Friday, November 03, 2006

The Spirituality of Fasting

"The biggest problem facing the world today is not people dying in the streets of Calcutta, and not inflation, but spiritual deprivation. . .this feeling of emptiness associated with feeling separate from God, and from all our sisters and brothers on planet Earth."
--Mother Teresa, 1979 Nobel Peace laureate

Catholic Relief Services (CRS) has a wonderful program in place to help people at parishes around the country get in touch with the concept of hunger. Under the program, called
Food Fast, participants do not eat for a 24-hour period. The program is designed for youth, but adults could and should participate in this experience too.

One of the goals of this activity is to show solidarity with the 84 million people around the world who are hungry. According to the latest statistics from the U.N.'s
Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) , the number of hungry at the global level increases by 4 million every year. (We're going in reverse, if we are to meet Goal 1 of The Millenium Development Goals, which is to Eradicate Extreme Hunger and Poverty. The target of cutting hunger in half by 2015 is in jeopardy)

Those of us who live in the western industrialized nations cannot even begin to imagine hunger. (That's not to say that we don't have hungry and poor in our midst, but the magnitude is greater in the poor nations). That's why the CRS Food Fast is so important. It begins to put the youth (and adults) in touch with an iota of what it means to be hungry. The difference is that we know there will be food at the end of the 24-hour period. There is no such certainty for millions around the world.

But we must not look at the Food Fast as a simple act of solidarity. This should be a spiritual action. Pedro Melendez Jr. emphasizes this point in an article entitled
When You Fast . "When one is more acutely in tune with God through fasting, God then answers in his compassionate and generous ways," says Melendez. Many authors make reference to passages in Isaiah 58, especially verses 5 though 12, as the example of the spiritual connection between fasting and caring for the poor.

Many communities of faith, food banks and other organizations place a lot of attention on the problems of hunger during the month of November. CRS is making a special push for parishes to do a Food Fast during the month.

In Albuquerque, Jude Fournier, director of religious education at
Aquinas Newman Center has planned a Food Fast for Nov. 17-18. Even though the event was put together for the parish, everyone in the community is invited to join in.

Here is the schedule.
November 4-5: Sign up as a fasting participant
November 17-18: Actual Fast begins at 5:00 p.m. on Friday. (You are encouraged to eat a meal before 5:00 p.m.). The only meals you will miss are breakfast and lunch on Saturday, but you may have water and juice as needed.
November 17 (8:00 p.m.): Night Prayer for all those who are fasting. Dominican Chapel (in the back of the courtyard at Newman Center).
November 18: (9:30 A.M.-12:30 P.M.) All fasters are welcome back to Newman Center to take part in a community service project/food drive.

November 18: (4:30 p.m.) Newman Center Mass.

No comments: