Ash Wednesday
February 14, 2024

Shrine open from 5:30am to 7pm.


Ashes Distribution at St. Anthony Catholic Shrine Boston

Ashes Distributed

1st floor church

  • 6:30 AM to 7 PM
Masses at St. Anthony Catholic Shrine Boston


2nd floor church

  • 6 AM
  • 7 AM
  • 12:05 PM
  • 5:15 PM
  • 6 PM
Palm Sunday at St. Anthony Catholic Shrine Boston


1st floor church

  • 6 AM to 8 AM
  • 10 AM to 2 PM
  • 4 PM to 6 PM
St. Anthony Shrine Boston

Regular Mass Schedule

See the regular St. Anthony Shrine Mass times here.

A Letter from Fr. Tom

You can’t spell “Valentine” without “Lent”…

Ash Wednesday and Valentine’s Day fall on the same day this year. The differences in the two commemorations are worth a bit of reflection.

Valentine’s Day conjures up two people scrubbed clean for an important evening out. On Ash Wednesday, most Catholics see it as a sacred duty to go well out of their way to find a church so that some duly-designated person can purposely smear black ashes on the most prominent place on the body. And, of course, it’s not a random mark, but the sign of the cross symbolizing the resurrection of Jesus: the ultimate Christian symbol, just packed with meaning. The simple symbol of the ashen cross speaks all kinds of important messages, perhaps depending on person or the moment:

We’re in this together
I believe
Jesus is my Savior
I’m a sinner, but I’m trying
I’m Catholic
Lent is important to me
I was in church today
I believe in the forgiveness of sins
I believe in the Resurrection

What have I forgotten?

Valentine’s Day holds some robust demands for creativity, some obligations of gift-giving, and even an aura of extravagance. One rose is not enough, and a dozen roses is also not enough. Keep going. On the other hand, everything about Ash Wednesday roars of sacrifice, desolation, austerity, simplicity, retrenchment. Don’t you even dare think about a delicious cheeseburger!

A proper Valentine’s Day, it seems, should send off fireworks of self-esteem: messages of “I feel great about me, I feel great about you, and I feel great about us together.” Ash Wednesday runs in the opposite direction. Along with Good Friday, Ash Wednesday is the Catholic person’s high holy day of cataloging, indexing and cross-referencing every one of our most grievous and most minor transgressions against God and humanity.

Valentine’s Day is usually conceived as a day accompanied by one, and only one, other person. Three is absolutely a crowd and being by one’s self is an unmitigated disaster. Ash Wednesday is arguably a day with a profound interior journey by one’s self, where the Church asks each one of us to privately reflect on “where we are in our life with God.” Do we cooperate with God in a way that deepens and enriches our life with Jesus? The prayerful journey to answer that question is an intensely personal, solitary, and private one. There is also an aspect of Ash Wednesday which is extraordinarily communal. Everyone in the Catholic world begins the liturgical season of Lent on the same day and in the same way: with Ash Wednesday. In our collective religious imagination on this day, we are all completely connected to all of the other Catholic people of the world, those in heaven and on earth. Contemporary Catholic moral theology has moved us well beyond the ten commandments and awaked us to communal sins: those committed together as group, a culture or a society. Examples of those kinds of sins: racism, sexism, homophobia, ableism, antisemitism, war, unjust economic systems, war, sins against the environment, or sins against the consistent ethic of life. Reflection on these communal sins should be for each of us to reflect on how we contribute to these communal or “social” sins, in big ways and small. Of course, the point isn’t to be so consumed with guilt that we are paralyzed in thought in action. Rather, our self-reflection should stir our religious imagination, and motivate us to work toward the creation of the Kingdom of God on earth. In the language of contemporary Moral Theology, we work toward human flourishing.

Back to Valentine’s Day. What is the color of that day? That’s easy: Red, red, and more red. Ash Wednesday isn’t quite as simple. The liturgical color is purple, and that’s the color that the priest will be wearing for Mass that day. If you asked people what color they associate with Ash Wednesday, they would probably say “”black,” because we’re all at least somewhat self-conscious (in a good way) of the ashes on our foreheads.

So who exactly decided to celebrate these two events with opposing vibes on the same day? Is this the Holy Spirit? Some trickster playing the role of the god of cognitive dissonance? In fact, it’s just a coincidence. The date of Ash Wednesday is driven by the date of Easter. Every year, Easter is the first Sunday after the full moon that occurs on or after the spring equinox. Ash Wednesday is then selected as the Wednesday that allows for 40 days of Lent. In that count of 40 days, we don’t count Sundays because Sundays are always days of celebrating the Resurrection of Jesus and Lent is a penitential time period. Valentine’s Day is always the 14th of February, so occasionally the two celebrations happen to coincide.

My last thought is to look briefly at the similarities of these two commemorations. Ultimately, the centerpiece of both days is love. In the name of love, couples sacrifice, commit, compromise, and share hopes, dreams, and setbacks with a significant other. That’s the Valentine’s Day thing. Also in the name of love, people forgive, reflect, pray, receive pardon, transform, express gratitude, express determination to be better, express humility, and express awe in the presence of the God among us. That’s the Ash Wednesday thing. My suggestion is that, because of love, these two commemorations aren’t really as far removed from one another as they might at first seem.

As we transition from Ordinary Time into Lent, I am reminded of the building blocks of this Arch Street faith community: the friars led by Fr. Frank Sevola, the paid staff, volunteers, worshipers, and donors. Each group plays a critical role in helping to make this place function. Thank you for your generosity of time, talent, and treasure. May you have a blessed Lenten season.

Fr. Thomas Conway, OFM
Executive Director