Draw strength from abstaining from what we enjoy
By Sr. Yvonne Marie Loucks
Special to The Catholic Weekly
The holy season of Lent approaches each year and a certain dread or reluctance accompanies its arrival in many Catholics.
During Lent we participate in a time of solemn fast and abstinence for 40 days, by following certain regulations concerning this form of penance.
Lenten fasts involve the intake of food in a disciplined way. On two days during the season, Ash Wednesday and Good Friday, we observe complete fast and abstinence. This means we do not eat meat at all and we do not eat between meals. Meals on these days are limited to one of normal size and two other smaller meals.
Throughout the season of Lent, Catholics do not eat meat on Friday. We also are invited to do other sacrificial practices of penance during this holy season. We do all of this as a way of penance to strengthen our hearts to participate fully in the events of our Redemption.
Food intake, while a normal and necessary function of life, is also a source of pleasure. By eating we try to satisfy cravings for certain tastes that are pleasant to the lips in addition to satisfying our feelings of hunger. Many times we find ourselves eating to satisfy pleasure, rather than to fill our hunger and gain strength to continue our daily obligations. Often we eat beyond what we need, or we eat far less than we need, craving supremacy over our natural instinct to take in food. Both overeating and under eating can be the result of undisciplined cravings within us.
The practice of penance was initiated by the Church since very early times in order to prepare our hearts and bodies for the most sacred feast of the year; that of our Redemption. The season of Lent culminates with the death and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ, thus enabling each human person to enter completely into that profound mystery of the kingdom of heaven. No longer crushed by the effects of original sin, we freely join the Son of God as He enters the kingdom prepared for us. To do this we must be free of sin and all of our carvings that lead to sin.
The Church helps us to discipline our food passions through the holy fast of Lent to prepare our hearts to meet our loving Lord at Easter. For those of us who find it easy to overindulge, our participation in the fast provides the opportunity to take in food moderately. For those of us who have a tendency to starve ourselves, the Church gently leads us into the discipline of a form of fast that will give our hearts peace. With our cravings tempered, we can go forward to meet the risen Lord with the joy of having given ourselves completely to Him during these 40 days.
Sr. Yvonne Mary Loucks, R.S.M., is a Religious Sister of Mercy of Alma, presently serving the Diocese of Saginaw in the Catholic school system. She is originally from Saginaw, having graduated from St. Andrew’ High School. She has a doctorate in education from the University of Michigan and a master’s degree in speech/language pathology from Central Michigan University. Included in her many assignments as a religious, she served in Jerusalem, Connecticut and New York City. Her last 16 years were spent in Rome working at the Vatican for the office of Blessed John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI. She is one of 11 children.