of Fatima performed heroic fastings/penances to help save poor souls from going to Hell.
(Source: "Meditations for Lent from
St. Thomas Aquinas", pp. 48-50, 1937 Imp.)
1. We fast for three reasons.
(i) To check the desires of the flesh. So
St. Paul says in fastings, in chastity (2 Cor. vi. 5),
meaning that fasting is a safeguard for chastity.
As St. Jerome says, "Without Ceres, and Bacchus,
Venus would freeze," as much as to say that lust
its heat through spareness of food and drink.
(ii) That the mind may more freely raise itself
to contemplation of the
heights. We read in the
book of Daniel that it was after a fast of three
weeks that he received the revelation from God
(Dan. x. 2-4).
(iii) To make satisfaction for sin. This is
reason given by the prophet Joel, Be converted
to me with all your heart, in fasting and in weeping and
mourning (Joel ii. 12). And here is what St.
Augustine writes on the matter. "Fasting purifies
the soul. It lifts up
the mind, and it brings the
body into subjection to the spirit. It makes the
heart contrite and humble, scatters the clouds
desire, puts out the flames of lust and enkindles
the true light of chastity."
2. There is commandment laid on us to fast.
For fasting helps to destroy sin, and to raise the
to thoughts of the spiritual world. Each
man is then bound, by the natural law of the matter,
to fast just as much as is necessary
to help him in
these matters. Which is to say that fasting in
general is a matter of natural law. To determine,
however, when we shall fast and how, according
to what suits and is of use to the Catholic body, is
a matter of positive law. To state the positive
law is the business of the bishops, and what is thus
stated by them is called ecclesiastical fasting, in
contradistinction with the natural fasting previously
3. The times fixed for fasting by the Church are
well chosen. Fasting has two objects in view:
(i) The destruction of sin, and
(ii) the lifting of the mind to higher things.
times self-indicated for fasting are then
those in which men are especially bound to free
themselves from sin and to raise
their minds to
God in devotion. Such a time especially is that
which precedes that solemnity of Easter in which
baptism is administered and sin thereby destroyed,
and when the burial of Our Lord is recalled, for
we are buried together with Christ by baptism into
death (Rom. vi. 4). Then, too, at Easter most of
all, men's minds should be lifted, through devotion
to the glory of that eternity which Christ in his
Wherefore the Church has decreed that im-
mediately before the solemnity of Easter we must
fast, and, for a similar reason, that we must fast
on the eves of the principal feasts, setting apart
those days as opportune to prepare ourselves for
the devout celebration of the feasts themselves.
(2 - 2 97 1, 3, 5.)