Lent & St. Joseph's Day


As you know Lent began yesterday. It is my understanding that it is a forty day journey. Easter arrives this year on 4-16-17 / more than forty days from yesterday. Could you please explain to me what days between the beginning of Lent and Easter are not days of Lent and when those days begin and end according to the Church (example: sundown to sundown)? Also, are Feast Days, for example 3-19-17, St. Joseph’s Day, any different than the average day?

Thanks for reaching out about this. The Lenten time frame was confusing to me, too, when I first became a Catholic.

Lent is a penitential season that is intended to draw our hearts and minds to Christ’s redeeming sacrifice for us. It culminates with Good Friday—the day Jesus was gave Himself on the cross for our sins. Even though the entire period from Ash Wednesday to Good Friday is the penitential season of Lent, we never do penance on any Sunday—so they aren’t included in the forty days.

The greatest holiday (read: holy day) of the year is Easter (as opposed to the common belief it’s Christmas). The Church calls every Sunday of the year “a little Easter” in commemoration of the actual Easter, as we celebrate His resurrection in a less substantial way every Sunday.

About doing penance in Lent: It really isn’t right to do penance on Sunday (people traditionally give up something for Lent), primarily because the Church says so, and we really should have a spirit of rest, relaxation, and celebration on Sundays anyway. I have met a number of people who insisted on doing penance on the Sundays of Lent, in spite of what the Church asks of us. That is pride. After praising them for their desire to make reparation for their sins, I always tell such people to adhere to what the Church says, and not to try to be holier than the Church. Besides, I tell them, doing as you ought instead of doing as you want is really often times a penance anyway. So feel free to indulge in whatever you gave up for Lent on Sundays.

Q: Thank you. Just one more question: Do you do penance on the feast day of St. Joseph?

Officially, only on holy days of obligation and Sunday do we not do penance. However, if St. Joseph is your patron (you were named after him, your parents consecrated you to him as an infant, or you consecrated yourself to him, or some very special reason), you may treat that as a special feast day.
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