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March 6th, 2012
Can We Take Sundays Off From Our Lenten Sacrifice? No!

fastingonsundays-flashA lot of people will tell you that when you give something up for Lent, you can take a “cheat day” on the Sundays of Lent.  “Hogwash!” says Father Dave as he gets on his soapbox (his words). Good stuff.

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Published on: Mar 11, 2011

Please note that the editorial staff reserves the right to not post comments it deems to be inappropriate and/or malicious in nature, as well as edit comments for length, clarity and fairness.
  • mary d 3

    Thanks , Father Dave.

    Too many Catholics who think their ‘opinon’ counts as Church Tradition and/or Teaching.


  • Mary S

    I agree with the other posters that said that Sundays aren’t counted in the 40 days of Lent, and therefore, are not counted in the “giving up”. I was raised with the Sunday rule and have raise my son the same way so we respectfully disagree with Father Dave and agree with Father Rob :-)

  • Cindy d.

    StMarkIndy–I was taught as you were: the “ember days” Ash Wednesday, Ember Thursday, Friday. and Saturday were excluded from the 40 day count of Lent as they were days of “extra sacrifice.” The way you get 40 days from the first Sunday of Lent is that the Triduum doesn’t begin until sundown on Holy Thursday so the daytime of Holy Thursday still counts “in the count” (so to speak) and gives you the 40 days.

  • Julie Hagan Bloch

    Whether or not Sunday is a “day off” seems to me to be irrelevant, as does whether or not giving up swearing is appropriate. The whole point is to make some sort of sacrifice. If taking Sunday off helps maintain the sacrifice for the rest of the time, what’s the harm? And it’s voluntary. Nobody should have the idea that it’s okay to try to force ideas or practices on the unwilling. And last of all, it’s nobody’s business but the person performing the action. Thinking about it, Lent is just a convenient marker for reminding ourselves that we might do better to change some of our habits. Lent is not a magic time, and 40 is not a magic number. It’s all about doing our best to be better human beings. If Lent is the time when people are able to make changes, great! If another time of year works better, what difference does it make? Do you think you get more spiritual brownie points if you fiddle with the timing of it? For those who think that making sacrifices during Lent does indeed confer more spiritual brownie points than making that same sacrifice at another time, please give me some rational explanation for it. For Muslims, Ramadan is a time of fasting. For Jews, Yom Kippur; for Hindus, Shivaratri, Navaratri, and so on. And these also are times of introspection and sacrifice in other ways. They are all magic times, and in another sense, none of them are magic times. Just like every other day: it’s what you put into it that makes it what it is.

  • Larry Moyse

    Lenten fast of giving something up is a personal commitment. The rules are made by the individual, not the Church. Do as your own conscience dictates, listen to outside chatter and do what you feel comfortable about. Sometimes being pro-active is as good as giving something up (a negative). No time limit, just do it. As an old timer priest said recently to a newer one, give up sin. It’s easier!

  • StMarkIndy

    Math may be a problem for quite a few people… including those who are proponents of Sundays of Lent for celebration excluded from the 40day experience.

    There are 5 full weeks of Lent (Feb 26-March 31). 35 days.
    Plus the first partial week, Ash Wednesday – Saturday. 39 days.
    Plus the last partial week, Palm Sunday – Wednesday. 43 days.

    In Lent there are 6 Sundays. Subtract those from your count and you’re only left with 37 days. The Triduum is its own liturgical season, so don’t play that card.

    Lent used to begin on a Sunday, if I am not mistaken. Counting from the first Sunday after Ash Wednesday through the day before Holy Thursday (including Sundays) gives us 39 days… still one short. If anyone can offer more insight into the history and counting of days, please do so.

  • Julia

    Two points in favor of taking Sunday “off” one theological and the other phenomenological. Each Sunday is a feast day and so should be treated differently than other days. To the extent that the idea of Sabbath is mostly lost on Christians, pointing up the difference might be a good thing, especially if it lead people to more Sabbath observance during other times of the liturgical year.

    Second, by breaking from your sacrifice you actually start a new cycle of awareness when you have to ‘give it up’ again on Monday.

    The biggest concern I see in this question is the underlying idea that people might be giving up vices. I have a friend who has decided to ‘give up’ swearing for Lent. Well, he ought not to be swearing at any time of the year. The idea seems to be that once Lent it over he’ll just go back to it, having heroically given it up for 40 days.

    If you are sacrificing some measure of some good that you are otherwise enjoying in moderation, then the spirit of the sacrifice is correct and the two ideas above would pertain.

  • Kate

    Every Sunday is the Feast of the Resurrection! Our Church does this on purpose!

  • Marge Clark

    It reminds me of the question about whether tithing is based on net or gross income. Either one will have the desired effect while the larger/longer one is more sacrificial and more gratifying.

  • Rojo

    If Sunday is a day off, why don’t they put the flowers and greenery back on the altar every week? Sunday is a day of celebration and thus we can celebrate with the Lord’s Supper and remember what God’s greatest gift to us was and is-thus negating the need to feel that WE are sacrificing. 40 days we ‘give up’ and 6 days we rejoice-make Sundays the most special day of the week during Lent; we can focus on what Easter will be and make an effort to be with family/friends. Making it another day where we get to indulge in self makes it less about God and more about us (as is the custom these days, sadly)!

