Skip to content

Fr Dwight Longenecker on the Practical Practice of Fasting

By Fr Dwight Longenecker
3/13/2015 (4 years ago)
Catholic Online (https://www.catholic.org)

This is the main reason why we are expected to fast: to discipline our physical appetites in order to concentrate on the spiritual realm. Rather than being satiated and dull as the result of too much food and drink, fasting makes our senses sharper and we become more aware of the spiritual realm.

Put very simply--Jesus commands us to fast and pray. The saints take fasting seriously and the church commands us to make fasting part of our life. Why not take up this discipline with a new intention. The amazing thing you will discover is not only does it help you physically, mentally and spiritually, but eventually it will bring you added vigor and real spiritual joy.

We fast during Lent, but every Friday in the year is also a day of fasting. Why keep Friday as a fast day? Through this self denial we identify with the death of the Lord. However, there are some other good reasons for keeping Friday as a fast day. We function best when we are observing a regular routine. We keep Sundays special through the celebration of Mass, and making it a special day of relaxation.

We fast during Lent, but every Friday in the year is also a day of fasting. Why keep Friday as a fast day? Through this self denial we identify with the death of the Lord. However, there are some other good reasons for keeping Friday as a fast day. We function best when we are observing a regular routine. We keep Sundays special through the celebration of Mass, and making it a special day of relaxation.

Highlights

GREENVILLE, SC (Catholic Online) - (From the Editor in Chief: Popular writer Fr Dwight Longenecker provides a free weekly newsletter on the practical practice of the Catholic faith.  FaithWorks! has articles on prayer, resources for the spiritual life and advice on how to walk more closely with Christ. Go here to subscribe)

*****
When Dr Eben Alexander was in a coma for seven days he went through a dramatic near death experience. In his book Proof of Heaven he explains how he believes our brains interact with our consciousness. Rather than the brain producing consciousness he suggests the brain functions like a filter for our consciousness. As such he says the brain is usually so busy with all our mundane tasks that it has little time to contemplate the spiritual dimension. We are so caught up in the physical realm that we have little time or energy to concentrate on the spiritual.

Suddenly I understood why the monastic tradition in every religion insists on asceticism. To concentrate on the spiritual, the monks and nuns strictly discipline their physical lives. They narrow their lives down by staying in one place. They take vows of poverty so they are unconcerned about the accumulation of wealth. They take vows of obedience so they can be unworried about personal choices. They discipline their bodies through fasting so their minds can open up the realities of the spiritual realm.

This is the main reason why we are expected to fast: to discipline our physical appetites in order to concentrate on the spiritual realm. Rather than being satiated and dull as the result of too much food and drink, fasting makes our senses sharper and we become more aware of the spiritual realm.

We fast during Lent, but every Friday in the year is also a day of fasting. Why keep Friday as a fast day? Through this self denial we identify with the death of the Lord. However, there are some other good reasons for keeping Friday as a fast day. We function best when we are observing a regular routine. We keep Sundays special through the celebration of Mass, and making it a special day of relaxation.

Keeping Friday as a fast day balances the feast day of Sunday. Within the cycle of the week, if we keep Friday as a fast day, something mysterious starts to happen. As Sunday is a special day, Friday becomes a serious day. We remember the Lord's death on Friday and so Friday can become a day when we work through the darker side of our lives, a day when we allow the Holy Spirit to take us into the shadow areas and allow Christ's healing light to do it's work.

There are other notable benefits to fasting. The first is that through fasting we gain self  mastery. Limiting our intake of food means we are more self controlled in other areas of our life. You can't take fasting seriously and be enslaved to other addictions for long. Self control in one area helps with self control in other excessive behaviors.

Fasting also brings real physical benefits. Fasting one day a week de-toxifies the body and helps it re-adjust. A day on just water or pure fruit or vegetable juice cleanses and renews our whole system, and after just a few weeks the body adapts. The hunger pangs on Fridays disappear and on that day the body kicks into high gear--almost as if it is ready and enthusiastic about it's weekly de-tox. As part of this benefit our appetites are cleansed. Food and drink taste better. Complex and rich foods do not appeal, and we appreciate simple and whole foods more.

The third practical benefit of fasting is that we re-assess our attachment to physical pleasures of all kinds. Not only does it help us control other addictive or excessive behaviors, but an amazing side effect is that it also changes our mind about other worldly aspects of our lives. I've known people overcome extreme materialism and vanity by regular fasting. Others have overcome worries about money and status. Others have overcome self image obsessions or sexual obsessions while others have been able to take control of bad personal relationships, insecurities and fears.

Fasting combined with prayer is a powerful force in our lives because through it we combine physical discipline with spiritual discipline. God made us to be physical-spiritual hybrids, and we combine the spiritual and the physical--as we do in the sacraments and in prayer and fasting it means we are operating at full capacity.

What's the best way to fast? A full day fast means nothing to eat from Thursday after supper until Friday evening. It is difficult to begin with a full day fast. Better to break yourself in gradually. Start by skipping lunch on Friday, then after a week or two skip breakfast as well. Start at first on just bread and water. After a few weeks of bread and water, shift to just water and fruit or vegetable juice or light broth. Then eventually fast on just water for that full day.

Remember fasting is for those who are basically well and physically fit. People with eating disorders or physical or emotional conditions should only fast under supervision from their doctors. Also, while fasting is  healthy ad good for you, it should be done in a balanced and thoughtful way. It's not a bad idea to read up on the subject. The New Life Fasting Guide by Helmutt Luetzner and The Beginner's Guide to Fasting by Elmer Towns are good practical guides.

