Speaking Out: What I learned about fasting

By  Michael Romen, Youth Speak News
  • April 11, 2019

It was Week 1 of my Exodus 90 fast and I really wanted a brownie.

It was the first Sunday after I had started fasting and I made an effort to get to school before I had to start setting up for our on-campus Mass. The campus ministers were just preparing breakfast and I bought a brownie from the market.

I grabbed one of the many empty tables in the cafeteria and bit into my little indulgence when I realized I was acting as if I wanted this tiger-striped, day-old brownie more than I wanted Jesus. Naturally, I had a mild crisis of faith.

It was January and I had just started “pre-Lent” — which is how I affectionately refer to Exodus 90. Exodus 90 is a 90-day spiritual exercise for Catholic men with a long list of ascetical practices to teach us prayer, self-mastery and fraternity. This list includes taking cold showers, regular exercise, no alcohol, no sweets, no snacking between meals, no television, no video games, no non-essential purchases … like I said, it was a long list.

I’ve broken every discipline on that list at least twice, but Exodus 90 isn’t why I’ve struggled with Lent so much this year.

I always wondered why there were two major feast days in the Lenten season, when we can take a break from our fasting. I celebrated the Solemnity of St. Joseph by watching Captain Marvel with one of my Exodus 90 brothers, Mike, and it felt a little odd to be munching on a pretzel-dog and waiting for the full force of those Lenten promises to hit at midnight. But, I told myself I’d fast extra-hard the next day to make up for it.

I had missed the point.

I forgot that fasting is not an end in itself. Fasting doesn’t need to be difficult per se, but it should lead us to the mystery of Christ’s death on the cross.

In The Weight of Glory, C.S. Lewis said, “When infinite joy is offered to us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea, we are far too easily pleased.”

I’ve had two consistent prayers throughout Lent: “Lord, teach me how to pray” and “Lord, when You look at me, who do You see?” I see a project. Christ sees a person.

When I forget that Lent ends in Easter, I struggle the hardest. Singing the Gloria in Mass during the Solemnity of the Assumption was amazing because the St. Catharines cathedral made a point to really celebrate the feast.

Marian symbols were everywhere, there were at least five priests concelebrating the Mass and the packed cathedral was thick with incense. I didn’t have time to bring my things home first, so I lugged my books into the cathedral. It was a sacrifice in a sense, but I was intent on spending time with our Lord in the Mass.

(Romen, 24, is a third-year English and Classics student at Brock University in St. Catharines, Ont.)

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