The three traditional pillars of Lenten practice for Catholics are fasting, prayer, and almsgiving. This week I reflect on fasting and abstaining. Fasting usually means partaking of only one full meal in a day, something that is required of adult Catholics on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday. Abstaining means refraining from something, usually the eating of meat on Ash Wednesday and the Fridays during Lent, but it is also linked to the idea of giving something up during Lent. Many of us know that Catholics are supposed to do these things during Lent, without really understanding why.
In eighth grade, I had to wear an ankle brace and walk with crutches for a few days following a minor ankle injury from gymnastics. It was a little thing, but all of a sudden actions I had taken for granted—getting in and out of cars, climbing stairs—took a lot more thought and a lot more work. That small change to my physical being meant renegotiating my relationship to my body and my environment.
Similarly, a year later, my sister had an even more serious injury—a double compound fracture of her arm (again from gymnastics), a break so bad the doctors worried for a minute that they would have to amputate her arm. She was in a cast from her wrist up past her elbow, holding her arm in a 90 degree angle, a position that made previously simple tasks—like putting on a shirt by herself—impossible. When we went shopping…
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