The Ashen Heart

The February 14, 1945 Lewiston Evening Journal’s headline read “Russians Crash Through Queis River Line.”  It was the second day of bombing raids on Dresden, Germany.

The Bill Davis Smoke Shop’s ad on page 10 simply offered four different brands of chocolates in “plain and heart-shaped boxes.”

The society page included both ration facts and a picture of the previous evening’s Valentine Formal given by the Junior Daughters of Isabella at the DeWitt Hotel.  A total of fifty couples attended and “the ballroom was decorated with red and white streamers and large red hearts.”

The last page of the paper featured a small item.  “Ash Wednesday Observed in Local Churches” and noted Episcopals, Lutherans, and Catholics had either services and/or the imposition of ashes.

There were no articles on spiritual ambivalence or the difficulty in choosing between chocolate perdition or religious devotion.

According to Monday’s New York Times, this year’s “confluence of events” (Ash Wednesday falling on Valentine’s Day) has “created a dilemma for Roman Catholics and followers of other Christian denominations who observe Ash Wednesday.”  The article’s author poses the question “How can one simultaneously mark a solemn day when foreheads are tapped with the symbol of mortality as a call to humility and repentance, while celebrating one that glorifies the kisses and champagne of romantic love?”

Apparently, the writer was hoping for a special dispensation from some Catholic authority and got one from Newark’s Cardinal Tobin.  Suggesting that “joy and religious obligation can, and in fact should, coexist” the writer quoted Tobin as saying “take your heartthrob to a small-plates place, because fasting in the Catholic Church doesn’t mean you go without, or just water.”

The New York Times article, appropriating its title from a popular novel, can be read here.  I hardly know what to make of it.

Well-fed and indulgent hypocrite that I am, I offer my “small plate” offering for Ash Wednesday, featuring carrots and winter radishes from the local winter farm share.   And yes, that’s a vintage Bates tablecloth, courtesy of my neighbor, Dot Galgovitch.

I eagerly await the media coverage of the Easter/April Fool’s Day confluence.

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