Karen and Derek Boylen: A useful time for chocaholics

11 Mar 2009

By The Record

Lent 1 – Fasting
It was on Derek’s way out for an early morning jog that he noticed a bowl of chocolates – previously full – now mysteriously empty. Further investigation revealed that most of the treats in the pantry were gone too.
We soon discovered the culprit. In the dead of night, while everyone was asleep, Isaiah (our second) enjoyed a secret midnight feast.
He couldn’t help himself. He got up for a drink and there they were… waiting… luring him in with their chocolaty brown sweetness… wanting to be eaten.
Isaiah is learning the same difficult lesson that we all need to learn… self control.
Lent is here. Lent is a time when the Church invites us to change our lifestyle in preparation for Easter. There are three principle ways in which the Church invites us to change: fasting, prayer and almsgiving. In this piece we will focus on fasting but our next two columns will explore almsgiving and prayer too.
Fasting has a long history in the Church. In the Gospel of Matthew Jesus says: “When you are fasting, do not put on a gloomy look as the hypocrites do.
They go about looking unsightly to let people know they are fasting.”
Jesus spent 40 days fasting in the desert and the book of Acts (13:2-3) records the early Christians fasting and praying. St Paul refers to fasting in Romans 14:6.
Pope Leo I spoke of the benefits of Fasting in the fifth century saying that fasting fosters pure, holy and spiritual activity. He tells us that it has special significance in Lent as an act of solidarity that joins us to Christ, an act of self donation in imitation of Christ’s total sacrifice. Pope Benedict echoes that the ultimate goal of fasting is to help us to make the complete gift of self to God.
This year Pope Benedict’s Lenten message places particular emphasis on fasting and its value in Christian life. 
We read the Pope’s message together and encourage anyone who wants to deepen their appreciation of this tradition to access it from the Vatican website www.vatican.va. If possible read it as a couple. You’ll get a lot more from it.
Pope Benedict specifically encourages families to enter into the Lenten mystery. Here are some suggestions for ways that you can make fasting a part of your family experience of Lent in 2009.
•  The traditional giving up of lollies.
•  No dessert after dinner during Lent.
•  Giving up tea and coffee.
•  Tape your favourite show for seven weeks and watch it after Lent.
•  No television at certain times of the day.
Be warned though, there are some things that don’t count:
• Giving up homework.
• Giving up not hitting your siblings.
In our home we are giving up lollies as a family for Lent. Something we all love to eat and a regular temptation for the boys. To remind us, and make it a little more challenging, we have a container of lollies on the kitchen table which we’ve agreed to save until Easter Sunday.
Knowing our children, they are likely to succumb to temptation when Mum and Dad aren’t watching. In fact we kind of hope they will. It will be an opportunity to discuss with them God’s grace and forgiveness… a chance to start again. It’s the kind of chance God graces each of us with every day. Aside from the spiritual benefits of fasting during Lent there are some corporal benefits too. It’s the opportunity to learn self-control and self denial. In our permissive society it is a lesson that we can all learn better and it’s a great preparation for children growing into adulthood.
A lesson that’s especially useful for little boys who love chocolate too much.