Thursday, March 10, 2011

Thoughts on Fasting

I love planning my goals and practices for Lent. Do you? And this year, Lent was later than usual so I seemed to have more time to think about it. Still, even though I had no problem figuring out my prayer and almsgiving practices for this Lent, fasting was something else again. 
For the past few years I have decided not to fast from some kind of food item (except Ash Wednesday and Good Friday, of course). The problem with fasting from food for me (usually I chose chocolate) was that I really did not change anything. I made a sacrifice, yes, but there was no real conversion. No lasting change. I went right back to eating chocolate. 
I just wasn't getting it. Maybe because I am a convert and had not grown up that way? I am not sure. I understood it in my head, but it was not transferring to my heart in any way.
Then one day I heard a priest preach about other ways of fasting. His ideas and suggestions really spoke to me. So now I try to choose things that I hope will change me and bring me closer to Jesus in some way. 
One year, I had noticed that so many people went up to receive communion with such a sour look on their faces. I think they were trying to be solemn, but being solemn or reverent does not mean looking grumpy. I do not think they even realized it, but it really woke me up. 
So, I made an effort all through Lent to put a smile on my face and to receive Our Lord with joy. (I guess you would call this fasting from looking like a sourpuss?)
Sometimes it was an effort because I was upset about something, or not feeling good, etc. But it is amazing how, when we smile on the outside, our whole attitude can change on the inside. 
AND I also noticed that those who were giving me communion also broke into a smile when I smiled at them. Hmmmm. Contagious, this smiling thing.
That was several years ago and I still make sure I break into a big smile when I go up to receive Holy Communion. What a gift the Eucharist is!
After that, feeling good about experiencing a kind of conversion through my lenten practice, I decided to choose other kinds of fasting. For example, for the past 2 years I have fasted from complaining. What I discovered was, I complained a lot more than I thought I did. About lots of different things. I was amazed and humbled by that discovery. 
Do I still complain? Yup. But I hope it is less than it was. I do know I am a lot more aware of it when I do.
The best part of all this is that I cannot possible change without the help of God. I turn to Him over and over again to help me stop complaining, to help me receive Him with joy.
This year I am fasting from criticizing.
I am a bit of a perfectionist so I tend to expect others to be perfect. I am ashamed of that really. In fact, I criticize myself for that a lot!
Sigh. I guess I better fast from that too.

26 comments :

Steve Finnell said...

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Mary333 said...

I'm with you on the giving up certain foods thing - I tend to go back to eating them too. Especially chocolate. What is it with women and chocolate?
Fasting from being a sourpuss cracked me up!

Colleen said...

Mary, LOL. Glad I could bring a smile to your face!
I don't know about women and chocolate but most of us really really love it!

RomanCatholic Deacon said...

I think the whole idea about fasting is giving up something you love for the "Forty Days" but then allowed by God to return to whatever it was that you gave up. WDJD (what did Jesus do?) after the desert experience. He ate and drank what was put before Him and continued His Journey to the Cross. So for me, I give up eating meat each year (I love meat!) and I am so happy on Easter Sunday when I can once again eat a steak or pork chop!!!
Regarding the sour faces, who knows what is on their minds and the crosses they carry to make them grumpy, I've been there, but now when I go up for Holy Communion, I sing: "Keep in mind, that Jesus Christ has died for us and has risen from the dead; He is our saving Lord; He is Joy for all ages!" I sing this softly but a few people do look at me like I'm a nut or something :-) I'm just so happy that the joy is bursting forth in song.
Peace & God Bless+
Deacon John

Colleen said...

John, thank you for your explanation of fasting from food - I had never heard that before.
I am sorry, I didn't mean to sound like I was judging people. That day I was out of town, and I was sitting behind the priest and was able to see every single person who came up for Communion. Every single person looked sour. And I realized that some of them were just being serious, and some had crosses for sure, but still, there was this graced moment when I knew that I looked like that, too, and I just felt like I was being called to receive the Eucharist with more joy. Even with my own crosses. One of those conversion moments.
I love that you sing that song! What a witness! What joy! Thanks for sharing that!
God bless!!

Jean Wise said...

I am giving up my criticalness and smiling during communion is such a wonderful add on to this for me. thanks for the great idea.

Colleen said...

Jean, You are welcome! Prayers for a blessed Lent!

Tracy said...

I'm giving up chocolate, only because I've been way to addicted to it lately:-) Also, I am making a conscious effort to offer up prayer each time I think of some family members who haven't spoken to me in many years.. they cross my mind.. I offer them up and wish them the very best and God's blessings.. I hope that after Lent this will be a new way of thinking of them and healing for me.

Colleen said...

Tracy, that is a beautiful thing to do - offering up those prayers. You are an inspiration. I pray for your healing and for your hopes for your family to come true.

munchesmom said...

