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Thursday, 15 February 2018 | MYT 12:00 AM

Two celebrations of love in a day

PETALING JAYA: For the first time in 73 years, thousands of Catholics here congregated in churches across the country to celebrate Ash Wednesday and Valentine’s Day on the same day.

At Assumption Church in Petaling Jaya near Assunta Hospital, Catholics gathered for the Ash Wednesday Mass to mark the beginning of Lent (40 days of fasting and penance) before Easter Sunday.

In his sermon, assistant parish priest Rev Father Gregory Chan said he received many calls, asking whether it was acceptable to celebrate Valentine’s Day when it was also a time of fasting and penance.

“It is all right to celebrate Valentine’s Day, which falls on Ash Wednesday.

“There is no contradiction as both are celebrations of love,” he said when addressing the congregation.

He said Valentine’s Day was to commemorate St Valentinus during Roman pagan times to ensure that marriages were holy.

However, Rev Chan quipped that it would be better for couples to spend time in prayer instead of burning a hole in their pockets by buying roses.

He also reminded the congregation, particularly the young, that they could make sacrifices during this period by tuning into one another rather than spending too much time on their phones.

He noted that a recent study showed that youths were spending an average of 12 hours a day on such devices.

“Although it is a time of fasting and penance, Catholics celebrating the coming Chinese New Year are allowed to enjoy and eat food which they normally abstain from during Lent,” he said.

Rev Chan, who was assisted by several church wardens, later marked the foreheads of worshippers with a cross made of blessed ash.