Fatima and the Importance of Praying for Sinners

This past weekend, I watched Fatima which was released in 2020. It’s worth watching. I really enjoyed this account because it didn’t romanticize what happened at Fatima in 1916. The movie focused not so much on Mary’s messages, but on the hardship these encounters created for the children and their families. They were accused of lying and being misled by Satan, hounded by pilgrims, and interrogated by civil and religious authorities.

One of the most impactful scenes in the movie was when Mary showed Lucia a glimpse of the souls in Hell. The scene portrayed many of the classical depictions of Hell — fire, smoke, devils, and souls screaming in terror. It gave weight to Mary’s message that we all must pray for the conversion of sinners.

FATIMA: The vision of hell from Our Lady’s Blue Army on Vimeo.

The Tragedy of Hell

Our Lord warns us that we will be separated from him if not helpers in their serious needs of the poor and little ones who are his brothers. To die in mortal sin without repentance and without having to accept God’s merciful love means remaining separated from him forever by our own free choice. And it is this state of definitive self-exclusion from communion with God and the blessed, which is designated with the word ‘hell’.

Catechism of the Catholic Church

The sad fact is that there are souls in Hell permanently cut off from God. The Church teaches that all the souls in Hell deliberately rejected God’s laws and His mercy. But it really hit me recently that this is a tragedy not only for the individual rejecting God but also for the universal church for letting people get to that point.

Looking back at the Old Testament, we have a duty to help correct and convert those living in sin. It’s not out of self-righteousness or judgment that we do this, but out of a genuine concern for everyone’s eternal well-being. No matter how you personally feel about someone, we need to remember they are our brother or sister in Christ. And by not helping them, we run the risk of sin through our silence.

18 When I say to a wicked person, ‘You will surely die,’ and you do not warn them or speak out to dissuade them from their evil ways in order to save their life, that wicked person will die for[a] their sin, and I will hold you accountable for their blood. 19 But if you do warn the wicked person and they do not turn from their wickedness or from their evil ways, they will die for their sin; but you will have saved yourself.

Ezekiel 3:18-19

Maybe it’s because I’ve been steeped in little league baseball for the last two months, but I’ve come to see our faith as a team sport. We succeed and fail as a community. Yes, our faith has an individual and personal aspect to it. We have to do our part in fostering a personal relationship with God. But we are also a community meant to support each other. A person doesn’t fall into mortal sin in a vacuum. I think too many times we turn a blind eye to the mortal sin we witness by taking an “it’s not me” attitude about it. That’s a failure of the community. When we’re not supporting each other, the entire Catholic Church is weaker as a result.

Conversion through the Rosary

Think of the last line of the Hail Mary, “pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death.” In a standard Rosary, you will say those words 53 times. The Hail Mary is a short prayer in terms of words (only 42) so the fact that it specifically mentions praying for sinners is significant. It’s that important to Mary, and it should be important to us as well, that we pray for those committing sins (ourselves included).

I know that I often pray the Fatima prayer too casually when I pray the Rosary. But we must remember that sin has real eternal consequences. And we must pray for those who live in sin because their souls are in danger. I understand, we don’t like to think about Hell or the idea that there are people that choose it. Or maybe the problem seems too big for us to solve. But that’s why we pray — to receive help from those in Heaven and on earth. We can ask Jesus for mercy on sinners, Mary to advocate for them, and the Holy Spirit to convert and guide them. We are never alone in this fight. The conversion of sinners is something the entire Church undertakes together.

O My Jesus, forgive us our sins, save us from the fires of Hell and lead all souls to Heaven, especially those who are in most need of Thy mercy.

Activating the Holy Spirit

The Benefits of Credit

A credit card is just a piece of plastic with no function until it is activated. Once activated, you still have to use your credit responsibly. You have to not exceed your limit, run up too much debt, and make your payments on time. Finally, an unused credit card is also pointless because you’re not taking advantage of any benefits or discounts. But using credit responsibly provides many benefits and opens up your purchasing power.

