[EDITOR'S NOTE: The following column on a practical approach to Lent is from Archbishop Francis T. Hurley, head of the Anchorage Archdiocese and available at the Anchorage Archdiocese website.]

Lenten Fast

     We are a diet crazed society. If there was ever a question about that in my mind, it is blatantly answered by the advent of cable TV in my home. Never have I seen so many pitches to lose pounds. There is one sure-thing program not included, probably because it is free. As with Smith-Barney it is the old fashioned way--Lenten fast and abstinence.

Motivation Makes the Difference

The jazzy ads for quick and effortless loss of weight confirm another point. The motive in the ads is so that one can look better and feel more energized. Nothing wrong with that except that it is a totally self-centered interest. For too many people what is self-centered does not last too long. Motivation, to be strong, must look out beyond self. Making a commitment to others and or to do something sacrificial is a strong prod to conscience. There is also the element of shame if one is not true to the commitment. Commitment and shame are attached to Lenten fast and accountability at the end of Lent.

On Whose Behalf?

On whose behalf should I make a commitment to fast and abstain during Lent?


For the people in Iraq, so that they will not become even worse victims because of their leader? Or because of our U.S. leaders?

For the U.S.

To avoid the use of military attacks on Iraq?

For our President and Congress

To be strong and firm in avoiding armed conflict, in not resorting to military attacks?


For the most recent cancer victim that I learned about?


For the teenagers who are getting caught up in violence, in gangs?

The Divorced

For families shattered by divorce; for spouses to seek reconciliation; for an abandoned single parent with children; for the children of divorced parents?

My Archdiocese, [My Diocese], My Parish

That each can be truly a spiritual people in every way?

Family Members

For what I see as much needed for members of my family?


To use Lenten fast and abstinence as a way of being thankful, as a way of reminding me each day to ask myself, for what am I thankful?

Thankfulness will put a smile on your face during Lent and after Lent, too. Smiling during fasting is recommended by Jesus: "When you fast you are not to look glum as the hypocrites do. They change the appearance of their faces so that others may see they are fasting. I assure you they are already repaid. When you fast see to it that you groom your hair and wash your face. In that way no one can see that you are fasting but your Father who is hidden; and your Father who sees what is hidden will repay you."

Lent and Stewardship

Stewardship has been a prominent theme throughout the Archdiocese [dioceses] for the past two years. Have you thought of fasting and abstinence as a form of stewardship? It is! Stewardship expresses itself by being an identification with my neighbor. What God has entrusted to me I must share with my neighbor. Self-denial helps me to identify with the poor by enabling me to experience voluntarily what they experience involuntarily. That is stewardship in reverse. Identifying with the poor, the sick, the lonely, the hurting, the suffering people enables me to draw from them rather than them from me.

When you see on TV those pitches to lose pounds, remember that there is a better way!

February 25, 1998 volume 9, no. 40          DAILY CATHOLIC