Tag: Prayer and Fasting

St. John Chrysostom on the True Nature of Fasting

Eastern Rite Catholics began their 40-day Byzantine Advent/St. Philip/Nativity fast on November 15th. Blessed Pope John Paul II called on Western Catholics to learn more about the traditions of our Eastern Rite brethren, let’s do it by joining them (if you can) in this fast.

“Let us not speak, indeed of such a fast as most persons keep, but of real fasting; not mere abstinence from meats – but from sins, too. For the nature of a fast is such that it does not suffice to deliver those who practice it unless it be done according to a suitable law.

To the end, then, that when we have gone through the labor of fasting we forfeit not the crown of fasting, we should understand how, and after what manner it is necessary to conduct this business; since the Pharisee also fasted, but afterwards went down empty and destitute of the fruit of fasting. The Publican fasted not; and yet he was accepted in preference to him who had fasted.

Since, then, the danger of fasting is so great to those who do not know how they ought to fast, we should learn the laws of this exercise, in order that we may not `run uncertainly’ nor `beat the air’ nor while we are fighting contend with a shadow. Fasting is a medicine. It is necessary to know the time when it should be applied and the requisite quantity.

The honor of fasting consists not in abstinence from food, but in withdrawal from sinful practices. Do you fast? Give me proof of it by your works. What kind of works? If you see a poor man, take pity on him. If you see an enemy, be reconciled to him. If you see a friend gaining honor, envy him not.

For let not the mouth only fast, but also the eye, and the ear, and the foot, and the hands, and all members of the body. Let the hands fast from being pure from rapine and avarice. Let the feet fast by ceasing to run to unlawful spectacles. Let the eyes fast from such as is unlawful or forbidden. Let the ear fast, also. The fasting of the ear consists in refusing to listen to evil speech and calumnies. Let the mouth, too, fast from disgraceful speeches and railings.

Do you wish to correct a brother? Weep; pray to God; taking him aside, admonish, entreat, counsel him! Show your charity toward the sinner. Persuade him that it is from care and anxiety for his welfare, and not from a wish to expose him, that you put him in mind of his sin.

Take hold of his feet; embrace him; be not ashamed, if you truly desire to cure him. Speak evil of no one; hold no one for an enemy; expel from your mouth altogether the evil custom of swearing.

If we use these three precepts during the present Lent (the Nativity fast) and make them a good habit, we shall proceed easier to the end. We shall both reap the fruit of a favorable hope in the present life; and in the life to come we shall stand before Christ with great confidence and enjoy His unspeakable blessings, which God grant that we may be found worthy of, through the grace and love for mankind of Jesus Christ our Lord, with Whom be glory to the Father and the Holy Spirit, now and always and unto ages of ages. Amen.” – St. John Chrysostom

lenten fast w/ James Franke

James Franke told me an inspirational story of how he fasted in a way he had never done last Lent. Easter turned out to be a total surprise with God telling him, “James, this Easter is special because you made this Lent special…”

Consider fasting this Holy Week. God wants to woo your heart this season!

Day 38: Methods of Prayer

Many spiritual writers offer suggestions concerning methods in prayer. Francis de Sales, very much influenced by his own experience of St. Ignatius’s Spiritual Exercises, offers some suggested structures and formats for the practice of meditation and prayer. He suggests six steps as a guide to moving through a time of prayer.

  1. Place yourself in the presence of God. Remember that God is near, not for away. He is in the very depth of your heart, your spirit. “Begin all your prayers, whether mental or vocal, in the presence of God. Keep to this rule without any exception and you will quickly see how helpful it will be.”
  2. Ask the Lord to help you pay attention to Him, to open yourself up to His Word and presence.
  3. Pick out a passage from Scripture, a scene from the Gospel, a mystery of the Faith, or a passage from some spiritual reading. If the subject matter you have chosen lends itself to it, picture yourself in the same place as the action or event that is happening. Use your imagination to place yourself in the midst of the scene near Jesus, with the disciples.
  4. Think about what you’ve chosen to meditate on in such a way as to increase your love for the Lord or for virtue. The purpose is not primarily to study or know more, but to increase your love for God and the life of discipline.
  5. If good affections should rise up – gratitude for God’s mercy, awe at His majesty, sorrow for sin, desire to be more faithful, for example – yield to them.
  6. Come to some practical resolutions concerning changes you would like to make as a response to these affections. For example, resolve to be more faithful in prayer, or more ready to forgive, or more eager to share the faith with others, or more determined to resist sin, in as practical and concrete a way as you can determine.

Most of all, after you rise from meditation you must remember the resolutions and decisions you have made and carefully put them into effect on that very day. This is the great fruit of meditation and without it meditation if often not only useless but even harmful. Virtues meditated on but not practiced sometimes inflate our minds and courage and we think that we are really such as we have thought and resolved to be.

Francis recommends that we end the time of meditation-prayer with expressions of gratitude to God for the light and affections He has given us in our time of prayer; then, an offering of ourselves to the Lord in union with the offering of Jesus; and thirdly, a time of intercession for our self and others. At the same time, Francis doesn’t intend that the structure or method he proposes be followed mechanically if the Holy Spirit draws us to something different.