If you are not manifesting the fruits of the Holy Spirit in your life:  [Charity, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, generosity, gentleness, faithfulness, modesty, self-control and chastity], the chances are that you have not activated the gifts. After you receive a new credit card, you activate it before you can use it. After the activation of the card, timely payment of your bill is the way to continue to enjoy the credit card.

seekfirst.blogspot.com

I like the analogy that the fruits of the Holy Spirit are like a credit card. To unlock all the benefits and rewards of a credit card, you have to activate it first. As we come up to Pentecost Sunday, ask yourself whether you’ve activated the fruits of the Holy Spirit in your life. Have you been praying, going to Mass, going to Confession, and fasting? In short, have you been trying to live the Catholic faith? That is how we activate the Holy Spirit.

Fruits of the Holy Spirit

God gives us a lot of freedom. He’s not going to force the Holy Spirit onto us. If we don’t want to receive all those benefits, we don’t have to activate them. But that begs the question, why not? Why wouldn’t we want God’s grace to help us to be more charitable, joyful, patient, and kind? People talk about how stupid it is to pass up free money. Why pass up God’s grace and the fruits of the Holy Spirit which are nearly free?

Don’t be foolish! Accept the gifts God wants to give us.

If credit cards have terms and conditions, what about the fruits of the Holy Spirit? Yes, they have them too but they are very generous. Basically, we have to use these gifts. We have to go out and be living witnesses to the faith. You can’t practice charity, patience, kindness, etc. in a vacuum. These are all fruits of interaction. God desires us to share these fruits with the world. Think about the saints. Yes, they prayed a lot. But that wasn’t all they did. They shared the gifts that God gave them with the world.

Excited Evangelism

When I think about sharing the fruits of the Holy Spirit, I think about the Second Joyful Mystery of the Rosary — the Visitation. As I’ve said before, Mary could have stayed put after receiving the news of her pregnancy in the Annunciation. But instead, she went out and shared joy, charity, peace, generosity, and kindness with her cousin Elizabeth. Mary was so full of God’s grace that she couldn’t resist sharing it with others.

Imagine a time when you had some really exciting news that you had to share. It was hard to keep quiet about it right? You probably felt like a balloon about to burst unless you had some way to release some of that excitement. That’s how Mary wants us to feel about our faith and love of Jesus! She knows what it is like to be so full of God’s grace and she desires that all her children experience the same.

Yes! We should be this excited about our faith.

The apostles couldn’t hold back using the fruits of the Holy Spirit to spread the Good News of Jesus Christ. They went from cowards during Jesus’ Passion to inspired evangelists. They went to the ends of the known world utilizing the gifts bestowed on them at Pentecost. That passion is how God intends all of us to wisely use the gifts He gives us.

Pray that you have the desire to use the fruits of the Holy Spirit. When God sees that desire, He will provide all that you need and more. He’s done it countless times to Mary, the apostles, and the saints. God will do the same for you.

Awesome Letter for the Archbishop of San Francisco

Lacking Understanding

I’ve been a huge Star Wars fan my whole life. You can consider me your classic Star Wars nerd; knowing all the trivia and details of the franchise. May 4th was Star Wars day (“May the Fourth be with You”, get it?). On that day, many people talked about Star Wars including one of the podcasts I listen to. They confessed they didn’t know much about the series and it showed. They asked many questions that any Star Wars fan knows like “how many movies make up the Skywalker saga? It’s nine by the way. As someone who knows Star Wars, it was a painful podcast to listen to.

I think many of us feel a similar pain when we hear on the news about our “Catholic” president or just about any mainstream news reporting about religion. It’s painful hearing the misinformation about the Church. The media just doesn’t understand the logic behind Catholic teaching. They act like universal truths can just be ignored or revised at will. They think the Church should just bend to whatever the woke cause de jour happens to be.

Listening to the news misreport about the Catholic Church is like listening to clueless people talk about Star Wars. It’s extremely frustrating the amount of misinformation they spread. It’s dangerous in many ways too. First, Catholics weak in their knowledge of the faith may be led astray if they believe that what the media or politicians say about the Church. Second, in this woke cancel culture, mobs can attack the faithful based on a false perception of Church teaching.

Pray that radical progressives stop at only destroying statues

A Clear Voice

That is why it’s so refreshing when someone comes along and lays out the teachings of the Catholic Church in a clear, unambiguous way. I’m talking about the archbishop of San Francisco, Salvatore Cordileone. In his letter on May 1, the archbishop wrote about the sanctity of human life, Communion, and politicians. He didn’t mince words when he says, “the killing must stop.” Here’s what he tells politicians:

To Catholics in public life who practice abortion or advocate for it: the killing must stop. Please, please, please: the killing must stop. God has entrusted you with a prestigious position in society. You have the power to affect societal practices and attitudes. Always remember that you will one day have to render an account to God for your stewardship of this trust. You are in a position to do something concrete and decisive to stop the killing. Please stop the killing. And please stop pretending that advocating for or practicing a grave moral evil—one that snuffs out an innocent human life, one that denies a fundamental human right—is somehow compatible with the Catholic faith. It is not. Please return home to the fullness of your Catholic faith. We await you with open arms to welcome you back.

Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone

The letter is long but is worth reading. Any attempt I try to make to summarize it won’t do it justice. Trust me, I’ve tried writing some bullet points but it never comes together with the same impact as the letter. The letter has several layers that build on top of each other so it must be read in its entirety. I would be no better than the news pundits if I tried to cherry-pick certain lines.

The fact that the letter shouldn’t be cherry-picked for information is what is missing in modern discourse. Complex discussions about the dignity of human life, evil, mortal sin, and the Eucharist take time to express. The Church is guided by thousands of years of teachings from brilliant minds and inspired hearts. The problem is that no one in politics or the media wants to make an effort to understand Church teaching. Understanding takes time. Whipping up a bunch of woke activists takes a Twitter post.

The Rosary “Meds”

When I pray the Fourth Glorious Mystery, I think about how Mary was assumed into Heaven to help guide us to her Son, Jesus Christ. Part of coming to know and love Jesus is knowing and understanding his Church’s teachings. Yes, that can be hard on all sorts of levels. Sorry, but the Catechism or the Bible can’t be expressed in 140 characters and emojis. But making an effort to understand our faith is what we are called to do. We can’t love or hate something without making an effort to learn and understand it. Mary wants us to love her son and hence, wants to help us understand him and his Church.

I urge you to read or listen to the archbishop’s letter. Listening to it takes no more time than most podcasts. If you’re only hearing about politicians’ worthiness to receive Communion from the media, you’re not hearing the entire story.

May is the Time to Simplify

I have certain addictions. They aren’t terrible ones, but they are addictions nonetheless. Maybe a routine is a better way to put it. I spend a lot of time in the evening watching junk video clips on YouTube. The content isn’t morally bad. It’s mostly clips from many of my favorite shows and movies. But it can suck away a lot of time. I watch one 5-minute clip and then I see another suggested clip that looks interesting. The next thing I know, I’ve spent an hour watching bits and pieces of movies.

I recall many television shows that I would watch religiously — Shark Tank, Law and Order, Lost, and a myriad of cooking competitions. I felt like I had to watch them or else I would fall behind and lose track of the plot. And then something would happen where I couldn’t watch these shows — I went on vacation, I had some important event to attend, etc. And you know what? I didn’t really care that I had missed those episodes and fell behind. For the most part, I stopped watching those shows entirely and it wasn’t a big deal. The key was breaking out of the routine to find something better.

Is this “must see” TV?

I want the month of May to be a time of mental and spiritual spring cleaning. Many people clean physical spaces in spring by getting rid of the junk that has accumulated in the house over the years. But many of us have also accumulated junk habits that need cleaning. I’m sure we can all find those little time sucks that don’t really bring much happiness but we do them out of routine. Even if those routines aren’t sinful, we should evaluate whether we could be doing something better with our time.

I am the True Vine

“I am the true vine, and my Father is the vine grower.
He takes away every branch in me that does not bear fruit,
and everyone that does he prunes so that it bears more fruit.”

John 15:1-2

I like the idea that when we reduce and simply, we can be happier and closer to God. We are basically removing all the worldly vices and distractions so what remains is God’s grace. We lose focus on what’s important when we spend our time and energy on frivolous activities. It’s better to consume our time by focusing on a few higher-quality endeavors instead of many low-quality ones. And that goes for our downtime too. Don’t waste your relaxation time on activities that aren’t actually regenerative like arguing with trolls on social media.

The Rosary

When I think about focusing our time and energy wisely, I think about the Third Luminous Mystery — Jesus’ Proclamation of the Kingdom of Heaven and Call to Conversion. Jesus tells us to focus our energies on His Heavenly Kingdom and transform our lives to focus on that goal. That includes not only avoiding sin but also finding ways to “bear fruit.” Not sinning is just the minimum to living for Heaven. Jesus challenges us to do more by finding ways to serve him in all aspects of our lives whether that be work or play.

The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring glad tidings to the poor. (Lk 4:18)

My YouTube Diet

This May, I’m going to try to go on a YouTube diet. I want to reclaim some of that time wasted watching five-minute movie clips. Instead, I may watch actual, full-length movies (I haven’t watched The Hobbit trilogy yet), shows, and documentaries. I’m going to work on some personal projects. I’m going to try to write more RosaryMeds articles. I’m also going to give some YouTube alternatives a try like odysee and rumble since they don’t have censorship based on woke social agendas like YouTube.

Naturally, in Mary’s month, I also want to dedicate more time to Rosary prayer and Bible reading. On weekdays, I now start my day praying the Rosary. I like the idea that by the time I get out of bed, I’ve accomplished something. I’m starting the day with the correct mindset; one centered around God. I’m making my relationship with God a priority above all else.

You would be surprised how much better days go with small tweaks like limiting mindless web browsing and waking up with prayer. This isn’t anything new and is a topic many self-help books cover. But there is an element of truth to them. Small changes can have a huge impact. You just have to be patient and have the motivation to get started. Like giving something up for Lent or Advent, the first few days or weeks of breaking a routine are always the hardest. But with God’s help through prayer, you will hopefully find yourself asking why you didn’t break certain habits earlier.

So, what’s your personal spring cleaning going to be?

A Church Asleep

We all want to do the right thing. We all want to be considered good people. But doing what is right and what is good has become a difficult, if not risky, lifestyle choice. In the aftermath of the Covid19 pandemic, we’re now experiencing what I’ll call the woke wave. We have groups trying to redefine what is right and good in ways that run counter to Catholic teachings. And while the Church has always been under assault, the Covid19 pandemic has weakened our ability to defend the truth.

Constance T. Hull, in her Catholic Exchange article, Christ’s Call For Us to Stay Awake, paints a rather bleak picture of the state of the Catholic Church. But you can’t deny her truthfulness. This Covid19 pandemic has weakened many of the faithful because we have lost touch with the cornerstone of our faith –– the celebration of the Eucharist in the Holy Mass.

COVID-19 has led many Catholics to wrongly believe that watching Mass on Sunday is good enough. I was saddened to see how abysmal the Easter turnout was at my own parish this year. The highest feast day of the year and there was plenty of room to spare at all of the Masses. This is what happens, however, when we spend a year telling people to stay home, or worse, that Mass isn’t a priority, but those shopping trips, family gatherings, group events, and even riots are acceptable over and above the sacramental life.

Constance T. Hull

The Importance of Catholic Identity

My wife and her family are from Poland. We joke that when you marry into a Polish family, you must become Polish yourself and raise your kids to embrace all things Polish. They express a strong cultural identity and sense of pride that rubs off on you. It was that identity that kept their culture alive when they weren’t a country and invaded by both Germany and Russia in the 20th century. Through hardship and sacrifice, they preserved their identity even when others tried to wipe it away.

I think the Catholic Church is under assault and many seek to wipe it off the globe. But the difference between the assault on Poland in the 20th century and the current assault on the Catholic Church is that Poland didn’t have smartphones and streaming video services. When armies march on your cities, you take notice and fight back. When there was a new season of The Mandalorian, we let the woke movement march right over us. We’ve become so pacified by our digital devices that many of us don’t realize that our faith is under attack. Poland had to face armies marching in and taking over its cities. The current attack on the Catholic Church is much more subtle but more dangerous.

Catholics are seeing the result of decades of soft teachings. We’ve been so afraid to talk about the truth that when the truth came under attack we didn’t know how to defend it. Worse, many of us didn’t even care to defend it. When was the last homily where you’ve heard your priest mention mortal sin, hell, the need to go to confession, the sanctity of marriage, and the Real Presence in the Eucharist? The Mass just became another streaming show on our phones and TVs and was one that many of us skipped in favor of The Queen’s Gambit.

A Church Asleep

Constance Hull compared the current situation to the apostles, asleep in the Garden of Gesthemenme while Jesus prayed before his crucifixion.

