Fasting for those who cannot fast?


#1

Is there a good way for someone to gain the spiritual benefits of fasting, who is not able to abstain from food? I struggle with some pretty serious weight issues so refraining from food when I am able to eat and keep it down is a bad idea.


#2

Pax Christi!

You could try abstaining from some favorite things: the internet, television, dessert or what-have-you.

I’ve heard of a man who gave up Saturday golf to spend more time with his children. (NOT teaching them how to caddy!)

Check out The Fasting Group on the link below

God bless.


#3

You could drink water instead of having coffee, tea, soda, etc.
It’s a small thing but it might be good to do especially if you like to have flavored drinks, coffee, tea etc throughout the day.


#4

I usually have to drink milk or juice, something that has at least a few calories in it. It’s one of the few ways I get enough during the day when I’m having trouble with solid food.


#5

Things that have been recommended to me, by me and by others.

  1. Fast from TV, Internet, gaming, computer
  2. Fast from arguing, defending your point of view, bickering
  3. Fast from wasting time, day dreaming, secular reading
  4. Fast from making judgements
  5. Fast from anger, frustration and sarcasm
  6. Fast from complaining

Fasting doesn’t have to be food.


#6

Yes it does. The ecclesiastical definition of fasting is the reduction or omission of food. These are properly termed abstinence, and are praiseworthy things.

But lest anyone get confused, when fasting is required (Ash Wednesday and Good Friday), these nice items on this list do not fulfill the obligation. Fasting is fasting, which means, from food.

The OP can try all these things, but as with all things penitential, consult your pastor or spiritual director first.


#7

I’m always confused when people say this. Most of the time around here the pastors barely have time to deal with little things like that.

But let’s presume for the moment we’re not talking about days of obligation but about voluntary fasting.


#8

There is no obligation to talk to “your spiritual director” before you fast from TV for 24 hours. Nor if you want to fast from complaining.

I can’t imagine that any priest has time to talk to everyone that gives up soda for a week. :shrug:

Now, if you plan on fasting from food for 40 days, then you want to talk to someone first.


#9

I’m simply trying to put together a day or two as a spiritual “recharge” time.


#10

:thumbsup:

I’ve done that. It was incredibly rewarding. Good luck.


#11

This is a basic principle when it comes to voluntary penances. It was always a sound principle that whenever one wanted to take on a voluntary penance beyond what the Church required, always to do so with the advice of one’s pastor or spiritual director.

The reasoning, IIRC was to ensure that one wasn’t taking on too much (for some people, even a “mere” 24 hours can be too much), to ensure that it wasn’t due to pride (which, despite one’s convictions, can be a very real thing), and to add the element of obedience, so that if Father imposes a limit (yes, but for only so long, or no, this instead) or even extends it (“why not do it for two weeks instead of one?”), you gain the opportunity to obey and gain merit in the process.

If a pastor has “too little” time to deal with little things like that, there there are only two things to consider: either he is not managing his time well, or you don’t take on voluntary penances. But managing parishioners’ penances is part of a pastor’s job.

Giving up soda for a week might be easy for some such that they don’t want to “waste the pastor’s time”. That may not be true for other people who may indeed require the counsel of a pastor before taking on such a penance.

By the fact, for example, that you appear to object to want to talk to your pastor MAY actually be an indicator that you SHOULD talk to your pastor before taking on any voluntary penances.


#12

What Pope Paul VI wrote in 1966 elucidates the forms of penitence:
1 - (higher standard of living areas) witness of asceticism and charity
2 - (lower standard of living areas) promotion of social justice, and prayer.

In the first place, Holy Mother Church, although it has always observed in a special way abstinence from meat and fasting, nevertheless wants to indicate in the traditional triad of “prayer—fasting—charity” the fundamental means of complying with the divine precepts of penitence. These means were the same throughout the centuries, but in our time there are special reasons whereby, according to the demands of various localities, it is necessary to inculcate some special form of penitence in preference to others.(60)
[LIST]
*]Therefore, where economic well-being is greater, so much more will the witness of asceticism have to be given in order that the sons of the Church may not be involved in the spirit of the “world,”(61) and at the same time the witness of charity will have to be given to the brethren who suffer poverty and hunger beyond any barrier of nation or continent.(62)
*]On the other hand, in countries where the standard of living is lower, it will be more pleasing to God the Father and more useful to the members of the Body of Christ if Christians—while they seek in every way to promote better social justice—offer their suffering in prayer to the Lord in close union with the Cross of Christ.
[/LIST]
vatican.va/holy_father/paul_vi/apost_constitutions/documents/hf_p-vi_apc_19660217_paenitemini_en.html


#13

Having said that, the USCCB also notes: *Those that are excused from fast and abstinence outside the age limits include the physically or mentally ill including individuals suffering from chronic illnesses such as diabetes. Also excluded are pregnant or nursing women. In all cases, common sense should prevail, and ill persons should not further jeopardize their health by fasting. *
from usccb.org/prayer-and-worship/liturgical-year/lent/questions-and-answers-about-lent.cfm

A person who has been instructed by their physician not to do anything that could result in weight reduction or failure to gain weight as needed for health reasons is excluded by common sense and the duty to take due care of their health from fasting. They must find some other sort of penance for Ash Wednesday and Good Friday.


