Q: Will you settle a discussion in our Lenten small group. Are Sundays part of Lent? One member wrote this: “Lent starts on February 17 and ends April 4. That’s 46 days later. So Sundays are not part of Lent.” I tend to see the Lenten season as a time of repentance and renewal–and skipping Sundays as part of the practice doesn’t make sense to me. When someone states that Sundays in lent “don’t count” for Lenten practices how do you respond?
A: Here’s a related post: https://paulturner.org/starting-lent/
The missal clearly calls them Sundays “of Lent,” so the argument that that are not “of Lent” is pretty slim. The universal law limits penances to Ash Wednesday and the Fridays of Lent, so it permits a lot of variation for those who wish to do more.
Sundays are always the day of the resurrection, the Lord’s Day. If someone wants to elevate them from their identity with Lent to their identity with the resurrection, they can make that case. But at Sunday Masses of Lent the ministers wear purple and the musicians steer us away from the Gloria and Alleluia. Those Sundays are Lenten days. You’re free to observe them however you judge fit.
Bottom line, I think “40 days” is an approximation. You may try counting from the first Sunday, or skip the Sundays, or end on Wednesday in Holy Week in order to more precisely calculate the days in question. I just think that the tradition doesn’t really care about that. It only wants to show our imitation of Jesus, Elijah and Moses, who all spent 40 days in the desert.
And I don’t think they took Sundays off.