As He prays in agony to the Father, the Apostles fall asleep. Our Lord warns them to remain awake so they may not undergo the test. In other words, stay alert and spiritually prepare for we don’t know the hour of His return or testing. We don’t know exactly when persecution will come upon us and we as the Church will once more enter into Our Lord’s Passion. The Apostles continue to sleep despite Our Lord’s warnings for they were overcome with sorrow. The hour He repeatedly warns them about comes much quicker than any of them expect, so they flee.

Constance T. Hull

The world was unprepared when the pandemic first hit. We didn’t have the emergency infrastructure to combat it. We scrambled to find masks, ventilators, etc. Like the apostles, many Catholics were caught off guard too. Our spiritual infrastructure wasn’t prepared for the battles we now find ourselves in. We so readily embraced taking a vacation from our spiritual responsibilities that when the woke movement came in with their assault on core Catholic teachings, we were asleep like the apostles.

Your Rosary Meds

When you meditate on the First Sorrowful Mystery of the Rosary, ask yourself how you’ve been asleep this past year during the pandemic. Have you made an effort to go to Mass in person if you’re not in a high-risk group? Have you contributed financially to your parish if you have the means to do so? Have you put your faith in God’s ability to perform miracles in this pandemic?

Even if we’ve fallen short, we can take comfort in the fact that the apostles abandoning Jesus was part of God’s divine plan. Yes, it led to the physical tragedy of Christ’s death. But it also led to his glorious resurrection just as Jesus said it would and a renewed sense of faith in the apostles. Being asleep, physically in the garden, and then spiritually after abandoning Jesus became a wake-up call for the apostles. And wake up they did. They came back with renewed faith to evangelize and change the world.

Staying spiritually “awake” is challenging

Pray that we too, while we may have been asleep, like the apostles, during this pandemic, that we can bring the world back to Christ Jesus. We may have been scared like the apostles, but we also must have faith that all of this is part of God’s plan. The apostles needed to be asleep and abandon Jesus for God’s plan to manifest itself. And so we must have faith that all that is transpiring with the pandemic, the woke wave, and the assault of Catholic values will lead to an ultimate good that God has already mapped out for us.

What Shall We Do With Jesus the Messiah During Easter?

With Covid cases dropping in many places around the world and more people being vaccinated, I’m starting to hear how things will get back to normal again. Unfortunately, looking at the empty pews in the church at Mass on Divine Mercy Sunday, for many people normal means going to Mass only at Christmas and Easter.

We aren’t the first ones to look at the post-Easter Sunday as a return to secular normalcy. Some of the apostles also believed that they would resume their lives prior to following Jesus. Peter talked about how he would go back to fishing (John 21:3). In a way, it did seem like Jesus’ life, death and resurrection were just a moment in time for the apostles much like how Easter Sunday comes and goes for many of us without a lasting effect.

Simon Peter told them, “I am going fishing.”

Of course, Easter Sunday isn’t just a single day of prayer and celebration before resuming our normal lives. In fact, the Easter season lasts 50 days. Much like how Lent is 40 days of preparation, Easter is 50 days of celebration! That should be 50 days of continual prayer, reading scripture, and giving thanks to God. It’s not a time to go back to normal and forget about God until Christmas.

The Rosary

I know you might find it strange meditating on the Sorrowful Mysteries during the Easter season. But I think we can meditate on the Second Sorrowful Mystery and the question posed by Pontius Pilate. It’s a small question, but worth extra thought.

“What shall I do, then, with Jesus who is called the Messiah?” Pilate asked.

Matthew 27:22

Pilate’s solution was to let the people crucify Jesus. In other words, get Jesus out of the way. By getting rid of Jesus, Pilate thought he would rid the world of his teachings so things can get back to normal. The Pharisees would stop being called hypocrites. They wouldn’t bother Pilate about matters of little interest to the Roman empire. The people would go back to following the Mosaic Law instead of following Jesus’ teachings and questioning the Pharisees.

“What shall I do, then, with Jesus who is called the Messiah?”

Many of us act the same way after Easter Sunday. We just want to get Jesus out of the way and return to the status quo. Maybe it’s because we’re fatigued from 40 days of Lent and fasting. Or perhaps you didn’t fast during Lent and don’t want the Easter season to continually remind you how you fell short of your goals. Or you don’t want to think about going to Mass every single Sunday, receiving the Sacrament of Reconciliation, praying, and all that other stuff the Church “makes” us do. Some of us, even the most faithful, want to get Jesus out of the way because Jesus’ way is a difficult one.

