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147. Fasting

1. Abstinence, as an act, is usually the refraining fromthe use of certain kinds of food or drink. Fasting is therefraining for determinate periods from all use of food. Toillustrate: a Catholic abstains when he refrains fromeating meat on Friday; but he fasts when he refrains fromfood and drink altogether for a time, or, in a less complete senseof the word fasting, when he limits himself to one full meal a day.Fasting is useful for: (a) controlling the lusts of the flesh; (b)freeing the mind from bodily concerns so that it may bettercontemplate heavenly things; (c) penancing the body in satisfactionfor sins. That fasting is a virtuous act is manifest fromthese excellent uses that it serves.

2. Fasting is an act of the virtue of abstinence.

3. Fasting for the purposes indicated above (preventing,and atoning for sin, and raising the mind to contemplation) is aduty imposed by reason, and therefore by the natural law. Thepositive precepts of fasting which determine its manner and extent,and the timesappointed for it, come from the Church whichdecides what is becoming and profitable, on this point, for herchildren.

4. The Church imposes the duty of fasting in general, butshe makes exceptions for certain classes (the aged, the infirm,children), and grants dispensations in particular cases when thisis necessary or advisable.

5. There is a notable fitness in the fasts imposed by theChurch. The intensive and prolonged fasting-season of Lent comesevery year, and the ember days and fasting vigils of certain feastskeep the faithful constantly in the spirit and practice of fasting,and yet without imposing great hardship upon them. And a richsymbolism attaches to the seasons of fasting, especially to theforty days of the lenten fast.

6. The eucharistic fast is the fast observed beforereceiving our Lord in Holy Communion. The ecclesiastical fast isthe ordinary fast from food (not drink) imposed by the Church forcertain days and seasons. The essence of the ecclesiastical fastseems to lie in the fact that only one full meal is taken on afasting day.

7. The time for the one full meal permitted on a fastingday is determined by church law, even as the fast itself is sodetermined. The time of this meal is set for noon or the later partof the day, not the forenoon.

8. The strict fast of an earlier day, when the faithfulwere required to abstain from flesh meat, eggs, and milk foods(butter, cheese), has been much mitigated in later times, and forgood reasons.

"It is better to be burdened and in company with the strong than to be unburdened and with the weak. When you are burdened you are close to God, your strength, who abides with the afflicted. When you are relieved of the burden you are close to yourself, your own weakness; for virtue and strength of soul grow and are confirmed in the trials of patience."
St John of the Cross, OCD - Doctor of the Church

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"Lord, take from me everything that hinders me from going to You. give me all that will lead me to You. Take me from myself and give me to Yourself."
St Nicholas Flue

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"It is not God's will that we should abound in spiritual delights, but that in all things we should submit to his holy will."
Blessed Henry Suso

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