07 February 2013

Call to Prayer: Pledge to Fast

As challenges against what is authentically human continue to mount in these United States of America, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops have called upon the faithful to "offer their Friday acts of sacrifice and penance, and particularly to abstain from meat and fast on Fridays until Christ the King Sunday (November 24, 2013), for the intention of the protection of Life, Marriage, and Religious Liberty."

In his Message for Lent 2009, Pope Benedict XVI reflected on the value and efficacy of fasting:
In our own day, fasting seems to have lost something of its spiritual meaning, and has taken on, in a culture characterized by the search for material well-being, a therapeutic value for the care of one’s body. Fasting certainly bring benefits to physical well-being, but for believers, it is, in the first place, a “therapy” to heal all that prevents them from conformity to the will of God. In the Apostolic Constitution P├Žnitemini of 1966, the Servant of God Paul VI saw the need to present fasting within the call of every Christian to “no longer live for himself, but for Him who loves him and gave himself for him … he will also have to live for his brethren“ (cf. Ch. I). Lent could be a propitious time to present again the norms contained in the Apostolic Constitution, so that the authentic and perennial significance of this long held practice may be rediscovered, and thus assist us to mortify our egoism and open our heart to love of God and neighbor, the first and greatest Commandment of the new Law and compendium of the entire Gospel (cf. Mt 22, 34-40).
The faithful practice of fasting contributes, moreover, to conferring unity to the whole person, body and soul, helping to avoid sin and grow in intimacy with the Lord. Saint Augustine, who knew all too well his own negative impulses, defining them as “twisted and tangled knottiness” (Confessions, II, 10.18), writes: “I will certainly impose privation, but it is so that he will forgive me, to be pleasing in his eyes, that I may enjoy his delightfulness” (Sermo 400, 3, 3: PL 40, 708). Denying material food, which nourishes our body, nurtures an interior disposition to listen to Christ and be fed by His saving word. Through fasting and praying, we allow Him to come and satisfy the deepest hunger that we experience in the depths of our being: the hunger and thirst for God [more].
We sometimes forget that just as every Sunday is seen by the Church as a sort of "little Easter," so every Friday is seen as a sort of "little Good Friday."  It is important for us to call to mind the great mercy the Lord has shown us from his Cross and to perform penance to demonstrate our sorrow for sin and our desire to be turn away from sin and be faithful to the Gospel.

Saint Francis of Assisi who so often urged those who listened to his preaching to "perform worthy fruits of penance" (cf. Luke 3:8), wrote:
Blessed are those who die in penance, for they shall be in the kingdom of heaven.  Woe to those wo do not die in penance, for they shall be the children of the devil whose works they do, and they shall go into the eternal fire.  Beware and abstain from every evil and persevere in good till the end [The Second Version of the Letter to the Faithful, 25; The Earlier Rule, 7-9].
Please, heed the call of our Bishops and fast and prayer in an intentional manner imploring the Lord for the conversion of hearts and minds.

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