ASK FATHER: “I would like to incorporate fasting…”

In his Letter to the faithful of the Diocese of Madison, Bp. Morlino (aka The Extraordinary Ordinary) recommended the observance of Ember Days in September as days of fasting and abstinence in reparation for sin.

He reminded us that “some demons can only be driven out by prayer and fasting”.  (Cf. Matthew 17:21)

We are, right now, surrounded by demons, especially demons of sodomy.

From a reader…


Thank you very much the last two podcasts. I found particularly rewarding Father Altier’s sermon and his image of Mother Mary coming to clean the room. [Yeah.. that was great!] I would like to incorporate fasting, as well as rededicating myself to a daily rosary,  into my prayer. Know the contemporary rules set forth by the USCCB are  not at stringent as they were in former times, can you provide a more meaningful exercise for fasting?

The USCCB’s rules for the Eucharistic fast and for other days of penance are, shall we shall, inadequate for a sound Catholic identity.

We all, I think, should do something along the lines of self-denial in reparation for the sins that have been committed.

What immediately occurred to me was “eat less”.   It sounds a little flippant, but, there it is.  Or, cut out a specific food you like.

However, a second thought came.   For some years I have met a fellow at Acton UniversityAndy LaVallee, who has developed a “fasting bread” company.  He bakes nutritious breads suitable for fasting on bread and water.

I am not sure about what this interesting entrepreneur is up to right now with his fasting breads.  However, he wrote a book about it.


About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. MoreIncenseLessNonsense says:

    Great question! For Melkite Greek-Catholics, most Wednesdays and Fridays are meatless – which is the basic requirement. You can take it up a notch and cut out dairy and eggs. Cutting out foods is considered an “ascetic fast” as opposed to a total fast. It’s recommended to work up to it – going all in at once can result in more spiritual attacks. I blog about it at

  2. acardnal says:

    I have a suggestion for reparation: How about stopping by a church and making the Way of the Cross (the stations) every Friday! I don’t see folks doing that much any more except maybe during Lent. Pope John Paul II reportedly prayed the Stations every Friday and look what happened – he’s now a saint!

    Fr. Z's Gold Star Award

  3. Gripen says:

    If you want to fast, then fast. Look to the Easter Catholics and Orthodox for real guidance in this matter, because we Latins seem to have completely forgotten what it means. It’s hard, but nearly everyone can go a full day (or longer, trust me) on water alone. Be smart, obviously – if fasting will literally hurt you, then don’t do it.

  4. Elizabeth D says:

    My two cents… there’s no substitute for seeking guidance/permission/accountability/oversight from a confessor or spiritual director who can help keep one on the path of prudence, and good confessors tend to be used to handling inquiries about fasting. It also can add the merit of obedience and beneficially help preserve the connection between the bodily penance of fasting and the actual Sacrament of Penance, even though fasting is not the assigned penance for making satisfaction for the sacrament. The way I understand it, a penitent can even ask during the celebration of the Sacrament, “Father, may I fast on Fridays as penance for my past sins of such-and-such nature?” or “for my past sins and for the sins of other members of the body of the Church?”

    One book for those who are serious about fasting is “To Love Fasting” by Adalbert de Vogue (search for it via Fr Z’s Amazon search box on the right hand sidebar on this site) , a scholarly French Benedictine hermit. It could be possible to get carried away with this example. I mean, Adalbert doesn’t drink water except during his one meal of the day. But this book is a starting point and context for the practical reality of serious fasting that is rooted in deep Christian tradition.The aspect of fasting as done communally can involve bearing in mind the Communion of Saints, and what has been normal and fruitful for Christians. When following a “regular fast” such as an every day except Sunday fast it’s necessary to eat all the food necessary for the day in the one meal–it’s necessary to be capable to eat a lot at a sitting. Recent studies show there are basically no health risks associated with this, as long as someone doesn’t specifically have a condition that requires more frequent eating. Fasting isn’t starving. It is normally paired with abstinence. Adalbert de Vogue set a time limit of one hour on his meal which naturally limits his intake while providing enough time for nourishing himself.

    Having the one meal of the day as bread and water only is austere and a way that ordinary fasting could be intensified at certain moments, Good Friday comes to mind. Or maybe someone who needed a small collation or two during the day to sustain them during work might limit the collation(s) to bread and water only. Lots of people are in need of breaking habits of mindless snacking. I don’t see why someone needs specially purchased “fasting bread”. Get whole wheat at the store, or for free from the food pantry if you are poor. A real traditional Lenten fast is also an intensification of a regular fast by excluding not only meat but even dairy, eggs, sugar, and oil. Because eating has such a social dimension one’s family and social commitments may need to be taken into account when making plans about fasting, if one is not a hermit.

    Finally, the most basic form of fasting is not eating between meals. Most people can practice that all the time and it helps with the virtue of temperance. That’s not trivial if you are living a Christian spiritual life. The point of penance, I think, is restoration of Charity and order including not only desisting permanently from evil sins and learning to properly hate them, but preferring God above gratification of cravings, and even social justice such as feeding the poor (think of universal destination of goods such as food) and avoiding abusing the environment.

  5. MrsMacD says:

    For those of us who can’t fast, we can still avoid eating between meals, which is actually healthier, so harming your health is no excuse. And St. John the Baptist gave as penance to those who came to him for counsel that they do their duties. If you’re not doing your duties fasting is not the place to start penance. St. John the Baptist lived on locusts and honey, so he knew when fasting was appropriate.

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