Fasting Quotes: Catholic Popes and Saints (5/7)

(Updated 02/17/2015 )

Fasting Quotes: Catholic Popes and Saints  

  1. Saint Peter Chrysologus (c. 380 – c. 450)
  2. Saint Benedict (c. 480 – 547)
  3. Saint Hildegard of Bingen (1098 – 1179)
  4. Saint Francis of Assisi  (1181/1182 – 1226)
  5. Saint Thomas Aquinas  (1225 – 1274)
  6. Saint Catherine of Siena (1347 – 1380)
  7. Saint Thomas More (1478 – 1535)
  8. Saint Ignatius of Loyola (1491 – 1556)
  9. Saint Teresa of Ávila (1515 – 1582)
  10. Saint Francis de Sales (1567 – 1622)
  11. Pope Clement XIII (1693 – 1769)
  12. Saint Alphonsus De Ligouri (1696 – 1787)
  13. Pope Pius XII  (1876 – 1958)
  14. Pope Paul VI (1897 – 1978)
  15. Saint Maria Faustina (1905 – 1938)
  16. Pope John Paul II (1920 – 2005)
  17. Pope Benedict XVI (1927 – )
  18. Pope Francis ( 1936 – )


Saint Peter Chrysologus (c. 380 – c. 450)

Prayer, mercy and fasting: These three are one, and they give life to each other. Fasting is the soul of prayer; mercy is the lifeblood of fasting. Let no one try to separate them; they cannot be separated. If you have only one of them or not all together, you have nothing.

So if you pray, fast; if fast, show mercy; if you want your petition to be heard, hear the petition of others. When you fast, see the fasting of others. If you hope for mercy, show mercy. If you look for kindness, show kindness. If you want to receive, give. [St. Peter Chrysologus].


Saint Benedict (c. 480 – 547)

O Lord, I place myself in your hands and dedicate myself to you. I pledge myself to do your will in all things: To love the Lord God with all my heart, all my soul, all my strength. Not to kill. Not to steal. Not to covet. Not to bear false witness. To honor all persons. Not to do to another what I would not wish done to myself. To chastise the body. Not to seek after pleasures. To love fasting. [Saint Benedict].


Saint Hildegard of Bingen (1098 – 1179)

Also, temper all your works with moderation, that is to say, all your abstinence, your fasting, your vigils, and your prayers, for temperance sustains your body and soul with the proper measure, lest they fail. It reminds an honorable person that he is ashes and shall return to ashes [cf. Gen 3.19], and that he can hold his office only so long as God wishes. Temperance finds no joy in the company of sinners, nor does it join in the pomp and vanity of  this world; rather, it reminds people of the bitterness of punishment and perdition. [The Letters of Hildegard of Bingen, Vol. III] 


Saint Francis of Assisi  (1181/1182 – 1226)

And let them fast from the Feast of All saints until Christmas. Indeed may those who voluntarily fast the holy lent, which begins at Ephiphany and for the forty days that follow, which the Lord consecrated with His own holy fast, be blessed by the Lord, and let those who do not wish to do so not be constrained. But let them fast the other lent until the day of the Resurrection of the Lord. At other times however they are not bound to fast, except on Fridays. Indeed in time of manifest necessity the friars are not bound to the corporal fast. The Rule of St Francis, Chapter III


Saint Thomas Aquinas  (1225 – 1274)

