Leveling the lenten playing field

February 15, 2008 | Lent, Original NSS

Today’s post is going to require a little work on your part. I want to hear back from you because otherwise my unofficial survey won’t be very official — or accurate. So here’s the million-dollar question of the day:

Do you keep your Lenten fast on Sundays?

Back when I was young, my family’s rule was that all fasting stopped on Sundays. If you gave up ice cream, grab the scooper. If you gave up eating in between meals, commence with the snacking.

When I first told Dennis about this “rule,” he was shocked. Why? he asked. If you give something up, you give it up for all 40 days. This was like a thunderbolt of angst hitting me square between the eyes. Wait a minute, I thought. Did my mother just make up this rule? Is there anything to support the Sunday free for all that I had assumed was Church-sanctioned?

I also realized that there were some other so-called rules that may or may not be completely official. Like getting an hour grace period after meals so that you have time to grab a little something extra before the “in between” period set in. Or how about St. Patrick’s Day and St. Joseph’s Day? We got a free pass for both of those. I don’t mind giving up the corned beef, but if you can get your hands on an authentic St. Joseph’s Day pastry, well, I don’t think there’s a saint in heaven who would suggest you pass that up no matter what your Lenten promise.

When I mentioned the Sunday phenomenon to a priest friend of mine, he concurred with my mother’s philosophy and backed it up with a little Scripture: “Can the wedding guests mourn as long as the bridegroom is with them? The days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast.” Matthew 9:15

OK, so do we have a theological basis for breaking the fast on Sundays, when we participate in the wedding feast, or is this just a nifty loophole created for those people who simply cannot go 40 days without a piece of chocolate?

In our house this year, we are playing by the full-40-day rule, except for the one day’s grace we granted Olivia from her all-things-sweet fast. We couldn’t bear the thought of her sitting there in her class on Valentine’s Day missing out on the ice cream sundaes. Perhaps just the mere presence of a word that sounds like Sunday is enough to get her an official pass?

So tell me, what are your Lenten rules? I want details people. And please try to comment before Sunday because I may have some eating to do.


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