Continuing our interview with Sister Mary David, Prioress of St Cecilia’s Abbey on the Isle of Wight, we asked her about Fasting and Catholics in the West.
Catholic Compass: How does abstinence form Catholic identity?
The Friday abstinence was a universal act that reminded Catholics that they were called to live differently from non-Catholics around them, and it was recognised by non-Catholics as something that Catholics did. Religion is not a purely private affair. The Bishops recognise that Catholics need to recover outward signs of their collective identity.
Catholic Compass: Why has fasting and abstinence declined in the West?
A loss of Catholic identity, a secularist mentality, but also the rise of a disincarnate spirituality that would separate body and soul in the spiritual effort. Then, the weakness of modern man is sometimes cited. But fasting has always been difficult. Perhaps it is truer to say that if bodily disciplines no longer have a place in modern life, it is because we no longer feel they are important. Moreover, one of the aims of fasting is to make us conscious of our dependence upon God. If we always take our fill of food and drink, we easily grow over-confident in our own abilities, acquiring a false sense of autonomy and self-sufficiency. Fasting and abstinence confront our tendency to grab and snatch at material things, to see them only as sources of our satisfaction
Catholic Compass: Don’t fasting and abstinence point to a disdain for material creation?
Quite the contrary. There is no question here of saying that fasting is a good thing because food and drink are bad things. Christians fast and abstain in order to acknowledge the Lord as the true giver of good gifts; the true Bread of Life, and as the One calling us to the banquet of his Kingdom. We fast to purify our eating and drinking, and to make them no longer a concession to greed but as sacrament, a means of communion with the Giver.
Sr Mary David is a Benedictine nun of St Cecilia’s Abbey, Ryde, Isle of Wight, where she serves her Community as Prioress and Novice Mistress. Keep an eye out for her book, coming soon from CTS.
Of related interest:
|Spiritual Warfare – This booklet enlightens the struggle by searching the wisdom of the scriptures. It gives hope to everyone, because Christ is always by our side to help us in every battle.|
|Lent and EasterSpanning the seasons of Lent, Easter and to Pentecost, this booklet describes the rich heritage of customs and traditions long practiced by Catholics down the ages, up to today.|
|Prayer, Fasting & Almsgiving – The three traditional “weapons of the spirit” used by Christians particularly during Lent.|