#14

Honestly I just don’t want to be seen as a kid who needs to run to the pastor for approval for everything, especially since I haven’t and won’t be at a parish for long. From what I’ve seen most pastors won’t consider short penances that are not terribly severe to be something that needs managing. If I were thinking of a month or two perhaps, but for a weekend it seems unnecessary to go to the pastor in a rather underserved area for such.


#15

This sort of thing is always interesting. By my location, I have quite a low standard of living. I live in a tiny little cheap apartment with lots of spiders and no air conditioning. I don’t possess a car, let alone fancy things like a TV. I have chronic health problems and live in part on a combination of public aid and help from friends. Yet I also recognize that for many parts of the world my own lifestyle would be luxurious. I have a roof that doesn’t leak, I can get my medications every month, I have clean water when I turn the tap on. Those are things many parts of the world don’t have.


#16

With regards to physical penances, the physician taking care of you for your chronic health issue is probably the most capable of giving you answers that reflect a deeper understanding of your condition. After all, the best (and perhaps the hardest) penance for you might be the practice of being a very compliant patient.

This is a quote about penance from Mother Angelica, the founder of EWTN. It is from one of her books, Mother Angelica’s Little Book of Life Lessons and Everyday Spirituality (with Raymond Arroyo, published by Image, 2007):

Penance doesn’t mean a thing if it’s not God’s Will. St. Theresa of Avila was so determined that she was going to do all these penances one Lent. Well, she got into bed and was so sick that everybody had to wait on her. She complained to the Lord and He said to her: “That was your penance, but this is mine for you.”
We all have ideas of how we’re going to be holy and how we’re going to do penance. It’s amazing what we’ll do if it’s our will, but if it’s God’s Will, we all scream.

– Mother Angelica

A spiritual director doesn’t make you a little kid. Professed religious all have them, because their function is to keep you from thinking you’re pursuing holiness when you’re really being willful. If your spiritual director doesn’t do that, get a new one. If you don’t have a spiritual director, it is a good idea to have someone you know who gives you that kind of honest feedback. It does not have to be your pastor, though.


#17

There’s not much to that one unfortunately, when all the doctors have managed to say is “Well try to eat more?”

This is a quote about penance from Mother Angelica, the founder of EWTN. It is from one of her books, Mother Angelica’s Little Book of Life Lessons and Everyday Spirituality (with Raymond Arroyo, published by Image, 2007):

Penance doesn’t mean a thing if it’s not God’s Will. St. Theresa of Avila was so determined that she was going to do all these penances one Lent. Well, she got into bed and was so sick that everybody had to wait on her. She complained to the Lord and He said to her: “That was your penance, but this is mine for you.”
We all have ideas of how we’re going to be holy and how we’re going to do penance. It’s amazing what we’ll do if it’s our will, but if it’s God’s Will, we all scream.

– Mother Angelica

A spiritual director doesn’t make you a little kid. Professed religious all have them, because their function is to keep you from thinking you’re pursuing holiness when you’re really being willful. If your spiritual director doesn’t do that, get a new one. If you don’t have a spiritual director, it is a good idea to have someone you know who gives you that kind of honest feedback. It does not have to be your pastor, though.

I didn’t mean I thought it made you a little kid. But I did mean what I’ve seen in a lot of cases is that most priests view someone who keeps running to them on such things as someone who needs to take more responsibility for themselves and not keep seeking approval for their decisions.


#18

“Try to eat more” = “No fasting from food for you”

Yes. If you ask your pastor what to do when the rules of abstinence require you to fast and your doctors tell you that you may not fast, your pastor is simply going to tell you that you are to obey your physicians and find a different penance. They won’t mind you asking, but they also won’t mind that you take it upon yourself to follow the rules posted on the web by the USCCB. The USCCB doesn’t say the faithful ought to get a dispensation. The USSCB says the faithful whose health forbids fasting should not fast.

They do not mind people who seek help with spiritual decisions. Priests are physicians of the soul and shepherds, and that is what they go to seminary to learn to do. For people who have more than a simple question now and then, though, most priests would suggest that such a person get a spiritual director, who can meet with the person on some regular basis about their spiritual decisions. If you aren’t following the normal sorts of things recommended by the Church for seeking spiritual advancement, by all means the Church would direct you to find an outside person to guide you. There are many snares for the person “going it alone,” just like a person working out at the gym on their own. Those going “above and beyond” are wise to find a trainer to help guide them.


#19

EasterJoy, just so we’re clear I wasn’t ever considering abstaining from food. I know better!


#20

I get you–no, if your doctor tells you not to fast, you are not required to go to your pastor for dispensation from the fast. Other forms of spiritual self-discipline include self-denial meant as penance (rather than meant as self-improvement, like bodybuilding), with a preference given to those things that are ingrained habits, almsgiving (which is just about anything done in love for someone in need), and prayer.


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