Reclaiming the Practice of Fasting in Ordinary Time

By: Therese Bermpohl 

How are values portrayed on TV?


I don’t watch T.V. like I used to because, as the old Springsteen song goes, “57 channels and nothing[’s] on.” Although it would be more appropriate in today’s market to sing “1,057 channels,” it is the same story: shows worth watching are few and far between. This lack of values can be attributed to the disregard for the dignity of the human person woven throughout almost every program, be it a “lighthearted” comedy or hard-core news.   

For example, the family as God ordained it has been remade into the image and likeness of the latest Hollywood writers. The father is often stereotyped as the family fool and the children are the ones doling out advice to their wayward parents.  

As a Catholic, I find myself asking, outside of Mass and prayer, “What am I doing to make amends for the current state of our society?”  

What Constitutes Fasting?


Remember when fasting meant more than just downsizing two of our daily meals? Or when abstaining from meat was actually a hardship?  Somehow, I think the concept of meatless Fridays has lost its penitential oomph (That may well be the reason why the Church in her wisdom leaves it up to the individual to choose his or her own penitential practice during Fridays in ordinary time). When I am ordering a grilled red snapper or a perfectly filleted salmon on a Friday night, I cannot help but ask myself, “Is this the penance I want to unite to the suffering of Jesus Christ?” We all would do well to re-discover the practice of fasting, and other practices, to make reparation for the myriad of times that God is offended each day by our sins and the sins of others. 

Did you know that the early Church fasted Wednesdays and Fridays on bread and water, donating to the poor the money that would have been spent on food? Throughout Sacred Scripture, fasting has been associated with key events.  

  • King Jehoshaphat called for a fast to stave off the Moabites and the Ammonites;
  • The city of Nineveh fasted to repent of their evil ways after Jonah threatened their impending destruction;
  • Jesus fasted and affirmed His disciples in doing the same.

Many fast to pray that there will be just laws that defend life.


Even just recently, Bishop Loverde called for a diocesan-wide fast with the intention that Congress would pass a health care bill respecting the dignity of human life from conception until natural death. 

Let us follow the Bishop’s lead and heed the traditions of the early Church and, when possible, begin to fast in a way that is more in line with what the Catechism calls “voluntary self-denial” for our sanctification and that of the whole world.

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