The season of Lent began on Ash Wednesday, February 14, and the university community shared in observances at University Campus and at the Abbey Church.

At noon, Father Kyle Smith, university chaplain, celebrated Mass in Saint Jude Chapel and ashes were distributed from 1 to 2 p.m. outside of the chapel. A second Mass was scheduled for 5 p.m., also in St. Jude Chapel.

In addition, Mass and distribution of ashes took place at noon in the Abbey Church with Abbot Isaac Camacho OSB, celebrating.

This year, Ash Wednesday fell on Valentine's Day, which marks the death of St. Valentine.

"The Catholic Church has a hierarchy of feasts so that we always celebrate the most important feast when they conflict, or we can move one of two very important feasts," said Dr. Thomas Humphries, associate professor of philosophy, theology and religion at Saint Leo University. "This year, we have a conflict between the worldwide celebration of Sts. Cyril and Methodius and the Roman Catholic fast of Ash Wednesday. To add to this confusion, some Catholics would celebrate the martyr St. Valentine on the same day."

Although Ash Wednesday is not a Holy Day of Obligation in the Catholic Church, Mass attendance and the receiving of ashes, which reminds us to repent our sins, is a good way to begin the 40 days of Lent. The Lenten season prepares Christians for Easter. During Lent, everyone is welcome to participate in the penitential practices of prayer, fasting, and giving to those need, so that they may fully participate in the celebration of the Resurrection of Christ at Easter.

While Ash Wednesday falls on Valentine's Day this year, Bishop Gregory Parkes of the Diocese of St. Petersburg, did not grant a dispensation for the day. Ash Wednesday is one of only two days on the liturgical calendar (the other being Good Friday), when fasting and abstinence are observed by Catholics and other Christians. Bishop Parkes encouraged the faithful to observe Valentine's Day with greater simplicity.

Opportunities abound at University Campus for faith and spirituality in action. University Ministry programs include Eucharistic adoration, Sunday and weekday Masses and confession, as well as mission trips, prayer groups, special speakers, and more.