Lenten cheating

As I’m sure most Dopers are aware, during Lent Catholics are expected to make up some sort of sacrifice - like giving up chocolate or heroin or something during the season.

With Lent beginning, I was talking to a friend of mine who is giving up fried foods. When I told her that’s going to be hard and started rattling off what she won’t be able to eat (including some of her favorite foods), she said it was OK because she could fill up on Sundays since you’re allowed to “cheat” on those days. I scoffed and said I had never heard that (I grew up Catholic) and as proof she said that Lent only lasts 40 days if you don’t count Sundays.

So, Dopers, I ask you - are you allowed to cheat on Sundays during Lent?

I think your friend is on crack. I’ve never heard of that before, and I’ve suggested it many times only to get a disapproving look from the nuns and priests I’ve brought that suggestion to. After (that last convention thing which Mel Gibson’s dad refuses to acknowledge) I think special considerations were made for children, like they didn’t have to fast on Ash Wednesday or the Lenten Fridays. But, I’ve never heard of allowing to cheat – what’s the point? When my weight lifter friends would talk about their diets, they would mention how they would eat whatever they wanted on Sunday, to remind themselves that they are still human.

My Dad’s a Methodist minister, and he’s always done the “cheat on Sunday” thing. His explanation is that Sundays are like a little bit of Easter, so you can remind yourself of the wonderfullness of the Resurrection by eating your chocolate or what have you on Sundays. I still say it sounds a bit suspect, but I’m just his sarcastic agnostic daughter, so what do I know.

AFAIK, the “point” is that you’re not supposed to suffer and sacrifice on Sundays. But I guess if your purpose is to get away with whatever you can get away with, knock yourself out. :slight_smile:

In Ireland most people who give up something for Lent (and you’d be surprised how many totally lapsed Catholics do) cheat on Paddy’s Day.

Bet that comes as a surprise :smiley:

I can’t speak for the Romanists, but the Orthodox Church has a less “do your own thing” approach. All Orthodox Christians are expected to fast (abstain). In a simple form, the rule is thus:

No animal products, whatsoever.
No oils.
No alcohol.
Sweeteners and other luxurious items are also frowned upon in some circles.

On Saturday and Sunday, shellfish, oil, and alcohol are permitted.

On Great and Holy Friday, it’s supposed to be an absolute fast (nothing, not even water).

The reason for relaxing the restriction on Saturday is that it is the Sabbath (Σαββατον), and we are to keep the Sabbath holy.
The reason for relaxing the restriction on Sunday is that it is the Lord’s Day (Κυριακε)–a weekly re-living of Easter.

Of course, there are exceptions for reasons of youth, age, health, work, etc.

Now, once in a while I’ve heard a priest or two complain that there are individuals who violate the spirit of Lent. The rules were developed in a time and place when shellfish was a poor man’s food. So, going out and having fine lobster every week isn’t really what was meant.

To add on to what Dogface (good to see you back!) said, what he has described is the Greek practice for fasting. Russians consider shellfish and beer to be acceptable on any day (beer is seen as liquid bread). Some say that no oil only refers to olive oil, while others say it means any food made with oil (especially fried foods). In general, one should strive to eat simply, avoid frivolous entertainment, and (ideally) give the money saved by eating simply etc. to charity.

I am an Episcopal deacon assigned to a parish in the Diocese of West Missouri. During Lent, Sundays are called Sundays IN Lent because all Sundays are remembered as commemorations of Easter, so yes, you do get a reprise every Sunday.

We don’t use the “A” word (Alleluia, there I said it :smiley: ) either during Lent, except when doing the Burial Office (funeral), because funerals are considered to be services which are ‘out of time’.

orthodox rules for fasting are rather interesting. that is one reason why church calendars are on the 'fridge, so you know what you’re eating that day.

there are a few interesting side rules.

  1. no one should know whether you are fasting or from what. of course if someone else prepares your food you are allowed to clue them in.

  2. levels of fasting depend on the health of the fastee.

  3. if you are invited to someone’s home you CAN NOT say “i can’t eat that, i’m fasting.” you either eat it or come up with a good health reason. being a bad guest is a worse sin than not fasting. the hurt you cause your host lasts a lot longer than dinner.

