The Little way of Fasting – by Fr. Aidan Kieran

Fr Aidan Kieran

The Little way of Fasting – by Fr. Aidan Kieran

The season of Lent is almost upon us, it begins tomorrow on Ash Wednesday. During Lent, we are asked to take on three traditional Christian disciplines: Prayer, Fasting and Almsgiving. Today I want to share with you a new insight into fasting which I gained recently.

I’ve generally always dreaded the idea of fasting during Lent. It always seemed to me like a test of endurance, and I never thought I had all that much endurance. Typically I would decide to, say, give up biscuits for the whole of Lent. It would last about ten days, I would have a biscuit and Lent would be over for me. And no matter what people would say about ‘beginning again’ it would never feel the same once failure had set in.

Now, I have learned a new approach to fasting, and it has become a much more appealing prospect.

St Therese of Lisieux teaches us that the “Little things done out of love are those that charm the Heart of Christ… On the contrary, the most brilliant deeds, when done without love, are but nothingness.” These words made me realise that the way I had been approaching the Lenten fast in the past was wrong. Lent is not a test of endurance. It is not even a test of discipline (even though we gain discipline as a by-product). Lent is a little test of LOVE. It is quality the Lord is interested in – not quantity.

I can describe this new approach to fasting – the little way of fasting – with an example. Here is a fast I recently undertook:

At breakfast time I didn’t have my normal cup of tea. I had a cup of hot water instead. It’s not much of a sacrifice is it? But this is the important part: fasting must always be accompanied by prayer. You may remember from the Gospels that on one occasion Jesus told the disciples that a particular evil spirit could only be driven out by prayer AND fasting. The two must be always occur together.

So while I was having my cup of water, I prayed.

I spoke to the Lord Jesus and told him that I was denying myself this 1 cup of tea as an act of love for him. I was doing this so that I might grow in my love for Him. I prayed for others. I asked Him to grant my intentions, but above all I asked him to help me grow in faith and love of Him.

It didn’t matter that it was only a small sacrifice. That’s not what matters to the Lord. What matters is that the sacrifice is accompanied by prayer and offered with a sincere and open loving heart. Fasting must always be accompanied by prayer, and must be done as an act of love for the Lord.

Perhaps you would prefer to go through Our Lady. While fasting, we can also pray through the intercession of Mary, our blessed Mother. I can tell her I am offering my fast as an act of love for her, and ask her to bring me closer to her son Jesus. We give Mary the title ‘mediatrix of all graces’ so we can of course pray through her intercession.

With this approach, fasting has become a wonderfully joyful act. Rather than a miserable endurance test, it becomes a joyful act of offering a sacrifice for the good of others, the good of the Church and above all the good of my own soul. I can have a smile on my face, knowing that the small sacrifice I have made has had a powerful effect in the spiritual life. Since I started this little way of fasting, I have prayed better and I feel I have drawn closer to Christ.

It’s just 1 cup of tea. A little thing, done with great love.

During Lent, I won’t totally deprive myself of other drinks, because I know I would find that too burdensome. My aim is to give up my first cup of tea each morning. On some days I may give up my second cup of tea too! – a definite sacrifice, but one I can realistically sustain.  And each time I am conscious of foregoing a drink I would like, I will pray. I will offer my sacrifice to the Lord with a joyful heart and a smile on my face.

I will offer my Lenten fasting for your intentions, for the people who read this blog. In particular I will pray that those of you who need to do so will make a good confession in preparation for Easter, because confession is so important.

And if any of you would like me to pray for a particular intention of yours, please contact me through this blog in the comments section below. I’d be happy to offer my fasting on a particular day for your personal intention.

I hope you will find these words about fasting helpful during the coming season of Lent.

Fr Aidan.

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“Don’t be afraid to love your husband.”

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A few weeks ago the Lord was calling me to do the Stations of the Cross. So I did. At each Station He told me, as if helplessly and hopelessly in love, “I did this for you…”. Once I had completed all the stations He kept drawing me back to the Crucifixion. He just wouldn’t let me go from this picture of Him, arms stretched out hanging on the cross.

More recently I was at a wonderful concert held inside our church. At one point in her life, the lady singing had been given 3 months to live due to cancer. Eight years later she is still here singing! It was truly inspiring.

I noticed that the sanctuary light was still on. They had decided to leave the Eucharist inside the Tabernacle. I felt slightly uneasy about this but as we were both here listening to this incredibly talented soprano, I decided to make conversation. As soon as I did I felt His presence very strongly within the tabernacle, and then (as sometimes happens) I felt His presence come out of the tabernacle and stand right next to me. My heart started burning and I was thinking “Ok – it’s not a great time right now! There are lots of people around at the moment and I don’t want to do anything um, weird!”

Just then I was completely and utterly overcome with the most awful dread and terror. It was so consuming and overwhelming that I was afraid I might scream or something. It was the fear that used to overcome me everyday when my husband was first diagnosed earlier this year with CFS. The fear I feel when I think that he may never recover. The daily fear we are facing now of having 3 kids and no income. Then this fear moved from within me to outside of me – right in front of me – so I was looking at it from the outside.

Then I became aware of the presence of my husband. He was at home looking after the children – but it was as if he was right in front of me. Then Jesus told me “Don’t be afraid to love your husband.” It’s true. Since his diagnosis I have been afraid to love him. Straight after that Jesus ‘took’ all the fear away. It just evaporated. Completely gone, in a second. I asked Him “Did you just heal me?” because that’s what it felt like.

The concert carried on for a while and then Jesus brought my attention back to the Crucifixion station just to the right of me that I had been looking at a few weeks before. He said to me “When your husband stretches out his arms to embrace you, it’s not just him you are embracing – it’s Me.” 

This has given me plenty to think about. My  prayer for 2014 was ‘teach me to suffer’ and I can truly say that I have learned more about this than I ever thought possible. The most fascinating part of all this is the relationship between love and suffering. Love takes the fear out of suffering. It puts the joy into suffering. Love puts the victory into suffering. It conquers suffering. I am no longer afraid to love my husband.

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