Lent is For Lovers?

So, Ash Wednesday falls on St. Valentine’s Day this year.  What to do?  Well, you could sit around penitentially eating clear broth in heart-shaped bowls, OR you could discover how two great things that don’t seem to go together…really do!

That’s where the Lent is For Lovers program comes in.  The Dominican fathers in Cincinnati developed this wonderful program that has grown from a local outreach to an international ministry that is touching hearts in places as far as Kenya.  Visit the Lent is for Lovers website to discover how, this lent, you can fall even more deeply in love with Christ and your faith.  Here is a reflection on the idea that Lent is For Lovers by the logo’s designer, Jacob Popcak.

When we’re young, we get easily embarrassed by anything too romantic. We blushingly refrain from holding hands, admissions of affection, and more. But as we grow older, we learn that being willing to embarrass ourselves a little for the sake of a lover is key to a happy and successful relationship. We stop caring as much about the possibility that a stranger might think us “uncool” for, say, smooching in public, because this vague threat pales in comparison to the affection we feel for a beloved.

It is with this very same spirit – a willingness to risk unflinching awkwardness in the name of unfailing love – that the Church begins the season of Lent. After all, how many times have we felt self-conscious about parading around wearing ashes on our foreheads? How many times have we taken this annual 40-day period to bring upon ourselves those comparatively mild but wholly voluntary discomforts we call “penances”? We don’t do these things because we get any particular kick out of them – no. We do them for the same reason we risk embarrassment for earthly romance: we’ve chosen to love someone else more than we love our own carefully curated sense of coolness.

How fitting, then, that Ash Wednesday this year falls on Saint Valentine’s Day. For although ashes and sackcloth might seem a strange pairing to roses and lace, the coinciding of the two dates gives us a beautiful chance to reflect. Are we going through the motions of Lent as one would the forced romance of a stale relationship, or are we embracing with sincerity each opportunity for awkward, uncomfortable professions of love, not to just any old Valentine, but to Him whom the Scriptures call our Heavenly Bridegroom?

It was this question that guided me as I designed the logo for our “Lent is for Lovers” initiative. At first glance, we see a classic Valentine; the sort a child might risk his reputation in order to give to his crush. But on closer inspection, we see in the black lace every step of the Stations of the Cross. A jarring juxtaposition, but perhaps more thematically similar than we might immediately assume. It was a moving experience to design the image, and it is my sincere hope that it might serve as a source of inspiration during this Lenten season.

With prayers for an awkward, embarrassing, and deeply loving Lent,

Jacob Popčak

To participate in the online Lent is For Lovers program, visit the website, and discover how much more God wants to reveal his love for you this Lent.

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