The pillars of our Lenten season are prayer, fasting, and almsgiving. The point of doing these not-so-pleasant things is to have our routine shaken up a bit, to disrupt our self-centered and self-serving habits so that we can turn ourselves toward the Lord as we prepare for Easter. Here, we’ll focus specifically on fasting and how it fits into the process of drawing closer to God during Lent.

Why do we fast during Lent? This question has many answers, all of which are probably at least somewhat correct. Some standard answers that come to mind are: “Because Jesus fasted for 40 days in the desert,” and, “To sharpen my mind, body, and spirit for prayer and reflection in anticipation of Eastertide,” or perhaps, “My mom says I have to.” Okay, maybe not all of them are good reasons…

For most people, myself included, fasting is usually done as a means to an end; something like, “I want (or I know I should want) to grow closer to God during Lent so I will deny myself frivolous luxuries so that I can seek and depend upon the Lord rather than on material goods.” Through this perspective, the end goal is to enter into the Lenten spirit and to grow in holiness, and fasting is the means why which we attain that goal. In this way, fasting becomes the beginning of many Lenten spiritual journeys.

But I’m not so sure that’s necessarily the way it ought to be. I won’t go so far as to say that it’s a flawed thought-process, and I am not saying that fasting as a means to an end will be detrimental to one’s spiritual life — quite the contrary, most likely. What I will say, though, is that I think fasting fits better into the model of Lent as a stepping stone rather than a starting point.

Union with God does not begin with fasting; it starts with a spirit of repentance, an attitude of mourning for our sinfulness. Through the sorrow we feel for our sins, fasting flows naturally, and as such is a waypoint along the journey toward God rather than it’s starting place.

Let’s look at a couple of examples fasting in the Old Testament. In 2 Samuel 12, we read about Nathan’s indictment of King David: some bad business with Uriah the Hittite and his wife, Bathsheba. As a result of David’s adultery and his plot to get Uriah killed, Bathsheba and David’s son is struck by illness and lays dying. David begins to feel repentant for his sin against God, and he “pleaded with God on behalf of the child. He kept a total fast and spent the night lying on the ground clothed in sackcloth.” Notice the order in which the events are described; before he fasted, David mourned what he had done and “pleaded with God” for the deliverance of the child.

In Jonah 3:4, we hear the prophet announce, “Forty days more and Nineveh shall be overthrown.” And at this divine proclamation, “the people of Nineveh believed God; they proclaimed a fast and all of them, great and small, put on sackcloth.” Notice here, as before, that prior to fasting, the Ninevites believed Jonah’s preaching of repentance. They first realized that they had sinned and were grieved at their own negligence then they proclaimed a fast.

As Lent progresses and now Holy Week approaches and fasting becomes harder to keep up with, I’m going to try to make repentance the first step and let fasting flow naturally from the sorrow I feel for my sinfulness. This is certainly not an easy thing to do and cannot really be willed into completion. The methods and practices are certainly not the same for everyone, but I think a few good ways to do this are:

  • Pray a rosary with the sorrowful mysteries very intentionally with supplemental reflections, texts, and images.
  • Take up or intensify the practice of a daily examen prayer, especially calling to mind one’s own sinfulness.
  • Pray through and reflect on Psalm 51, the Miserere.
  • Whether at home or in a church, kneel before a crucifix and gaze upon our Savior who bleeds and dies upon the cross as expiation for our sins.

Lent is for preparing for Easter; and more important than giving up candy, saying a rosary every day, or any other thing we can do during Lent is to heed the message of the Jesus: “Repent and believe in the gospel.” Repenting of our sins, mourning our iniquities, and grieving over our rejection of God is the starting place for preparing for Easter. After that, the attitude of fasting will be appropriately framed, and its effects will be realized in proper order. It is through mourning the pain I have inflicted upon Christ on Good Friday that I can understand what He has done for me in the Resurrection; as is promised in Psalm 126, by sowing sorrow for our sins during Lent, we will reap rejoicing for our salvation on Easter.

