NFP and Fasting

Tuesday, October 26, AD 2010

When trying to explain the Catholic understanding of sexuality to someone “outside”, I almost invariably find myself falling back on analogies relating to diet and gluttony.  It’s a natural comparison, and while modern society has lost any sense that it’s reasonable to have any less sex if you want to have fewer children, people are able to get more righteous then ever over the point that if you want to be fit you must, must, must eat moderately and exercise more. 

Indeed, diet and exercise may be the one thing relating to sexuality where modern culture understands a great deal of self denial.  After all, one of the motivations for all this diet and exercise is, I think one may honestly admit, to look better while naked.

Which leaves the obvious question: Why has a Church which finds itself swimming against a quickening current in regards to its teaching on birth control nearly totally abandoned any sort of severity in regards to fasting? 

Sure, we’re an “Easter people” and all that, but maybe some rigorous self denial for the sake of religion would help us with some rigorous self denial for the sake of our faith.  I’ve been pretty much as bad as the next fellow on this — doing the mental calculation of whether I can make one more cup of coffee and still make the hour fast before mass or falling to the “I’ll say some extra prayers tonight as a sacrifice instead” temptation on Fridays outside of Lent when meat is all that appears on the menu.  But this is, after all, part of the problem.  The constant NFP lament is “Look, we played by the rules all those years before we were married.  Why does there have to be frustration now too?” 

If virtue is a habit, perhaps it’s time to form some more habits around denial of appetite.

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11 Responses to NFP and Fasting

  • It seems to me that the Church, after Vatican II, relaxed the fasting and abstaining rules for Catholics because It felt that many could not fast or abstain due to the modern way of life, and therefore, possibly save their souls from being disobedient. Actually, we are still supposed to abstain from meat on Fridays as a sacrifice and penance in honor of Our Lord’s Sacrifice and Death, but if not, we must do some other penance or “good work!” But Our Lady has come to remind us of fasting and has asked us to fast on Wednesdays and Fridays. Those who are in-tune with Our lady’s requests try to do so and there are millions of us out there in the world trying to do what Our Lady wants!

  • Pingback: NFP and Fasting : The American Catholic « Deacon John's Space
  • Great point, DC. Thomas Merton wrote that none of his old friends could understand him sleeping on a cot, but they used to think nothing of crashing on the floor after a night on the town. We can endure inconveniences on our schedule, but never on God’s.

  • “If virtue is a habit, perhaps it’s time to form some more habits around denial of appetite. ”


    Although it’s so…. difficult.

  • When I think of “fasting” I assume it to mean not eating anything at all, or at least not any solid food. That would be analogous to a single, widowed, divorced or vowed Religious person living in celibacy.

    NFP practiced within marriage would be analogous to a person consuming a normal, balanced diet, neither overindulging nor completely depriving themselves. They might still “fast” completely at times, however.

    However, the kind of sexual indulgence that secular society advocates, complete with artificial contraception, would be analogous to attempting weight loss or maintenance via measures such as diet pills, or bulimia — an attempt to enjoy the pleasures of eating without the consequences.

  • We are a culture of indulgence. Food addiction and is just the latest attack by satan on life. That’s why they call it “morbid” obesity. Although I do see many protestants who understand moderation in lifestyle, only the Catholic Church really has teachings to back it up and if we were following those teachings, it would not be an issue. Seems to me that in a world where some are starving and others are eating themselves to death, there should be no fat Priests?

  • “Seems to me in a world where some are starving and others are eating themselves to death, there should be no fat priests”

    Ideally, I think that is true; however, most Catholics have not been brought up to see food as a moral issue or to consider gluttony as a sin — and this includes priests. Eating habits by and large are more ingrained and difficult to change than drinking or sexual habits (in my opinion) so I wouldn’t go so far as to say that every fat person is guilty of serious sin or of giving scandal. Plus there have been people of great holiness, even canonized saints, who were overweight by our standards (I think St. Thomas Aquinas was pretty hefty, and G.K. Chesterton certainly was).

    That being said, priests certainly need to live healthy lifestyles in terms of diet and exercise as much as possible, for the sake of their parishioners as well as for their own sake.

  • No, I don’t think every fat person is guilty of serious sin, and yes, I know about St. Thomas Aquinas, but he did not live in a day when so many people were eating themselves to death. Gluttony leads to sloth – and makes all of us less useful tools for God. I just keep thinking, though, that if any of us has enough to eat to weigh 300+ pounds, we certainly have enough to share. I have also noticed that the percentages of seriously overweight priests is not much different than that of lay people. I guess I just feel we should be able to look to them for examples.

