In preparation for Lent Family Fast Day, we asked Fr Nicholas Crowe some questions about Lent. He told us what fasting means to him and why fasting this Lent is a real opportunity for spiritual growth and love of neighbour.
What does fasting mean to you?
Let’s start by thinking about why fasting in a Christian sense is different from dieting. It is because Christian fasting comes from an act of faith. It is our faith that things can be different, that through Jesus’ death and resurrection, we are called to be a new creation.
So often our cravings and routines can become selfish and block out God and the needs of others. So we need Lent as a time to turn back to God, to make a special effort to let Jesus be the centre of our lives. I see Lent as an invitation to renew and deepen our conversion, a spiritual gym work out. However, in our Lenten gym, God’s grace lifts the weights and causes the real change in us. All we have to do is turn up.
Taking part in Family Fast Day is our way of turning up, of saying yes to God. Yes God, cause great change in me this Lent. Be bold enough to join the fast and let Jesus show you the injustice, the marginalised and the unloved that need you today.
Cristina grew up a stone’s throw from the famous Camino de Santiago pilgrimage route. She always knew she wanted to walk the trail one day. Here she shares how walking the Camino helped her find her inner strength.
The Camino de Santiago (the Way of St James) is a large network of ancient pilgrim routes. The roads stretch across Europe and come together at the tomb of St. James (Santiago in Spanish). Santiago de Compostela is in Galicia, north-west Spain, where tradition has it that the remains of the saint are buried. Many follow its routes as a form of spiritual path or retreat for their spiritual growth.
About 250,000 people walk all or part of the centuries-old Camino de Santiago trail across the Spanish countryside every year in a once-in-a-lifetime experience. The motivations vary. Some undertake it as a religious pilgrimage. There are hikers who walk the route for travel, sport, or simply the challenge of weeks of walking in a foreign land.
This Lent you may have heard about Tawanda from Zimbabwe and how hungry he was as a child. You may have heard how CAFOD helped Marian to plant a vegetable garden and how Tawanda’s little brother Svondo grew up with plenty of good food. But what happened to Tawanda?
Can you introduce yourself?
I’m Tawanda. I’m 21 years old and I live in Gokwe North District with my mum, dad, two brothers and little sister.
What was your childhood like?
When I was younger, I remember being so desperate, we’d eat anything. We ate roasted groundnuts with sadza. It’s not something I’d recommend. It’s like eating salt.
What are you doing now?
I have my own vegetable plot at the community vegetable garden. I farm the plot so I can sell vegetables to buy things like clothes and shoes. I enjoy working on the plot – it’s my only way of earning money.
Susy works in the CAFOD Theology team. Although she hasn’t always looked forward to fasting, this year she is going vegan for Lent. Here she tells us how she thinks fasting for Lent can transform her, and her relationships.
Fasting. The word doesn’t fill most people with joy. I know for me there has often been a slight dread about fasting. It is not something to look forward to, is it? Eating less, maybe giving something up that we enjoy. A sacrifice – surely it will be painful?
I think though, like anything else, how we view fasting, how we approach it, makes an awful lot of difference to the experience. When I was much younger there was a short time in my life when I fasted on bread and water once a week. I would get splitting headaches and I was always very relieved when the day was over. I saw it as perhaps helping in my relationship with God, but I don’t remember making any connections with those who struggle to have bread and water every day.
Having worked at CAFOD for fifteen years now, I see fasting in a different light. I also have a much more positive attitude towards it – it is actually something I can look forward to! Why? For four main reasons. I feel fasting can help transform me in four areas – in my relationship with God, in my relationship with others, with creation and with myself. Here’s how I see it:
Susy works in the Theology team at CAFOD. This Lent, inspired in part by Laudato Si’, she will be going vegan. She tells us more about her reasons for abstaining from animal products and what she’s going to miss the most.
Thirty years ago my brother showed me a video (yes, it was a video in those days!) of a factory farm and from that day on I have been vegetarian. Or, to be more accurate, pescatarian.
I decided that there was so much choice in terms of available food, that there was no need to eat meat. I didn’t find it hard to be honest and I do not miss meat at all. However, when I spent a year in Chile, I think I must have been one of only two vegetarians in the whole country and I was viewed as somewhat suspect!
Thirty years on, I am now preparing to go vegan for Lent and hoping that I will start getting into habits that may last a life-time.
Have you decided what to give up for Lent yet? Tell us on Twitter or take our Lent quiz for inspiration.
Tania works as Communications Officer in our Latin America Team. Her role involves lots of opportunities to meet inspiring people like Edelmira, whose story of flourishing and achievement we are celebrating this Harvest Fast Day.
My first impressions of Edelmira when I met her in 2016, were of a friendly, welcoming woman, constantly busy. She was a little nervous of meeting me, a visitor from far away. I was also nervous about visiting Edelmira. CAFOD had sent me to interview her for our Connect2 El Salvador parish programme, and I was feeling the weight of responsibility!
Rob Rees worked in the Africa team at CAFOD for 27 years. He recently shared his experiences of first learning the impact of HIV and AIDS in the communities where he worked at CAFOD’s ‘Marking 30 years of responding to HIV and AIDS’ event.
In 1986 reports came from Uganda of what was described as ‘slim disease’. The disease was causing weight loss and patients were not responding to any medication. I was due to travel around that time and was asked to add a few days on to my trip to go to Uganda and visit some of our partners and listen to the problems they were facing.
Find out how CAFOD school volunteers Patrick and Isobel from the Portsmouth diocese have been inspiring children with stories about Florence and Bob the fish in Zambia this Lent.
“ It is truly heart-warming that our children have the ability to understand hardship, see injustice and unfairness and appreciate that they can play a practical part in making life for others just a little bit fairer.”
Introducing Bob the fish
We were introduced to ‘Bob’ the fish and Florence at our school volunteer training day in February, and we were impressed by the story and the idea of this project. The theme for this year’s Lent Fast Day was ‘Turn little fish into Big Fish’ and it focused on a community in Zambia which has been supported by CAFOD, working with local, expert partners, Sister Yvonne and The Sisters of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary.
Bob the fish really appealed to the children, and we were inundated with volunteers when we asked for children to help stock our ‘bucket-pond’ with tiny fish. Children came up with a wide variety of fundraising event ideas which included buying little fish to fill a net, covering a large cut-out of ‘Bob’ in coin scales and paying to wear odd-combination clothes in school.
Eleanor Margetts was part of the CAFOD team of young volunteers at Flame. Here she describes how young people learnt about the plight of refugees and were inspired to take action.
Last weekend, I had the pleasure of being a part of CAFOD’s volunteer team at Flame, the Catholic youth gathering by CYMFed at Wembley Arena. I had never been to Flame before, so it was very exciting to attend such an inspiring event. I was amazed, not only at the enthusiasm of all the young people in attendance, but at the wonderful messages of hope and solidarity shared by all of the speakers. The striking presence of the boat, a small vessel used to transport refugees from Turkey to the Italian island of Lampedusa in 2013, on the stage of Wembley Arena set the tone for the event as one both of a celebration of Christian faith and one that really aimed to challenge people to put that faith into action by striving for justice.