Taming Our Passions

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I was blessed to travel south and catch some sunshine over the last couple of weeks. I went down to rest, regain my health, do absolutely nothing and clear my head. It was glorious in many ways and one of the best things occurring was my ability to prepare mentally and physically for Lent. This occurrence was made possible through fasting, walking, spending time in prayer and going much slower than my normal pace. The hardest part has been returning home where it will be more difficult to continue making progress.  

 Each walk on the beach was an opportunity to meditate, and contemplate the beauty of the surroundings and the awesomeness of God’s creation. On Ash Wednesday my thoughts led to the understanding that in our humanity we are all a bit divine as at the moment of our conception we were kissed by The Divine One as Our Creator breathed life into our souls. God in His great wisdom in creating us as Temples of the Holy Spirit and in His likeness and image has gifted us with the opportunity to create life biologically, to carry burgeoning life within our bodies, and instill life in others through our words, works and actions making us all living Trees of Life.  

In our humanness we are also capable of exactly the opposite. Many fail at their calling to be living Trees of Life as at some time or other we have eaten the forbidden fruits of convenience, self-centeredness and materialism. This fact is made widely evident today as the culture of death overtakes the hearts, minds and souls of many, including influential people in all walks of life impacting the laws enacted in New York state and all over our country. We, like our original parents Adam and Eve have the tendency to rebel against our innate goodness and fall into bad habits leading us toward sin and far away from God’s original plan for our lives. So how do we tame our tendencies toward concupiscence? How do we tame our passions? How do we tame the passions of others?

“In the Old Testament, the Lord told Isaiah that a fast properly undertaken would ‘loose the bonds of wickedness ... undo the thongs of the yoke ... let the oppressed go free’ (Is. 58:6) ... In the New Testament, we find that Jesus fasted for forty days and nights in the wilderness in preparation for His battle with Satan, who came to tempt Him (see Lk 4:1-2) ... If prayer is a spiritual weapon, fasting is the spiritual whetstone on which it is sharpened. It’s the spiritual muscle that, when exercised regularly, strengthens the thrust of that weapon to pierce the Enemy and drive him away.”
— Paul Thigpen, pg. 42, Manual for Spiritual Warfare

Fasting from food for extended periods of time is something not everyone is physically able to do, so please do not try this unless you have the permission of your physician and spiritual director. There are many other things we can fast from that are just as rewarding and there is a big difference between eating 3 balanced meals a day and gluttony, which is spoken of below.

“ St. John Cassian, a Church Father and monk of the late 4th and early 5th centuries, wrote that monks (and all Christians) need to overcome eight vices: gluttony, fornication, avarice, anger, sadness, acedia, vainglory, and pride. The order given for these vices was not arbitrary: he found that conquering one vice was often dependent upon defeating preceding vices in the list, and so gluttony’s place at the head of the list is significant. Cassian writes if one does not overcome gluttony, he cannot even engage in battle against the other vices.”
— From To Love Fasting Eric Sammons for One Peter 5

Fasting is something I have done off and on over the last few years and began again in earnest this past Advent. I simply decided to not eat after 6 PM. Gradually 6 PM became 4 PM and sometimes 3 PM and almost by accident, I found I wasn’t eating for 18 or 19 hours at a time because breakfast was never eaten until after 8:15 mass. There are times when this is especially hard as there is always the preparing of another dinner in our home at 7:30 PM for my son.  If, however, I meditate on Our Lord’s Passion or Our Lady’s “Fiat” and offer up my temptation to sneak a bite, it is always easier to stay on the straight and narrow. It was the same while on vacation. There was a light breakfast of fruit and coffee, lots of water and a very late lunch or early dinner filled with fiber, vegetables and protein.  I wasn’t hungry, increased my energy and found a mental clarity and endurance I am unfamiliar with.

“It is by endurance that you will secure possession of your souls (Luke 21:18). The possession of a soul means the undisturbed mastery of oneself, which is the secret of inner peace, as distinguished from a thousand agitations which make it fearful, unhappy, and disappointed.”

—  Fulton J. Sheen, pg.322, Life of Christ

This type of fasting has tamed my obsession with shopping. It has helped tame the mindless habits of social media and television. It has helped tame the once uncontrollable muttering under my breath and being overly judgmental and critical. It has increased my patience and my time for prayer. It has given me the endurance to do the right things when it would be easier to do something else and has brought a quiet peace to my soul.  

Most importantly fasting has brought me closer to Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and hopefully somehow made me worthy of the little bit of divinity within me making me a living Tree of Life. If I can just keep going for another 35 days, maybe I can tame my passions forever always remembering, everything is possible with God. May God Bless you my friends with the endurance needed to tame whatever passions He should ask of you, this Lenten season and forevermore.

Love & Prayers,