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Is This Fast Enough?

My favorite food is peanut butter.  I eat it every day.  I don’t need bread or jelly—I eat it from the jar with a spoon.  

Every year I think about quitting during Lent but I never do.  Like an addict, I cannot think about life without peanut butter but I know life cannot go on this way.  Same thing with coffee.  Heaven help the fool in my crosshairs on a morning when something—broken alarm clock, absent-mindedness, an act of Congress—prevents me from ingesting my black crack.  Because when it comes to my coffee I’m the same as with the peanut butter: I’m a purist.  Black and raw, straight from the percolator.  Coffee is coffee.  Put something else in it, cream, sugar, Amaretto, and it becomes a cocktail.  Not my cup of tea.  

We are now in the final days of Lent.  During this penitential season—lived out by Catholics across the globe—we are encouraged to sacrifice in preparation for Easter Sunday, the greatest reality, that of Christ Jesus rising from the dead.  Sacrifice means giving up and letting go, of making more room in my life for the Spirit, so that I can develop a closer, more personal relationship with the Lord.  Anything that gets in the way is a barrier not a bridge.    

But is Lent always about food?  Mostly, yes.  But maybe another form of sacrifice is to change the way I think about God, to think my way into right action if not to act my way into right thinking.  Both go hand in hand.  Fasting lightens the load and abstinence, especially from meat on Friday, gives strength to complete the journey.     

What is important is the reason  for the sacrifice.  Suffering for the sake of suffering only makes a person miserable and everybody else too.  

Fasting and abstinence, a law in the Church, has been with us  for many years because it works.  It reminds us of our hunger, our need, for God.  Nothing gets in the way: not alcohol, too much food, or other material comforts.  

During Lent we pray better and listen to God because there are less distractions.  Holy men and woman—Mary Magdalene, Catherine of Sienna, Thomas Aquinas, Turibius of Mongrevejo and many more—have always known this.  

There is much wisdom and flexibility in Lent.  Pope Paul the Sixth says that fasting must be according to our state in life, our age, and our capability.  Ultimately it is between me and God.  I don’t have to quit my favorite food but it helps to change my perspective.   There is more to peanut butter than PB&J sandwiches.  

For example, did you know that peanut butter can clean leather and fix damaged DVDs?  (I’m not making this up!)  It can remove chewing gum from hair and if you have a barking dog, place an open jar of peanut butter on the floor and you will have peace and quiet.  And gentlemen, if you run out of shaving cream go into the kitchen and reach for that jar of Jiff on the shelf.  The oil in the nuts is good for the skin.    

Lent takes disciple and a change of perspective.  A spiritual fast helps us discern God’s calling and a physical fast helps us to do God’s will.  Most important: a sacrifice is for sanity and not for vanity.   It does not behoove me to grow annoyed when the needle on the scale hasn’t budged much since Ash Wednesday.  Two tablespoons of peanut butter has 200 calories  and I’m eating it twice a day, for breakfast and for lunch, and after dinner to substitute for the desert I gave up.   

If you think you can’t live without something then maybe God is calling you to give it up.


Father Raymond Tucker Cordani was ordained to the priesthood in 2011. He holds an MFA in Writing from the Vermont College of Fire Arts and an MDiv from Blessed John XXIII National Seminary. He has written for Our Sunday Visitor, the National Catholic Register, and Columbia Magazine. Follow him on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/tucker.cordani and Twitter @tuckercordani, and on his blog, Biblical Writing 101 at http://biblicalwriting101.blogspot.com


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  • goral

    I think black coffee and straight peanut butter is suffering enough. John the Baptist out in the wilderness rejected those in favor of locusts and honey. We all have some struggle. I need to cut back on buttermilk.
    Ultimately, Lent is about getting some discipline into our lives and curbing out appetite for whatever provides the substitute nourishment for our spiritual hunger.

    I’ve caught more mice with peanut butter in the building that I’m renovating, than with anything I’ve ever used before. To my knowledge, no other creature than man, actually finds coffee palatable.
    I myself add cream only because the buttermilk doesn’t work.

  • wild rose

    A good article by Fr. Raymond Cordani.

    I have a refrigerator magnet:
    “If it weren’t for caffeine I’d have no personality at all.”

    Goral is right that we all have some struggle. Everyone, every family has its cross.

  • noelfitz

    Hello Fr Cordani,
    thank you for a brilliant post, with a very sound message attractively presented. You might like to look at http://rosewest.hubpages.com/hub/The-Many-Ways-to-Eat-Peanut-Butter
    ******************************************
    “This is dedicated to all those peanut butter fanatics out there. You know who you are. I considered writing an article on the latest from peanut butter addicts anonymous … but I couldn’t stand the pressure anymore.
    Peanut butter is a pantry staple for many American homes. It lasts forever, it’s easy to eat, and kids love it. I still haven’t outgrown a good PB&J. Face it, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches are just classic. Although some fun-hating adults complain that it is high in fat and calories, peanut butter in moderation is actually very nutritious. It is a good source of protein, dietary fiber, vitamin E, and vitamin B3 (niacin). Plus, most of the fat content is of the unsaturated kind, which improves your cholesterol levels. Some people are very concerned about their cholesterol levels. Personally, I have (and I may be admitting an embarrassing level of ignorance here) no idea what cholesterol is or what level of cholesterol is desirable (I mean, first level, basement, what?), but I just thought you’d might like to know. ”
    ***************************************************

  • goral

    You’re obviously getting caffeine in plentiful dosages, Wild Rose, because the personality does come through.

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