Secrets of the Saints: The Forgotten Spiritual Power of Fasting

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There’s a powerful spiritual discipline recommended by Our Lord Jesus Christ in Scripture and practiced by all the saints, but that seems to have been mostly forgotten in our day: fasting.

Fasting, or the intentional abstinence of food for a period of time, is hugely counter cultural. In a culture where physical pleasure is the highest good, why would we intentionally withhold something as good, satisfying, and necessary as food?

The fact we need food so much is actually precisely why fasting is so powerful. To temporarily withhold something so necessary for life forces us to focus on spiritual things that are even more important. As Christ himself says in Scripture, “One does not live on bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.” (Matthew 4.4)

Here are 10 quotes from the saints on why this is such an important spiritual practice:

1) St. Augustine

“Fasting cleanses the soul, raises the mind, subjects one’s flesh to the spirit, renders the heart contrite and humble, scatters the clouds of concupiscence, quenches the fire of lust, and kindles the true light of chastity. Enter again into yourself.”

2) St. Peter Chrysologus

“Fasting is the soul of prayer, mercy is the lifeblood of fasting. So if you pray, fast; if you fast, show mercy; if you want your petition to be heard, hear the petition of others. If you do not close your ear to others, you open God’s ear to yourself.”

3) St. Jane Frances Chantal

“God hides the prize of eternal glory in our mortifications and in the victory of ourselves, which we always strive for with great gentleness.”

4) St. Isaac the Syrian

“When a man begins to fast, he straightway yearns in his mind to enter into converse with God.”

5) St. Gregory the Great

“It is impossible to engage in spiritual conflict, without the previous subjugation of the appetite.”

6) St. John Chrysostom

“Fasting is the support of our soul: it gives us wings to ascend on high, and to enjoy the highest contemplation! […] God, like an indulgent father, offers us a cure by fasting.”

7) St. Francis De Sales

“Besides the ordinary effect of fasting in raising the mind, subduing the flesh, confirming goodness, and obtaining a heavenly reward, it is also a great matter to be able to control greediness, and to keep the sensual appetites and the whole body subject to the law of the Spirit; and although we may be able to do but little, the enemy nevertheless stands more in awe of those whom he knows can fast.”

8) St. Catharine of Sienna

“Without mortifying the taste, it is impossible to preserve innocence, since it was by the indulgence of his appetite that Adam fell.”

9) St. Basil

“Penance without fasting is useless and vain; by fasting [we] satisfy God.”

10) St. Alphonsus De Ligouri

“He that gratifies the taste will readily indulge the other senses; for, having lost the spirit of recollection, he will easily commit faults, by indecent words and by unbecoming gestures. But the greatest evil of intemperance, is that it exposes chastity to great danger.”

What do you think about these quotes? Let us know in the comments!

[See also: Secrets of the Saints: 5 Powerful Prayers to Jesus in the Eucharist]

[See also: 10 of the Church’s Most Powerful Saints and What They Are the Patron Of]

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