As we mentioned in our post about Ash Wednesday, the season of Lent includes a total of 46 days, but the six Sundays within the season are not considered by the Church days of the “Lenten Fast.” This is on account of Sundays being recognized as a day in the Church calendar that commemorates the Resurrection of Jesus.
Sundays, in the eyes of the Church, are a “feast” day, a day to celebrate the Resurrection. This is why, even before Vatican II, Sundays in the Roman Rite are exempt from the rigors of fasting and abstinence.
Does this mean I can binge watch my favorite Netflix shows or eat chocolate on Sundays?
Catholics have always been encouraged to take on additional penitential practices during Lent, such as giving up chocolate or a favorite activity, or making some other type of sacrifice, but these practices are not regulated by the Catholic Church. Each person is asked to discern what sacrifice they are able to make and to do so according to their state in life.
This type of sacrifice is entirely personal in nature and often chosen with the help of a spiritual director. A person must also make the intentional choice whether or not to continue their penitential practice on Sundays during Lent. In some cases, it may be advisable to continue that practice even on Sundays.
For example, if a person is hoping to establish a discipline against a specific bad habit during Lent, “taking a break” on Sundays could be so detrimental to that effort that it can tempt one away from the Lenten effort altogether. On the other hand, if one has given up bread or desserts and is attending a 50th wedding anniversary during a Sunday in Lent, it might be a good and festive thing to fully participate in the celebratory meal, both in remembrance of the resurrection, and the happy occasion before one.
So to get back to the question, “in Lent, do we fast or feast on Sundays?,” the correct answer would be “it depends.” We are not obligated to fast on Sundays during Lent and are generally encouraged to celebrate the joy of the Resurrection, but for our own personal benefit, it may be a good idea to extend our penitential practice on Sundays as well.
If you are ever in doubt, consult a trusted priest or spiritual director.