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What Does It Mean to “Fast” for the Saints?

In general, the modern era neglects the practice of honoring excellent people. We idolize the famous and popular and leave the admirable, the truly excellent, to the teachers and textbooks. But we ought to honor the excellent. Why? Because it is part of the virtue of justice; honor is due to the honorable. Furthermore, holy people, i.e. saints, ought to be honored especially because holiness is the highest form of excellence—it is closeness to God. (And keep in mind “honor” does not mean “worship,” which is reserved for God alone.) St. Bonaventure’s biography of St. Francis records several incidents in which Francis honors saints, both in ways that may seem familiar, such as through honoring relics, but also in ways that may seem foreign or confusing to us, namely, by fasting. Why would St. Francis have fasted for a saint? What does that mean? Ought we to imitate his example?

In one scene, Francis finds forgotten relics of saints. Bonaventure writes:

[When] Francis was praying in a certain deserted church, in the providence of Massa, near Mount Casale, he was enlightened in spirit to know that some sacred relics were there concealed. Grieving that they had long been defrauded of their due honor, he commanded his brethren to remove them. (Life of St. Francis, 1904, Ch. 6.7)

St. Francis is worried that the saints, whose relics had been lost, had been somehow wronged by not being honored. He immediately recognizes what is owed to them as holy men of God “because of the love and reverence which they bore to Christ” (Life of St. Francis, 1904, Ch. 9.3).

Bonaventure later details how St. Francis honored the saints. First, he venerates and respects their relics, but St. Francis also honors them by doing something unique: he fasts for them. Bonaventure writes that Francis “dedicated a special Lent in their honor” (Life of St. Francis, 1904, Ch. 9.3) and that he would fast routinely for extended periods of time “in honor of the Archangel Michael” (Life of St. Francis, 1904, Ch. 8.10). Why?

Read more at Catholic Exchange 

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