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Saturday, 24 January 2015

Fasting

Lent itself was not observed by the early Church fathers but from the fourth century a time of fasting in the time preceding Easter was maintained. The extent of fasting varied, for instance Pope Gregory the Great fasted for six weeks of six days each, during Lent making thirty-six fast days in all, He wrote to St Augustine of Canterbury "We abstain from flesh meat, and from all things that come from flesh, such as milk, cheese, and eggs."

In 441 St Patrick spent 40 days in retreat on the Crough Patrick Mountain, fasting and praying with tears that Ireland might be delivered from the hands of the pagans.  

The Catholic Church ordered 166 days of fasting a year in medieval Europe during which fish but not meat could be eaten.

At the start of the seventeenth century religious leaders found themselves engaged in arguments about whether chocolate was a beverage or a food. Religious fasts forbade the taking of nourishment, and yet chocolate had become popular among those who were fasting precisely because it eased their hunger. Most people, including all of the popes consulted during the course of the debate (from Gregory XIII to Benedict XIV) agreed that, since one drank it, it did not break the fast.

In 1697 Samuel Sewall (1652-1730), one of the three presiding judges involved in the Salem witchcraft trials admitted that the convictions were a mistake. He accepted the “blame and shame” for them and for the next 33 years until his death the judge annually spent a day of repentance in fasting and prayer.

President Jefferson delayed a state dinner for the Tunisian ambassador in 1805 until after sunset to accommodate the ambassador's observance of the Ramadan fast.

In 1832 a cholera epidemic, which had been devastating Europe, crossed the Atlantic and reached Chicago. Such was the concern in Britain that the government declared March 21, 1832 to be a day of fasting and penitence.


The Vatican lifted the compulsory Friday fasting for Catholics in 1966.

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