Chris Bain is CAFOD’s Director. Here he reflects on what CAFOD’s Fast Day means to him and why it is important to come together as a Catholic family this Lent.
Here in Romero House, our Ash Wednesday Mass is rather special. There is a strong sense of community – we stand together, we pray together and we take Communion together. The Mass ends and many of us begin the first fast of Lent by sharing a simple lunch together. And unlike Carol Monaghan, the SNP MP attending a parliamentary committee just after her Ash Wednesday Mass, there is no awkwardness about wearing our ash crosses in our offices.
“Fasting is an exercise of free will”
Lenten fasting is an exercise of free will; we make a choice to give up something that’s enjoyable, maybe even habitual. Often it’s related to food and drink and this year, like countless years in the past, I’m giving up fried food – especially chips. And isn’t it just a reflection of our times that whilst the things you give up might be pleasurable, they are unlikely to be healthy? Something that wouldn’t have concerned our ancestors.
When the proceeds of the Lenten fast go to a cause like CAFOD, it can add depth to the meaning. As a schoolboy I associated CAFOD with doughnuts. They were my Friday treat. So when our PE teacher (yes PE not RE) told us about the hungry children in the world and how CAFOD was helping, it was doughnuts I gave up and duly put the half crown in the box at the end of Lent.
I would like to think that I have a fuller understanding today of what Lent, and in particular what the CAFOD Lenten fast day, means to me. It is a unique time for reflection and yes, let’s use the word, temperance. It is the time I can think about what kind of father I am, husband, colleague, and friend. And how I could be more faithful in all of these roles. It’s when I can consider the impact of what I spend and what I consume on the world around me. This year we have tried to make do with one family car, using public transport and doing more walking.
Every human person is a child of God
At the core of CAFOD’s vision is a belief that every human person is a child of God. All we do for the poorest should maintain their dignity and enable them to flourish. We are all together in this one world. So CAFOD’s Lent fast day is also a time when I try to make space to picture again all those women, men and children I visited over the past year who are being helped by CAFOD’s programmes, recalling their stories of persecution and poverty. Only a few weeks ago I spoke to Hamad, a refugee from Aleppo now in Lebanon, about the loss of his brother and his hopes for the future.
Our small sacrifices can help others to flourish
Our fast day a materials this year show how Florence from Zambia, with your support and prayers, is striving to transform her own life. Small sacrifices from my family, and yours, given to others can allow them and others to live fully and flourish.
The very first Fast Day was started in 1960 by a group of strong, inspirational and committed Catholic women who wanted to realise a transformation in the world they could see, through their faith.
This year’s Fast Day is no different. While the world around us may have changed, our efforts and values remain the same: to act, through our faith, to transform the lives of those most in need. Poverty is not part of God’s plan – we believe a better world is possible.