Resources for Lent – Fasting

Do you fast? Give me proof of it by your works.
If you see a poor man, take pity on him.
If you see a friend being honored, do not envy him.
Do not let only your mouth fast, but also the eye and the ear and the feet and the hands and all the members of our bodies.
Let the hands fast, by being free of avarice.
Let the feet fast, by ceasing to run after sin.
Let the eyes fast, by disciplining them not to glare at that which is sinful.
Let the ear fast, by not listening to evil talk and gossip.
Let the mouth fast from foul words and unjust criticism.
For what good is it if we abstain from birds and fishes, but bite and devour our brothers and sisters?
May He who came to the world to save sinners strengthen us to complete the fast with humility, have mercy on us and save us.
St. John Chrysostom

Be it the bible, the words and actions of the saints, or even a modern day diet coach, the place and importance of fasting is everywhere. In fact, in the spiritual life it seems impossible to grow closer to God without sacrifice. Doing without can develop empathy. It can help us to recognize the ways in which we take things for granted. It can open our hearts to the reality of sin in our lives.

Lent is a time when the focus on fasting and sacrifice is particularly important. If we are really to embrace this journey of allowing God to lead us to conversion, then we have to be willing to do without, so that our trust in God grows. Below are some sites that might help you to figure out how to fast.

  • The Rules of Fasting and Abstinence. Ash Wednesday and Good Friday are obligatory days of fasting and abstinence for Catholics. In addition, Fridays during Lent are obligatory days of abstinence.
  • 25 Great things you can do for Lent. Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of Lent, the 40 days of preparation for the Easter season when Christians are called to deepen their spiritual lives through the practices of fasting, prayer, and almsgiving. The belief is that our consistent participation in these practices — like exercise we do for our physical health — improves our spiritual well-being by stripping away all that is unnecessary and becoming more mindful of how God is working in our lives. Challenge yourself this year, and go beyond the usual practice of “giving up” something. Now is a great time to take stock of your spiritual life and to grow in it. Not sure where to start? Check out these 25 ideas.
  • Ten new ways you can fast during Lent. Lent is about conversion, and here are ways you can fast or even give up behaviors that pose a problem in entering into conversion.
  • How to fast during Lent. Here are some interesting ideas for entering into a spirit of fasting just beyond Ash Wednesday and Fridays during Lent.
  • Cooking Lent. Creighton University Online Ministries has a simple meal of rice and beans to both eat simply and to show solidarity with much of the world’s poor. It is a way to live simply. Just make sure you don’t just do this to save money. Use it to convert.
  • Ten practical ways for fasting redux. However, before we choose something to give up for Lent, it’s important to assess our current spiritual state: What habits do I engage in that are destructive to my spiritual health? To what material things am I too attached? What areas in my life are unbalanced? To what do I devote too much or not enough time? Only after asking questions like these are we are ready to decide what to give up or what to add to our lives during Lent. The following list is meant to be an aid in this process. Use it as you need based on your current circumstances.
  • Fasting, Giving, Praying: 25+ Ideas for What Kids & Teens Can Do for Lent. Fasting, almsgiving, and prayer are at the heart of the forty days of Lent. Here are some strategies for helping your kids get involved in these traditional penitential practices.
  • Five Creative Fasting Ideas. The season of Lent developed very early  in Christian history as a period of preparatory fasting. People would refrain from certain meals and the eating of meat and cheese. They would often stick to a diet of raw fruits and vegetables throughout the 40- day season.  This practice was seen as a way of uniting with the sacrificial life that God had demonstrated in Jesus Christ (Canons of Hippolytus, 20). Today many Christians carry on this tradition during Lent. They give up things—usually a food item or another practice—they enjoy in order to unite more deeply with the love of God. This Lenten season (which begins on March 6), reflect upon how your own fasting can incorporate creative ways of sacrificing your own comfort for people in need. Here are a few ideas you can incorporate into this season of penitence.