An act is virtuous through being directed by reason to some virtuous good. Now this is consistent with fasting, because fasting is practiced for a threefold purpose. First, in order to bridle the lusts of the flesh, wherefore the Apostle says (2 Cor. 6:5,6): “In fasting, in chastity,” since fasting is the guardian of chastity. For, according to “Venus is cold when Ceres and Bacchus are not there,” that is to say, lust is cooled by abstinence in meat and drink. Secondly, we have recourse to fasting in order that the mind may arise more freely to the contemplation of heavenly things: hence it is related (Dan. 10) of Daniel that he received a revelation from God after fasting for three weeks. Thirdly, in order to satisfy for sins: wherefore it is written (Joel 2:12): “Be converted to Me with all your heart, in fasting and in weeping and in mourning.” The same is declared by Augustine in a sermon (De orat. et Jejun. [*Serm. lxxii (ccxxx, de Tempore)]): “Fasting cleanses the soul, raises the mind, subjects one’s flesh to the spirit, renders the heart contrite and humble, scatters the clouds of concupiscence, quenches the fire of lust, kindles the true light of chastity.” [Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologica Question 147: OF FASTING].

Just as it belongs to the secular authority to make legal precepts which apply the natural law to matters of common weal in temporal affairs, so it belongs to ecclesiastical superiors to prescribe by statute those things that concern the common weal of the faithful in spiritual goods.   

Now it has been stated above that fasting is useful as atoning for and preventing sin, and as raising the mind to spiritual things. And everyone is bound by the natural dictate of reason to practice fasting as far as it is necessary for these purposes. Wherefore fasting in general is a matter of precept of the natural law, while the fixing of the time and manner of fasting as becoming and profitable to the Christian people, is a matter of precept of positive law established by ecclesiastical authority: the latter is the Church fast, the former is the fast prescribed by nature.

Fasting considered in itself denotes something not eligible but penal: yet it becomes eligible in so far as it is useful to some end. Wherefore considered absolutely it is not binding under precept, but it is binding under precept to each one that stands in need of such a remedy. And since men, for the most part, need this remedy, both because “in many things we all offend” (James 3:2), and because “the flesh lusteth against the spirit” (Gal. 5:17), it was fitting that the Church should appoint certain fasts to be kept by all in common. In doing this the Church does not make a precept of a matter of supererogation, but particularizes in detail that which is of general obligation. [Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologica Question 147: OF FASTING Article. 3].


Saint Catherine of Siena (1347 – 1380)

Now the soul who wishes to rise above imperfection should await My Providence in the House of Self-Knowledge,with the light of faith, as did the disciples, who remained in the house in perseverance and in watching, and in humble and continual prayer, awaiting the coming of the Holy Spirit. She should remain fasting and watching, the eye of her intellect fastened on the doctrine of My Truth, and she will become humble because she will know herself in humble and continual prayer and holy and true desire. [Dialogue of St. Catherine of Siena]


Saint Thomas More (1478 – 1535)

The scripture is full of places that prove fasting to be not the invention of man but the institution of God, and to have many more profits than one. And that the fasting of one man may do good unto another, our Saviour showeth himself where he saith that some kind of devils cannot be cast out of one man by another “without prayer and fasting.” And therefore I marvel that they take this way against fasting and other bodily penance. [Sir Thomas More].


Saint Ignatius of Loyola (1491 – 1556)

As to foods, one ought to have the greatest and most entire abstinence, because as the appetite is more ready to act inordinately, so temptation is more ready in making trial, on this head. And so abstinence in foods, to avoid disorder, can be kept in two ways, one by accustoming oneself to eat coarse foods; the other, if one takes delicate foods, by taking them in small quantity. [St. Ignatius of Loyola].


Saint Teresa of Ávila (1515 – 1582)

Our primitive rule states that we must pray without ceasing. If we do this with all the care possible — for unceasing prayer is the most important aspect of the rule — the fasts, the disciplines, and the silence the order commands will not be wanting. For you already know that if prayer is to be genuine, it must be helped by these other things; prayer and comfortable living are incompatible. [St. Teresa of Avila, The Way of Perfection].


Saint Francis de Sales (1567 – 1622)

Fasting is a virtue only when it is accompanied by conditions which conditions which render it pleasing to God. Thus it happens that it profits some and not others, because it is not undertaken by all in the same manner. [The Quotable Saint edited by Rosemary Guiley]. 

We must fast with our whole heart, that is to say, willingly, whole-heartedly, universally and entirely. [The Quotable Saint edited by Rosemary Guiley]. 

If you are able to fast, you will do well to observe some days beyond what are ordered by the Church, for besides the ordinary effect of fasting in raising the mind, subduing the flesh, confirming goodness, and obtaining a heavenly reward, it is also a great matter to be able to control greediness, and to keep the sensual appetites and the whole body subject to the law of the Spirit; and although we may be able to do but little, the enemy nevertheless stands more in awe of those whom he knows can fast. [St. Francis of Sales. Introduction to the Devout Life. Ch. 23 On The Practice of Bodily Mortification].

Fasting and labor both exhaust and subdue the body. If your work is necessary or profitable to God’s Glory, I would rather see you bear the exhaustion of work than of fasting. Such is the mind of the Church, who dispenses those who are called to work for God or their neighbor even from her prescribed fasts. One man finds it hard to fast, another finds it as hard to attend the sick, to visit prisons, to hear confessions, preach, minister to the afflicted, pray, and the like. And the last hardship is better than the other; for while it subdues the flesh equally, it brings forth better fruit. [St. Francis of Sales. Introduction to the Devout Life. Ch. 23 On The Practice of Bodily Mortification].


Pope Clement XIII (1693 – 1769).

After all, it is always necessary to subdue concupiscence, for it is written, “Do not follow behind your desires, and do not turn away from your will.” Let the faithful easily turn their attention during this most holy time of year to lessening the intemperance of the body by fasting. [Pope Clement XIII. Appetente Sacro (On the Spiritual Advantages of Fasting)].

Rather, penance also demands that we satisfy divine justice with fasting, almsgiving, prayer, and other works of the spiritual life. Every wrongdoing–be it large or small–is fittingly punished, either by the penitent or by a vengeful God. Therefore we cannot avoid God’s punishment in any other way than by punishing ourselves. If this teaching is constantly implanted in the minds of the faithful, and if they drink deeply of it, there will be very little cause to fear that those who have discarded their degraded habits and washed their sins clean through sacramental confession would not want to expiate the same sins through fasting, to eliminate the concupiscence of the flesh. [Pope Clement XIII, Appetente Sacro (On the Spiritual Advantages of Fasting)].


Saint Alphonsus De Ligouri (1696 – 1787),

He that gratifies the taste will readily indulge the other senses; for, having lost the spirit of recollection, he will easily commit faults, by indecent words and by unbecoming gestures. But the greatest evil of intemperance, is that it exposes chastity to great danger. ‘Repletion of the stomach,’ says St. Jerome, ‘is the hotbed of lust.’ Saint Basil: “Penance without fasting is useless and vain; by fasting [we] satisfy God.” [Saint Alphonsus De Ligouri].


Pope Pius XII  (1876 – 1958),

From the very earliest time the custom was observed of administering the Eucharist to the faithful who were fasting. Towards the end of the fourth century fasting was prescribed by many Councils for those who were going to celebrate the Eucharistic Sacrifice. So it was that the Council of Hippo in the year 393 issued this decree: “The Sacrament of the altar shall be offered only by those who are fasting.” Shortly afterwards, in the year 397, the Third Council of Carthage issued this same command, using the very same words. At the beginning of the fifth century this custom can be called quite common and immemorial. Hence St. Augustine affirms that the Holy Eucharist is always received by people who are fasting and likewise that this custom is observed throughout the entire world. [Pope Pius XII, 1953].


Pope Paul VI (1897 – 1978),

This exercise of bodily mortification—far removed from any form of stoicism—does not imply a condemnation of the flesh which sons of God deign to assume. On the contrary mortification aims at the “liberation” of man, who often finds himself, because of concupiscence, almost chained by his own senses. Through “corporal fasting” man regains strength and the “wound inflicted on the dignity of our nature by intemperance is cured by the medicine of a salutary abstinence.” [Pope Paul VI, Paenitemini (Apostolic Constitution On Penance) 1966].


Saint Maria Faustina Kowalska

Meals. We will have no meat. Our meals shall be such that not even the poor will have any reason to envy us. Still, feast days may differ slightly from regular days. The sisters will eat three times a day. Fasts, especially the two great ones, will be observed strictly, according to the original spirit. The food should be the same for all the nuns without exception so that communal life may be kept pure. This refers not only to food but to clothing and the furnishing of cells as well. However, if a sister should fall ill, she should receive every consideration. [Saint Maria Faustina Kowalska, Diary of Saint Maria Faustina Kowalska, 546].

Interior mortifications take the first place, but besides this, we must practice exterior mortifications, strictly determined, so that all can practice them. These are: on three days a week, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday, there will be a strict fast; each Friday, all the sisters – each one in her own cell – will take the discipline for the length of the recitation of Psalm 50, and all will do this at the same time; namely, three o‟clock; and this will be offered for dying sinners. During the two great fasts, ember days and vigils, the food will consist of a piece of bread and some water, once a day.  [Saint Maria Faustina Kowalska, Diary of Saint Maria Faustina Kowalska, 565].


Pope John Paul II (1920 – 2005)

Fasting is to reaffirm to oneself what Jesus answered Satan when he tempted him at the end of his 40 days of fasting in the wilderness: “Man shall not live by bread alone but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God” (Mt 4:4)… Today, especially in affluent societies, it is difficult to grasp the meaning of these Gospel words. Consumerism, instead of satisfying needs, constantly creates new ones, often generating excessive activism. Everything seems necessary and urgent and one risks not even finding the time to be alone with oneself for a while . . . Penitential fasting is obviously something very different from a therapeutic diet, but in its own way it can be considered therapy for the soul. In fact practiced as a sign of conversion, it helps one in the interior effort of listening to God. [Pope John Paul II ].

Today, especially in affluent societies, St. Augustine’s warning is more timely than ever: ‘Enter again into yourself.’ Yes, we must enter again into ourselves, if we want to find ourselves. Not only our spiritual life is at stake, but indeed, our personal, family and social equilibrium, itself. One of the meanings of penitential fasting is to help us recover an interior life. Moderation, recollection and prayer go hand in hand. [Pope John Paul II].

One of the meanings of penitential fasting is to help us recover an interior life. The effort of moderation in food also extends to other things that are not necessary, and this is a great help to the spiritual life. Moderation, recollection and prayer go hand in hand. . . . This principle can be appropriately applied to the mass media. Their usefulness is indisputable, but they must not become the “masters” of our life. In how many families does television seem to replace personal conversation rather than to facilitate it! A certain “fasting” also in this area can be healthy, both for devoting more time to reflection and prayer, and for fostering human relations. [Pope John Paul II, Penitential Fasting Is Therapy for the Soul, 1996]

St Augustine’s warning is more timely than ever. “Enter again into yourself.” Yes, we must enter again into ourselves if we want to find ourselves. Not only our spiritual life is at stake but indeed our personal, family and social equilibrium itself. [Pope John Paul II, Penitential Fasting Is Therapy for the Soul, 1996].

Dear brothers and sisters, let us learn from the Blessed Virgin. The Gospel tells that she pondered in her heart the events of her life (cf. Lk 2:19) seeking in them the unfolding of God’s plan. Mary is the model to whom we can all look. Let us ask her to give us the secret of that “spiritual fast” which sets us free from the slavery of things, strengthens our soul and makes it ever ready to meet the Lord. [Pope John Paul II, Penitential Fasting Is Therapy for the Soul, 1996].

Let us therefore discover anew the humility and the courage to pray and fast so that power from on high will break down the walls of lies and deceit: the walls which conceal from the sight of so many of our brothers and sisters the evil of practices and laws which are hostile to life. May this same power turn their hearts to resolutions and goals inspired by the civilization of life and love” [Pope John Paul II, Evangelium Vitae, 100].


Pope Benedict XVI (1927 – )

Fasting means abstaining from food, but includes other forms of self-denial to promote a more sober lifestyle. But that still isn’t the full meaning of fasting, which is the external sign of the internal reality of our commitment to abstain from evil with the help of God and to live the Gospel . . . [Pope Benedict XVI].

In our own day, fasting seems to have lost something of its spiritual meaning, and has taken on, in a culture characterized by the search for material well-being, a therapeutic value for the care of one’s body. Fasting certainly bring benefits to physical well-being, but for believers, it is, in the first place, a “therapy” to heal all that prevents them from conformity to the will of God. [Pope Benedict XVI].

Through fasting and praying, we allow Him to come and satisfy the deepest hunger that we experience in the depths of our being: the hunger and thirst for God. [Pope Benedict XVI].

It seems abundantly clear that fasting represents an important ascetical practice, a spiritual arm to do battle against every possible disordered attachment to ourselves. Freely chosen detachment from the pleasure of food and other material goods helps the disciple of Christ to control the appetites of nature, weakened by original sin, whose negative effects impact the entire human person. Quite opportunely, an ancient hymn of the Lenten Liturgy exhorts: ‘Let us use sparingly words, food and drink, sleep and amusements. May we be more alert in the custody of our senses.’ Since all of us are weighed down by sin and its consequences, fasting is proposed to us as an instrument to restore friendship with God. [Pope Benedict XVI ].

True fasting, as the divine Master repeats elsewhere, is rather to do the will of the Heavenly Father, who “sees in secret, and will reward you” (Mt 6,18). He Himself sets the example, answering Satan, at the end of the forty days spent in the desert that “man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God” (Mt 4,4). The true fast is thus directed to eating the “true food,” which is to do the Father’s will (cf. Jn 4,34). [Pope Benedict XVI].


Pope Francis ( 1936 – )

Dear brothers and sisters, may this Lenten season find the whole Church ready to bear witness to all those who live in material, moral and spiritual destitution the Gospel message of the merciful love of God our Father, who is ready to embrace everyone in Christ. We can do this to the extent that we imitate Christ who became poor and enriched us by his poverty. Lent is a fitting time for self-denial; we would do well to ask ourselves what we can give up in order to help and enrich others by our own poverty. Let us not forget that real poverty hurts: no self-denial is real without this dimension of penance. I distrust a charity that costs nothing and does not hurt. [Pope Francis].

Fasting makes sense if it really affects our security, and also if a benefit to others comes from it, if it helps us to grow in the spirit of the Good Samaritan, who bends down to his brother in need and takes care of him. Fasting involves choosing a sober life, which does not waste, which does not “discard”. Fasting helps us to train the heart to essentiality and sharing. It is a sign of awareness and responsibility in the face of injustices, abuses, especially towards the poor and the little ones, and is a sign of our trust in God and His providence. [Pope Francis].

Fasting involves choosing a sober life, which does not waste, which does not “discard.” Fasting helps us to train the heart to essentiality and sharing. It is a sign of awareness and responsibility in the face of injustices, abuses, especially towards the poor and the little ones, and is a sign of our trust in God and His providence. [Pope Francis].

The second key element of the Lenten journey is fasting. We must be careful not to practice a formal fast, or one which in truth “satisfies” us because it makes us feel good about ourselves. Fasting makes sense if it questions our security, and if it also leads to some benefit for others, if it helps us to cultivate the style of the Good Samaritan, who bends down to his brother in need and takes care of him. Fasting involves choosing a sober lifestyle; a way of life that does not waste, a way of life that does not “throw away”. Fasting helps us to attune our hearts to the essential and to sharing. It is a sign of awareness and responsibility in the face of injustice, abuse, especially to the poor and the little ones, and it is a sign of the trust we place in God and in his providence.[Pope Francis].


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