“The Physical Fast” by Martha Wild King, M.Ed.--May 31, 2012

The result of my fasting prayers--our adopted number five.

In 2009, when I first became a Catholic, I felt called again to resume my once-a-week physical fast to stop abortion. Some 25 years before, when our children were young, a Christian friend, Debbie Streeker, and I had fasted weekly as a team. As stay-at-home moms saddened by legalized abortion, we had to do something. It wasn't easy then with little ones ducking between our legs in our individual homes. It wouldn't be easy now at age 60. But this longing to fast again weekly, now as a Catholic, felt right. Summarized, it was a desire to take up my cross, deny myself in a small way, and NOT chew food every Tuesday--My once-a-week physical fast.

The CCC defines “fasting” as refraining from food and drink as an expression of interior penance, in imitation of the fast of Jesus for forty days in the desert.  Fasting is an ascetical practice recommended in Scripture and the writings of the Church Fathers; it is sometimes prescribed by a precept of the Church, especially during the liturgical season of Lent" (538, 1434, 2043). As Catholics, of course, we 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 and two small meals on those two days, and The Catholic Church encourages Catholics to observe this fast. Of course, ”ascetical” means practicing self-denial, and in this instant age of gratification, that self-mortification is a healthy habit. (TFC)

To start the spiritual gift of fasting, pick a day and practice it.  For me, it is every Tuesday (the T being in the shape of the cross), and during that day, I chew nothing except the Host of the Eucharist.  I will drink fluids–juice, tea, water, wine, vodka, or cocoa, and I  focus on prayer when hunger hits.  My main thrust for prayer on every Tuesday is that  my five children will find the fullness of the Catholic Church and that abortion will be stopped and adoption replace it.  

The fasting day begins, of course, with praying The Rosary and The Divine Mercy Chaplet. And fasting can assume  forms other than how I do it.  Patty Raymond of Saint Cecilia Catholic Church says, “I find ways to fast each week to deny myself the comfort of food that I may feast on the comfort of God’s presence.”  Another parishioner fasts by giving up wine for that day.  Still others fast from such things as watching television: It is up to you and God.

After the fast, you will be glad for self-mastery.  You will be pleased that you have more prayerfully  focused  since Jesus stated in Mark 9:29 in referring to an unclean spirit which had possessed a child, “This kind cannot be driven out by anything but prayer and fasting.”  Christ told us self-denial brings strength. Jesus confirmed this in Luke 9:23: “If any man would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.”  You will experience answered prayers in ways you didn't foresee. For example, twenty-five years ago, I fasted weekly that abortion would stop.  Perhaps those prayers were heard by my daughter’s Russian mother who chose to give her life.  I believe they were.

Of greater importance is that through prayer, fasting, and almsgiving (money to the poor for food that you didn’t eat), you will be controlling the passions of the body, and that is something from which anyone could  benefit.  As Neil Raymond adds, “Jesus told us that sometimes we need to fast along with prayer.  I’m taking Him at His word.”