Have you ever considered fasting on bread and water only? … and doing so for forty days?
As we prepare to begin the fall 40 Days for Life prayer vigil for the end of abortion, I am thinking of doing this.
Yes, Our Lord says that certain spirits can only be expelled by prayer and fasting. (Matthew 17:14-20)
And is there a more vile spirit than one intent at ending the life of an innocent unborn child? Is it any wonder Jesus’ disciples had difficulty at casting it out. (Mt 17:18)
But this is not the reason that has prompted my reflection.
Montreal recently hosted Fr. Claudio Barbut, a Romanian priest who for nine years worked at the Vatican Pontifical Council for the Family with Pope John Paull II and Pope Benedict XVI.
Currently with his bishop’s permission, Fr. Barbut travels the world and participates in healing services such as the one recently held at Saint Jean Baptiste de LaSalle church (in Hochelaga) over the Labour Day weekend.
I did not attend but a friend did and related to me the father’s deep passion in the power of fasting, particularly for forty days on bread and water alone.
Ending abortion and confronting the spirits that move mothers to end the lives of their unborn children and the society that sits complacently require spiritual weapons.
This past August, for 31 days many of us spent sleepless in nocturnal prayer for the cause of life. Is Our Lord now asking us/me to fast? … for for forty days?
Benefits of Fasting
Fasting has obvious corporal benefits, one website noting “weight loss, as well as improved blood sugar control, heart health, brain function, and cancer prevention.”
As for the spiritual benefits, the Catechism of the Catholic Church is cautious of its endorsement of fasting:
- Jesus' warning that outward works are meaningless if unaccompanied by interior conversion (1430);
- Fasting expresses conversion in relation to oneself, to God, and to others (1434);
- The morality of human acts, including fasting, depends on the object, the end, and the circumstances of our acts.(1755)
- Paragraph 1969 fosters an attitude which directs our actions to the “Father who sees in secret.”
The Catholic Encyclopedia presents a historical overview of the practice while raising important distinctions:
- Which foods and drinks to abstain from?
- Which times to fast – a particular day each week, several days, …?
- What is the physical and/or mental disposition peculiar to each individual?
- Does fasting allow for one solid meal per day? ... the abstaining from meat?
- Is a collation at the end of the day permitted?
The CE concludes noting the importance of fasting on our penitential life as the act confronts sin and its consequences.
Another source of guidance are the lives of the saints, some of whom sustained themselves on the Eucharist alone - Saint Catherine of Sienna and the French mystic and stigmatic Marthe Robin.
What is Our Lord calling me and other prayer volunteers to do over these forthcoming 40 days remains to be discerned.
Please keep us in your prayers, particularly from Wednesday, September 25 to Sunday, November 5.
Yours in Christ Jesus
Quebec Life Coalition
p.s. We depend entirely on your support for the success of our projects such as the 40-day prayer vigil. Please, consider becoming a monthly donor. Thank you.