Friday, November 05, 2010

Do you fast?

My alma mater, Gonzaga College High School, lost a dear friend last week when its president, Father Allen Novotny, died suddenly at the age of 58. He was president of Gonzaga for 16 years who succeeded a legend, Father Bernie Dooley. Fr Novotny was kind to me and so many “men for others” at Gonzaga. A video tribute to him is below.

Eternal rest grant unto him, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon him.
Do you fast? I mean, other than Ash Wednesday and Good Friday when we are required to fast. Fasting is one of those practices that people have either forgotten about or don’t know about. While it is tough, fasting rocks! It is really cool to try and get pure and holy through our bodies. Fasting helps us to live purity; if we can control our desires with God’s help with regard to our food appetite, then we are better equipped to control our sexual appetite. Fasting brings spiritual strength, too. Try fasting in moderation (e.g., fast from breakfast or your favorite food for a day) and offer it up for an intention. There is power in fasting!

Friday is typically a day that many Catholics fast (to be in union with Christ’s sacrifice on Good Friday in some small way). So, maybe you can offer a little sacrificial fast today.  The Church prohibits fasting on feast days. For those who make a habit of fasting, feast days are appreciated all the more! Technically, fasting really refers to abstaining from snacking between meals.  We should really eat only enough at each meal to get to the next meal.  But, for Jesus, we try to do more.  Fasting beyond the minimum requirement is what I'm writing about here.  It is a practice that began in the Jewish tradition and has been carried out by the saints.  We see what fasting did for the saints! 

Here’s some more info about fasting from my post on Sept, 1, 2007:


At the end of yesterday's post about liturgical life, I wrote about feast days. While the Church highly recommends the practice of fasting throughout the liturgical year (but only requires it on two days -Ash Wednesday and Good Friday), she prohibits fasting on feast days. If we are in the habit of fasting, then we will appreciate feast days all the more! Here's some more info about fasting, according to

What Fasting Is:

Fasting, broadly speaking, is the voluntary avoidance of something that is good. When Catholics talk about fasting, we normally mean restricting the food that we eat. We can fast between meals, by not eating snacks, or we can engage in a complete fast by abstaining from all food. The English word breakfast, in fact, means the meal that breaks the fast.

While fasting takes the form of refraining from eating, it is primarily a spiritual discipline designed to tame the body so that we can concentrate on higher things.

Prayer, Fasting, and Almsgiving - The Swiss Army Knife of the Spirit:

That is why fasting is usually mentioned along with prayer and almsgiving (or charity). By controlling the passions of the body, we free our souls for prayer. And by refraining from eating, we free up food or money that we can give to those less fortunate than ourselves. The three spiritual disciplines go hand in hand, and the Church calls us to practice all three together, especially during the season of Lent.

Lenten Fasting and Penance:

Lent, the 40 days before Easter Sunday, is a season of the Church calendar set aside for Christians to do penance in preparation for the celebration of the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Refraining from food can help us to bring our bodies under the control of our souls, but it is also a way of doing penance for past excesses. That is why the Church strongly recommends that Catholics fast during Lent.

Current Church Law Regarding Fasting:

The Church used to prescribe very rigorous rules for the Lenten fast (including abstaining from all meat and eating only one meal per day). The current rules, however, are much more lax. Catholics are only required to fast on Ash Wednesday, the first day of Lent, and on Good Friday, the day that Jesus Christ was crucified. Anyone over the age of 18, but under the age of 60, should eat only one full meal on those days, although they can also have small amounts of food in the morning and the evening.

Going Beyond What’s Required:

The Church continues to encourage individual Catholics to observe a stricter fast. Extreme fasting, however, can be physically harmful, so, as with all physical forms of penance and of spiritual discipline, you should consult with your priest before embarking on a very strict fast.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I'd be interested to get bloggers' take on this column published in this week's Washington Post: