Fasting as Spiritual Discipline

During this Advent season looking for the coming of Christ, our pastor has challenged us to consider fasting as helpful to spiritual growth. I know that the Orthodox practice it, and am curious to learn how the Catholic church regards it. If I recall correctly, we used to fast before communion but that seems to have fallen away (or shamefully, maybe it’s just me!)

On the Spiritual Discipline of Fasting

Fasting is one of the best spiritual tools that I know of. When we discipline our flesh we allow our spirit more freedom to be about the things of God. I recommend bread and water two days a week. The blessings in your life will become very evident and your spiritual life will be strengthened. Also, we should never fast without also increasing our prayer life during this time. Otherwise its just a diet.

Good luck and God bless.

Interesting, I would like to hear more about fasting as well. I tried it once, didn’t turn out so well… How is fasting done generally speaking? Also Catholics have to fast an hour before mass/receiving the Eucharist, which can be troublesome when you wake up just before you go to mass. Skipping breakfast is hard.

Hi Stilldream

I think that it’s a great idea.

The Church asks that we fast during Lent.

I have done it myself at other times of the year. When I have chosen to do it, I have done a bread and water fast for a day. I would only limit myself to one day a week, due to health issues, but I would do it for one day a week for a few weeks at a time.

I pulled out one of my welcome to the RCC books that discuss traditions etc and a “two light meals in one day” qualifies as a fast. I am sure a search here and on google or other posters, might have further information, or be able to corroborate.

Thanks for the responses. I will try the bread and water route, and while remembering that without prayer, it is just a diet.

As of most recent this comes to mind…

“Franciscans and Franciscan-hearted people throughout the nation and world joined them in a Franciscan Fast Day as a sign of solidarity with their immigrant brothers and sisters. Such an act by the Franciscans and others exemplifies Pope Francis’ preference for a Church that is “bruised, hurting and dirty,” when it comes from supporting persons on the margins.”

I fast on occasion.

For me, the point of this is to prove that my spirit is stronger than my body, and that I, in the end, have control over it.

This, of course, has theological implications. We are more than our appetites.

Sounds familiar, how did you make out? :smiley: In the end I realized Jesus Christ is how I survived.

One can bring even more meaning if at least one of the fast days is on Friday. When you get the hunger pangs your mind goes immediately to Christ’s suffering on the cross. It makes the fast much easier to get through.

I mentioned also that the blessings in your life will become much clearer as well. I remember when I started fasting on Wednesdays and Fridays that even watching someone drink a cup of coffee made me realize what I have each and every day and how much I take for granted. It helps to give us a spirit of thankfulness.

God bless.

All you have to do is basically not eat or drink anything while you are sitting in church.

Yes, that is the minimal requirement, and when we feel that hunger we should try to keep in mind those that never have a breakfast, or lunch, or dinner, but rather become scavengers in a dump just to stay alive. Can we not even fast for one hour? I have no sympathy for those who think this is an unreasonable request.

Fasting is a form of sacrifice, and can be done with food or even with material things or habits that aren’t good for us. And when we offer up our fasting, our sacrifice, we align ourselves a little more closely to Jesus and allow our souls to grow stronger. I do it on occasion when I feel the need for clarity, and to grow stronger in my faith. For myself, I find it easier to eat nothing for one whole day. Good luck and God bless! :slight_smile:

From Isaiah 58 (KJV) about fasting…

6 Is not this the fast that I have chosen? to loose the bands of wickedness, to undo the heavy burdens, and to let the oppressed go free, and that ye break every yoke?

7 Is it not to deal thy bread to the hungry, and that thou bring the poor that are cast out to thy house? when thou seest the naked, that thou cover him; and that thou hide not thyself from cthine own flesh?

8 Then shall thy light break forth as the morning, and thine health shall spring forth speedily: and thy righteousness shall go before thee; the glory of the Lord shall be thy rearward.

9 Then shalt thou call, and the Lord shall answer; thou shalt cry, and he shall say, Here I am. If thou take away from the midst of thee the yoke, the putting forth of the finger, and speaking vanity;

10 And if thou draw out thy soul to the hungry, and satisfy the afflicted soul; then shall thy light rise in obscurity, and thy darkness be as the noonday:

11 And the Lord shall guide thee continually, and satisfy thy soul in drought, and make fat thy bones: and thou shalt be like a watered garden, and like a spring of water, whose waters fail not.

And from Matthew 17 (KJV)…

14 And when they were come to the multitude, there came to him a certain man, kneeling down to him, and saying,

15 Lord, have mercy on my son: for he is lunatic, and sore vexed: for ofttimes he falleth into the fire, and oft into the water.

16 And I brought him to thy disciples, and they could not cure him.

17 Then Jesus answered and said, O faithless and perverse generation, how long shall I be with you? how long shall I suffer you? bring him hither to me.

18 And Jesus rebuked the devil; and he departed out of him: and the child was cured from that very hour.

19 Then came the disciples to Jesus apart, and said, Why could not we cast him out?

20 And Jesus said unto them, Because of your unbelief: for verily I say unto you, If ye have faith as a grain of mustard seed, ye shall say unto this mountain, Remove hence to yonder place; and it shall remove; and nothing shall be impossible unto you.

21 Howbeit this kind goeth not out but by prayer and fasting.

Eastern Catholics and Orthodox began the Nativity Fast November 15, November 28 on the old calendar, after the Feast of St Phillip. We also call it the Phillip’s Fast. :slight_smile: Different jurisdictions follow different practices. Typically we abstain from dairy, eggs, meat, wine and oil. On weekends and certain Feast Days during the Fast we can have fish, wine and oil, and most Tu/Th wine and oil are allowed.

In Great Lent: Journey to Pascha beginning on page 49, +Fr. Alexander Schmemann of blessed memory talks about the two forms of fasting, the total fasting from food and drink prior to Eucharist, and the ascetical fasting/abstaining most Wednesdays and Fridays and during our four major Fasts prior to feasts. For us fasting is always done with the help of a spiritual father, who helps us determine how we can best follow the fasting, fully or adapted to our individual needs, integrated with prayer and almsgiving.

Here are a number of podcasts on Fasting in the East. It’s a central part of our lives in the East so I encourage you to look to Orthodox and Eastern Catholic for useful resources. May some form of fasting enrich your Advent.

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