With Ash Wednesday a few days away, this Sunday, our church posted guidelines for fasting in our weekly bulletin.
As we read through the bulletin, EJ made a fist pump of happiness when she saw that children are not asked to fast on Wednesday, so only Mike and I were on the hook. It occurred to me, given that I am a big believer in following the spirit of these guidelines, not necessarily the letter of the law, that she might have no idea what this whole "fast on Ash Wednesday" dictum was about.
I asked her, "Do you know what fasting is?"
"Yes! It's when you eat a big breakfast, no lunch, then a big dinner."
Rejoice, Catholics! Have a half-dozen egg omelet for breakfast, you are officially fasting. Hungry after noon? No worries, a giant dinner is coming your way in a few hours.
I hated to set her straight, but should she ever require a fasting blood test, I figured she needed the info.
"That's not fasting, sweetie. Fasting means that you don't eat anything, or in some cases, just tiny amounts of food/drink if you have a medical condition that requires it."
You should have seen her face. Sheer horror.
"Wait, you aren't supposed to eat anything on Wednesday? That's what happens when you grow up? YOU STOP EATING ON HOLIDAYS FOR GOD?"
At this point, we were heading out to CCD, so we had to table the discussion. I said something about how this is a suggestion, a way to draw closer to God, but one of many ways, and you can make those choices when you are an adult. I also assured her that she needn't worry that anyone was going to starve after one day. A more complicated conversation is on deck about religious fasting, medical fasting, spiritual fasting, etc. Wait until she hears about fasting in other faiths—Ash Wednesday is a walk in the park, comparatively.
Despite her concern, I have a feeling she is going to be our fasting policewoman on Wednesday. Sure, she's worried about us, but is there anything a kid likes better than being the one enforcing rules? I have fingers crossed that she is easily dissuaded from this task. I imagine there's nothing that makes being hungry better—particularly when you are commanded in the mass reading not to make a big deal out of the fast, but to treat the day as normal—than having an eight-year old tell you over and over not to eat, 'cause Jesus is watching.