And so begins February, the shortest month as it appears on the calendar, the longest month as it is lived in real life.
Consider all the wretched things about February:
It has incessant cold icy winds in it. There is a reason we compare ungenerous people to ice and cold: It’s because ice and cold fills you with a deep and abiding loathing of existence itself. That’s what February does.
It has the Super Bowl in it. The Super Bowl never has your favorite team in it. Or when it does, they lose. And when you have a Super Bowl party, no one really watches the game. Or you do watch the game and it’s a boring game. The Super Bowl is an exercise in disappointment.
It has Super Bowl commercials in it. Everybody loves the ones with the dogs and frogs but we dads watch in a knot of stress, our trigger fingers on the remote’s “jump” button to avoid sleaze — and end up jumping too soon from the harmless ads, and jumping too late from the bad ones such that we leave the sleaziest image lingering in everyone’s mind, reinforcing it.
It has Valentine’s Day in it. Valentine’s Day is to love what the Super Bowl is to football. It heightens expectations to impossible heights and then shatters them. Your wife’s expectations will be equally crushed whether you forget to do a special thing or remember but do the wrong special thing. Your date-night expectations will be crushed because it’s everyone else’s date-night, too, and you will glumly sit for an hour in the blasts of cold air in the Olive Garden outer waiting room.
The Catholic Church, in that way she has, is trying to help out, though. The Church has added some positive features to the February experience …
It has awesome liturgical days in it. The Church does cool things at Mass every once in a while throughout the year, but it does cool things three times in February: You can get candles blessed on Feb. 2’s Feast of the Presentation (Candlemas); you get your throat blessed on Feb. 3, St. Blaise Day; and you get ashes on Ash Wednesday.
It has Ash Wednesday in it. Ash Wednesday is genius. There are only three sources of comfort when you’re in a bad situation. 1. Telling yourself it could be worse. 2. Pointing out what good remains. 3. Looking forward to the bad stuff stopping. February is a very bad situation, and Ash Wednesday brilliantly does all three:
1. The priest reminds you that you could be dead.
2. After Ash Wednesday’s fast you start saying, “Well, at least I get to eat!”
3. Lent transforms February from “the stupidest month ever” into “The Great Countdown to Easter Awesomeness!”
So, there you have it, the Church is making an effort to sap February of some of its evil.
It’s still a stupid month, though.