In my previous posts on fasting, I carefully recorded the details of what I ate to show that Catholic guidelines on fasting are not unbearably onerous, and anyone can do it. One reader objected, "the question is not whether anyone can do it, but why anyone would. How can fasting help change society's attitude towards marriage?"
How fasting can change the outside world relates closely to how prayer can change the world. The Church explains that our prayer "works" when it is united with the prayer of Jesus. The Catechism tells us that Jesus "prays in us and with us. ... If our prayer is resolutely united with that of Jesus, in trust and boldness as children, we obtain all that we ask in his name." (CCC, secs. 2740-41).
Fasting unites us with Jesus and therefore makes our prayer stronger, morely likely to be heard and answered. Listen to what Pope Benedict XVI had to say about fasting in his 2009 letter:
We might wonder what value and meaning there is for us Christians in depriving ourselves of something that in itself is good and useful for our bodily sustenance. ... Denying material food, which nourishes our body, nurtures an interior disposition to listen to Christ and be fed by His saving word. Through fasting and praying, we allow Him to come and satisfy the deepest hunger that we experience in the depths of our being: the hunger and thirst for God.
In saying "no" to our good impulses, such as the desire for food, we learn how to say "no" to our bad impulses, our self-destructive impulses. "Fasting assists us in getting our own house in order. All of us have to deal with areas of servitude, whether in regard to smoking or alcohol consumption, misused sexuality, [or] uncontrolled gambling," stated the U.S. bishops in 2001. The greater self-control we gain through successfully resisting our bodies' desire to eat helps us resist temptation in all other areas of our life. Essentially, "fasting heals us of all that prevents conformity with the will of God," concluded Pope Benedict. This conformity with the will of God is what makes our prayer stronger and more likely to affect the world.
So when the bishops asked all the faithful to pray and fast for the causes of life, marriage, and religious liberty, they were asking us to make a difference in our society. Because the fewer social supports for marriage that exist, the fewer role models of faithful, fruitful and forever love there are for the rest of us to follow. Ultimately, without social support to sustain them or role models to inspire them, individual marriages fall apart because people's sense of belonging to something larger than themselves is lost. Saving individual marriages matters deeply to me. Fasting is a quiet, hidden way to help the cause.
So if the future of marriage matters to you, please join the bishops' new Call to Prayer event on facebook. You can find the event invitation on the USCCB's facebook page in the recent activity section, or on the Marriage: Unique for a Reason page in the highlights section. Let's make a difference.