Please, Please, Please Fast With Us

When is the last time you fasted?  Let me guess ~ Good Friday?  
And before that, Ash Wednesday?


Although fasting in an integral part of the Christian faith, it's something few practice
outside of Lent. This is unfortunate because the benefits are innumerable.

As we considered the large number of people who have never done an intense spiritual fast, we decided that there is no better way to get acquainted with this timeless treasure than to do it altogether!


So....

My family and I cordially invite you to join us in a 3-day communal fast for the MANY prayer intentions of our beloved mission partners, who we refer to as "Team Carmody."



We'll begin our fast the morning of June 2nd and will continue through the evening of June 4th.  If you'd like to join us and many others, we ask that you pray specifically for the following:


  • all those experiencing health / medical problems:  isolated issues from accidents and injury, routine procedures, chronic / long lasting conditions, rehabilitation, depression and various other mental disturbances, abuse and recovery from traumatic experiences, cancer treatment, dementia, life-changing diagnosis, infertility, and addiction.
  • a peaceful resolution to all outstanding legal matters
  • the conversion of loved ones ~ that family members, friends, neighbors and co-workers find their way to - or back to - the Lord
  • peace and prosperity for all those experiencing difficulty in their businesses or employment situations
  • love, unity, patience, mercy, forgiveness, mutual understanding, commitment and joy inside of all relationships ~ especially within families and between spouses 
  • that those discerning significant life decisions can hear the Lord's voice and have the courage to do whatever He is asking of them
  • comfort for those suffering the loss of loved ones and for the repose of the souls of all who have passed away
  • an end to the coronavirus pandemic   

During this fast we're asking participants to take time each day to pray for the members of Team Carmody, as well as their loved ones, by specifically calling to mind the needs listed above.  Now, I understand that you don't necessarily know the names and intentions of every other member of Team Carmody, but don't worry, God does.  As you name each cluster of petitions you can be assured that there are many people within our team who are seeking the Lord's help with those particular concerns.  When the fast begins, I encourage you to make a list of your own petitions and ask the Lord to receive all the prayers offered by the members of Team Carmody on your behalf.  Prayer is the currency of the Kingdom and we know that there is power in numbers.  By participating in this communal fast you'll be united with your Christian brothers and sisters throughout the world as we stand together before the throne of Our Almighty God begging that each one of us is given what we need to know Him and love Him even more than we do today.


I thank you in advance for prayerfully considering our request.  If you choose to join us, starting June 2nd, know that we are MOST grateful and that we're looking forward to our time of spiritual communion. If there are specific intentions that you would like us to include in our prayers during these 3 days, please email us privately before 1pm EST (9pm Kenyan time) on June 1st because we'll turn our computer off before we go to bed and won't turn it back on until the fast is over on June 4th.  You can email us your intentions at: carmodyfamilyonmissions@gmail.com




If you'd like to read a bit about spiritual fasts please read the Question & Answer overview below.




WHAT IS FASTING?
The standard definition of fasting is to go without food; and while this is reasonable for a single-day fast, it is considered by some as unnecessarily extreme for multiple-day fasts.  Many Catholic resources state that fasting entails eating "one full meal and two smaller meals that together do not equal one meal."  However, this guideline is a bit misleading because it has been taken out of context.  In 1966 Pope Paul VI wrote the Apostolic Constitution Paenitemini in which he addressed the practice of fasting.  In that document he gave approval for the consumption of one full meal along with small snacks as needed - TO THOSE FASTING FOR THE FULL 40 DAYS OF LENT.  From all I've read, it seems that it was never the pope's intention to redefine the dietary standard for all spiritual fasting; rather, he was simply trying to help people avoid the detrimental side effects that eating only bread for 40 days might have on the average person.  Personally, I believe this is something that participants should pray about because only God knows what is appropriate for each person.  Whether you eat only bread for 3 days or you choose to have "one full meal and two smaller meals that together do not equal one meal" - remember that the goal is to eat as little as possible while still maintaining physical and mental stability.  Regardless of what you eat, please make sure to drink plenty of water!  For additional information, see the USCCB's guidelines for fasting: www.usccb.org/prayer-and-worship/liturgical-year/lent/catholic-information-on-lenten-fast-and-abstinence.cfm


WHY DO WE FAST?
We fast because Jesus expects us to.  In Matthew, chapter 6, Jesus teaches the people about almsgiving, prayer and fasting, which were considered the three pillars of Jewish piety.  During that speech, He says, "WHEN you fast..." which tells me that it is something He expects us to do.

Jesus fasted in the desert for 40 days.
In Matthew, chapter 9, the disciples of John the Baptist ask Jesus why His disciples don't fast as much as the Pharisees.  Jesus gives the analogy of a wedding feast and states that it would be inappropriate for the guests to fast while the bridegroom is still there.  However, He says that after the bridegroom leaves "then they WILL fast".  He didn't say that they could fast or that they might fast; He plainly stated that His disciples WOULD fast... after He was gone. There are other references to fasting, but suffice it to say that they all point to the fact that this practice is an integral and necessary element of our Christian faith.


WHY SHOULD FASTING BE DONE IN COMBINATION WITH INTENSE PRAYER?

Please don't participate in this
fast if you're just hoping to lose
some weight.  This fast is a
dedicated time of pray for those
we love dearly!!
Many theologians say that fasting as a physical effort is nothing more than a diet if it lacks the prayer counterpart.  Now, there is certainly evidence to prove that there are many health benefits of fasting on a regular basis; however, when our goals are to strengthen our spirits, unite ourselves more closely to God, and intercede for our loved ones, that obviously can't be done without intentional, fervent prayer.

I am certainly no biblical scholar, but as hard as I looked I could only find one reference to fasting that didn't also mention prayer: in Matthew 6:16-18 Jesus tells us that we should maintain a healthy appearance when we're fasting so that others can't detect the sacrifice that we're making.  Other than that, every reference I could find to fasting also referred to prayer, suggesting that they be done together.   
Wearing sack cloth and covering
oneself in ashes was a traditional custom
in Old Testament times. 

The Old Testament has no shortage of examples.  In Exodus 34:28 we read about how Moses fasted for 40 days and nights, after which he received the 10 commandments.  In 1 Kings 21: 25-27 Ahab fasts as a way to humble himself before the Lord.  In 2 Samuel 1:12 people fast for one another's needs and in Esther 4:16 the prophetess asks others to join her in a communal fast.  Daniel speaks of his fasts in 9:3-5 and 10:3, and in the book of Tobit the archangel Raphael tells Tobit and his wife Sarah that "prayer with fasting is good".  The prophet Ezra describes how the whole community fasted and God answered their prayers (8:21-23).  In the book of Jonah (3:5) a fast is issued for "everyone, great and small".  The prophets Joel (2:12) and Nehemiah (1:4) refer to prayer and fasting, and we see several references in the psalms - 35:13-14 and 69:10 are just two examples.


St. Thomas Aquinas

In the New Testament there are also many references to fasting. In Luke, chapter 2, we read about the 84 year old prophetess Anna who "worshipped night and day...fasting and praying". In Mark 9:29 Jesus is asked why His disciples were unable to cast out a demon, and Jesus states that "this kind does not go out except by prayer and fasting." In Acts of the Apostles we learn that fasting and prayer purify our minds which helps us to draw closer to God.  According to St. Thomas Aquinas, who has been named a Doctor of the Church, fasting is linked to purity and clarity of mind which allows one to pray better. He says that when we've put aside the desires of the flesh we're able to focus on the desires of the spirit.  As such, our prayers of adoration reflect who God is and not what's He's done for us; our prayers of thanksgiving and petition include things that draw us closer to God and not just things which provide us and our loved ones with physical and emotional comfort.  It seems to me that there is sufficient evidence to prove that fasting and prayer, when done together, are powerful tools.

