My Guide to Unwimpy Fasting


This fasting thing is complicated. If you doubt, check out the first of today’s reading. It’s gotten a bad name in many religious circles and yet it’s made a real surge in some secular ones – go figure. In Catholic circles, in my less than humble opinion, we’ve become whooshes on fasting (I include within fasting what is technically abstinence).

Here’s the “rigorous” demand placed on Catholics for Lent:
1) Ash Wednesday and all the Fridays of Lent no meat. Big deal – only cheese pizza, shrimp, chocolate cake and sushi on 6 of the 40 days. Don’t get me started on those who ask and those who grant special dispensations for particular Fridays when it might be inconvenient.
2) On Ash Wednesday & Good Friday in addition to no meat – less food, which is defined as one main meal and two smaller meals that together do not exceed the amount of food eaten at the main meal.

You’ve gotten me started. Let me give you a menu for a “good’ Catholic who is complying with the rules for Lenten fasting on Good Friday: 

  • Breakfast – cereal, juice and coffee;
  • Lunch – tuna fish sandwich with coke;
  • Dinner – Clam chowder; kale salad, Chilean sea bass, pilaf of rice, broccoli, wine, tiramisu, and espresso. 

Voila! You are in complete compliance with the rules for fasting on Good Friday. Yeah, you’ve joined yourself with the cross of Christ in your sacrificial fasting for the day.

Who are we kidding? I am proscribing for myself this Lent a different fasting regimen. I am using the Islamic rules for fasting during Ramadan for my Christian Lent fasting, which includes no food or water from sunrise to sunset. (Full disclosure: I’m dropping the water prohibition during daylight hours. Hey, if I can adapt certain Christian practices, I am certainly free to adapt some of the Islamic parts.) Here’s a link to a good explanation of them along with rationale.

I am doing this for two reasons:

  1. It’s a serious and fairly rigorous fast – basically no eating during the day; eat before the sun comes up and after it goes down. It’s not a wimpy Catholic faux-fasting version.
  2. It is one way of showing solidarity across religions and in a particular way with Islam when there’s too much negative rhetoric in the United States today. We need to highlight the good in all religions, learn from one another and enrich our own religious experience and practice by seeing how others can enlighten us. It may surprise some Christians to see the overlaps between Ramadan and Lent. That’s a good thing because both point in the direction of a closer relationship with the one God.

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