In this season of Easter, let’s not think of our faith as a burden and something to be avoided. Put yourself in the shoes (or sandals) of the first disciples and think of the joy they must have felt when they learned that Jesus had risen. Were they confused and maybe a little scared? Probably. Did they immediately understand what it all meant? Not really. We may also be confused about what Jesus’ rising from the dead means to us. But like the early Church grappling with Christ’s resurrection, we have this whole Easter season to ask ourselves what we should do with Jesus.

Having Faith in God’s Plan

Anyone who is around children knows that they don’t always follow good advice. Sometimes, when I see my boys making things more difficult for themselves, I offer suggestions to improve the situation. It might be providing them a better way to resolve a conflict or a nicer way to ask for what they want. But despite me only wanting what’s best for them, sometimes their stubbornness or their lack of understanding has them doing things their own way which often leads to further hardship.

One of my goals for 2021 is reading the entire Bible. I bought a special Bible from the Augustine Institute for the task. It’s divided into 365 sections with Old and New Testament readings each day. I’m currently on Deuteronomy in the Old Testament and I’ve noticed a few things about how the Israelites continually didn’t listen to God to their own detriment.

Doubting God in the Bible

It wasn’t God’s intent to have the Israelites wander the desert for 40 years after leaving Egypt. But when they arrived in the promised land, the Israelites’ scouts said they weren’t powerful enough to fight the current inhabitants. Their lack of faith in His plan angered God and that is why He told them they would not be able to enter the land for 40 years. Despite God telling the Israelites that He was with them, they kept acting like they were on their own without God’s guidance and protection.

We can look at the Israelites in the Old Testament and say, “I would have been different; I would have trusted God’s plan.” But that’s what St. Peter told Jesus. He was ready to follow Jesus to his death (Matthew 26:35). And then, when things got real and Jesus was arrested, Peter denied that he knew him! All the apostles fled and hid in fear despite all they had witnessed. Like the Israelites, the apostles just couldn’t let go of their rational, human way of looking at God’s plan. They clung to that doubt that even God has limits.

Our Doubts

And what about us? Let’s face it, the world isn’t in the best shape right now. Do we think that Covid-19 is a problem even too big for God to solve? Sure, we may pray to ask God to help those suffering from the pandemic. But how much confidence do we really have in God’s ability to lead us through these challenging times? We proclaim that God is all-loving and all-powerful. But how much confidence do we put in those words?

The Rosary

Look at Simeon in the Fourth Joyful Mystery of the Rosary. God told him he would not die until he saw the Messiah. The Israelites had been waiting for the Messiah for generations. How easy it would have been for Simeon to dismiss this proclamation and write it off as a moment of insanity. And yet Simeon didn’t doubt God’s plan like the Old Testament Israelites. He faithfully prayed in the temple waiting for Jesus’ arrival.

Fourth joyful mystery Resources

When we pray, let’s really put our faith in God’s ability to do anything no matter how far-fetched it may seem. Maybe, if enough of us really show that level of faith, any number of miracles can happen. Think about all those people Jesus cured. What did he say? Often, Jesus said, “Your faith has healed you.” Where there is faith and humble openness to God, miracles flourish. Maybe we can change the world for the better if we all did a little less doubting in God and have more faith in His unlimited power.

Fasting During Lent

One of the harder aspects of Lent is fasting. We all love our food in whatever form it comes in — a sweet apple, a well-prepared steak, a crunchy carrot, or a square of chocolate. Eating is so engrained in our day that it’s hard to go without it, even for a few hours. But going without food is what God asks of us during Lent.

How the Saints Fasted

I read this article on Catholic Exchange that talks about the physiology of fasting and maybe how the saints of old may have known something that modern medicine is only now able to explain. Humans are built to fast but it’s something we no longer exercise regularly.

When you fast well, it starts to make sense that the Saints fasted in order to achieve closer communion with God — as we might say, to “supercharge” their prayer. It’s hard to imagine St. Anthony of the Desert felt as many people say they do when they fast — cranky and tired. It seems much more likely that he experienced both mental and physical benefits from fasting.

