Catholics between the ages of 18 and 59 are required to fast on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday. This means that we are allowed one full meal and two smaller meals that together do not equal the full meal.
But there are reasons to fast beyond just rules. Catholics fast for several reasons, including spiritual, physical, and communal reasons.
- Spiritual discipline and self-control: Fasting is seen as a way to cultivate spiritual discipline and self-control, as we make a conscious effort to not just give in to our appetites.
- Frame of mind: Fasting can help us to enter into a more reflective and contemplative mindset, and to fully appreciate the significance of Lenten observances.
- Prayer and repentance: Fasting can be a way to express sorrow for sin and to seek forgiveness from God. It can be a form of penance, or a way to make amends for past wrongs.
- Communal practice: Fasting can be a communal practice, allowing Catholics to come together and support each other in their spiritual journeys. It can help to strengthen social bonds and foster a sense of shared purpose and identity.
- Solidarity with the poor: Fasting can be a way for Catholics to identify with those who are less fortunate or who suffer from hunger or other deprivations. By abstaining from food, We can gain a deeper appreciation for the challenges faced by those who struggle to find adequate nourishment.
Fast from a Second Helping
While some of us have access to an excess of food, there are many in this world who are deprived of even the basic necessities. This Lenten season, consider refraining from taking a second helping of food, not just on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday. Begin by taking a moderate first serving and then resist the urge to take more.
When you are tempted to take a second helping, think of all who are living in poverty who do not have enough to eat. Say a prayer for them instead of refilling your plate.