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by Monsignor Charles Murphy
Fasting in Scripture
Luke 2:37 and then was a widow until she was eighty-four. She never left the temple but worshiped night and day, fasting and praying.
Nehemiah 1:4 When I heard these things, I sat down and wept. For some days I mourned and fasted and prayed before the God of heaven.
Joel 2 12 “Even now,” declares the LORD, “return to me with all your heart, with fasting and weeping and mourning.” 13 Rend your heart and not your garments. Return to the LORD your God, for he is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love, and he relents from sending calamity.
Acts 13:3 So after they had fasted and prayed, they placed their hands on them and sent them off.
Luke 4: 2 where for forty days he was tempted by the devil. He ate nothing during those days, and at the end of them he was hungry. 3 The devil said to him, “If you are the Son of God, tell this stone to become bread.” 4 Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone.’”
Quotes by Popes on Fasting
Pope St. Paul VI: This exercise of bodily mortification—far removed from any form of stoicism—does not imply a condemnation of the flesh which sons of God deign to assume. On the contrary mortification aims at the “liberation” of man, who often finds himself, because of concupiscence, almost chained by his own senses. Through “corporal fasting” man regains strength and the “wound inflicted on the dignity of our nature by intemperance is cured by the medicine of a salutary abstinence.” [Pope Paul VI, Paenitemini (Apostolic Constitution On Penance) 1966].
Pope St. John Paul II: St Augustine’s warning is more timely than ever. “Enter again into yourself.” Yes, we must enter again into ourselves if we want to find ourselves. Not only our spiritual life is at stake but indeed our personal, family and social equilibrium itself. [Pope John Paul II, Penitential Fasting Is Therapy for the Soul, 1996].
Pope Emeritus Benedict XVII: 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. [Pope Benedict XVI].
Quotes by the Saints about Fasting:
Saint John Vianney: “My friend, the devil is not greatly afraid of the discipline and other instruments of penance. That which beats him is the curtailment of one’s food, drink and sleep. There is nothing the devil fears more, consequently, nothing is more pleasing to God.”
Saint Gregory: “It is impossible to engage in spiritual conflict, without the previous subjugation of the appetite.”
Saint John Chrysostom: “Fasting is the support of our soul: it gives us wings to ascend on high, and to enjoy the highest contemplation! […] God, like an indulgent father, offers us a cure by fasting.”
Saint Alphonsus De Ligouri: “He that gratifies the taste will readily indulge the other senses; for, having lost the spirit of recollection, he will easily commit faults, by indecent words and by unbecoming gestures. But the greatest evil of intemperance, is that it exposes chastity to great danger. ‘Repletion of the stomach,’ says St. Jerome, ‘is the hotbed of lust.’
Ven. Mary of Agreda: “Temperance includes the two virtues of abstinence and sobriety…Abstinence also includes fasting. These virtues take the first place in treating of temperance; for nourishment, being necessary for the preservation of life, is among the principal objects coveted by the appetites.”
Saint Basil: “Penance without fasting is useless and vain; by fasting [we] satisfy God.”
Saint Catherine of Siena: “without mortifying the taste, it is impossible to preserve innocence, since it was by the indulgence of his appetite that Adam fell.”
Saint Augustine: “But now the necessity of habit is sweet to me, and against this sweetness must I fight, lest I be enthralled by it. Thus I carry on a daily war by fasting, constantly bringing my body into subjection…And while health is the reason for our eating and drinking, yet a perilous delight joins itself to them as a handmaid; and indeed, she tries to take precedence in order that I may want to do for her sake what I say I want to do for health’s sake….These temptations I daily endeavor to resist and I summon thy right hand to my help and cast my perplexities onto thee.”
Saint Francis de Sales: “Besides the ordinary effect of fasting in raising the mind, subduing the flesh, confirming goodness, and obtaining a heavenly reward, it is also a great matter to be able to control greediness, and to keep the sensual appetites and the whole body subject to the law of the Spirit; and although we may be able to do but little, the enemy nevertheless stands more in awe of those whom he knows can fast.”
Saint Peter Chrysologus: “Fasting is the soul of prayer, mercy is the lifeblood of fasting. So if you pray, fast; if you fast, show mercy; if you want your petition to be heard, hear the petition of others. If you do not close your ear to others, you open God’s ear to yourself”
Didache: “pray for your enemies, and fast for those who persecute you.”