The Generous Gift of Fasting

One of the things I love about writing this blog is the ability to share with others beautiful things that I come across. Shortly before noon as I drove to Mass I was preparing myself mentally for the Sacrifice. I had on my mind and in my heart feelings of failure. Over the past week I had a family member in town and had also had to engage in some travel and a business luncheon. All of these things contributed to me “fudging” with my Lenten fast a little bit. What had until that time been a miraculous thing for me – the ability to subsist on literally bread and water for four weeks – now felt like a drag as I attempted to recover that spirit. Shortly before leaving the house I had come across a video on Youtube from the Norbertine Fathers in California. When I stopped at a red light I decided to play the video, listening to the audio as I continued my drive.

Here is that video. It is simply put one of the most edifying explanations of why we fast and how we ought to fast. I will not comment further. PLEASE watch this video.

Fr. Nortbert’s words lifted my soul and gave me hope. I pray now for the grace to go harder, as he says, and to be as generous as possible in this gift I will offer God. I pray that you who read this might also embrace the ancient fast of the Church in preparation for the great feast of Easter.

But Fr. Norbert continued. Fasting throughout the year should also be a part of our life as Catholics. True, he says, the grace to fast is more abundant to us during the season of Lent but that shouldn’t mean we abandon the practice for 9/10ths of the year. The early Christians would fast – man, woman, and child – on Wednesdays and Fridays all year. I believe I will try this myself. Our Lord certainly knows better than I do that I have much to atone for, much like Fr.’s example of St Norbert who fasted every day after his conversion.

Then I got to Mass and prayed the Missal as is my custom, silently mouthing along through the ancient prayers. Again, I was reassured that this is Our Lord’s intention for us – to offer to Him our sacrifice, to chasten our bodies, curb our vices, give our wills over to Him, and ultimately, detaching ourselves from the things of this world, to LOVE Him with purity of heart and body.

The Collect:

Grant, we beseech Thee, almighty God, that the dignity of human nature, weakened by excessive self-indulgence, may be restored by the earnest practice of healing self-denial.

Divinum Officium

The Post-Communion (which is also one of the Ablution prayers at every Mass):

May we receive with pure mind, O Lord, what we have taken by mouth, and as a gift in time, may it become for us a remedy for eternity.

Divinum Officium

This is not my favorite translation of this prayer but it works. What I see in this is a deeper reference to the Eucharist as the only food we truly need.

And finally, the Gospel of the Mass was taken from St. Luke 7:36-50:

At that time, one of the Pharisees asked Jesus to dine with him; so He went into the house of the Pharisee and reclined at table. And behold, a woman in the town who was a sinner, upon learning that He was at table in the Pharisee’s house, brought an alabaster jar of ointment; and standing behind Him at His feet, she began to bathe His feet with her tears, and wiped them with the hair of her head, and kissed His feet, and anointed them with ointment. Now when the Pharisee, who had invited Him, saw it, he said to himself, This man, were He a prophet, would surely know who and what manner of woman this is who is touching Him, for she is a sinner. And Jesus answered and said to him, Simon, I have something to say to you. And he said, Master, speak. A certain money-lender had two debtors; the one owed five hundred denarii, the other fifty. As they had no means of paying, he forgave them both. Which of them, therefore, will love him more? Simon answered and said, He, I suppose, to whom he forgave more. And He said to him, You have judged rightly. And turning to the woman, He said to Simon, Do you see this woman? I came into your house; you gave Me no water for My feet; but she has bathed My feet with tears, and has wiped them with her hair. You gave Me no kiss; but she, from the moment she entered, has not ceased to kiss My feet. You did not anoint my head with oil; but she has anointed My feet with ointment. Wherefore I say to you, her sins, many as they are, shall be forgiven her, because she has loved much. But he to whom little is forgiven, loves little. And He said to her, Your sins are forgiven. And they who were at table with Him began to say within themselves, Who is this man, who even forgives sins? But He said to the woman, Your faith has saved you; go in peace.

About eighteen months ago I had some time during several cross-country drives and I decided to “catch up” by listening to every Barnhardt Podcast. She still sounds great at 1.5X speed. Sidenote: If ever I meet Miss B. in person I’m not sure I’ll know it’s really her if she suddenly starts speaking in a slower tempo. But I digress. In one episode linked below, Ann and Supernerd discuss Mary Magdalene and how she did not simply live the rest of her life after the Ascension as she had before nor even as if nothing was different. Instead, she practiced austere penance. Think about that. She who had been forgiven directly by Christ (as in the Gospel above), who had wept at the foot of His cross, and to whom He had appeared after His resurrection, did not slack as a penitent. Rather she carried the Gospel to France with her brother and sister, Martha and Lazarus, and lived in a cave, fasting and praying for decades until the same Lord called her to Himself.

This evening, a friend stopped by and I showed him the Norbertine video. We talked about Magdalene. He reminded me that he had traveled through France this past summer and then showed me the following pictures.

Remains of St. Mary Magdalene, Ste. Baume, France, courtesy GH. Zoom in on the image. There is still skin covering the part of her forehead where Our Lord laid His hand on her.
Grotto in the Cave of St. Mary Magdalene, courtesy GH

Again, Our Lord saw fit to humble me today and to give me new hope. If you have done no fasting this Lent, I pray you will follow the example of Magdalene. I pray you will heed the words of Fr. Norbert. I pray you will make a generous gift of your fasting to Our Lord. We have one week left.

St. Norbert, pray for us!

St. Mary Magdalene, pray for us!

Barnhardt Podcast Episode #16 – Mary Magdalene…

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