Tagle: It's fasting, not diet
MANILA, Philippines – Fasting should go beyond simply starving oneself or reducing one's weight, Manila Archbishop Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle told Catholics on Ash Wednesday, February 13, the start of the 40-day penitential period of Lent.
“'Yung iba, tuwang tuwa sa fasting kasi talaga namang nagre-reduce. Eh hindi naman yata ganoon 'yun ano, ano ho? Hindi lang ito para mag-reduce at para magkasya uli sa dating damit,” Tagle said in his homily Wednesday. (Others love to fast because they're really reducing weight. But that isn't really the case, is it? This is not merely for reducing weight and making sure old clothes fit.)
“Itong fasting na ito ay may element ng pagdidisiplina sa sarili,” Tagle explained. (This fasting has an element of self-discipline.)
Catholics annually observe Lent, a 40-day period of prayer, fasting, and almsgiving that commemorates the passion and death of Jesus Christ. It leads to Easter, Christianity's greatest feast.
The Church prescribes fasting every Ash Wednesday and Good Friday, and abstinence from meat on Ash Wednesday and every Friday of Lent. The Catechism of the Catholic Church describes it as an act of self-denial and dependence on God, helping people “acquire mastery over our instincts and freedom of heart.”
The provincial superior of the Philippine Jesuits, Fr Jose Magadia, SJ, further explains this idea of cutting down on certain luxuries.
“The idea is to cut down – not just for cutting down’s sake; and not just for self-discipline; and not just for proving to ourselves that we can do without things; and not just because the Church requires it,” Magadia wrote in a reflection in 2012. “I think that cutting down is done in order to make a little more room in our hearts for one another, and also maybe a little more room for God.”
The irony, however, is that some Catholics choose to eat expensive Lenten meals to fulfill this practice. (Read: Costly Lenten dishes and defeated purposes.)
Pope's last Ash Wednesday
Meanwhile, this year's Ash Wednesday is unique because it happens two days after Pope Benedict XVI, in a historic move, announced his resignation from the papacy. On Wednesday, Benedict XVI presides over his last public Mass as leader of the world's 1.2 billion Catholics.
Tagle is among the rumored frontrunners in the papal elections, called the conclave. He declined to be interviewed on this after his Ash Wednesday Mass. (Read: Tagle joins 10 Asians to choose pope.)
Three Filipino archbishops, however, said Tagle is unlikely to be named pope. “He's still very, very young,” said Tagle's predecessor, retired Manila Archbishop Gaudencio Cardinal Rosales.
The view from the ground is different, however. In interviews with Rappler, an Indian priest and an American nun said they want Tagle to lead the Catholic Church. In any case, the bottom line for them is for non-Europeans to lead the Church this time around. (Watch more in the video below.)