Have you ever noticed that there are 46 days between Ash Wednesday and Easter Sunday? Why is that the case, when we say there are 40 days of Lent? The reason is because Sundays, even during the Lenten season, are a day when we celebrate the Lord’s Resurrection. Every Sunday is a mini-Easter, and so Sundays are not a day of Lent.
But since Sundays are not part of Lent, does that mean they are ‘cheat days’ when you can lift your Lenten penance and indulge in sweets, alcohol, Netflix, or whatever you gave up? That was the question posed to Patrick Madrid recently on The Patrick Madrid Show.
Patrick responded, “Here’s the thinking behind that. Because of the nature of Sunday being the day that the Lord rose from the dead, in other words it’s a kind of a celebration of Easter every Sunday, then by its nature Sunday is not a penitential day.”
“Friday is a penitential day,” he explained. “Wednesday is often considered a penitential day. Sunday is considered a non-penitential day. Traditionally, most people choose to give up something for Lent as a penance – it could be alcohol, could be chocolate, could be dessert, could be TV, could be whatever it is they like – and they want to do without it as a way to mortify the flesh.”
Patrick pointed out that traditionally people observe their penance every day during Lent, and don’t consider Sundays in Lent to be a ‘cheat day.’ However, others feel that it’s not appropriate to do penance on a Sunday, so they feel it is appropriate to indulge in chocolate, TV, or whatever they gave up.
“The church does not have any rule on this,” Patrick said. “The church doesn’t say one way or the other that you must do it this way, or you must do it that way. You’re free to do it however you wish. You’re not even obligated, strictly speaking, to give anything up.”
“Now, the church strongly encourages penance during Lent,” he clarified. “But it’s not as though you are committing a sin. If you don’t give something up for Lent, you should try to do that. But I need to make the point clear that it’s not like the Church has issued a strict set of guidelines on things that you give up or don’t give up now, with an exception.”
When it comes to obligations during Lent, the Church does require those who are 18-59 to fast on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday, and those who are 14 years and older to abstain from eating meat on Ash Wednesday, Good Friday, and Fridays in Lent.
“As far as the obligations are concerned, those are the minimum requirements,” Patrick explained. “And you can be more stringent if you wish to.”
So can you count Sundays in Lent as a ‘cheat day?’ The Church leaves that to your prayerful consideration.
Listen to the full conversation below: