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Breaking Lenten Fasts

April 4, AD2014


Many people have come asking me what to do if they broke their Lenten resolution. Do they have to find something NEW now?

\”Ok, think. What have I NOT done in the last week so I can keep \’not-doing-it\’ for the other 3 weeks?\”

Or, maybe someone out there wants to go to confession, because they couldn\’t hold true to their Lenten promises?

Don\’t worry. We are supposed to fail in Lent. The 40 days fast was done by Jesus. He made it through the temptations and travails nearly starving to death. But we are made of lesser stuff. We are weaker and will fail. Although we share the same likeness to our Lord and wonderfully made, we sin and break down. We lose heart. We fall. We eat what we told ourselves we would give up. We lose our patience. And that\’s ok. We are supposed to fail in Lent.

St. Francis of Assisi went once to an island in Lago Bracciano, Italy (I believe. Correct me if I\’m wrong.) to do a 40 day Lenten fast, leaving Ash Wednesday morning and returning Holy Thursday morning. He didn\’t eat or drink for forty days. Well, I take that back. He made it 39 days. He stopped one day short out of reverence for Christ. This great saint shows us that the point of the 40 days is not to make it, but to fail. Lent shows us that we are weak. It reminds us how fragile we are and how accustomed to comforts we are. Therefore by breaking our resolutions, we prove this. Thus we go to Jesus as the one who does have the power and strength to save us and forgive us for our weaknesses.

Through Lent, I grow in greater appreciation for what Jesus has done for me and what he continues to do in my life to enlighten, strengthen, and free me from the darkness of sin and ignorance. Keep it up. Don\’t give up, but don\’t feel like you\’re an epic failure if you can\’t make it all the way through Lent with your promises. Take them back up when you break them. Because if you fail, you\’ve actually achieved Lent\’s purpose: realizing that you are weak and need God all the more!

©2014. Fr. James Melnick. All rights reserved.

Photography: See our Photographers page.

About the Author:

A priest of Little Rock, a fan of St. Philip Neri, Pope Benedict XVI, the New Evangelization and the Washington Nationals. Addicted to coffee and mexican food.

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  • patriot173

    In my view DON’T MAKE PROMISES! Do not swear by anything, let your yes be free-willed without any strings attached. But do begin again after you have failed to keep your resolutions. When we fail we are humbled and know we are but dust and ashes and nothing more than a speck of dust before God, Almighty Who loves us unconditionally none the less when He first created us.

  • patriot173
  • jesspinosa

    Well, thanks, Fr. James. You made me feel better but I do promise to try to do better next year, which I promise every year!

  • Magdalena

    I thought it wasn’t physically possible to survive more than two weeks with no food or water. This always stumps me

    • Magdalena

      Don’t mean to miss the point because I love the message of this post

    • franciscofranco

      Yes, going without water for more than six days is essentially impossible for human beings. I don’t believe there is a reference that Jesus did not drink water during his fast. Still, you’re correct not to lose sight of the broader message of this excellent post.

    • micahnewman

      Yes, the article has it wrong: St. Francis actually fasted from food during the 40 days, not from water.

  • M P P

    Thanks, I confessed this failure just this morning.

  • duhem

    Thank you Fr. James for helping us in the Lenten Journey. I’ve been failing in fasting, but my other vows are so far in place.

    • Hahaha! I think so! I was talking to Bishop Taylor here in Little Rock, and he even said some people take up a certain fast for half of Lent and switch at ‘halftime’! I guess there’s no wrong way to do it as long as we are strengthening our will and connection to Christ!

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  • David Peters

    Father thanks for the encouragement! We need God’s strength to help us daily.