Fasting

by Catherine Doherty

Lent is so very difficult, because it is a time in which we face ourselves, and facing ourselves we discover many things about ourselves, among them our half–hearted service of God.

We are like cross–eyed beings, with one eye always looking at what we can have, such as food; and the other looking at God and perhaps getting jaundiced in the process, because God often seems unattractive against all those foods and whatever else.

Yet I have to contemplate food. I have to sort out my relation to all things and use them for God’s purposes, because food is a very wonderful thing—he has given it to us.

So also is my clothing and the warmth of this room. These are all things that he has given to me. I must meditate on the goodness of those things instead of meditating on how I am going to acquire more.

I should worship the God who has given me things, instead of worshipping the things that God has given me and forgetting him. This is a matter for prayer and contemplation.

I received a letter from the director of one of our missions saying a priest had told her that much had to be done there in a hurry. Well, God never hurries.

What has this to do with prayer and fasting? It has a lot to do with it, because when we are perturbed, when the Church is perturbed, when my neighbor is perturbed, my greatest recourse lies in fasting and prayer.

It is so important, so vastly, strangely, and compellingly important that we return to fasting.

We see that some prisoner has fasted for forty days, and the authorities couldn’t stand it, and they gave in to what he was fasting for. Gandhi’s fast changed the face of India. We might change the picture of the U.S.A. and Canada if we indulged in fasting and prayer. It would also reveal to us the will of the Father.

It is a strange thing that when you enter into the world of fasting, a great peace comes upon you and at the same time, a great restlessness. It is one of the moments in which God and Satan fight within your soul.

At the end of a day when you have had only bread and water, coffee or tea, all kinds of thoughts about food come to mind. The first temptation comes from Satan after even one day on bread and water or tea. He seems to find it insufferable if you are also praying.

The power of fasting and prayer extends from here to the ends of the earth. It really does. And the reason for doing them is love. This is the moment when you understand St. Paul: the gifts of prophecy and faith and hope, and all the rest of the gifts, will fall away when you get to heaven, and only love will remain.

I think that Lenten fasting, especially for us who enter it in the late spring when the early seasonal crocuses are not yet blossoming, is a presenting to Christ of the only thing that has begun to flower: pussy willows. Fasting and prayer are the “pussy willows” that we give God every night.

From Season of Mercy, (1996), pp. 45-46, MH Publications—available in a later edition