Praised be Jesus Christ! This past spring many people took the Nineveh 90 challenge. Created by Father Rick Heilman of the Diocese of Madison, the basic premise is that it takes 90 days to cultivate a good habit. The program requires a lot of prayer, but most of that is already a part of my life. The most challenging component was the fasting – 2 days a week on just bread and water. As Catholics, we are only required to fast on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday, and only if we’re between the ages of 18 and 59. Needless to say, if practice makes one perfect, then we are sorely lacking in this spiritual activity. I know it’s summer and you refuse to feel guilty about your daily cement mixers or your second order of fried cheese curds, but please bear with me! Fasting is one of the most unsung weapons in our spiritual arsenal and until recently, I had no idea of all the good it can do for us and for others. A short list of graces that come from fasting include opening our hearts to conversion as well as fortifying us in our resistance to temptation. Fasting teaches us the difference between “wanting” and “needing” and grants us a greater solidarity with people who are regularly deprived of adequate nourishment. Finally, fasting brings the Holy Spirit into our hearts, thus granting us greater inner freedom and true spiritual healing. Pope emeritus Ben- edict XVI wrote once that “the Sacred Scriptures and the entire Chris- tian tradition teach that fasting is a great help to avoid sin and all that leads to it.” Over the 90 days we were required to fast 26 times – and I am now convinced that fasting needs to be a regular part of our lives. One thing you learn about fasting is that not all bread is equivalent – sliced bread from a supermarket is basically useless in getting you through the day. I recommend livethefast.org as a resource that will teach you how to bake or purchase bread that will help you to perform your daily duties while fasting. This website provides a lot of great information, including a compelling interview with a doctor who concludes that periodic fasting is very good for one’s health. God has convinced me of the merits of fasting and I intend to continue doing it and encouraging others to consider it. Now allow me to segue into this month’s questions from our question box . . . . first up is the suggestion that people smile after receiving Holy Communion. This would show an understanding of Who is inside you and would edify your fellow parishioners. I agree, but only do what comes natural to you. Another question asked how long the Anointing of the Sick lasts (i.e. how often should one get anointed?). Father Sedlacek’s anointings are only good for a week or so, but most priests’ last a year (and in all seriousness, getting anointed once a year when you get older is sufficient). By the way, St. John’s hosts its annual Healing Mass on July 26th at 9:00 a.m. Another question wondered if we know the names of Saint Joseph’s parents. The Gospel of Matthew has a genealogy in the first chapter and it mentions Jacob as his father; we do not know his Mom’s name. Someone wondered when the consecration takes place during Mass. The servers ring the bells the first time when the Holy Spirit enters the bread and wine (this moment is called the epiclesis). Then the servers ring the bells three times at the moment of consecration for both the Body and Blood of Jesus. The bells are rung so that you do not miss this miraculous moment in the Mass. Finally, someone wondered how I got Father Sedlacek to finally shave his Paul Bunyan beard . . . prayer and fasting, people, it works wonders! And speaking of Father Sedlacek, a very Happy Father’s Day to our dear Dads!
May God give us the self-mastery that helps us to use the things of the world so that we can get to Heaven!
Your friend in Christ,