Fulton, Fasting, and #sackclothandashes

On August 22, I joined in with Kendra, Bonnie, and hundreds (thousands?) of others in the #sackclothandashes movement. You can read more about it here. In reparation for the sins of the clergy involved in this sexual abuse crisis and in prayer for healing of victims, we have been taking up extra prayer and voluntary fasting and penances from August 22 through September 30. I think it's been incredibly powerful and I encourage you to join in however you can. It's not too late and there is a beautiful and necessary revival of the laity taking the call to holiness seriously and that means taking the importance of fasting seriously. I've written about it before but fasting is often the missing component in so many spiritual lives. I think the lack of it is often the reason spiritual growth stagnates, prayers seem fruitless, healing is delayed, and some evils begin to run rampant. (Not that I'm claiming to be a great master of it AT ALL, ahem.)

During this whole time, it has been a huge consolation to me that the Church's daily readings both for the Mass and in the Divine Office have been so. on. point. It's been kinda nuts, right? In all of this mess, God has NOT been silent. He is here and He is speaking to us right now. It's almost been coming so fast and so astonishingly appropriate to what is happening globally and nationally but also to our own local diocese which is hurting (literally) like hell right now, that it's hard to take it all in and digest it well. This has also been happening like crazy in my personal prayer and reading.

I wanted to share a couple quotes from my reading of Peace of Soul by Venerable Fulton Sheen that I read just days after the start of #sackclothandashes. Talk about confirmation:

"But penances are not done by ourselves alone; the penitent is helped by others who are in the Body of Christ. This could not be if we were isolated individuals, but it can come about if we belong to one Mystical Body where all are one because governed by one Head, vivified by one Soul, and professing the same Faith. Just as it is possible to graft skin from one part of the body to the other, and just as it is possible to transfuse blood from one member of society to another, so, in the spiritual organism of the Church, it is possible to graft prayer and to transfuse sacrifices. This Christian truth in its fullness is known as the Communion of Saints. Just as we are all bound up in the guilt of one another's faults (as a modern war so evidently proves), so we can be bound up in one another's reparation." (Peace of Soul, chapter 10)

"The more Christian a soul is, the more it sees itself responsible for its neighbor's sins; such a man or woman seeks to take that sin upon himself as if it were his own - as Christ, the Innocent, took upon Himself the guilt of the whole world. As the truest sympathy for those who mourn is to weep, so the true love for the guilty is to atone for their guilt...In the Divine reckoning, it is Carmelite nuns and Trappist monks who are doing more to save the world than the politicians and the generals. The alien spirit which preempts civilization can be driven out only by prayers and fasting." (Peace of Soul, chapter 12)

Our reparation and our prayers are fruitful and necessary, despite our feelings and however powerless we may feel. (Funny enough, I noticed as I typed these quotes out that today's Mass reading was...wait for it...Paul's words about the different parts of the Body of Christ. )

This is the message that has become resoundingly clear in my heart and soul. Prayer and fasting are actions and they're the most effective and powerful ones at our disposal ALL THE TIME. There is no such thing as "just" praying and fasting and there need be no dichotomy between prayer and action. It's not "you're the action person and I'm the prayer and fasting guy." It is only in prayer and fasting first that we will be truly successful in any further call from the Lord. It is only when we have our relationship with the Lord primary that we can hear the voice of the Spirit and know how He might be calling us to anything more. It is only when those actions are rooted in true prayer that they will be fruitful and of Him. And if they are not? Then we only make a further mess of things. We can discuss and discern other further actions and whether they will work and if we are called to them but there is no need to wonder and discern if we should pray and fast. Spoiler: we should. He said to. So there's your shot in the arm to continue on with whatever prayers and fasting you've been doing. They matter and they are the most important and effective thing we can be doing to respond to evil.

God has this. He does. If we believe He is who He says He is and if we believe that He does not lie, then we have to believe that. The problem we encounter is not only making sure that we are cooperating with Him in that work but also remembering that His ways are not our ways. We may not like how He works and moves and answers those prayers. It's sometimes infuriating. The message of the Gospel is folly to the world and our natural minds. Blessed are the meek? Rejoice when you are persecuted? Love the sinner? Forgive your enemies? Pray for someone who hurts you? Pick up a cross? It makes no sense and those "answers" are anything but satisfying to our ungraced minds. But in grace, and only in grace, can we see and do the supernatural. The entire salvation story is God doing everything and anything but what we expect Him to. The whole thing is Him flipping our solutions upside down, offering ones that are almost never immediately gratifying and almost always slower than we would like. But those solutions are the ones that last and they are the ones that are eternal.

1 comment

  1. I joined the movement too! I was a bit reluctant because after going through an eating disorder, the "fasting" part didn't convince me. But then I was able to understand what fasting really means and that there are multiple ways of doing it. And you're so right, we often downplay prayer and fasting in favor of praising "action", but then we're thinking like the world, not like God!


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