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Fasting is a touchy subject for me. As a devout Catholic, I can see the fruit of fasting. I know it is good for spiritual growth, a strong form of prayer, and is pleasing to God. At the same time, it can be a challenge for me because what I eat is extremely important for managing my health. While I know that because of my serious medical condition, I am exempt in the United States from fasting, there is still that part of me that wants to honor God in that way. I want to share my thoughts that have taken shape over the last few years.
Before I go into some advice, I want to make two things very clear. First, I am not a spiritual director. These are tidbits I have gotten from speaking to a priest. Please talk to your priest about fasting for your specific health needs. He will be able to advise you much better than a stranger on the Internet. Second, I am not a medical professional. This is from my own experience. If you want to find out if you can fast in a healthy way, speak with your doctor and/or a nutritionist.
Don’t Feel Guilty
I know this is so much easier said than done, but do not feel guilty if you cannot fast due to a medical condition. There are exceptions given to us by the Church (which is guided by the Holy Spirit). Friends, we have a cross that we must carry with us every single day. Though the cross of chronic illness can draw us closer to God, it is still a cross. Rather than feeling guilt that you cannot fast for the two required days, focus on ways you can offer your daily challenges up to God.
Also, don’t read forums on this topic. There are a ton of very judgmental people who do not understand the complexities of managing diabetes. There is no good reason to subject yourself to the rude and inaccurate assumptions of others. Don’t let this add to any guilt you may already be feeling.
Don’t Judge Other Diabetics for Not Fasting
Every person manages their disease differently. Just because you can fast doesn’t mean that others can. I would be willing to bet that most people who are chronically ill have spent time in prayer and spoken with a qualified person regarding their unique health situation. If you are really concerned about someone fasting or not, pray for them.
Be Smart About Fasting
If you are able to fast, please make sure you are doing so in a healthy way. If you are fighting lows all day or sustaining yourself solely off glucose tablets, please take care of yourself. I respect your desire to serve God, but hypoglycemia is very dangerous. The intent of fasting is not to put your body into a life-threatening condition.
Find Other Fasts
If you can’t fast from food but would still like to make some other form of sacrifice, there are a lot of different options. Here are a few:
- Fast from all beverages except water. Skip your morning coffee. Pass up your mid-afternoon Diet Coke. Turn down the milk at dinner.
- Eat more simple food.
- Choose meals that don’t include your favorite foods.
- Fast from something else like social media, screens, or music.
Fasting as a Catholic diabetic is a complicated topic. It is one that is best discussed with both a priest and a doctor. Know that whatever is determined to be best for both your physical and spiritual health is still pleasing to God.
Have a blessed and fruitful Lent.