What an inspirational post, Colleen! Thank you for sharing your thoughts!

Victor S E Moubarak said...

Smiling and laughing are good for you. When we laugh we release dolphins within us and they tickle us from the inside and make us feel better.

God bless you this Lent.

Colleen said...

munchesmom, thank you so much! Glad you liked it!

Victor, I love that! :) Thanks for the smile and God bless you too!

pip said...

Great post Colleen. I am trying to do a blend of both what you and the deacon suggest...giving up some foods I enjoy for this period, and trying to be more patient and complain less, and clear a backlog of stuff I need to do, by making more time available.

In fact, the fasting of the body may indeed aid the efforts of the soul, as we are a unity. God bless, Smiley! :)

Colleen said...

Pip, thanks! A blend of both sounds perfect! Have a blessed Lent!

evanscove said...

What is best to fast from during Lent varies from person to person. Some feel that giving up chocolate, coffee, or some other food or drink helps them with self-control. But if you're like me, my problems lie mainly in my thought life and in letting diversions (computer games, Internet especially) get in the way of my walk with God, as well as devoting my time toward worthwhile projects.

Just like you, Colleen, I have to wrestle with being negative/judgmental. In fact, that's probably the main thing I've had to bring up in the confessional! So yes, I'm very much in the same boat you are and am trying to work on changing my mental habits this Lent. Not easy, but worth the effort.

Evan

Colleen said...

Evan, yes, we are in the same boat. You are right. Not easy. Thanks for your comment! God bless!

Carol@simple_catholic said...

Beautiful thoughts, Colleen. I think, unfortunately, that most people truly don't "get" what is happening when they receive communion. If they did, they probably wouldn't be able to keep themselves from being filled with joy and awe. The living Jesus is actually coming to our souls. Wow!

As for Lent, I do give up a food item but I also try to work on a virtue. This year I'm working on patience, which I seem to be sorely lacking....

Colleen said...

Carol, I agree with what you said about communion. I read somewhere that a Protestant minister said that if we really truly believed that the Eucharist was the Real Presence of Christ, then we would fall prostrate on the floor the minute we entered church.
Ahh patience. Not easy. Have a blessed Lent!

Karen said...

Last year I went into Lent with big ideas of all the things I was going to give up and do. And I had a pretty good idea of what I wanted God to do, too! Imagine my disappointment when things didn't work out my way. (but God's way?)

This year I made more of an effort to listen to what God might be wanting from me this Lent. I started off fasting from complaining, but either I don't complain much or I complain so much I don't even realize it. Regardless, God mentioned something the other day about procrastinating. I know I do that...and I know it makes my life less than what it could be. And so that is what I will work on - with God's help - for now!

Barb Schoeneberger said...

Colleen, I wrote a post this week which contains St. Thomas Aquinas's writing about fasting. The practice of self-denial through fasting is the imitation of Christ. When I was a little girl Church law was to fast every day of Lent, and abstain as well on the Ember days and Fridays. This is really difficult. To curb our bodily passions by eating two small meals that don't equal the main meal and one main meal was a challenge. It takes time to plan ahead for this. Sometimes I wonder if we have lost something through the relaxing of the rules, but it does lead us to challenge ourselves in more ways. And, of course, we may follow the old ways if we wish.

Colleen said...

Karen, thank you. I do the same. Prayers for a blessed Lent!

Barb, thank you. Being a convert, I never experienced that. It makes more sense really - the more austere kind of fasting. I like what Pip said - a blend of both kinds. It really comes down to what ever people feel God is calling them to. I will head over soon to read your post. God bless!

Mary said...

I'm actually making an effort to fast every Friday during Lent...it was difficult this past Friday, but with prayer I got through it!
When I was little, one of the nuns said that we should feel joyous after receiving the Lord, but had to warn us about getting too silly about it! We were only 6 years old, after all! :D
Visiting from Rann's!

RAnn said...

For me, fasting is a matter of learning that with His help, I can control myself, even if it is hard or seems to me to be pointless.

Colleen said...

Mary, thanks for visiting! I love that story about the nuns telling you not to get too silly! :)
Fasting on Friday is really a good idea.

RAnn, I like how you put that. We cannot do any kind of fasting without God's help. Thanks

Kathleen@so much to say said...

There's something to be said for fasting from something good and coming back to it with joy. Our family tradition is giving up sweets (all of us), though, and I feel like we always gorge at both ends, which kind of defeats the purpose. I've tried to be more vigilant about that the last few years, with so-so success. For myself, I prefer to try to make a permanent change. I think it does more for my spiritual growth. But I love your idea about not looking like a sourpuss at Communion! :) Reverence does not equal not smiling! (or laughing, or making joyful noise before God, for that matter.)

Colleen said...

Kathleen, thank you for your input. So interesting how each of us view fasting and how families' traditions, etc. Amen to the "joyful noise' remark! God bless!