Today (the 12th) is the first day of the Franciscan Fast that my wife and I and a few of the members of our small group of Franciscans practice. It goes from today, the day after the feast of St. Martin of Tours until midnight of Christmas Eve. This Fast is part of the Rule of 1221 that Francis gave to the people, who wished to live a life of similar virtue and prayer to that of his Brothers (and Sisters, with Clare). This Rule allowed the people to remain as butchers, carpenters lawyers blacksmiths, husbands and wives, etc, and still live a life of penance. As professed Franciscans H and I are obligated to live this Rule, and thus to follow it to the letter. This fast gives me a chance to work on a vice that is exceptionally troubling to me and to practice a virtue in order to perfect it in a way that is harder to do in my everyday life. My day seems to start out strong but by the end of the day my faults and failings have piled up again and the thought of my offences to God usually somewhat paralyze me. This is a good time to really focus on a virtue and a vice, and maybe abstain from something for the next 43 days. I try to keep it simple and focused, knowing that like the day, I always start out strong but near the end you-know-who has really begun to wear me down. And, I am a very weak vessel.
One of the Rules of the Third Order is only taking two meals a day. I believe I've read it both ways; skip breakfast and have lunch and supper and to have breakfast and skip lunch. I see it as doing what is best for oneself, as long as one observes the rule. I've been very lax in this regard, and for the next 43 days eating in this manner will be a goal of mine (and H's). In the end, I've found, that if one works hard at whatever he or she has decided to undertake as a means of a fast, that eventually the gift of silence will descend. The interior man becomes quieter as the days roll on towards the Birth, a Holy Silence that turns ones thoughts to Him and His Mother. For who can leave out the Blessed Virgin at this time of the year.
Pray for us.