St. Francis Fasting

Francis of Assisi (San Francesco d’Assisi, Sanctus Franciscus Assisiensis), born Giovanni di Pietro di Bernardone, informally named as Francesco (1181/1182 – 3 October 1226), was an Italian Catholic friar, deacon and preacher. He founded the men’s Order of Friars Minor, the women’s Order of Saint Clare, the Third Order of Saint Francis and the Custody of the Holy Land. Francis is one of the most venerated religious figures in Christianity. See also: Fasting and Abstinence in The Catholic Church

The meaning and context of medieval fasting. In the OT there were two kinds of fasts, public and private. The most notable, and only one required by the law of Moses was on the great Day of Atonement, thus fasting was a penitential practice associated with reconciliation from sin. In addition, there are biblical records of public fasts being proclaimed in times of distress, lamentation, and at the prophetic insistence for various situations. The public fasts were generally connected to communal sins and lasted a day. Private fasts were generally acts of penance.

St. Francis of Assisi

St. Francis de Sales Ash Wednesday Sermon FASTING
Sermon for Ash Wednesday, February 9, 1622

How St Francis kept Lent on an island in the Lake of Perugia

The true servant of Christ, St. Francis, was in some sense as another Christ, given to the world for the salvation of the people; therefore God the Father willed to make him in many of his actions conformable to the image of His Son, Jesus Christ. This was shown in the venerable company of his twelve companions, and in the admirable mystery of the sacred stigmata, and in his continuous fast during the holy Lent, which took place in this manner.

Once on a time, St Francis on the day of the carnival went to the Lake of Perugia, to the house of one of his disciples, where he was entertained for the night, and there he was inspired by God to pass this Lent on an island in the lake. Wherefore St Francis prayed his disciple, that for the love of Christ he would carry him across in his little boat to an island in the lake where no one inhabited, and that he would do this on the night of Ash Wednesday, so that no one might know of it. Then the other, for the great love and devotion he bore to St Francis, solicitous to grant his request, carried him to the said island, and St Francis took nothing with him but two little loaves.

And when they had arrived at the island, and his friend was about to return to his home, St Francis earnestly besought him not to reveal to any one what he should do, and not to come again till Holy Thursday. So his friend departed, and Sc Francis remained alone; and there being no habitation into which he could retire, he entered into a thicket, where many trees and shrubs had formed a hiding-place, resembling a little hut: and in this shelter he disposed himself to prayer and to the contemplation of heavenly things.

And he remained there the whole of Lent, without eating or drinking, except the half of one of those little loaves, as was witnessed by his disciple when he returned to him on Holy Thursday, who found, of the two loaves, one entire, and the half of the other. It is believed that St Francis so refrained from eating out of reverence for the fasting of the blessed Christ, who fasted forty days and forty nights without taking any material food; and thus with that half loaf he kept from himself the poison of vainglory, and after the example of Christ he fasted forty days and forty nights.

And afterwards, in this spot, where St Francis had sustained this marvellous abstinence, God granted many miracles through his merits; for which cause men began to build houses there, arid to inhabit them; and in a short time there was built a large and prosperous village, and the house for the brothers, which is still called the House of the Island. And to this day the men and women of the village have great reverence and devotion for the spot where St Francis made this Lent.

St. Francis Fasting

Fast from judging others; feast on the Christ indwelling in them.
Fast from emphasis on differences; feast on the unity of all life.
Fast from apparent darkness; feast on the reality of light.
Fast from words that pollute; feast on phrases that purify.
Fast from discontent; feast on gratitude.
Fast from anger; feast on patience.
Fast from pessimism; feast on optimism.
Fast from worry; feast on trust.
Fast from complaining; feast on appreciation.
Fast from negatives; feast on affirmatives.
Fast from unrelenting pressures; feast on unceasing prayer.
Fast from hostility; feast on nonviolence.
Fast from bitterness; feast on forgiveness.
Fast from self-concern; feast on compassion for others.
Fast from personal anxiety; feast on eternal truth.
Fast from discouragement; feast on hope.
Fast from facts that depress; feast on truths that uplift.
Fast from lethargy; feast on enthusiasm.
Fast from suspicion; feast on truth.
Fast from thoughts that weaken; feast on promises that inspire.
Fast from idle gossip; feast on purposeful silence.

Gentle God, during this season of fasting and feasting,
gift us with your presence
so we can be a gift to others in carrying out your work.
Amen.

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