"We pray for all the kids who don't have candy during this time of ashes."
His phrasing suggested that he had mistaken asceticism with involuntary deprivation--an understandable error for a four year old, but at least he was praying.
Peter's confusion aside, I've been sorting through a Lenten quandary of my own. It must be about ten years ago when it was first suggested to me that on Sundays we get to enjoy whatever it is we gave up for Lent. At the time it seemed like a radical and exciting proposition: Candy during Lent. Amazing.
And over the last decade, the chorus of voices heralding fasting-free Sundays has only grown. It seems to have become the norm, such that if you even think about continuing your fast through the weekend you get a friendly reminder that "HEY IT'S SUNDAY WHICH IS A MINI-EASTER SO MAKE SURE YOU EAT THAT BROWNIE!!!"
I did a year or two of breaking my fast on Sundays and found it to be--how do you say--weak sauce.
It's simply not very hard to give something up if you still indulge in it on a weekly basis. Let's say, for example, that you're giving up ice cream for Lent. Are you really having ice cream more than once a week on a regular basis in Ordinary Time anyway? Not unless your goal is a diabetes diagnosis.
And so, I've placed myself pretty resolutely in the "Man-up-and-fast-on-Sundays" camp. When I debate this point, however, I'm usually told that Sundays are not part of Lent anyway, a contention proven by the fact that the number of days in Lent only equals 40 if you toss out the Lord's day. But if that were true, we wouldn't celebrate the "first Sunday of Lent."
The mini-Easter theory also falls apart with a simple look at the liturgy. In Lent, we don't sing the Gloria or the Alleluia and we don't place flowers in the sanctuary. These practices reflect the penitential nature of Lent--even on a Sunday.
We can look to Jimmy Akin's review of canon law for a more authoritative analysis of whether to fast on Sundays:
The penitential days and times in the universal Church are every Friday of the whole year and the season of Lent [Canon 1250].In other words, we do penance in Lent, and Lent includes Sundays.
The limits of the season of Lent are defined as follows:
"Lent runs from Ash Wednesday until the Mass of the Lord’s Supper exclusive [General Norms for the Liturgical Year and the Calendar 28].
/Drops the mic.
Ultimately, however, the Church doesn't really require us to give anything up for Lent outside of Fridays and Ash Wednesday. We're encouraged to do so, but it's a pious practice that is left up to us and we are fully within our rights to quit fasting on Sundays. Or Tuesdays. Or Saturdays. But whatever we give up, it's with the desire of making space for the Lord.
What do you think?