When does Lent begin, what does fasting include?

When does Lent begin, what does fasting include?

I’ve had debates about this for years, going back to my days at Franciscan University of Steubenville and have never found a definitive answer: When exactly does Lent begin and do you include Sundays in your Lenten fasting and abstinence?

Now it may seem absurd on its face: Lent begins on Ash Wednesday. Not so fast. If you count the days from Ash Wednesday to Easter there are more than 40 days. So does Lent actually begin on the first Sunday of Lent? Or end on the Wednesday of Holy Week? Or are the Sundays of Lent not included?

The latter question brings me to the next question: Are you required to skip your Lenten abstinence on Sundays? My first reaction is to say, suck it up. You give up something for Lent, take the hard road, take on a little more suffering, and make it the full forty days. But, now I have people telling me that because Jesus says we don’t fast on during the wedding feast and similar things, we are required to give up our fast on Lenten Sundays.

Does anyone have anything definitive on this?

  • I asked the local priest here where I am in Switzerland and he said in no uncertain terms that fasting is absolutely not done on Sundays according to their tradition because it is the celebration of the Resurrection of the Lord.  Years ago when I learned that Sunday fasting was a no – no, I never did it again.  For me pride is the big reason.  If you want to stick it out for the whole 40, it could be an occasion of pride for some, not necessarily everybody.

    What’s more, in the Ambrosian rite, Milan and environs, Lent (the season) does begin on Sunday yet the ashes (penitential rite) are not administered until after the Mass so as not to introduce a penitential rite into the Sunday liturgy.
    Best, Giulio

  • Of course, go ahead and do whatever you want but God has told us in no uncertain terms that we should keep holy the Lord’s day.  The Lord’s day is a day of rest.  I understand the desire to fast is something good but when it goes against the clearly stated precepts of rest dictated by God… Just a thought!

  • Of course, I don’t pretend to be an authority here, these are only my reflections on things but in reference to the above:
    “Maybe its as simple as which ever you believe personally expresses your love for Him most perfectly. “
    I feel that we must always see what we do as a response to God and his instruction to us because it is all for our own good.  The day of rest is to be enjoyed as a day dedicated to the Lord, a celebration of the Risen Lord… Even during Lent.  In order to maintain the congruity with our words and deeds, one should not confuse the penance and celebration at the same time.  Rather, one should take the cue from Our Lord.  Are Our Lord’s commandments pick and choose?  What good is penance when you disobey? What difference does it make if you DO THE WHOLE FORTY!?  Do you tell your friends, family, God?  Penance is something that is in the present and not a cumulative thing for if it were, arriving at the end of the forty one has either made it or not; and if not having made it, are one’s sacrifices any less pleasing to God?  No, that would be absurd.  In my opinion one should not do penance on Sundays even if only to avoid the pride of doing the whole 40!  For what it’s worth.  Happy penance! ; ^)

  • Yes, but only if you normally eat chocolate which is the case for all good Swiss!!!  HHHHAAAAA
    But seriously, you know whether a sacrifice is a sacrifice or not.  If you want it and would have normally eaten it yet don’t eat it because you gave it up for Lent, then what more is there to discuss.  AND, if you don’t want what you gave up…why did you give it up?  Of course Dom, this is not an interrogation of you personally but all is theoretical. 

  • Guilio,

    I know it’s theoretical. I’m not taking it personally. In fact, I appreciate everybody’s input on this.

    For myself, I don’t usually tell people what I give up for Lent. Too much of a chance of a lack of humility for me. (I’m not criticizing people who do tell others. I’m only talking about myself.)

  • God also calls us not to be public in our prayer and fasting so to me as long as the least amount that the church teaches is done then the rest should be between you and God and only you know if it is a true reflection of what you want to give up and only you and God know if it is a meaningful sacrifice. I personally don’t indulge on the Sundays during lent but I do celebrate with his resurrection but not with the things that I have given up or the extra things that I do for lent. Just my two cents

  • Dear FrMichael, I’m sorry if my words have offended you and ruined the interest you had in reading this thread.  I certainly didn’t mean any harm, I tried to qualify my statements by saying things such as “Of course, I donlio