Monday, March 30, 2015

Are You Ready? Join Me For the Second Annual Charlemagne Holy Week Lenten Challenge!

Long time readers of the blog will remember the Charlemagne Holy Week Lenten Challenge I issued last year, and re-issued on Friday. As a rebellion against the laxness many of us modern Catholics have when it comes to "mortifying the flesh" and inspired by the heroic sacrifices of our Catholic forefathers from the Middle Ages, we'll be sacrificing more than just chocolate or coffee for one week. The actual challenge is exceedingly simple (if difficult):
1) No meat
2) No eating until nightfall (or at least until "the seventh hour," i.e. noon). 
Medieval king
Carolus Magnus "Charlemagne"
As each Sunday is a "little Easter," today really marks the absolute beginning of our feast (so don't let missing yesterday, or even already having eaten breakfast this morning stop you from joining us. It's never too late!) For those not entirely inspired to jump onto the fasting bandwagon, let St. Josemaría Escrivá encourage you with some profound words from the Twentieth century (mortification isn't something we left behind in the Middle Ages!)

St. Josemariá makes a powerful, and to many today perhaps surprising, observation on the spiritual life, "unless you mortify yourself you'll never be a prayerful soul." (The Way, 172). Why, we might be tempted to ask. St. Josemariá answers, "no ideal becomes a reality without sacrifice. Deny yourself. It is so beautiful to be a victim!" (The Way, 175). This truth is a meditation on the very teaching of Christ, "If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me." (Lk 9:23) Which leads St. Josemariá to remark, "don't complain if you suffer . It is the prized and valued stone that is polished." (Furrow, 235). Why is self imposed suffering, i.e. mortification, so aidful to the Christian faithful? Because it is the most effective way of battling what St. Paul called "sarx" (the flesh). "The body must be given a little less than it needs. Otherwise it will turn traitor." (The Way, 196). 

Don't allow your body to "turn traitor," to be a Judas. Discipline it. Bring it firmly under the control of your spirit. Remember, the three things that war against us are the devil, the world, and the flesh. Fasting is one of the primary ways of battling the last of these. It is a way of taking charge of our bodies, bodies that once were completely docile to the spirit, but, thanks to the stain of original sin, are now all too frequently in rebellion against it. Purity, which is at the heart of holiness (which itself is the reason for which we exist) is something that primarily concerns man deep in his "heart" (cf. Matt 5:8). Man, however, being a psychosomatic (body-soul) unity (contra the gnostics and their Cartesian and "new age" modern followers), can only achieve inner-purity, inner holiness, by taming the passions that afflict his body. St. John Paul the Great made clear the absolute importance of being interiorly pure,
It is the purity of the "man of concupiscence," who is nevertheless inspired by the word of the Gospel and open to "life according to the Spirit" (in conformity with St. Paul's words), that is, by the "redemption of the body" achieved by Christ. This is precisely why we find in the words of the Sermon on the Mount the appeal to the "heart," that is, to the inner man. The inner man must open himself to life according to the Spirit, in order to share in evangelical purity of heart: in order to find again and realize the value of the body, freed by redemption from the bonds of concupiscence. (General Audience, April 1, 1981)

This inner "evangelical purity of heart" can be achieved only when we decide to war against the natural, postlapsarian, tendency to allow the servant (i.e. the body) control the master (i.e. the spirit). Fasting, as our Medieval ancestors, St. Josemaría, and St. John Paul the Great all well knew is one way to right this situation.

With that encouragement, I invite you to begin today to venture with us this week in mastering ourselves with our Charlemagne inspired fast.


  1. I'm in for the part-day fast. I have dinner already in the works for tonight, and waste is a sin, but will do the abstinence for the rest of the week. Fasting has always been the ultimate challenge for me, so I am going to start with something that I think is attainable, and work up (rather than try for to much, fail and give up, like I have in the past.)

  2. Great point, Ruth. It's always best to take an incrementalist approach to these types of things. If you think the whole challenge is too much to "jump into" set an achievable goal for yourself and challenge yourself a bit more next Lent!

  3. permanently fast every Friday

  4. I will not eat until after the noon hour so I'm in

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