•Presidents’ Weekend is February 18-19. Monday, February 20 is a day off from school.
•Sunday, February 26, at 7:00 PM, is the Winter Sports Awards Ceremony, in the Perpetual Help Room. All students who played soccer or basketball must be present. All others are most welcome to attend. A reception follows.
•Returning students are required to make a $3,500 non-refundable tuition deposit in order to secure a position for the 2017-2018 school year. All deposits must be made by March 20th.
•Congratulations to our basketball and soccer teams and coaches as they complete their regular season play. The soccer team made the division playoffs. The first-round soccer playoff game and time will be announced as soon as we hear from the league.
Today is what is called “Septuagesima Sunday”, that is approximately 70 days before Easter. It is a sort of “pre-Lent” period. Purple vestments are now worn, the Gloria and the Alleluia are omitted, just like during Lent; but no special penitential practices are required yet. We still have a few weeks. But since there is some time still before we start the Lenten fast, it is a good time to review why we fast and the importance of fasting.
Holy Mother Church sums up her teaching on fasting in one brief phrase, a phrase which is repeated everyday during Lent. It is the first line of the Preface for all Masses during the Lenten season: Oh God, Who by this bodily fast, dost curb our vices, lift our minds, bestow strength and rewards.
Now fasting is not one of those things which you hear proclaimed so often from the pulpit. First of all, one has to admit that it’s not exactly the most exciting topic to preach on. And secondly, it’s not something that people really want to hear—it makes us feel a bit uncomfortable. Prayer? Fine. But fasting we’d prefer to do without. And yet Scripture tells us over and over and over again the importance of fasting. And so, at the risk of both boring the congregation and making them feel uncomfortable, we’ll say a few words about fasting, which we are not only encouraged to do, but obliged, and which has immense value for our souls.
St. Thomas, echoing the words which we just heard from the Preface, teaches us that there are three reasons why we fast. First, to help restrain our unruly passions. Our passions, our emotions, though not evil in themselves, do not always perfectly obey our reason as they ought. We all know this by experience. They can, at times, be like wild horses running out of control, and hence lead us into sin. So they need to be bridled and restrained. Fasting is an excellent way to combat these wild passions, especially those which rage against purity. The Church’s saints, knowing that there is a very close connection between the pleasures of the table and the pleasures of the flesh, have always prescribed a good dose of fasting to combat those temptations against holy purity. St. Bernard once responded to the doubts of some who scoffed at fasting with the following words: Yes, we are cruel, if you will, towards our bodies when we afflict them with penance; but you are more cruel towards yourselves when you gratify your sensual cravings, for by so doing you condemn both body and soul to an eternity of frightful torments. Is it any wonder that we find the world today saturated with the gravest sins against chastity when even practicing Catholics do not use this strongest of weapons against such temptations? Refuse yourself from time to time the licit pleasures of the table, and you will find it much easier to refuse always the illicit pleasures of the flesh.
The second reason we fast is in order that our minds might more easily contemplate spiritual things. It’s very simple: when we’re hunched over our plates like animals we cannot think like the angels. The soul can never ascend to God, writes St. Francis de Sales, unless the body is brought into subjection by penance. We often wonder why we cannot pray with more attention and devotion, why we keep falling asleep when we try to pray. The body weighs us down. The spirit is willing but the flesh is weak. The saints who wore themselves out with fasting were able to pray with more strength and energy than we who think we need three square meals a day in order to survive. Deny yourself from time to time the bread of this world and you’ll find yourself hungrier for the Bread of the Angels.
The third reason we fast is in order to make reparation for sins—our own sins and those of the whole world. Even if this were the only reason to fast, we would have enough mortification to last us an entire lifetime. When our Blessed Mother appeared to the three children at Fatima she told them that the world must turn to prayer and fasting in order to make reparation for the many sins of mankind. Have we obeyed? Do we fast only on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday? For every sin committed some penance is owed, even once the sin is forgiven. Fasting is one of the greatest ways to make reparation. We will do the Church far more good if every time we hear of some scandal coming from one of her members we fast a little in reparation, than if we spend all our energy complaining about it. If we only knew what comfort we bring to the Sacred Heart—so wounded by sin—by our fasting, we would fast more than a few times a year!
Our Lord once told His Apostles that certain demons are cast out only by fasting and prayer. We can add this, then, as a fourth reason to fast. How the demons hate when we fast! How they hate when we do what they cannot! Satan and his cronies love it when we humans act more like brute animals who lack reason. But when we mortify ourselves, when we humble ourselves with fasting, they flee.
Our Blessed Lord fasted for 40 days before He began His public ministry, before He began His long road to Calvary. He did this for a reason—to teach us the importance of this ancient ascetical practice; for He Himself had no real reason to fast. Christ’s Church has instituted this season of Lent as a special time of penance in which all are obliged to perform some sort of penance. Let us strive to imitate our Lord in His bodily mortification, His fasting and prayer, that following Him along the road to Calvary we may rise with Him to eternal life. Amen.
•For all the benefactors of St. Michael’s Preparatory School, living and deceased.
•For all the students and families of St. Michael’s Preparatory School.
•For all faculty and staff of St. Michael’s Preparatory School.