Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
“The days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast.” – St. Matthew 9:15 Into the desert with Jesus we go once again to fast and pray. Why bother? Well, Jesus did it (that should be enough reason), and He gives us instruction on how we should do it (see Matt. 6:16-18). Also, all the great Saints practiced it. “Fasting gives birth to prophets and strengthens the powerful. Fasting is a good safeguard for the soul, a steadfast companion for the body, a weapon for the valiant, and a gymnasium for athletes. Fasting repels temptations, anoints unto piety. In war it fights bravely, in peace it teaches stillness.” – St. Basil the Great
Jesus’ bride, the Church, gives us help. Here are the standards for Catholics in Lent:
Abstinence from meat: Catholics abstain from meat on Ash Wednesday and all Fridays of Lent from age 14 onwards. (There is no upper age exemption for abstaining from meat.)
Fasting: Also, Ash Wednesday and Good Friday are days of fast for Catholics. The norms on fasting are obligatory from age 18 until age 59. When fasting, a person is permitted to eat one full, meatless meal, as well as two smaller meals that together are not equal to a full meal. If possible, the fast on Good Friday is continued until the Easter Vigil (on Holy Saturday night) as the "paschal fast" to honor the suffering and death of the Lord Jesus, and to prepare ourselves to share more fully and to celebrate more readily His Resurrection.
Those that are excused from the fast outside the age limit 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.
Some other ideas to help make a fruitful Lent: Pick several days during Lent to go to daily Mass; Sign up for an hour of Adoration per week for Lent; Make a really great confession; Forgive someone; Skip one meal extra a week, like breakfast or lunch; Deny yourself dessert on set days (most of us eat too much sugar anyway!); Skip salt on your food; Skip the beer or other alcoholic drinks when going out to eat; Don’t eat between meals (sounds easy, but try it); Fast from all technology one day a week; Drink only water. In addition to signing up at Dynamic Catholic (dynamiccatholic.com/best-lent-ever), you can also sign up for free reflections from Bishop Robert Barron from Word On Fire: www.lentreflections.com.
Finally, so many of you enthusiastically enjoyed the presentation on the Shroud of Turin on 20 February. The science behind this amazing image is absolutely fascinating. I invite you to go deeper and watch a YouTube video by the former president of Gonzaga University, Fr. Robert Spitzer S.J., who gives a factual review of the Shroud. Go to YouTube and search: Faith and Science - The Shroud of Turin.
Have a blessed and holy Lent!