Last night I woke up a little before 2 a.m., and decided to hit the fridge for a couple of pieces of the kids' left over pizza. Like millions of others yesterday, I had joined Pope Francis in fasting and praying for peace throughout the world, and especially in Syria. And I'll tell ya, after a good fast, Little Caesar's pizza had never tasted better! As I sincerely thanked God for such delicious food, I recalled a story from Christopher West's At the Heart of the Gospel:
Teresa of Avila (one of the saints I most admire) was once caught by her sisters, in the middle of the night, scarfing down partridge. Seeing the shocked looks on their faces their holy mother responded, "When I fast, I fast; and when I eat partridge, I eat partridge!" It's a great lesson on why we Christians fast. It isn't that food or our bodily appetites are "bad," or "sinful." Rather, for a limited time, we seek the fulfillment of an even deeper hunger. In yesterday's fast we expressed to God our hunger for peace in the world.
I don't know how many of us practice fasting, except on Ash Wednesday or Good Friday. I've hardly ever done it. When I began researching the prayer life of Jesus a few years back, and His teaching on prayer, I recognized that I was called - that all of us are called - to unite fasting to our prayer for great needs. It was Jesus' practice; and in God's providence, it is a prerequisite for His release of certain graces. Kudos to Pope Francis for bringing it into our prayers for peace!
Just don't let anyone get the wrong impression that we Catholics frown upon the feast. We love to feast! We've just found that the food tastes that much better after a day of prayer and fasting!