Suzan Sammons in Modern Insights on an Old Lenten Practice

We already know that throughout history people consumed fewer calories than we do today. Their bodies were trained for fasting. That may account for many of the fasting claims in the bible. The story of John the Baptist surviving off of locusts and honey or Jesus fasting for 40 days in the desert may not be that far-fetched. In the modern era, with a restaurant on every block, a fully stocked pantry, and a GrubHub app on our phones, we haven’t trained our bodies for fasting. But through much of human history, going through periods of fasting was a normal occurrence.

Does that mean that the saints’ fasts didn’t really count because they were used to it? On the contrary, fasting supercharged their prayers. Once the body moves from the digestive state to a fasting state, food is no longer in the equation. The body then starts to go into a conservative state which is conducive to meditation and deeper prayer. That’s what you want during Lent, right?

Rediscovering God through Fasting

Lent is a perfect time to retrain our bodies to fast. Now, this isn’t medical advice so please don’t go starving yourself or do anything dangerous. Just know that if you’re a healthy adult your body is capable of going without food longer than you may think. Like fighting the temptation to sin, you have to fight that urge to eat when you feel just the least bit hungry. And while eating because you’re hungry isn’t sinful, the whole idea of fasting is that you are showing God how much you love Him by forsaking a mild earthly pleasure and put yourself in a meditative state.

How does fasting bring us closer to God? Face it, many of us can become slaves to food. Think about how little control you feel when you are hungry. All you can think about is food. And when you’re in that state, food can become a sort of false idol consuming all your thoughts. But hunger can also become a reminder to ask God for help. If God can help you fight hunger pains, think of all the other dimensions of your life He can help you with. You just have to remember to take the time to acknowledge your dependence on God and earnestly ask for His help. And there lies much of the spiritual value of fasting.

When you feel tempted to dive into the bag of cookies or a box of crackers, try reaching for your Rosary instead. Ask God for help in keeping a good Lenten fast. Take the time to ask God for help with other challenges in your life. Thank Him for the fact that you do have food to eat when you’re done fasting. Thank Him that fasting is a choice; a choice many people around the world do not have. Meditate on Jesus in the desert. It was through fasting, not feasting, that Jesus was able to resist Satan’s temptations.

Want to learn more about the science of fasting? Here’s an interesting documentary on it: Fasting (2017) – IMDb

Beating Temptations During Lent

Fasting and sacrifice, the hallmarks of Lent. These are often hard to follow particularly because of the focus given to them. It’s like when someone says “don’t look down!” You have this reflex to immediately want to look down. And when Jesus asks you to “go without,” the first thing you crave is whatever you gave up for Lent. I love donuts, but I don’t eat them all the time. Normally, not having one for a few weeks is no big deal. But when I give them up for Lent, I feel like all I see driving through town are donut shops.

Wild Beasts

Our 40 days of Lent mirror Jesus’ 40 days in the desert when he prepared himself for his ministry. As Fr. Nnamdi Moneme summarizes on Catholic Exchange:

“He remained in the desert for forty days, tempted by Satan.” Satan pressured Him to turn stones to bread, jump down from the temple and worship him. Jesus neither fled from the “wild beasts” in the desert nor yield to the tempter; but He resisted till His Father acted and sent Him ministering angels, “He was among wild beasts, and the angels ministered to Him.”

Mark 1:13

We are among “wild beasts” in our lives as well. But those wild beasts are the temptation to sin or break our Lenten observance. And sadly, I’ve fallen to these wild beasts more than once in my life. Many years ago, I would give up a dozen things for Lent knowing full well I would break most of them. I would then claim victory because I kept one or two of them by the time Easter came about. I told myself those were the ones I meant to keep all along. Clever right? It was Lent by process of elimination which defeats the point. It’s like telling people that you fasted for an hour; it’s a really low bar.

Satan’s Hunting Season

Unfortunately, when we resolve to fast and sacrifice during Lent, Satan doubles his efforts to make us fall. Fr. Moneme goes on to say:

In our temptations, we are pressured by the devil, the world, and our sinful flesh to act immediately to meet what we consider our pressing needs. We are pressured to act so that we do not “miss out” on some advantage or benefit, even if we cannot exactly describe what exactly we are missing out on.

It’s not like I’ll never have another donut or glass of wine again. It’s just 40 days. But Satan or our hunger has a way of overpowering that logic and creates a pressing need. Satan knows that we made a promise to God which makes the fall and our discouragement all the greater. For Satan, Lent must be a great “hunting season” since he knows the added burdens the faithful place on themselves.

