Wednesday, March 05, 2014

Declare a holy fast

I thought about Fastnacht last night as I drove past Dunkin' Donuts on the way home from a night class (in which I am a student, not the professor).  "Should I grab a doughnut, one last fling before tomorrow's fast?" I wondered.

In the end, I didn't stop, hanging on to the Ordinary for just a bit longer.

Today I am fasting, still bound by the obligation for a (very) few years yet.  Until recently, the Lenten fasts were not a hardship, more a matter of forgoing my after dinner snack than anything else.  But last Lent, and this summer, when Pope Francis asked the Church to fast for peace in Syria, for the first time I found the practice challenging.  I got a headache, I was crabby. I was distracted.  I was hungry.

Today was no different.  By four, working off just a yogurt, some dried fruit and two solidly sweet cups of tea, I had a headache, I was crabby, I was thoroughly distracted.  And I was sitting through a longish academic talk about food insecurity, while the people on either side of me munched cookies and chips (snacks for the talk).

I tend to think of hunger in spiritual terms, as something that sharpens my appetite for God, something that strips away excess.  But most people, including almost one quarter of all the children in America, do not have the luxury of electing hunger as a spiritual practice.  They are simply hungry.  In the midst of one of the richest nations on earth, children go hungry. Here in Philadelphia, children go hungry.  Here, in my town, people are hungry tonight.  Not because they are electing to fast, but because we have elected to let them go hungry.  It is unconscionable.


  1. Michelle, thanks for this message which should make all of us uncomfortable. As I explained at RCIA very briefly the other night, fasting reminds us of God and the sacrifice of Jesus the Christ. It should also make us mindful of what God is calling us to do that will stretch us and perhaps place us outside our comfort zone. Our western society is so full of paradoxes which are, as you write, "unconscionable". May God have mercy on us and also help us to right the wrongs.

  2. 'It is unconscionable.' Yes.