Do not be afraid of anything that you are going to suffer. Indeed, the devil will throw some of you into prison, that you may be tested, and you will face an ordeal for ten days. Remain faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life.
Christians today are pressed on all sides. Yes, we are being tested by our government, the press, and the workplace. We may even find by our own families and neighbors. This is the work of the evil one; resist him and he will flee. Remain faithful until death by not giving up hope and when you fall get back up and follow our Lord.
A Practical Guide to Fasting
Fasting – a word we normally reserve for Lent. Once Easter comes, we box it up and package it away until the next Lent. Yet this should not be so among Catholic men. A while ago, Sam discussed the great benefits of fasting.
Now you may be thinking … Fasting sounds great, but where do I start? … Let’s take some time to look at the basics of fasting well.
Preparation: It is important to develop a strategy before beginning to fast. This starts with setting a realistic goal. For example, you should start simple, such as a bread and water fast for one meal, one day a week. Also, select your fast day. I recommend Wednesday or Friday, as these are the two traditional Catholic days to fast, commemorating Jesus’ betrayal and crucifixion. As you grow in fasting discipline, you could increase your fast to multiple meals on fast day or even multiple days a week.
Water: Water helps purify our bodies of toxins, while providing only the basic hydration we need to survive. When fasting, make sure to bring a water bottle with you throughout the day and drink frequently to stay hydrated. One temptation may be to slip in a cup of coffee or soft drink during the day. However, stay strong against this temptation. The bread and water will satisfy your basic needs even if they do not bring the comfort of your favorite food or beverage.
Bread: Selecting the proper fasting bread is crucial to a successful fast. Since the typical bread we eat is processed and devoid of most nutritional value, I recommend the bread made by the group, Live the Fast. As a bonus, if you are a priest, seminarian or religious, they will send you bread free! Their bread is all-natural. They bake the bread, freeze it, and then ship it to your home along with a booklet of fasting instructions. Once you receive it, you place it in the freezer. On fast day, you take the bread out of the freezer and heat it in the oven for a few minutes. The bread is filling but austere; to give the one fasting the nutrition needed to complete the day’s tasks and nothing more.
Prayer: While you are heating up the bread, grab a notebook and write down your prayer intentions for the day. Maybe a friend has lost a job, a relative is sick, or someone has asked for your prayers. Keep the list with you and offer up prayers for these people throughout the day. After the bread is finished baking, take it out of the oven, say a prayer and then eat your first piece. As you go throughout the day, look for extra opportunities to pray, especially during meal times. Maybe you could attend daily Mass or stop to visit the Blessed Sacrament during your lunch break. Intentional prayer during fasting helps remind us that fasting is not purely an ascetical practice. We forgo food to grow closer to God, not to show how tough we can be on our bodies. The hunger we experience while fasting instills in us the truth that nothing in this world can satisfy us but God alone.
Temptations: You will undergo many temptations while you fast, so stay close to God in prayer. One may be to boast to your friends about how great you are for fasting. Jesus warned us in the Gospel that those kinds of people are hypocrites. The purpose of fasting is to draw us closer to Christ, not draw others closer to us for our own greatness. Another temptation may be free food. Just like during Lent when meat becomes more available and appealing on Fridays, expect more temptations to eat during the fast. A co-worker may offer you a snack or tell you about some leftovers from a department’s lunch in the break room. Stay vigilant against these temptations and focus your mind on other things. The less you think about food during the day, the easier it will be to fast
Breaking the Fast: End your fast day with a prayer. Thank God for the day and then prepare a normal sized meal. The temptation can be to gorge yourself with food after eating less during the day, but this is not beneficial. Eat your meal slowly and mindfully. Thank God for the gift of food and the grace he gave you to fast well. Just like any other habit, fasting can be difficult to begin and you may want to quit. You will have days where you fast well and others where you give into hunger easily. Do not be discouraged but persevere! God has great graces for those who fast and will help draw near to him those who seek him through the discipline of fasting.
“Fasting purifies the soul. It lifts up the mind, and it brings the body into subjection to the spirit. It makes the heart contrite and humble, scatters the clouds of desire, puts out the flames of lust and enkindles the true light of chastity.” (St. Augustine)
The Devil and Temptations
There are many and varied ways in which sin and evil are presented to us in an attractive way.
The New Age Movement
· Although virtually unknown a few years ago, this movement is gaining in popularity on an international level. On the surface it appears to be a "peace" movement, but in my estimation, it definitely belongs to the occult. This is because it presents some basic characteristics that are identified with the occult, even though Satan is not mentioned.
· For example, the "god" of the New Age is not the God of Christianity and Judaism. The New Age god is more like an impersonal energy or force of which the whole universe consists. This is a form of pantheism. For us God is Creator and Lord of all. We are his creatures. In the New Age, Jesus becomes one of the many spiritual masters who discovered his higher self. It is believed that in the New Age we can also be enlightened, and this through our own efforts not through revelation and the grace of God.
· The New Age Movement is sometimes called a peace movement. Somehow, it is said, that when we become a part of this "Harmonic Convergence" we can bring to bear a mighty power that is beyond ourselves for achieving world peace. But when we talk about any power that is not from God, and beyond ourselves we are really talking about the occult.
· Do not be deceived by the talk about ecology, the beauty of nature in the world, and the fundamental goodness of the apparent goals of this movement. Those who join the New Age Movement are entering a movement dealing with occult spiritual power. It is not a spiritual power that comes from God, but from the Kingdom of False Light and Darkness.
The Way Penance
"Read these counsels slowly. Pause to meditate on these thoughts. They are things that I whisper in your ear-confiding them-as a friend, as a brother, as a father. And they are being heard by God. I won't tell you anything new. I will only stir your memory, so that some thought will arise and strike you; and so you will better your life and set out along ways of prayer and of Love. And in the end you will be a more worthy soul."
Motives for penance? — Atonement, reparation, petition, thanksgiving: means to progress: for you, for me, for others, for your family, for your country, for the Church... And a thousand motives more.