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Ignatian Fasting and Christian Counseling.

How Christian Counseling Can Use Ignatian Ideals

Ignatian spirituality can also be applied to the Lenten season or the Great Fast. St. Ignatius in his “Spiritual Exercises” laid out important guiding principles in proper fasting.

St. Ignatius points out that there is interior fasting which deals with the formation of moral character and exterior fasting which deals with sacrifices and pennances of a bodily fashion. This exterior fasting is a result of the interior fasting and yearning of the soul to show pennance.

According to St. Ignatius, denial of superfluous things is not fasting. Fasting does not include giving up

St. Ignatius

St. Ignatius

special treats, but is a sacrifice that revolves around ordinary things that we deal with everyday. This is not to devalue sacrifices, but it is important to delineate between exercises in temperance and true fasting.

St. Ignatius listed three primary ways one can fast. The first he listed was food intake. In this, Ignatius reflects the values of the Church and its mandates for denial of meat and other meals during a proper fast day. The second type of fasting deals with denial of sleep. Sleep deprivation or removing basic comforts for sleep are encouraged for those who wish to fast this way. However, St. Ignatius emphasizes that one should not eliminate sleep if it hurts one’s health and prevents them from functioning in one’s daily duty. Finally, St. Ignatius stated that temporal suffering can be applied as long as it does not permanently harm the body. Examples of sack clothe that are hidden underneath one’s clothes is a perfect example for this.

Ultimately St. Ignatius believed fasting was meant to show Christ how much we love him and how much we wish to carry our crosses with him. St. Ignatius felt that such fasting would benefit the soul by teaching it mastery and discipline over the passions. He also saw fasting as important for petituion and reparation for sin.  Christian Counseling sessions should also utilize these concepts.

Mark Moran, MA

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