Put very simply--Jesus commands us to fast and pray. The saints take fasting seriously and the church commands us to make fasting part of our life. Why not take up this discipline with a new intention. The amazing thing you will discover is not only does it help you physically, mentally and spiritually, but eventually it will bring you added vigor and real spiritual joy.
-----

Fr Dwight Longenecker is the parish priest of Our Lady of the Rosary church in Greenville, South Carolina.Visit his blog, listen to his radio show, subscribe to his weekly newsletter and be in touch at dwightlongenecker.com Join Fr Longenecker during Lent for a Blobble Study. That is a Bible study on a blog. On his blog, Standing on My Head he will lead readers through a study of Mark's gospel. There will be a reading from the gospel each day with a short reflection. Then the combox is open for comment and discussion. His latest book is The Romance of Religion --Fighting for Goodness, Truth and Beauty

---


'Help Give every Student and Teacher FREE resources for a world-class Moral Catholic Education'


Copyright 2019 - Distributed by THE CALIFORNIA NETWORK


Comments



More Lent & Easter

'So it is written that the Christ would suffer and on the third day rise from the dead'

Luke 24:46

Lent Event

Importance

Ash Wednesday

March 6, 2019

Image of Ash Wednesday

Palm Sunday

April 14, 2019

Image of Palm Sunday

Holy Week

April 14-20, 2019

Image of Holy Week

Holy Thursday

April 18, 2019

Image of Holy Thursday

Good Friday

April 19, 2019

Image of Good Friday

Easter Sunday

April 21, 2019

Image of Easter Sunday

Stations of the Cross

Every Friday

Image of Stations of the Cross

Fasting and Abstinence

Every Friday

Image of Fasting and Abstinence

Image of What did you give up for Lent?

Ascension of Our Lord

Thursday, May 30, 2019

Image of Ascension of Our Lord

Pentecost

Sunday, June 9, 2019

Image of Pentecost

Image of Lent FAQ's

Mardi Gras

Tuesday, March 5, 2019

Image of Mardi Gras

Image of Transformed by Easter

Image of Appearances

Image of Easter Gifts

Easter / Lent News

What do we do AFTER Lent?

Image of Easter Sunday begins the liturgical season of Easter, which continues through the celebration of the Ascension to Pentecost Sunday.

Chocolate bunnies and marshmallow Peeps have graced the shelves of U.S. stores for weeks in anticipation of Easter, but now that the actual ... continue reading


Easter: We Have Been Raised with Christ. Easter is More Than a Day; it is a Way Watch

Image of The Resurrection of Jesus Christ

Easter is more than a Day, it is a Way; A Way of living our lives differently now in Him. We are invited to do that by living them in His ... continue reading


Deacon Keith Fournier Hi readers, it seems you use Catholic Online a lot; that's great! It's a little awkward to ask, but we need your help. If you have already donated, we sincerely thank you. We're not salespeople, but we depend on donations averaging $14.76 and fewer than 1% of readers give. If you donate just $5.00, the price of your coffee, Catholic Online School could keep thriving. Thank you. Help Now >

The surprising origins of the Easter Bunny -- it's not what you think! Watch

Image of Rejoice! The beloved Easter Bunny has very Christian origins.

The Easter Bunny is a symbol of Easter that is popular in western culture, especially with children. According to folklore, the Easter ... continue reading


Are Easter eggs pagan? Watch

Image of Are Easter eggs a pagan symbol?

Easter eggs are a traditional part of modern Easter celebrations, but their origins are shrouded in history, raising questions about their ... continue reading


5 Beautiful scriptures to remind you what Easter is all about Watch

Image of Remember the reason we celebrate Easter.

This Easter, make sure to take a moment with your family to thank Jesus for his amazing sacrifice. LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - Turn ... continue reading


Never Miss any Updates!

Stay up to date with the latest news, information, and special offers.

Information
Learn about Catholic world

Catholic Online
Inform - Inspire - Ignite

Catholic Online Saints
Your saints explained

Catholic Online Prayers
Prayers for every need

Catholic Online Bible
Complete bible online

Catholic Online News
Your news Catholic eye

Daily Reading
Today's bible reading

Lent / Easter
Death & resurrection of Jesus

Advent / Christmas
Birth of Jesus

Rest of Catholic Online
All Catholic world we offer

Services
Products and services we offer

Catholic Online Shopping
Catholic medals, gifts & books

Advertise on Catholic Online
Your ads on catholic.org

Catholic Online Email
Email with Catholic feel

Education
Learn the Catholic way

Catholic Online School
Free Catholic education for all

Student Classes
K-12 & Adult Education Classes

Support Free Education
Tax deductible support Free education

Socials
Connect with us online

Catholic Online on Facebook
Catholic social network

Catholic Online on Twitter
Catholic Tweets

Catholic Online on YouTube
Enjoy our videos

Catholic Online on Instagram
Shared Catholic moments

Catholic Online on Pinterest
Catholic ideas style inspiration

Catholic Online Logo

Copyright 2019 Catholic Online. All materials contained on this site, whether written, audible or visual are the exclusive property of Catholic Online and are protected under U.S. and International copyright laws, © Copyright 2019 Catholic Online. Any unauthorized use, without prior written consent of Catholic Online is strictly forbidden and prohibited.

Catholic Online is a Project of Your Catholic Voice Foundation, a Not-for-Profit Corporation. Your Catholic Voice Foundation has been granted a recognition of tax exemption under Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code. Federal Tax Identification Number: 81-0596847. Your gift is tax-deductible as allowed by law.