What are we to do? Again, let’s look at Fr. Moneme’s advice:

We can start by choosing to do the will of God at the present moment while we postpone our thinking about the temptation. We can say, “Today, I want to do the will of God for me. Tomorrow I can think about this temptation.” We can constantly and consistently postpone thinking about the temptation by repeatedly saying day after day, “Tomorrow I can think about it. For now, I want to do the will of God.”

Keeping Satan on Hold

It’s like we’re scam-baiting Satan. Scam-baiting means keeping a scam phone call going for as long as possible so you tie up the scammer’s time. While he’s wasting his time talking to you, he isn’t scamming a more susceptible victim. We can tell Satan, “maybe tomorrow.” And when we do that day after day, a few things happen. First, we build up strength knowing that we can resist temptation. Second, with God’s help, we start to realize that pressing urge really isn’t that important. Third, Satan will realize his efforts aren’t working and will go look for easier prey.

And what RosaryMeds post would be complete without talking about the Rosary? Given the length of praying the typical five decades (about 20 minutes), it’s a good amount of time to ride out whatever craving or temptation you have. I’ve said in the past when you are earnestly praying the Rosary, you can’t be sinning at the same time. When you feel tempted, take your beads out of your pocket (because naturally, you have them with you at all times) and start praying. Think of Rosary prayer as your spiritual “break in case of emergency” box. Mary will help you through it.

Owning Lent

I’m always telling my kids that they need to show responsibility and ownership or someone else will. For example, owning their toys and games means not breaking them, putting them away, and not losing pieces. If they don’t take responsibility for keeping them functional, they will get lost or break. Or I may accidentally throw out a random, loose piece or someone will step on and break something carelessly left on the floor. The lesson being taught is that one way or another, something is going to happen to those toys and games. It’s better to be the one in control rather than leave it up to others.

Similarly to responsible ownership of things, we also have to own our faith. What I mean by that is that we need to actively manage or participate in it. But it’s something we often fail at. We sort of float through life, going to Mass on Sundays and saying a few prayers but not much else. When we go to Mass, we go into autopilot with the responses and listen to the priest the same way we listen to someone giving a lecture or presentation. We’re there physically but absent spiritually. And many times, we don’t go out of our way to attend Adoration or the Sacrament of Reconciliation. Basically, we don’t give our faith a lot of thought.

Don’t be a Simon

We are often like Simon of Cyrene. He was forced into helping Jesus carry the cross. I like to think of him as someone who was there because he was curious about what was going on. He wanted to see who Jesus was and what was this big deal about him. I think he had no other plan than to passively watch the day’s events unfold. And the next thing he knew, the soldiers picked him out of the crowd and made him shoulder the weight of the cross. That was probably something unexpected and unwelcome.

Jesus said that we all must carry our crosses. But we have a choice. We can either choose our crosses or someone else will thrust one on us. In this season of Lent, we have many “crosses” to choose from. We can fast, abstain, and increase our prayers and charity. But the key is to actively invest in these practices to more fully embrace our faith and increase our love for Jesus. Otherwise, we become like Simon where hardships are thrust upon us.

In not embracing the faith, we may avoid the relatively minor crosses of Mass, prayer, fasting, etc. But we give up so much more. We lose the joy that comes from celebrations like Easter and Christmas and even Sunday Mass. Without the lows of fasting and the highs of celebration, we live in a flat desert of spirituality. We don’t feel connected to God or protected by Him. We are left to our own devices to face our often harsh world and the snares of the devil.

Active Faith in the Rosary

Compare Simon to Mary in the Second Joyful Mystery. She made a conscious decision to travel while pregnant and help her cousin Elizabeth. She wasn’t passive after the Annunciation but actively decided to serve others. It was probably an uncomfortable journey and a lot of hard work. But it was an active choice. It was a “cross” Mary wanted to carry.

Don’t let this Lent pass by. Own it. There’s still time to make a plan on how you want to make this time different and special. If you don’t already pray the Rosary daily, resolve to do it for the remainder of Lent. Make a plan to read Scripture daily, or fast, or visit a church and sit silently in prayer. Don’t be a Simon and think you can just observe Jesus at a distance. Be like Mary and the saints and actively embrace him.