  • Tyler

    I feel like most people who fight for the argument that the sundays dont count are not very strong believers in being able to celebrate on a feast day because I am sure they dont celebrate it to the letter of the law anyway by taking it as a day of rest. They just use it as a technicality to have an excuse to take a break. As long as you are truly doing what is the ultimate sacrifice for you during ALL of lent then its fine. If that includes taking Sundays off and it is still the ultimate sacrifice then so be it. But dont try to use technicalities to excuse yourself if you know you can do better

  • MetroOwl

    P.S. Everyone should remind themselves to not be so judgmental here in the comments or elsewhere in life. Perhaps that should be a Lenten focus for all of us.

  • MetroOwl

    All the priests and nuns who taught me otherwise during my years at Catholic school ought to listen to this program, then. We were always taught that the deeper, more important changes we make during lent (not cursing, not fibbing, being more patient, volunteering X number of hours each week, etc.) are in effect every single day during Lent, and forever after. However, the smaller, less critical sacrifices (giving up chocolate, TV, whatever) are those that we may have a rest from on Sundays.

    It’s true: When you count the 40 days of Lent, from Ash Wednesday through East Sunday, it does NOT include Sundays. Also, Sundays are celebratory, family, feast days, and as such fasting (in any fashion) generally is not required those days (as I was taught anyway).

  • Kathryn

    AMEN Fr. Dave. The whole math thing is a cop out. You can still rejoice and celebrate the Lord’s Day. I just don’t think your fast gets a pass. It makes logical sense that you either give it up or add to your Lenten sacrifice for 40 days, or don’t bother. Try explaining to your five children why six days you fast and on Sunday you don’t. HA! At our house, it’s all or nothing.

  • Bill -anonymous

    I used to give up beer for lent. Would drink wine all week, then load up with beer on Sunday. I was within the letter of the rule, and it was the best I could do at the time. From that pathetic attempt to offer a sacrifice, much good was to come. When the time came for me to come to terms with my drinking, I reflected back on my lenten sacrifice of giving up beer. It should not have been such a big deal, but it was huge. Alcohol was that important in my life. It was time to put God and family first. So I began my Exodus journey out of alcohol. With the grace of God, I found the strength to begin and sustain the healing journey. Satan’s temptation comes …. perhaps I can just drink normally now? Maybe just one beer? And I look back at my pathetic lenten sacrifice of giving up only beer, and only for only 6 days per week. It becomes crystal clear …… no I can’t drink like a normal person, and so I cannot drink at all. From the ashes of my pathetic “cheating” lenten sacrifice, God continues to reveal his blessing upon me.

  • Sue Gregory

    Yes Lenten fasts are set up as 40 days to follow the bible examples Jesus set up for us to follow. We however, now only seem to follow many of the church teachings when it is convenient. Like who doesn’t shop for something on Sunday. It is because we HAVE TO HAVE IT whatever it is and so we go to the Mall or the Strip or the Grocery store, Wallmart, Costco, and the list goes on because we don’t plan ahead, or CARE that the person working at the store cannot be at home with family. Very few celebrate Sunday as the feast day it should be, in fact many go on Sat after mowing, weeding, and cleaning to get it over with so they can go shopping Sun or go golfing or watch sports sometimes at home many times at a bar. Very few even have a meal as a family anymore because there so busy playing and these are GOOD CHRISTIANS. I’m pleased when I hear that one of my family is even practicing Lent whether it is 40 days or 46 or 30. It is good for their soul!!!

  • J

    Lenten fasts are supposed to signify Jesus’ 40 days fasting in the wilderness, Moses 40 days on the mt. and the 40 years of toil in the desert for the Israelites. If you don’t fast on Sundays then you fast for 46 days (or something like that). The lenten fast is supposed to be 40 days, and Ash Wednesday begins appropriately long enough before Easter that you get 40 days of fasting when you don’t fast on Sundays. It is not a cheat, it is a recognition that even though we are observing Lent and meditating on our own sinful nature, that the Resurrection of Christ breaks through our sinfulness. As such Sunday is always a feast day and should be seen as a celebration of Christ’s victory, not a cheat of your Lenten disciplines.

  • Jason

    Even small Lenten sacrifices are offered up. You can choose how large or small your particular sacrafice is. If you take Sunday ‘off’, your sacrafices during the week are good. If you choose to tough it out even on Sunday, all the better.

  • Kathleen

    Every Sunday is a little Easter :-) It is not taking time off of Lent. I was always told that the Sundays during Lent are excluded from the forty days of penance (my math minor from college backs that up). And perhaps also why saints’ feast days are usually not celebrated on Sunday. HOWEVER — I do agree if we are trying to change a bad habit — convert more to the Lord — we should not give that up on Sunday or even after Easter :-) — or so I think…

  • lmichael meaagher

    since many people do not sense the aweness of
    sunday, this may be a way to raise one’s conscousness of the sacred time– sacred that it is not a time to fast but to rejoice in the Lord and keep holy

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