US Catholic Faith in Real Life

Are we serious about fasting?

By Bryan Cones | Print this pagePrint | Email this pageShare

I've had some friends ask me what the value of fasting is: Why give something up instead of "doing" something, or helping someone in need?

I'm not sure those things are mutually exclusive, but I do think there's something valuable in just "giving up," too, in just fasting. For me that's going to be meat this Lent. And, no, that doesn't mean I'm going to be eating lobster everyday!

I chose meat for all kinds of reasons: It's traditional, for one thing, so I feel like I'm joining all kinds of other Christians, too. Meat isn'tincredibly good for me, either, and I eat too much of it anyway. But a meat-heavy diet is also hard on the earth (everything from land use to greenhouse gasses) and on the poor (if we meat-eaters consumed less, there would be more land for grain consumption). Plus, the way we produce meat in this country is at least gross if not grossly immoral.

But I think, in the end, my meat-eating is a symbol of my overconsumption: Not only do I use up more of my "fair share" of the earth's resources--including food--I consume a lot more than I need. Food is obvious, but you could add energy and entertainment and "screen time" too.

I think fasting--simply "giving up" without any other purpose--would be good for anyone, especially in our culture of super-overconsumption.