A listener named Michelle calls in and asks the popular Lent question: “Do Sundays count during Lent?” Michelle explains that while growing up, her mother told her that Sundays didn’t count during Lent, and you’re allowed to break your Lenten sacrifice for the day. Father Dave asks Michelle what her mother’s reasoning was behind this. Michelle says that it was possibly about the length of Lent.
Father Dave explains that there is nothing in the Canon Law of the Church or the Catechism that makes laws about what we give up for Lent. He explains the sacrifice that we make, and St. Augustine’s two wings of prayer: fasting and almsgiving. “It’s all integrated into this time which is a penitential time for us. The whole idea of putting ashes on our forehead stems from the Old Testament tradition when the king would say our whole country has failed before God.” Father Dave explains that the people would sit in ash and remember their unworthiness. “Lent is our outward proclamation that all year long, we should be conscious of our sin, and all year long, we should be on a path to conversion. But we’re human, and we don’t think about that all year long, so during Lent, we think about that for six weeks. For roughly 40 days.”
Father Dave shares that many people will argue that we don’t count the Sundays during Lent because that would make Lent longer than 40 days. He shares that Sundays do in fact count during Lent, “Lent is neither 40 days whether you count the Sundays or not. Lent officially begins on Ash Wednesday and concludes with the evening Mass of the Lord’s Supper on Holy Thursday.” He points out that Sundays are still part of Lent. We still celebrate Mass during Lent, and the Sundays are classified in the Roman Missal as a “Sunday of Lent.”
Another excuse that people use is that we cannot fast on a feast day. While this is true, Father Dave explains that fasting in the Catholic Church is defined as one meal during the day and two smaller meals. “When we say we don’t fast on a feast day, that’s the only application of that. We don’t spread that out to other things. What we give up for Lent is like fasting, it is like depriving ourselves of something, but it is not fasting.”
“Lastly, much more practically, psychologists say that it takes something like four weeks or longer to change a habit,” Father Dave says. “The time that they say isn’t something like six days. Six days doesn’t break the habit … If you give up cursing for Lent, would it make sense that you curse on Sundays? No!”
Back in 2015, Father Dave addressed a similar question about taking Sundays off during Lent. Listen here.