The Little Way of Fasting – by Fr. Aidan Kieran

First posted on Faith In Our Families

Fr. Aidan Kieran

Fr. Aidan Kieran

The season of Lent is upon us, it begins [today], Ash Wednesday. During Lent, we are asked to take on three traditional Christian disciplines: Prayer, Fasting and Almsgiving. Today I want to share with you a new insight into fasting which I gained recently.

I’ve generally always dreaded the idea of fasting during Lent. It always seemed to me like a test of endurance, and I never thought I had all that much endurance. Typically I would decide to, say, give up biscuits for the whole of Lent. It would last about ten days, I would have a biscuit and Lent would be over for me. And no matter what people would say about ‘beginning again’ it would never feel the same once failure had set in.

Now, I have learned a new approach to fasting, and it has become a much more appealing prospect.

St Therese of Lisieux teaches us that the “Little things done out of love are those that charm the Heart of Christ… On the contrary, the most brilliant deeds, when done without love, are but nothingness.” These words made me realise that the way I had been approaching the Lenten fast in the past was wrong. Lent is not a test of endurance. It is not even a test of discipline (even though we gain discipline as a by-product). Lent is a little test of LOVE. It is quality the Lord is interested in – not quantity.

I can describe this new approach to fasting – the little way of fasting – with an example. Here is a fast I recently undertook:

At breakfast time I didn’t have my normal cup of tea. I had a cup of hot water instead. It’s not much of a sacrifice is it? But this is the important part: fasting must always be accompanied by prayer. You may remember from the Gospels that on one occasion Jesus told the disciples that a particular evil spirit could only be driven out by prayer AND fasting. The two must be always occur together.

So while I was having my cup of water, I prayed.friendly_cup_big

I spoke to the Lord Jesus and told him that I was denying myself this 1 cup of tea as an act of love for him. I was doing this so that I might grow in my love for Him. I prayed for others. I asked Him to grant my intentions, but above all I asked him to help me grow in faith and love of Him.

It didn’t matter that it was only a small sacrifice. That’s not what matters to the Lord. What matters is that the sacrifice is accompanied by prayer and offered with a sincere and open loving heart. Fasting must always be accompanied by prayer, and must be done as an act of love for the Lord.

Perhaps you would prefer to go through Our Lady. While fasting, we can also pray through the intercession of Mary, our blessed Mother. I can tell her I am offering my fast as an act of love for her, and ask her to bring me closer to her son Jesus. We give Mary the title ‘mediatrix of all graces’ so we can of course pray through her intercession.

With this approach, fasting has become a wonderfully joyful act. Rather than a miserable endurance test, it becomes a joyful act of offering a sacrifice for the good of others, the good of the Church and above all the good of my own soul. I can have a smile on my face, knowing that the small sacrifice I have made has had a powerful effect in the spiritual life. Since I started this little way of fasting, I have prayed better and I feel I have drawn closer to Christ.

It’s just 1 cup of tea. A little thing, done with great love.

During Lent, I won’t totally deprive myself of other drinks, because I know I would find that too burdensome. My aim is to give up my first cup of tea each morning. On some days I may give up my second cup of tea too! – a definite sacrifice, but one I can realistically sustain. And each time I am conscious of foregoing a drink I would like, I will pray. I will offer my sacrifice to the Lord with a joyful heart and a smile on my face…

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6 Responses to The Little Way of Fasting – by Fr. Aidan Kieran

  1. Roger says:

    Why mince words. Its simply sins after we have been Baptisted require Penance.
    Penance is the word that is not being used.
    Lent and Penance.

  2. reinkat says:

    I have always had a hard time relating to the idea of fasting, even though it seemed to make sense to everybody else. But you have articulated it perfectly for me.
    I’ve gotten away from giving up food so much, and have begun these past couple of years giving up novels. I only do spiritual reading during Lent (prayer), and find myself with so much more time to paint icons (prayer), or to just simply pray. Prayer seems to flow naturally from my sacrifice.
    And since it is one of my favorite leisure activities, it really is a sacrifice, given up for the love of Jesus.

  3. Pingback: Ash Wednesday | Thy Light and Thy Truth

  4. kathleen says:

    @ Roger

    Penance is of course an important part of our Lenten journey. But then is not fasting a sacrifice and thus a penance, and just another way of making reparation for our sins?
    Fasting has other purposes too: by denying ourselves certain things we enjoy (although those “things” are not bad in themselves) we are exercising self-discipline and temperance. We are dominating our will and our bodily desires so that: “By emptying ourselves of the things of this world, we leave more room for God to enter and fill.”… as a commenter on the pingback post above (^) puts it so perfectly.

    When the sacrifices we make by fasting (or penance) do not form part of an offering of love for Our Blessed Lord in prayer, like Fr. Aidan explains, they would be a hollow and pointless effort. Penance + prayer + good deeds (almsgiving) all form part of the Church’s call to us in Lent; none of them are in isolation of the others.

  5. kathleen says:

    @ Reinkat

    That’s a lovely testimony!
    We all have our pet weaknesses and comforts. Giving up novels for some would not be tough, but for you it is. And doing it “for love of Jesus” turns your little gift into gold.

    That is why the Church wisely does not dictate uniform sacrifices for all (except for not eating meat on Ash Wednesday or during the Fridays in Lent) because we are all so very different in our tastes. 🙂

  6. Roger says:

    Adam and Eve and the knowledge of Good and Evil. The first fruit? Self awareness. Self is the problem. We live by Faith sic CREED and yet today Faith is subject to Science and Rational. From Paul VI the Vatican made itself subservient to the secular (United Nations).
    Yes to Lent and Advent.
    Today top of the list must be Penance.
    Fatima “..Our Lady insisted at Fatima: “Men must amend their lives, and ask pardon for their sins. . . . They must no longer offend Our Lord, Who is already so much offended.”..”
    “Many persons,” Sr. Lucia explained, “feeling that the word penance implies great austerities, and not feeling that they have the strength for great sacrifices, become discouraged and continue a life of lukewarmness and sin.” Then she said Our Lord explained to her: “The sacrifice required of every person is the fulfillment of his duties in life and the observance of My law. This is the penance that I now seek and require.”
    Penance becaue of the lukewarm acceptance of Sin in the West. What is required of a Catholic? answer observance of My Law! Faith before Reason!

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