February 12, 2018 Updated: February 13, 2018 3:18pm
Photo: Kevin Fisher-Paulson
No Fisher-Paulson will ever get into the liturgical calendar, though I like the idea of Saint Aidan, Patron Saint of Video Games and Saint Zane, Patron Saint of Avoiding Homework.
Hearts and ashes. It’s what you get when you mix lunar with solar.
In A.D. 325, the Council of Nicaea established that, for Catholics, Easter falls on the first Sunday after the first full moon occurring on or after the vernal equinox. Ash Wednesday is 46 days before Easter. (I get into this argument every year, but, trust me, the Sundays in Lent don’t count as Lent).
Valentine’s Day is not a Catholic holiday. Like most of the early saints, St. Valentine is the subject of a lot of different stories, some of which might actually be true. The one I like talks about his time as a priest. The Emperor Claudius II had forbidden soldiers from marrying, because he thought that the army would fight harder if there was the prospect of raping and pillaging at the end of a campaign.
But Valentine wore an amethyst ring bearing the image of Cupid as a secret signal that he was willing to solemnify marriages. At the end of the wedding, he cut a heart out of parchment paper to remind the soldiers to be faithful while away: from this was born the Hallmark card.
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In 1969, however, Pope Paul VI reorganized the liturgical calendar and gave up two of its best franchises: the Feast of St. Nicholas and Valentine’s Day. I can understand offloading St. Dorothy (patron saint of rainbows) and St. Zephyrinus, but Santa Claus?
Historical irony: He issued this edict (Mysterii Paschalis) on Feb. 14.
Nurse Vivian, my mother, was not big on Valentine’s Day. She thought it was a lace-curtain-Irish holiday, where those who could afford it got a box of Russell Stover’s candy, and Pop was notoriously bad about gifts. One birthday, he actually bought her a rowboat.
She was as devout as an Irish Catholic could get. The hottest July of the ’50s, at nine months pregnant, she still knelt though every night of a novena to St. Jude. She hated hats, but she wore one every single Sunday because St. Paul told her to do so.
Her crisis of faith came with this edict: Among the martyrs who got the boot was St. Viviana.
Nurse Vivian took us all out to dinner — me, Pop, Brother X, Brother Not X — to the fanciest restaurant in South Ozone Park: the Airport City Diner. She ordered herself a highball, Pop a godfather, and her three sons Shirley Temples. We toasted “all the saints who weren’t good enough for Vatican II.”
Here was the lesson I got: The guy in charge might be technically correct, but that doesn’t mean he’s right. When in doubt, go with your heart.
Speaking of which, for the first time in 73 years, Valentine’s Day falls on Ash Wednesday. Aidan’s school had already announced that the celebration was getting smooshed into Mardi Gras the day before, just in case any of the sixth-graders were giving up chocolate.
But I was ready to be resentful. We’re not supposed to eat meat on Ash Wednesday, and I’d already made a reservation at Le P’tit Laurent, craving coq au vin for the big date night. Even the scallops have bacon on them. I was all set to openly defy Pope Francis with my protein choice, but then I couldn’t find a babysitter.
Don’t really have a spiritual adviser, so I get my insights from random friends like Mordecai, who went vegan for his midlife crisis. We had dinner together last Saturday, and over his alfalfa sprouts he mentioned that the consumption of beef causes 11 times more greenhouse gases than any other food, and that reducing red meat consumption is a more effective way of cutting carbon emissions than giving up the car.
Sometimes we define the journey, and sometimes the journey defines us.
Didn’t think I was ready to give up sirloin as a lifestyle choice, but I figured that even I could skip a hamburger for six weeks. So tonight, I take Brian, the love of my life and dinner partner for 33 Feb. 14s, and my two sons out for dinner, and I will ask for the Veggie Valentine option. I count on my readership to keep me honest for the next 46 days, except of course for March 17.
Won’t get us into heaven. In fact, no Fisher-Paulson will ever get into the liturgical calendar, though I like the idea of St. Aidan, Patron Saint of Video Games and St. Zane, Patron Saint of Avoiding Homework.
But this family will remember that the holiday is not about what we eat, but whom we love.