A quick thought on fasting

February 12, 2008

I recently started reading The Sacred Art of Fasting by Fr. Thomas Ryan. I felt like it might be a good book to read for Lent so that I could learn more about this concept, and find out if it is indeed as spiritually beneficial as it seems to be to let everyone within ear-shot know just how much you have been inconvenienced by your sacrifices. (As it turns out, I don’t think that’s supposed to be part of the deal.)

Anyway, at the very beginning of the book Fr. Ryan made a comment that got me thinking: he mentioned in passing that he once participated in a Day of Fast for World Hunger, and that at the end of the day the participants met for a prayer vigil in which they gave the money they would have spent on food to a charity that feeds the poor.

When I read that, I realized that I think of my consumption of food as akin to taking buckets of water out of the ocean: my decision to take a little more or less has no noticeable impact on the total amount available to others. It occurred to me that in most other places and times it would have been an obvious aspect of fasting that by eating less yourself, there would be more food available for everyone else. (Not that that’s the only point of fasting, but it certainly would have been a clear outcome.)

I really like the idea of giving others what I am not eating in some form or another. To reinstate that lost connection of one person’s fast helping others, I think I will either continue to buy the foods I’m skipping and donate them to food pantries, or calculate the money I would have spent and slip it in the St. Vincent de Paul envelope at church.

I don’t have much more to say on the topic since I’m only on page six of the book, but I thought I would throw that out in case others find it interesting since I know a lot of other people are fasting right now.


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