Why Do We Practice Fasting and Abstinence? (Illustrated Guide!)

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Before we even start talking about fasting or abstinence, let’s say something obvious: none of this make sense outside a logic of faith. There are certainly psychological benefits and ways of explaining the cultural or social reasons for fasting and such, but that’s all secondary, to say the least.

To put it simply, we fast because Christ invites us to do so:


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“But when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, that your fasting may not be seen by others but by your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.”(Mather 6: 16-18)

Fasting is a powerful and beautiful way of living out penance and self-denial, both important realities in our Christian life. Still, we should always remember that at the heart of it all is charity. Or, as John Chrysostom puts it: “No act of virtue can be great if it is not followed by advantage for others. So, no matter how much time you spend fasting, no matter how much you sleep on a hard floor and eat ashes and sigh continually, if you do no good to others, you do nothing great.” All this isn’t to downplay the role of sacrifice and self-denial; Francis reminds us both that these activities must truly enrich others as well as saying: “I distrust a charity that costs nothing and does not hurt.”

Without further delay, here is a simple illustrated guide on fasting and abstinence that to give you a clear and simple idea of how to live out this practice for Lent. As with all of our resources, feel free to uses these images as you wish (just don’t delete our logo ;-)).


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Interested in drawing closer to God this Lent?

Fr. Michael Denk will be introducing his program of Pray40Days. The purpose of Pray40Days (with corresponding App and online resources) is to help you grow in your prayer life so that you will come to know God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit in a deep, personal, and profound way. It is written especially for people who want to grow in their prayer life but just don’t know how. It is also for people who don’t even know they want to grow, but will soon discover how much deeper they can really go! Pray40Days will guide you through different types of prayer that will immerse you in the life of Christ, fill you with the Holy Spirit, and allow you to be held and loved by the Father. By the end of Pray40Days, you will come to love spending time with God and look forward to the wonder that awaits you every time you enter into this quality time with God who loves you more than anyone else ever could.

In the Church’s tradition there is a hierarchy of prayer: Vocal Prayer, Meditative Prayer, and Contemplative Prayer.  Most Catholics have never grown past the Vocal Prayer.  In this presentation the viewers will learn how to pray meditatively and contemplatively.  They will learn the most effective ways to build the habit of the daily routine of prayer and also have access to the resources the church always offered through the Mystics now in a concrete, doable, and accessible way.  Many people who experience this for the first time say: “Wow, I’ve never experienced anything like that before.”  With tears in their eyes they will say: “I felt like Jesus was right there with me.”  Even children have said: “For the first time in my life there was no stress… I felt like I was floating being held by God.”  

You too will be guided through six different types of meditation and contemplation during this webinar: Praying with Your Imagination, Praying with Your Senses, Lectio Divino, Contemplative Prayer, Dialoguing with God “Praying Like a Pirate: ARRR”, and Relaxing with Scripture.  

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About Garrett Johnson

Garrett Johnson has written 374 post in this blog.

Born in Texas, I fell in love with evangelization when I was 18. A former NET member and a Franciscan University of Steubenville Alumnus, I am now living in Rome and studying for the priesthood.

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