  4. if someone give you a gift of food, say chocolate cake for your birthday. you must accept it cheerfully. if it is possible to run off and freeze it 'till after the fast, go fot it. if you can’t run off with it you have to cut it up and eat the slice. hurting a person much worse than breaking a fast.

  5. you must be very careful when you use the side rules. you can’t invite yourself to someone’s home because you know they can only cook filet mignon. you could say something along the lines of: “this month isn’t good for me, how 'bout some time in may perhaps.”

the only thing i ever heard about food on sundays is that the calories are mysteriously removed.

Just because it’s not part of your experience, doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist.

Here’s the straight dope on the rules of penance for Roman Catholics today. [IOW, we’re not talking about the Eastern Rites, the Orthodox, Protestants, or the way things were before the 1983 revision of canon law or pre-Vatican II (1962) times.]

The RCC obligates its members to fast on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday and to abstain from meat on Fridays in Lent. That’s it. Period.

The church recommends, but does not obligate its members to do extra personal forms of penance, including giving things up, prayer, and acts of charity. How and when a member does this is up to them. Even if Sr. Rosetta Stone told you that you had to give up a treat and to do it every single day of Lent, that is not obligatory.

And so, a person could decide to give up ice cream on odd days, or to give up cigarettes from noon to five, or to give up hookers on Mondays… whatever you decide.

If you want to give up a treat for the ‘forty days of Lent,’ then you would certainly not count Sundays, because if you do, then you have 46 days of Lent. For the reasons mentioned above, Sundays don’t technically count for the forty penitential days because Sunday is always a festive day being “the day of the Lord.” But if you want to count Sundays, knock yourself out… it’s your call.


According to my mother, she was taught when she went to Catholic schools in the late '40s and '50s that when something was given up for Lent, Sundays are were not included. So that part isn’t new. I wasn’t taught that when I went to Catholic school, and somehow Mom never mentioned it when I was a child, so I thought she was crazy when she mentioned it a few years ago.

Wow. Now that’s a fast. Giving up animal products is a breeze when one has salads, steamed vegetables, potatoes, rice, and pasta seasoned with oil. Take away the oil…

moriah is correct. Any sacrifice made is voluntary and on your own terms, and the sacrifice should not be an end in itself. It should serve to focus your mind on spiritual matters. From americancatholic.org, everything you ever wanted to know about how Roman Catholics observe Lent.

Well, that’s one difference of emphasis. In the Eastern tradition (including those Christians of Eastern Tradition who are in communion with Rome, and thus of the same doctrines as Rome), seasonal fasting is not “on your own terms” unless circumstances force it to be so. It is, instead, presumed to be part of the group life within the Church. As for the “focus”–in the East, “Gluttony” can include fasting–if the focus of the fasting becomes self-denial of food in and of itself. So here, East and West are in accord.

And you understand why Greeks really love herbs and vinegar.

As a slight hijack, my Mother brought over some donuts on Tuesday, that were made from potatos. She said something about there being a tradition of having to use up the potatos before Lent. Has anyone heard of this? By the way, she is of German ancestry and I believe she may have gotten them at a German market she occasionally shops at.

I think the cheating on Sunday rule was common practice in the Catholic part of Holland (yes, there is a Catholic part) as my parents both told me about having special boxes to keep candy in so that they could scoff it all in one go on Sunday. I have never seen anyone give up anything for Lent in present-day Holland, though.

I’m not sure about the potatoes, but a tradition among those of Pennsylvania German heritage is to make fasnachts (cake-like doughnuts) on Shrove Tuesday (also known here as Fasnacht Day, or more traditionally, Fastnacht) in order to use up household’s stores of lard before fasting for Lent. While very few people in Central Pennsylvania still cook with lard–let alone collect stores of it–it’s a great excuse to spend the day eating doughnuts!

Thanks for that explanation. For years growing up in catholic school, I would have the meanest penguins telling me what to do (I know, stereotype). Then, during one lent, when i was just a boy (as opposed to a lawboy :)), I went to confession and the priest told me that it wasn’t a sin, and then he expoused a whole lot of other things that weren’t sins. Now, I’m just so used to giving up something, I feel less complete if I don’t at least try. I also get that feeling of righteous indignation when I give something up and snub others who don’t :slight_smile: