It is quite common these days to hear about alternatives to fasting that include such recommendations as: “fasting from criticism”, “fasting from the use of foul language”, “fasting from rude behavior”, and “fasting” from whatever other bad habits can be named.
I’ve received several emails in this regard and have heard not a few references to this type of “fasting” from Catholic media sources.
However, while the giving up of bad habits is a worthwhile recommendation I personally would hesitate to label these otherwise laudatory ambitions as “fasting”.
“Fasting” is the voluntary act of giving up something that is otherwise a “good”; thus the Church’s allowance for the dispensation of the rules regarding fasting in the case of age or health.
While the intent of “fasting” is to facilitate greater interior conversion which would hopefully include the forgoing of bad habits, it is probably not correct to redefine fasting as the act of forgoing something one should not be doing in the first place. In other words, the elimination of bad habits is the desired “effect” of fasting, but it is not fasting.
The other problem from such a “re-definition” of the practice of “fasting” is what do you do when the fast if over…go back to your bad habit?
So clearly, the Church has a very specific definition of fasting that is deeply rooted in Scripture and the historical discipline of the Church.
Well, just a thought. Have a blessed Lent.