  • @Amy @Elaine : I have been a FAT person. From my own experience it is because people are addicted to junk. We have a international problem since these companies know that by adding excess fat,sugar, and salt will have us hooked. In looking into my own faith, I agree that as catholics we need to start looking at this as a sin. Just as we fight in the prolife areana. I think we need to also look at what sloth has done to our society as a whole. I can also rap this up with fear. When I was a child i remember going out ( ridding my bike, swimming, etc.. ) I see less and less children doing this because of fear, junk food, television, video games .. etc… I am in IT myself and i see many people in my field to be also overwieght but that is a culture problem. We need things like more time off and less stress again many of these issues come down to both a micro level ( getting parents active and a macro level making the national, state, and local gov incentivise what we should be doing as a society. I think this post opens a can of worms that I would hope the people in this block will investigate further. Good Post and sorry if i ranted a little 😉

  • @Alex: I too used to be seriouly overweight – I was a little over 300lbs and lost half of it. Prayer was a HUGE part of my success. In fact, I often say that I asked for motivation to eat right and exercise and God gave me diabetes. So, I’m a recovering food addict myself. I am also a convert to Catholicism (and NO, you don’t want to get caught in a corner with me at a party!) 😉 Seriously, though, I have noticed how many things are sort of cross applicable to spiritual growth and weight loss: Obedience vs Desire, Structure can be applied to food plans as well as prayer life, and who knows more than Catholics about our body’s true role as a Temple of the Holy Spirit. As Catholics, we have the ability to partake of the one and only food that has all we need. Contemplation of The Eucharist can teach us to desire what is for our own good, rather what creates instant gratification. I am sad to see what people are doing to their bodies – and to the Body of Christ as a whole with all the junk they are filling it with.

Father Zuhlsdorf Rants About Sand in Holy Water Fonts

Tuesday, March 2, AD 2010

The abuse of removing Holy Water from fonts during the season of Lent is a manifestation of the Spirit of Vatican II.  Well meaning priests misinterpreted or altogether made up their own discipline by removing Holy Water.  Father John Zuhlsdorf has followed this up during the course of Lent 2010 with his most recent posting clarifying why Holy Water should never be removed during the season of Lent except for Good Friday and Holy Saturday:

To all the priests out there still… unbelievably still putting sand in holy water fonts during Lent…


And if you go into a church where you see this sort of idiocy… for the love of God, DON’T bless yourself with SAND.

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9 Responses to Father Zuhlsdorf Rants About Sand in Holy Water Fonts

  • Our parish moved the holy water to containers in urns in the aisles and filled the holy water fonts with vinegar.

  • Our “holy” water usually has mossy/seaweed-looking debris floating in it. There’s a penance for you.

  • I think Father’s idea of sneaking fast growing seeds and a little water into the “Holy Sand” is fabulous.

  • Must be a Northern Hemisphere thing.

    Never seen it of even heard of it Downunder.

    Why not a font full of salt? More appropriate than sand. 🙂

  • Don,

    You are very fortunate to be in a parish or diocese that has a low threshold of dissident Catholics.

    You are truly blessed!


  • Sand in the holy water fount means rocks in the collection plate. I forget who suggested it , but think its quite brilliant. Also it’s in keeping with the Lenten theme. All the whackado personal symbolism has got to stop. Just contribute less money to buy all that sand.

  • I’ve never seen or heard of sand in the holy water fonts before. I’m glad we’re behind the times when it comes to this particular innovation.

    These days, I wouldn’t be surprised if they started filling the fonts with hand sanitizer. And considering that I have a rare talent for sitting next to the kid who wipes his nose on his hand or the lady with the bad cold who coughs and sneezes all the way through Mass and then wants to hold my hand during the Our Father, well, hey, a little hand sanitizer would be welcome…

  • Hehe, I now appreciate the literal holy-water-fountain (not as bad as it sounds…OK, the little wading-pool it pours into is kinda eyebrow-raising…) at my church.

  • I buried some rubber tarantulas in the sand that was placed in the holy water founts a few years ago. We haven’t seen sand since.

Cardinal Newman on Fasting

Wednesday, February 17, AD 2010

“And when He had fasted forty days and forty nights, He was afterward an hungered.” Matt. iv. 2.

{1} THE season of humiliation, which precedes Easter, lasts for forty days, in memory of our Lord’s long fast in the wilderness. Accordingly on this day, the first Sunday in Lent, we read the Gospel which gives an account of it; and in the Collect we pray Him, who for our sakes fasted forty days and forty nights, to bless our abstinence to the good of our souls and bodies.

We fast by way of penitence, and in order to subdue the flesh. Our Saviour had no need of fasting for either purpose. His fasting was unlike ours, as in its intensity, so in its object. And yet when we begin to fast, His pattern is set before us; and we continue the time of fasting till, in number of days, we have equalled His.

There is a reason for this;—in truth, we must do nothing except with Him in our eye. As He it is, through whom alone we have the power to do any good {2} thing, so unless we do it for Him it is not good. From Him our obedience comes, towards Him it must look. He says, “Without Me ye can do nothing.” [John xv. 5.] No work is good without grace and without love.

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