Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Ember Wednesday: Fast and Pray

Today is Ember Wednesday. I was particularly struck by the reading of the third nocturne at vigils.

From a homily of St. Bede the Venerable:

Jesus told the disciples, “This kind can be cast out in no way except by prayer and fasting.”

While teaching the Apostles how the prince of devils must be driven out, He gives us all a lesson for life. It is this: we must realize that the worst temptations and trials, whether brought by evil spirits or by men, can all be overcome by praying and fasting. Moreover, these serve us as singular means for making atonement when God’s just anger has been stirred up by our sins.

Now fasting, in a sider sense, means more than restrictions on food. It means keeping all the allurements of the flesh at a distance; indeed, keeping oneself from every sinful passion. Likewise, prayer, in a wider sense, must consist of more than mere words beseeching God’s mercy; it embraces everything we do with a dedicated spirit of faith in the service of our Creator.

Now, I know that my own sins are egregious enough, and I pray and fast and do penance for them. But I also know that there are bishops whose sins are even more egregious because they affect the faithful under their care. I read that, after his mother congratulated him on his appointment as Bishop of Mantua, St. Pius X told her: "Mother, you do not realize what it means to be a bishop. I shall lose my soul if I neglect my duty.”

So obviously we need to pray for our bishops. And that’s what I was thinking about as I read that lesson from the Divine Office. We can overcome the wrongdoing of bishops by prayer and fasting, and we can make atonement for their sins as well.

Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me.

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