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BRAINTREE -- On the surface, it might not look like St. Valentine's Day and Ash Wednesday, both falling on the same day this year, have much in common. Yet, said Cardinal Seán P. O'Malley during noon Mass Feb. 14 at the Pastoral Center's Bethany Chapel, both days are about relationships.
Celebrating marriage, courtship, and friendship, Valentine's Day is "a way to shore up relationships, to celebrate the love and friendship that unites," said the cardinal in his homily.
Ash Wednesday, he continued, "is about investing time and effort into the most important relationship of all -- our relationship with God."
The cardinal compared the symbols of the days -- one a heart, the other ashes forming a cross. Each symbol represents love, he said.
He spoke on Lent, and on the importance of the discipline and penance that Lent calls for.
"Some people fast because they want to look better in their bathing suits," the cardinal said. "But, really penance is about relationships."
It is during Lent that we rejoice in God's mercy, where we both ask for forgiveness and extend forgiveness to others, continued Cardinal O'Malley.
"Lent will be a success if through prayer, and works of mercy, and discipline we can grow a little closer to God and our brothers and sisters," he said.
The cardinal distributed ashes following the homily.
Beginning this year on Feb. 14, the season of Lent runs through March 28, the start of the Easter Triduum. Easter Sunday falls on April 1 this year, also known as April Fools' Day.