More people are practising voluntary fasting than you would ever guess. There is a slow-growing, new awakening to an ancient practice that is cutting across all societal lines and claiming followers from every sector of human experience. Athletes. Secretaries. Store managers. Students. Teachers.

Why are they fasting? Body ecology is often a factor. Many people fast to simply give their physical self a rest, a holiday. The body is constantly absorbed in the work of digesting food, metabolizing it into energy and eliminating the waste materials. To go without eating from time to time is to reward our bodies with the same kind of down-day that we give our minds after we’ve been working hard at reading or writing. Fasting gives the body a chance to renew itself, to burn its rubbish and eliminate accumulated toxins. It’s like a house-cleaning day.

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TORONTO - When Fr. Roger Brennan was living and working in a dirt-poor town 700 kms southwest of Manila in the Philippines, he didn’t think he would have to answer questions about whether it was OK to eat chicken during Lent. As far as he could see, his parishioners in Hinunangan were too poor to pass up any opportunity for a little extra protein, no matter what time of year it happens to be.

“Let’s face it, they fasted 12 months of the year,” Brennan, a Scarboro Missions priest, said.

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Faith and Las Vegas are an oxymoron. But these two seemingly paradoxical thoughts rattled around in my head as we walked down the busy, glittery Las Vegas strip the other day for the first time.

Sure, Sin City has different types of temples filled with moneychangers of a modern ilk. These temples are named Caesar’s Palace, the Mirage, the Venetian, Bellagio and a host of others. And, sure, churches are hidden so far out of sight that you’d think illusionist David Copperfield made them disappear.

Published in Robert Brehl

VATICAN CITY - In his Lenten message, Pope Benedict XVI called on the faithful to be concerned for one another and "not to remain isolated and indifferent" to the fate others.

Materialism and a sense of self-sufficiency are obstacles to a Christian life of charity, the Pope said.

Instead of looking first to God and then to the well-being of others, people often have an attitude of "indifference and disinterest born of selfishness and masked as a respect for 'privacy.'"

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This Lent, Emily Dulhanty, a Grade 12 student at Loyola Catholic Secondary School in Mississauga, Ont., chose to do something nice for someone each day.  (Photo by Sarah Gagliano)

TORONTO - Brad Burt’s Lenten promise was to give up hot showers, which he stuck to for the 40 days. Now, he plans on continuing to sacrifice for the rest of the year.

“I gave up hot showers for Lent as an offering for my relationship with my girlfriend so that we can grow stronger in our faith on our own and as a couple, (and) also as an offering for helping us to discern marriage,” said Burt, a fourth-year mechanical engineering student at the University of British Columbia.

Now that the 40 days of Lent are over, many students have Lenten promise success stories to share, along with some areas for improvement.

Marcio Alves, a fourth-year Portuguese major at the University of Toronto, aimed to give up some of his favourite foods for Lent: soft drinks, pizza, chocolate and popcorn.

Published in Youth Speak News

OTTAWA - The Canadian Catholic Organization for Development and Peace launched its annual Share Lent fundraising campaign here March 16 with the goal of raising $10 million.

Under the banner Building a World of Justice, the Canadian bishops' overseas development agency aims to collect $10 million across Canada to go towards more than 200 sustainable development projects it supports in Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Middle East.

The theme for this year’s campaign expresses the collective work of the many local organizations that D&P has supported over the last 40 years.

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Pope Benedict XVI prays during the opening of his Lenten retreat. (CNS photo/ L'Osservatore Romano)VATICAN CITY - Pope Benedict XVI asked Catholics for their prayers as he began his weeklong Lenten retreat March 13.

Before reciting the Angelus prayer at midday with visitors in St. Peter's Square, he also prayed that Mary would intercede to help everyone have a Lent that is "rich in the fruits of conversion."

Carmelite Father Francois-Marie Lethel, a theology professor and the secretary of the Pontifical Academy of Theology, was chosen to preach the retreat March 13-19 for Pope Benedict and top Vatican officials. The French priest's topic was to be "The Light of Christ in the Heart of the Church: John Paul II and the Theology of Saints."

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A young woman with ashes on her forehead attends Pope Benedict XVI's general audience in Paul VI hall at the Vatican March 9. Ash Wednesday marks the start of the penitential season of Lent. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)VATICAN CITY - Wishing all Christians a "happy Lenten journey," Pope Benedict XVI said fasting, almsgiving and prayer are traditionally suggested for Lent because they have proven to be effective tools for conversion.

Lent is a time "to accept Christ's invitation to renew our baptismal commitments" in order to arrive at Easter in a new and stronger state, the Pope said at his weekly general audience March 9, Ash Wednesday and the start of Lent for Latin-rite Catholics.

"This Lenten journey that we are invited to follow is characterized in the Church's tradition by certain practices: fasting, almsgiving and prayer," he told the estimated 7,000 people gathered in the Vatican audience hall.

Published in International
February 12, 2009

The history of Lent

Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of Lent, the period of penance, prayer and sacrifice that precedes the celebration of the resurrection of Christ. 

Since the earliest days of the church there is evidence of some form of Lenten preparation for Easter; but the duration and nature of this preparation took countless centuries to evolve and is still changing even today.  

Published in Features