Joseph A. Komonchak September 4, 2013 - 9:42am
The U.S. Bishops released a statement yesterday urging Catholics to embrace Pope Francis’s call for a day of prayer and fasting next Saturday for an end to the conflict and violence in Syria and elsewhere. The Pope himself is going to lead a prayer-gathering in St. Peter’s Square from 7:00 P.M. to midnight, Rome-time, 1:00 to 6:00 P.M. on the east coast of the U.S.
Has anyone heard of similar specific local events here?
A while back we had a brief discussion of the point of fasting. Here in my translation is a brief reflection on fasting published in the Italian newspaper La Stampa by Enzo Bianchi, founder and prior of the ecumenical monastery of Bose.
The power of fasting
Fasting is an ascetical practice common to all religions, a practice already lived by Israel, proposed again by Christ, and welcomed by the Church’s tradition. Its fundamental role is to make us realize what our hunger is, what it is we live by, what it is that nourishes us.
By fasting we learn to recognize and to bring order to our many appetites by moderating the most basic and vital one, hunger. We learn to discipline our relations with others, with external reality, and with God, relations always tempted by gluttony. Fasting is an asceticism of need and an education of desire. When we fast, we are prodded to examine the quality of our actions, the consequences of our actions, the violence we permit into our relationships. For a Christian, then, fasting is a confession of faith made by the body, a pedagogy that brings the entirety of the person to the worship of God, a reminder imprinted on one’s own body not to live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God. That is why, at particularly decisive and critical moments, the Church exhorts Christians to fast in order to think about daily events before God, to purify their own convictions, and to convert so as always to choose in favor of life.
About the Author
Rev. Joseph A. Komonchak, professor emeritus of the School of Theology and Religious Studies at the Catholic University of America, is a retired priest of the Archdiocese of New York.