St. Robert Bellarmine On Five Advantages Of Fasting
- "First, fasting is most useful in preparing the soul for prayer, and the contemplation of divine things, as the angel Raphael says: 'Prayer is good with fasting' (Tobit 12:8)"
- "Another advantage of fasting is that it tames the flesh; and such a fast must be particularly pleasing to God, because He is pleased when we crucify the flesh with its vices and concupiscences, as St. Paul teaches us in his letter to the Galatians; and for this reason, he himself says, "But I chastise my body, and bring it into subjection, lest perhaps, when I have preached to others, I myself should become a castaway' (Gal 5:24, 1 Cor 9:27)."
- Another advantage is that we honor God by our fasts when we fast for His sake. Thus the apostle Paul speaks in his letter to the Romans: 'I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercy of God, that you present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy, pleasing unto God, your reasonable service' (Romans 12:1). In the Greek, "reasonable service" (logiken latreian) is "reasonable worship"; and St. Luke speaks of this worship when mentioning the prophetess Anna: 'And she was a widow until fourscore and four years, who departed not from the temple, by fasting and prayers serving night and day' (Lk 2:37)
- A fourth advantage of fasting is that it is a satisfaction for sin. Many examples in Scripture prove this. The Ninivites appeased God by fasting, as Jonah testifies. The Jews did the same, for by fasting with Samuel, they appeased God and gained victory over their enemies (1 Sam 7:8-10). The wicked king Ahab, by fasting and sackcloth, partly satisfied God (1 Kings 21:27-28).
- Lastly, fasting is meritorious, and is very powerful in obtaining favors. Anna, the wife of Elcanor, although she was barren, deserved by fasting to have a son (1 Sam 7, 20). So St. Jerome, in his second book against Jovinian, thus interprets these words of Scripture: 'She wept and did not take food, and thus Anna, by her abstinence, deserved to bring forth a son' Sarah, by a three days' fast, was delivered from a devil, as we read in the book of Tobit (Tobit 3:10, 8:3).
Live Well, Die Holy: The Art of Being a Saint, Now and Forever, St. Robert Bellarmine, Sophia Press pgs. 57-62