On Wimpy Catholicism and a Return to Manly Fasting
Let’s begin by examining the secular “wokeness” on fasting. Gone are the days of weight loss programs like Weight Watchers… where you simply eat less each meal! Sounds simple, right? Fewer calories means you lose weight. The problem is that it never worked that well. The reduced number of calories per meal also reduced one’s energy as well, dipped into muscle storage, and offered frugal results.
Science now shows that full out fasting is the perfect method for proper health. The secular world’s latest trend is intermittent fasting. One builds up how long a person can go in between meals. The ideal is to eat one meal a day. The meal could consist of almost your regular day’s intake (say 75%). What happens is that your body, when full out fasting, actually dips into fat storage for energy. You maintain your energy, lose weight, and it’s perfectly healthy, if not natural. Science shows that intermittent fasting done twice per week is ideal.
Long story short, intermittent fasting is a great success story in the secular world, and has science to back it up… And it makes us Catholics look pathetic.
How much more, not just for physical but especially spiritual reasons, should Catholics be fasting! And I will especially focus on Catholic men here.
The truth is that Catholicism is running headlong in the opposite direction when it comes to fasting.
Formerly, say in the 1200s, Lent involved no meat, dairy, or eggs. A person would fast completely until 3pm every day as well, with only water allowed. Later on the Lenten requirements were lessened (particularly in the 1890s for men who worked in a mine all day), but they still have some vigour. The idea was that Lent was a spiritual tithe. You gave up one tenth of your year to such a bodily sacrifice. Even on non-Lenten seasons, the traditional Catholic practice was to fast (no food) on Wednesdays and Fridays, and then of course to feast on Sundays. Why Wednesdays and Fridays? Jesus was betrayed, and died on those days.
What do we have since the 1960s, particularly post-Vatican II?
We “fast” 2x per year, only, on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday. This “fast” is one meal plus two snacks which do not equal one full meal. So you could have a piece of toast on Good Friday for breakfast. Maybe a couple of eggs at lunch. And then for supper we can have a full plate of haddock and heaping load of fries… this “fast” would’ve been the equivalent to a feast in olden times.
As for abstaining from meat… this technically is no longer a requirement. We can “do an act of charity” now instead. This should be a no-brainer. We MUST remember the day Christ died for our sins. This wimpy Catholicism specifically attacks men. Men need discipline, and they need a challenge. What are the results of a weak approach to the faith?
Well, men no longer pray and fast. They are not the spiritual leaders in their house. And they have fled from going to Mass. Though in fairness to men, the Mass is utterly feminized - such as with those insipid, sappy hymns like, “Make me a channel of your peace…” or as we used to sing growing up, “make me a channel of your TV…” Could we sing stop singing about ourselves and sing about God just for once? And without John Denver folk tunes? Or can we finally shed the pathetic, ugly felt banners, chattiness, altar grandmas, and busybodies running all around the sanctuary? Admit it: this does nothing for men except chase them away.
And what happens when men are not actively living, and suffering for, their faith?
The percentage of men addicted to pornography is staggering. 73% of men regularly view porn. 98% have viewed it in the past 6 months. One porn website (just one) boasts of over 1000 hits per second. And there is no difference between Catholics and the secular world with these stats. Violent video games and movies are rampant among men as well. I heard one psychologist who said he works with some men who wear diapers so that they can play video games through the night and not have to stop to go to the bathroom. Contraception, which is a mortal sin, is practiced by over 90% of Catholics. And families are falling apart. I’ll tell you, as a teacher, I see the effects of this first hand. What is a divorce? As one Catholic commentator says, “divorce is when the parents remove their cross and place it on the shoulders of the family. Satan has attacked the men, and the family fell with them. Don’t believe me? When a mother attends Mass but not the father, there is only a 2% chance that his kids will when they grow older.
What do we do? As a start, let’s return to my initial point on fasting. Jesus requires prayer and fasting. The Gospel does not say that Jesus went up a mountain for forty days to “pray and give up dark chocolate…” No! He fasted, completely.
We fast and pray to be crucified with Christ, and be strengthened for the spiritual fight. We fight off evil inclinations, and the promptings of the devil. We atone for our sins, and we lead our families to Christ.
Let’s look at this atonement more closely.
St. Paul curiously says that “Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I complete what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the church” (Col 1:24).
Christ doesn’t need our sacrifice. He is infinite, and His sacrifice on the cross perfectly atoned for our sins. But He allows us to participate in His atoning work for our own good.
We’ll use the age old example: If my son Joseph smashes a window, clearly he can’t afford to repay the cost. While he can say he’s sorry, I’m the one who will have to pay the $1500. But perhaps he pays what he can, say $10. Further, maybe he even helps out around the house a bit, voluntarily. What he does, then, is to offer satisfaction for what he’s done.
Satisfaction. By satisfaction I mean prayer, fasting, and almsgiving. From the Roman Catechism:
Fasting is a means of satisfaction. And so I would like to end by proposing a real return to the Catholic tradition of fasting. Science tells us that fasting twice a week, while having a weekly feast (Sunday) is what’s best for our bodies. The Catholic faith tells us that fasting as such is what’s best for our souls, our families, and the entire Body of Christ.
Let us rediscover fasting. Starting with Fridays and then grow to Wednesdays as well. It could be fasting from media, or other attachments of life. But it should also include, must include, fasting. Skipping a meal, or two, if possible. It will be difficult. It will be worth it.
Rediscovering fasting is a necessary step for becoming true men of Christ, and true leaders of our families.