What does fasting really mean?

Maria BeneventoI’m beginning to wish I hadn’t volunteered to write the first blog post, because I don’t understand what I’m doing as much as I hope I will by the end of Lent. I keep reading articles, hoping to find one that tells me what fasting should mean to me, but I’m always a little disappointed.

My extensive reading has led me to expect everything from solidarity with the poor, to an improvement of my relationship with God, to an attack of gout. And, of course, my specific fast is supposed to be related to immigration reform.

As I look back on my day, though, I’m not sure what results I’ve seen. It was a little harder to concentrate, a little harder to listen, occasionally harder to walk without feeling dizzy. I felt less in control than usual, as if I were doing everything the way I meant to, but could easily slip at any moment, revealing a feeling or a need that I didn’t want other people to see. I spent more time thinking, “I’m hungry,” than I did praying or reflecting on the needs of immigrants.

I’m glad that I’m doing this more than once, because so far I’ve felt more potential than results. I think fasting this week was good for me—it made me feel a hint of my vulnerability, how quickly I would fall apart without food. I also felt the tension between that knowledge, and the fact that I could choose to feed myself whenever I decided I was uncomfortable enough. I realized how far I was from really understanding what it would be like to feel hunger involuntarily, with no planned end of the experience.

But maybe it doesn’t matter if I understand. Maybe it’s more important that I never forget that people are hungry, homeless, and in danger, that within my own community there are immigrants missing their family members, exploited, discriminated against, and in constant fear of being caught and deported. If I can use my fasting as a reason to remember those who don’t have the luxury of beginning and ending their deprivation at will, and as a motivation to do my best to change that, then it will definitely be worthwhile.

Maria Benevento
Class of 2015
College of Arts and Sciences
CCSJ Student Coordinator

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