The Catholic Times, Montreal, February 1983
Fasting Rediscovered by Thomas Ryan (Paulist Press, 1981), 160pp
With the relaxation of the ecclesiastical laws on liturgical and cultic fast, fasting became unpopular as a part of religious experience among Roman Catholics in North America. Now there is a return to fasting, and Thomas Ryan’s simple books sets down history, perspectives and guidelines for the Christian who wants to reconsider fasting s a religious act.
Fast is see as a “Lost Treasure” that we are in search of, the key to a healthy “body-spirit” as the author says, a way of keeping physically and spiritually “in shape” so as to draw closer to God. Distinctions are made between different kinds of fasting and Christian fasting is featured along with its effects on moral and prayer life, and its implications for social justice.
Fasting seems to many us as unhealthy and dangerous. In this book are found many reasons why our body actually needs the periodic rest and cleansing that fasting gives. Sound guidelines about how, how long, and who should fast are given with reliable medical references.
Now that fasting is not compulsory in our tradition, perhaps we can take a mature look at the spiritual benefits of fasting. Our author invites us to try fasting as a regular part of our life, to take it on freely and generously, as an act of faith, hope and love, as an act of religious joy, leading to a deeper union with God.
With fasting we experience and celebrate in a concrete way the spirit of the special day and seasons of our Church year. With the practice of fasting we turn to the Lord hungry and poor more conscious of our need for Him and more conscious of the sufferings of those without sufficient daily food. Above all, we become ”empty” and learn to turn outwards towards others and towards God in love.
“Fundamentally, fasting represents offering oneself to God in a spirit of openness and readiness, inviting the action of His Spirit.”
This book is not presenting fasting as a technique taken on for good health or expanded consciousness. Our author reminds us that it must be the Holy Spirit who leads us into the deeper Christian values of fasting, so that “fasting may be a true, religious act of loving worship and self-surrender.”
This unique book has the potential of being a catalyst for renewal within our Church. The valuable information it gives is only surpassed by the equality in which it proclaims the Gospel.
Sister Majorie Moffatt