WHY IS FASTING IMPORTANT TO OUR SPIRITUAL HEALTH AND GROWTH?
In tug-of-war both teams can't win... the same
is true in the battle between our bodies and spirits.
There are countless Christian scholars who speak at length about the benefits of fasting. In fact, at a bookstore one might find an entire shelf dedicated to the topic. In attempt to find a succinct explanation I read and read and then read some more. It seems to me that it all boils down to the simple yet abstract idea that we are both body and spirit; our bodies are constantly subjected to the elemental temptations of the physical world while our spirits strive for union with God. The battle between the body and the spirit reminds me of a game of tug-of-war; one side gains ONLY when the other loses. In Galatians 5:17 St. Paul says that the desires of the spirit and the flesh are in contradiction to one another. The spiritual side of a person can only become stronger when his fleshly desires are diminished. Likewise, when he is lured by the fleeting pleasures of the world his spirit is weakened. So, fasting helps us to pray better, and praying helps us to become spiritually stronger. When our spirits are strong we're better equipped to protect ourselves against the attacks of the devil. St. Basil the Great is known for saying, "Fasting is the weapon of protection against demons." Deacon Carnazzo says that "fasting helps us to set aside the created realm where the devil works, and put ourselves into communion with another realm where the devil does not work, he cannot touch us.” When we fast we deny our bodies, which strengthens our spirits in a way that I may never truly understand, but that I accept as truth.  I suppose this is one of the many mysteries of our faith.

WHAT IS ABSTINENCE AND WHY IS IT AN IMPORTANT PART OF SPIRITUAL FASTING?

Abstinence is the choice to refrain from bodily activities that bring pleasure.  Most frequently the term refers to intercourse, alcohol, drugs and food, but when discussing the practice of fasting abstinence can also include activities that are not inherently bad or wrong, but have the potential of distracting us or making us insensitive to Jesus' presence.  For example, listening to the radio, watching television, reading novels, having long casual phone conversations, playing games, and participating in hobbies.  By denying ourselves the luxury of such distractions, we're able to focus our attention on the Lord.  Also, the time spent on such activities can be spent in prayer.

WHAT CAN WE DO DURING OUR FAST TO DRAW CLOSER TO JESUS?
If we were to record how our time is used on any given day we might see that a significant amount is spent preparing and consuming food, as well as cleaning up afterward.  During a fast we can and should use that time for prayer or other spiritual activities.  I mentioned the value of abstaining from activities which give us pleasure like Facebook, TV, and even novels.  If you can resist the temptation of distracting yourself with menial tasks such as weeding the garden or straightening up the garage, you will have even more time to devote to the Lord.  You may be wondering what in the world you're supposed to do for 3 days if you're not doing any of your regular activities.  Well, here are some ideas: 
  • Start each day with prayer.  Specifically ask Jesus for the grace you'll need to adhere to the fast, abstain from pleasure-seeking activities, and devote yourself to Him.  There are several beautiful prayers that you could refer to if desired: https://catholicreadings.org/catholic-prayers/fasting-and-prayer-the-power-of-prayer-and-fasting/?amp
  • Read the bible  (we recommend lectio divina if you're looking for an idea)
  • Listen to and/or sing praise and worship.  There are some specific praise songs that I think would bless you during this fast - all of which can be found on YouTube: (1) Here I Am to Worship (2) How Great is Our God (3) Lord, I Lift Your Name on High  (4) Great Are You Lord  (5) How Great Thou Art  (6) 10,000 Reasons  (7) Build My Life  (8) Holy Spirit You are Welcome Here  (9) High and Lifted Up  (10) O Lord to You  (11) Holy is the Lord  (12) Jesus I Adore You
  • Listen to an online podcast by Lighthouse Catholic Media
  • Pray the rosary
  • Pray the Divine Mercy Chaplet
  • Meditate on the Way of the Cross or the Seven Sorrows of Mary
  • Go to confession or perform an extensive examination of conscience and specifically confess your sins to God
  • Watch an inspirational speaker/show.  Many churches have "Formed" memberships which allow their parishioners access to thousands of digital resources, free of charge.  Perhaps you could call your parish office to inquire.
  • Attend daily Mass or watch a broadcast of the Mass 
  • Sit quietly and invite Jesus to come sit with You
  • Make a list of 100 things that you're thankful for
  • Go to an adoration chapel
  • List people by name and talk to Jesus about each one.  What specifically does it seem that they need to draw closer to Him?
  • Watch the Netflix series "The Bible" and/or "AD" which are incredible dramatizations of the bible.  They are both educational and inspirational.  

If this is the first time that you're considering an intense spiritual fast, we pray that you have the courage to say "YES".  After all, everyone's doing it...just kidding!  In all seriousness, if you decide to join us for this 3-day journey of faith we believe that it will be the first of many.  Fasting is an incredible way to grow in our faith and intercede for those we love. 

We pray that the peace of Our Lord Jesus Christ fill your heart this day.
In HIM,
Karen (Chris, Michael, Anna, Katelyn and Jack)

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