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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.

"The one thing necessary which Jesus spoke of to Martha and Mary consists in hearing the word of God and living by it."
R. Garrigou-Lagrange, OP

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"Shun too great a desire for knowledge, for in it there is much fretting and delusion. Intellectuals like to appear learned and to be called wise. Yet there are many things the knowledge of which does little or no good to the soul, and he who concerns himself about other things than those which lead to salvation is very unwise. "
Thomas á Kempis

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"The supreme perfection of man in this life is to be so united to God that all his soul with all its faculties and powers are so gathered into the Lord God that he becomes one spirit with him, and remembers nothing except God, is aware of and recognises nothing but God, but with all his desires unified by the joy of love, he rests contentedly in the enjoyment of his Maker alone."
St Albert the Great

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