  • Phil Alcoceli

    The burning of Notre Dame Cathedral brings Light to our Lent. It could be purely an accident during the renovations or a disguised, quietly orchestrated, dramatic attack (Notre Dame is a majestic symbol not just of Catholicism but of its associated Western Civilization and its highly successful core values and principles). The criminal, high drama and the timing would usually point to Radical Islam but it’s also no secret that the President of France, Emmanuel (how ironic) Macron, is a radical enemy of our Church and the most maniacal, obssesive promoter of LGBTQ in the world. The first Light in this Crime Against Humanity is that LGBTQ, its associated delusions and its Anti-Culture of Death and, opposite to them, TRUE Catholicism, don’t and will never, ever mix. Sometimes we need God’s Enemies to remind us of that, given that the Lord will use even the ungodly when we refuse to listen to Him (Assyria, Nebuchadnezzar, Roman Empire, etc.).

    The other Light from the flames of this fire, whether directly Providential or intentionally demonic (God is in charge either way, by ordaining or by permitting, etc.) is that we have shifted from Cath-olic to APPEASE-olic toward evil, both in our very personal, and also ecclessial and social lives. We have betrayed our holy ancestors. For any serious, honest student of History, it is in-your-face evident that the True Catholic Church has had a key influence when the choice between appeasing and confronting evil appeared, whether in the personal, social, worldly or military realms. True Catholics reject appeasing to evil. John The Apostle had many contacts in the Temple and in Roman circles (which gave us unique insight into The Passion) and he decided bravely not to appease either one by standing with Mary at the foot of the Cross, there and forever. He was rewarded with Mary’s Direct Motherhood from Jesus-God Himself. Think about that for a moment.

    Today, we have several women’s groups like the one called the Honey Badgers standing bravely for good men’s high value and their rights, against their rabid counterparts in the Radical Feminist Movement. They have chosen to confront and NOT APPEASE. Whether officially Catholic members or not, these women are at the very center and at the very core of what it means to be Truly Catholic. Like Mary at The Cross, these women call us to authenticity, integrity, courage, love and sacrifice for God. With them, let’s do a permanent fast from appeasing. Let’s follow their LIGHT and the FLAMES of their True Love!!!

    • Wayne Mackenzie

      Question:Can someone please describe what is radical feminism.?
      Thanks,

      • Phil Alcoceli

        Wayne, True Feminism is the appreciation for the high dignity that God has given women as His stewards of Creation and instruments of His Will, His Holiness, His Infinite Beauty and the bringing forth of holy children for His Glory. Men are called to be the Guardians of that Treasure in Real Women and love them with the selfless love that Jesus loved the Church (“Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her”, Ephesians 5:25). Christ is the Ultimate Feminist by liberating women (and, of course, men) from Satan’s grip, delusions and lies.

        Radical Feminism is the dehumanization and objectification of women as human shields to advance organized evil, the glorification of the Communist Idea that we are always victims under the oppressing class of the “great bully” God, therefore women are always victims of men, regardless of whether you are talking about a serial rapist or St. Francis of Assisi. In Radical Feminism, as they say themselves, masculinity is always toxic and Christianity (especially Catholicism) is the evil agent of “The Patriarchy”. Reasoning with these fanatics is mostly useless but never appeasing them and resistance in God’s Name is the key (James 4:7). Praise to God for these Honey Badgers and all those who don’t bow down low to Satan’s Passive Agressive Disciples posing as the “New Church of God”!!

      • Wayne Mackenzie

        Thanks for answering my query. I can see where the LGBT agenda is at the extreme opposite of the Christian ideal.

      • Phil Alcoceli

        You are very welcome, Wayne, and may God bless you for your reply and comment! Yes! You are right! All of Satan, all of Communism and all Anti-God, Anti-Truth, Anti-Reality zealots are about concocting an impostor, impersonating, counterfeit Extreme Anti-Creation and Extreme Anti-Church. Satan turns upside down, perverts and mocks every single beautiful thing God has created. He even impersonates God’s Righteous Wrath by giving his followers this vicious, falsely pontifical, cultic, hateful attitude, and some good people have fallen for it. Let’s not be naive! Let’s follow Only Jesus in His True Catholic Church!