught up.

It made me wonder, however, how my friend feels about the fact that I need literally to be knocked off my feet to spend a little quality time catching up. It made me wonder how my friend feels knowing that I often make time for our relationship when I’m at my lowest points and yet forget to do so when I’m in the midst of my most joyful ones.

This year, Ash Wednesday and Valentine’s Day coincide: a day about joy, love, and celebration alongside a day about sacrifice, remembering our mortality, and recalling our utter dependence on God. At first glance, this seems paradoxical. However, I think the combination of these two days just might be the perfect way for me to start practicing inviting God into all of my experiences. It may just be the perfect way for me to enter Lent, remembering God is the one love that was here at the beginning of my life and will be here long after its inevitable end.

Let’s remember to invite God in for the joys as well as the sorrows, the excitements as well as the frustrations, and the healthy moments as well as the sick ones. Will you join me this Valentine’s Day and enter Lent trying to do just that as we honor the one who gave us the ultimate gift of love?

It might just be the change our friendship with God needs most.

Photo by Gaelle Marcel on Unsplash.

Gretchen Crowder
Gretchen Crowderhttps://gretchencrowder.com/
Gretchen Crowder has served as a campus minister and Ignatian educator for the Jesuit Dallas community for the last 15 years. She is also a freelance writer and speaker and is the host of Loved As You Are: An Ignatian Podcast. She has a B.S. in mathematics and a M.Ed. from the University of Notre Dame as well as an M.T.S. from the University of Dallas. She resides in Dallas, TX, with her husband, three boys, and an ever-growing number of pets.


  1. Taking a moment away from the too busy day that seems to be running ahead of me no matter what I do. I must go faster! I must catch up!

    But in truth I do not want to go faster or catch up to an imagined benefit, or fail to catch up, and be reprised by a deficit, which I will feel, whether imaginary or not.

    Neither of these wins or losses appeal at the moment. I want to set them aside.

    They will not go away but today Jesus invites me to accept the gift of this time to turn away from these pressing, yet wholly ephemeral, matters of distraction.

    I love the admixture of Ash Wednesday and Valentine’s Day. The reminder of our finite selves, the reminder of the joy of earthly love. A fitting way to begin the walk that for forty days is ours to take, step by step.

  2. @Donald Sico During my father’s last week with us (he had stopped dialysis and came home), his “line” to us was, “My bags are packed and I have a date with your mother.” (I included this quote in the dedication to my recent book, “Grieving: A Spiritual Process for Catholics.”) He was a devout Catholic, and confident in where he was going. My mother went home to the Lord 6 years earlier. They were married 56 years. <3

  3. Gretchen, Your post is lovely and reminded me to celebrate with our mutual Friend at ALL times, not just in times of need.

    Your references to the coincidences of birthdays brought to mind the Joys of birthdays my spouse and I cherish – our 5 daughters and son (and 5 grandchildren).

    Your reference to the coincidence of Valentine’s Day occurring on Ash Wednesday this year reminded me of both the complexity of self-sacrifice and its joyful relationship to Spiritual Freedom and happiness, which co-mingled on this day this year.

    A beautiful and poignant reminder for me is that our second gifted daughter Valerie who celebrates her birthday on February 14!

    Friendship in the most joyful times – indeed! Thank you.

  4. February 14th this year is kind of a “triple-header” for me and my family. Ash Wednesday, Valentine’s Day and the anniversary of my dad’s passing. In the eulogy I delivered a few days after his passing eight years ago now, I remarked that my dad had chosen Valentine’s Day so that he could go and be with my mom on that special day.


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