Saturday, September 01, 2007


At the end of yesterday's post about liturgical life, I wrote about feast days. While the Church highly recommends the practice of fasting throughout the liturgical year (but only requires it on two days -Ash Wednesday and Good Friday), she prohibits fasting on feast days. If we are in the habit of fasting, then we will appreciate feast days all the more! Here's some more info about fasting, according to

What Fasting Is:
Fasting, broadly speaking, is the voluntary avoidance of something that is good. When Catholics talk about fasting, we normally mean restricting the food that we eat. We can fast between meals, by not eating snacks, or we can engage in a complete fast by abstaining from all food. The English word breakfast, in fact, means the meal that breaks the fast.
While fasting takes the form of refraining from eating, it is primarily a spiritual discipline designed to tame the body so that we can concentrate on higher things.

Prayer, Fasting, and Almsgiving - The Swiss Army Knife of the Spirit:
That is why fasting is usually mentioned along with prayer and almsgiving (or charity). By controlling the passions of the body, we free our souls for prayer. And by refraining from eating, we free up food or money that we can give to those less fortunate than ourselves. The three spiritual disciplines go hand in hand, and the Church calls us to practice all three together, especially during the season of Lent.

Lenten Fasting and Penance:
Lent, the 40 days before Easter Sunday, is a season of the Church calendar set aside for Christians to do penance in preparation for the celebration of the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Refraining from food can help us to bring our bodies under the control of our souls, but it is also a way of doing penance for past excesses. That is why the Church strongly recommends that Catholics fast during Lent.

Current Church Law Regarding Fasting:
The Church used to prescribe very rigorous rules for the Lenten fast (including abstaining from all meat and eating only one meal per day). The current rules, however, are much more lax. Catholics are only required to fast on Ash Wednesday, the first day of Lent, and on Good Friday, the day that Jesus Christ was crucified. Anyone over the age of 18, but under the age of 60, should eat only one full meal on those days, although they can also have small amounts of food in the morning and the evening.

Going Beyond What’s Required:
The Church continues to encourage individual Catholics to observe a stricter fast. Extreme fasting, however, can be physically harmful, so, as with all physical forms of penance and of spiritual discipline, you should consult with your priest before embarking on a very strict fast.


At 12:25 AM, Anonymous mindy said...

I haven’t before been in the position of making decisions like the ones I have recently faced. My grandmother is 95 and has congestive heart failure. Her care requires quite a bit of attention, and my mother and aunt have decided to share that responsibility. That’s meant that my grandmother’s time is divided between my aunt’s home and ours (my mom lives with me). Recently, I was alone with my grandma when she collapsed. Her heart wasn’t pumping adequately and her lungs began to fill with fluid. I know there is a do not resuscitate order in place, but I still called 911, believing that is what I should do. I now know those are not my grandma’s and her daughters’ wishes. When we had another more recent episode, we (my mom and I) did not call an ambulance. Fortunately, her meds, which are given specifically for these episodes, worked; however, we are aware there will be a time when they will be inadequate. It’s a hard reality, and one that that I’m not sure I’m “prepared” for, but one that I understand is inevitable. My question is this- at what point does one ask for the sacrament of last rites to be administered? And- what if we did not ask for that for her (as with the last time), and she didn’t get better? What if she never received the sacrament? And, if she did receive the sacrament and later improved, would she receive it again at a later date? Since I haven’t been in this position of being a “responsible party” in all this before, I didn’t even realize I had these questions, but my grandmother is with me again this next week and it started me thinking.

At 1:15 PM, Anonymous Marion said...

A "do not resucitate" order for an elderly person living in the private home of a relative?

Mindy, that sounds to me as if you have been put into an awfully tough spot. I don't know how I would handle it if one day, Grandma is seizing on my kitchen floor, and I'm supposed to not call 911, but to somehow get a pill down her throat myself, and then leave her there to expire if the med doesn't work?

That sounds horrible! Why should you be in this situation?

I think people with "do not resucitate" orders should live in a care facility where the staff is properly equipped to cope with these kinds of emergencies. Or if living in a relative's home, they should have a 24 hour nurse to stay with them.

The very idea of not being "allowed" to call 911 when someone you love and care for is in serious distress - and you yourself not a trained medical professional. It doesn't bear thinking of!

At 6:48 PM, Anonymous mindy said...

When I was younger, the situation was similar with my grandfather. My grandparents made the decision that he would die at home. When his health was grave, and we were fortunate that there was sufficient time for all to be called, he died at home with all of us there. As difficult as that was for me, it was peaceful for him, and for that I was grateful.

After my experience of being alone with her when she became ill, we try to arrange that no one is alone with my grandmother for any prolonged time. In addition, during the week, she goes to an adult care facility. She is with us in the evenings and on the weekends. She doesn't want a nurse, and at 95 yrs of age, if possible, you should have what you want. She's not afraid of dying- I am afraid of her dying, but putting my fears aside seems like the right thing.

The other day FG posted about telling those we love how we feel about them. That post wasn't lost on me. When she is with me, the last thing my grandma receives at night is a kiss on the cheek and an "I love you." If she were in a facility, I wouldn't have that opportunity. In addition, my kids have learned to think about the needs of someone else in a unique way. It literally warms my heart to watch my son, without any prompting, offer his arm to steady his grandmother. To me, it is the ideal way we all should come to the end of our time.

At 8:20 PM, Blogger netadmin said...

DNR does not mean, do not call 911. They can still be called to come, but should be told there is a DNR (filed hopefully with your local hospital and the patient's physician). Someone suffering is not anyone's wish and that includes the family members as well.

Since this will most likely happen again, you should consider talking to your parish priest (the ones you would be calling for the sacrement) and discuss what you need to do and to answer your questions.

You should also talk to your grandmother's physician or any doctor for that matter to explain what options there are with a DNR. The emergency medics can still treat your grandmother and so can the emergency room physicians while still respecting your grandmother's wishes to not be attached to a breathing apparatice. No heroic measures does not mean suffering with no comfort.

You and your family are in my prayers.

Good Luck.

At 10:52 PM, Anonymous mindy said...

To netadmin-
I didn't mean for it to sound as if we would just let her "suffer." No- that's not the plan. Her doctor is called, and this last time he came. If he weren't available or instructed us to call 911, we'd then do so. All parties (including her doctor) have decided the hospital isn't where she should go. After this past episode, it occured to me that no one in my family had discussed how/when/who to call regarding receiving a sacrament I know she'd want to receive. In thinking about that, a bunch of questions came to mind. I'm not usually w/o a plan, but it's a strange thing to plan for. The reality is that each day brings us a little closer to the need for one.


Post a Comment

<< Home