Pray Tell Poll: Sundays in Lent?

Do you "count" Sundays as part of your Lenten observance?

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Share your thoughts in the comments below!


  1. Yes, I do; and so does the Church, witness the omission of the Gloria until Holy Thursday (solemnities excepted).

    1. I am not sure that suppressing the Gloria is a Lenten observance; it’s also done in Advent. I have been told by several priests on more than one occasion that the way you get 40 days of ‘Lent’ is to start with 46 days and subtract the Sundays. So if you consider purple vestments and no Gloria Lenten observance, then yes, they do count. But the more common (lay) meaning of the phrase ‘Lenten observance’ refers to what ever personal reminder, penance, observation you choose. In that case, I am pretty sure they do not count.

      1. Your priest contacts are misinformed. The forty days of Lent are numbered from the first Sunday to sunset on Holy Thursday. The Roman Missal identifies the four days prior to the first Sunday with a reference to Ash Wednesday or a day that follows. It’s spiritual preseason. Believers still do the exercises, get in some good practice, and gear up for the Big Time.

        I’m aware of candy and booze abstainers who indulge on Sundays. I have no problem with that. But I prefer to commit to all 40 plus four days.

      2. The Catholic Encyclopedia seems to agree that Sundays are traditionally excluded: “In the time of Gregory the Great (590-604) there were apparently at Rome six weeks of six days each, making thirty-six fast days in all, which St. Gregory, who is followed therein by many medieval writers, describes as the spiritual tithing of the year, thirty-six days being approximately the tenth part of three hundred and sixty-five. At a later date the wish to realize the exact number of forty days led to the practice of beginning Lent upon our present Ash Wednesday”. Todd, what’s your source for the version you present?

      3. People talk past each other in this controversy because there are several layers of history and the modern legislation does not tie up nicely like its two predecessors.
        1) The earliest “40-day” Lent was calculated from the first Sunday to Holy Thursday.
        2) Then entered the concern that not all of those 40 days were days of fasting, so the calculation was adjusted at both ends – 4 days added before the first Sunday, and the fast days of the Triduum also incorporated into the reckoning. It’s true that the early days (the first Wed-Sat) were not named “feria X within the Y week in Lent.” More notably, those ferias followed the Psalter/ordinary for the tempus per annum rather than Lent. BUT they were still reckoned part of Lent, as were the days of the final subdivisions: Passiontide and Triduum. 1962 MR’s Rubricae generales, as the final iteration of this system, stated: “The season of Lent runs from Matins of Ash Wednesday to the Mass of the Easter Vigil, exclusive” (74). So while the boundaries of Lent had been shifted, the point remained to preserve an exact 40-day period (40 days/40 *fasting* days).
        3) The modern calendar abandoned this concern with numerical exactitude, stating in its universal norms that “The forty days of Lent run from Ash Wednesday up to but excluding the Mass of the Lord’s Supper exclusive” 28). Yes, the “forty days” are either 44 total days or 38 days of fasting. Whichever historical precedent anchors one’s paradigm of observance, it can’t square the circle of the modern season. And this is why folks argue every year about whether Sundays count.

  2. I only continue observances on Sundays if their nature requires it. I grow a beard for Lent. The itchiness reminds me in a bodily way of how my whole self in a deeper way itchily yearns for resurrection. Shaving it off every Sunday would destroy this. My other observances, though, I don’t practice on Sundays. In fact, lightening up on them is part of training myself to more instinctively look forward to Sundays and, thereby, resurrection.

  3. Omitting the Sundays in Lent usually refers to bodily fasting. We certainly don’t give up prayer and almsgiving on Sundays, do we? I personally believe that the 6 Sundays are to be counted in the Lenten season. Thomas Merton said that Ash Wednesday was the beginning of the Lenten fast, but not the Lenten season. I believe Nocent in his Days of the Lord adopts the same calculation.

    1. Well, the season for fulfilling the preceptual Easter Duty in the USA is (under the indult from way before Vatican II that still obtains; different countries have different indults….) from the first Sunday in Lent through Trinity Sunday, inclusive.

      In any event, the question having been so broadly worded as to accommodate all manner of different understandings (I assume they are deliberately worded so that “it depends on what one means” triggers comments…as that’s become a regular feature of these polls), I clicked Yes, as part of my Lenten discipline is extra office of personal prayer (including Sundays), meditation on Scripture outside of Mass (not included on days I attend Mass, normally Sundays), almsgiving (included on Sundays), and extra abstinence (not necessarily observed on Sundays).

  4. “It’s spiritual preseason. Believers still do the exercises, get in some good practice, and gear up for the Big Time.”

    So now there IS a pre-Lenten season again? A season of preparation for a season of preparation? What do you know! I wonder who thought of that?

    1. I’m not convinced of the notion of Lent as wholly a season of preparation. It has its own themes, purpose, and direction. The elect prepare for baptism, yes. But the body of the Church accompanies them. For us, Lent is no more a preparation for Easter than a retreat is a preparation for the day we come home. For believers, we put into practice things we’ve forgotten or neglected. Lent is the real thing.

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