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Why Fast?




Dear Family in Christ, 

            In his address to the founding members of Thomas Aquinas College (April 1970, San Francisco), the Venerable Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen made the following observation: “ Whenever we drop anything in the Church, the world picks it up… And when we began to drop discipline — the training of the will — the world picked it up.”

            As Lent approaches, the subject of ‘fasting’ inevitably arises. I can think of nothing that so reflects Sheen’s words than this- fasting is something that was practiced and emphasized by Jesus, carried on by the Church, and yet has been all but dropped even by many practicing Catholics. As Sheen predicted, fasting has now gained mainstream popularity (albeit for more natural than spiritual benefits). 

            My hope is that we might recover something of the spirit of this practice, and see the beauty and power of what Jesus described, not as optional, but as essential to and necessary in our spiritual battle: “This kind of demon can only be driven out by prayer and fasting” (Matthew 17:21). 

            Consider the threefold purpose of fasting as articulated by St. Thomas Aquinas: 

1)     ‘First, in order to bridle the lusts of the flesh, wherefore the Apostle says (2 Corinthians 6:5-6): "In fasting, in chastity," since fasting is the guardian of chastity. For, according to Jerome "Venus is cold when Ceres and Bacchus are not there," that is to say, lust is cooled by abstinence in meat and drink.

 

2)    Secondly, we have recourse to fasting in order that the mind may arise more freely to the contemplation of heavenly things: hence it is related (Daniel 10) of Daniel that he received a revelation from God after fasting for three weeks.

 

3)    Thirdly, in order to satisfy for sins: wherefore it is written (Joel 2:12): "Be converted to Me with all your heart, in fasting and in weeping and in mourning.

The same is declared by Augustine in a sermon: "Fasting cleanses the soul, raises the mind, subjects one's flesh to the spirit, renders the heart contrite and humble, scatters the clouds of concupiscence, quenches the fire of lust, kindles the true light of chastity." ‘

 

            In terms of practical options for fasting in our modern world, I humbly offer the following 5 suggestions:

●      Abstain from Meat on Wednesdays and Fridays

●      Abstain from Alcohol and desserts apart from Sunday/Feast Days

●      One cold shower (or more) per week

●      Abstain from TV/Streaming/Movies/Social Media/Youtube for the entirety of Lent (or seriously & intentionally limit your consumption)

●      Fast from your snooze button

 

            Finally, for more on the Catholic practice and power of fasting, here are two great videos to help:

 

Oremus pro invicem- let us pray for each other, especially as we enter this season of penance and preparation.

 

God love you, 

 

Father Daniel

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