Below are common questions people often ask our mission regarding the nine-day fast. The spirit of these questions and answers apply also to normal fasting on Wednesdays and Fridays.
Is the fast for nine consecutive days with no breaks in between?
Yes, the nine-day bread and water fast is nine consecutive days with no breaks in between. (Not even Sunday for the Italians. ☺ )
What are the hours of fasting? Is the fast from sunrise to sundown, or a full 24-hour day?
The fast is the full 24-hour day. For example, for the Wednesday fast day, you will be fasting on bread and water from the time you wake-up in the morning until you go to bed at night.
I have a family reunion or other major event during the nine-day fast. Can I break the fast that one day?
No. The purpose is to sacrifice for a grace. If you could eat normal for an event, during the nine-day fast, how much greater would be the grace you receive by attending the event and eating only bread? Our Lady has told us that even though an intention is granted, the more prayer you attach to it, greater will be the grace connected to the intention granted. Will people notice I’m eating only bread? Yes, they may. But, this gives an opportunity to tell them why you are fasting for nine-days. You are not to show off, however, like the Pharisees did. Margaret of Scotland had to attend many formal functions. When she fasted, she would get meager portions and then move it around her plate as though she was eating, so as to not be noticed. It is understandable at one of your children’s weddings you would want to celebrate the joy, but greater would be the grace to fast. Yes, you could also move the dates of your fast (this refers to the annual Caritas of Birmingham fast and the dates designated for it). This option is yours. However, fasting for your intentions with the body of faithful believers from across the country and world at the same time before God, has strength. One has free will to do anything. But, the purpose of fasting is to win the greatest amount of grace that God would grant for the fast.
Can I fast on something other than bread and water?
Again, one can fast on anything. But Our Lady said on July 21, 1982:
The annual nine-day fast in the fall with the Caritas Community is with bread and water.
How much bread can I eat?
Our Lady has never given a quantity of bread, She simply said bread and water. For modern man, it is enough that one simply eats only bread. Our Lady did not tell us to starve ourselves. Sometimes people do this when they begin to fast. You should eat enough bread to be satisfied. You can be sparse for greater graces, but some who starve themselves lose heart and quit fasting altogether. Both instances are individual choices. The Caritas Community members often skip meals on regular days. It is a part of our life that sometimes circumstances demand that we have to miss a meal. So missing out on bread is not necessarily an issue. But, we find it is better for the fast to make sure we eat bread at breakfast, lunch and dinner. The intention is not to starve yourself, but to offer a sacrifice with a willing heart. Our Lady of Medjugorje gave a message specifically for the Caritas Community on August 26, 1996:
Be at peace if you need to eat a lot of bread. You will only need to do that for a few days. After the first few days, your body will adjust, just like God designed it to do and the fast will become easier.
Can I put butter on my bread?
Some may be quick to say that there is nothing wrong with butter on your bread. While this is true, some may need to be more severe when they fast. It is a choice that each individual needs to make based upon their well-formed conscience and what God is calling them to do. The greater the need for the intention and the greater you strive against yourself and your wants, greater is the grace. Condiments, such as pepper, salt, etc., make bread more flavorable and palatable, but again, if you need a great grace, denying condiments on your bread will make the fast more profound in grace and also strengthen you against vices, weaknesses, etc.
Can I drink coffee or tea during the fast?
Again, the purpose of fasting is to make a sacrifice. If you had coffee or tea during the fast, would you be offering an increasing or lessening sacrifice? More importantly, would you be breaking from the things that you cannot do without? Our Lady said on February 25, 1990:
Our Lady also said on May 25, 1993:
The nine-day fast is to help break from that of which you are attached.
I get bad headaches when I fast. Should I still fast?
If a woman gets sick when she gets pregnant, does this mean God does not want her to become pregnant? Headaches during a fast are a symptom of your body adjusting to being purified. The body reacts to the sudden loss of caffeine, sugar, etc., and this is not necessarily a bad thing. Drinking plenty of water (lots and lots), even to the point of having to go to the bathroom often, will be a major help when you fast. While spiritually your soul is being purified and your flesh is being “tamed,” physically something else is happening. Your body is releasing toxins when you fast, and water is necessary to flush them out. After about three or four days, usually the severe headaches, stomachaches, etc., tend to go away, even if not entirely, they are often diminished.
What about people with gluten intolerances or with diabetes? Can they fast?
This is something that is happening a lot in recent years. It does not take much to know that we are often poisoned with the food we are eating today. Many doctors and scientists are beginning to speak out that we have the poorest diets that mankind has ever had, though we eat a lot. Many doctors understand that the common causes of the ailments prevalent today are caused by the kinds of food we eat.
While we will not tell you to fast on bread and water if you are diabetic or have a gluten intolerance, since fasting is a personal choice, what we will tell you, is that some people have joined us for the nine-day fast who are, for example, diabetic, only to see their symptoms go away completely during the fast, and have even been told the sickness itself did not return. We are not doctors, we can only tell you what people have testified to us. Perhaps a step in faith may be what God asks for your healing. Again, this is a personal choice that you, with a well-formed conscience, will need to make on your own. Our Lady said on July 21, 1982:
Put into its proper context, we can only guide you in Our Lady’s messages. Our Lady, as a Mother, knows not only what is good spiritually for us, but also physically. It makes sense that fasting would also physically be good for us. In this way Our Lady tells us on August 18, 1982:
So, Our Lady answers both those who truly cannot fast, and those who, though sick, can still fast.
I tried to fast but it only made me irritable. I don’t think Jesus and Our Lady would want me to fast and be irritable. Don’t you think so?
How is one person in a wheelchair of a joyful disposition, and another of a bitter disposition? One’s heart is the problem. Because something may be difficult does not excuse you for being uncharitable. You sin against charity when doing so. Fasting is to conquer your faults. If you get irritable by fasting, you are also getting irritable at other things when you do not fast. Fasting is not only for an intention; it is to give joy to your life and to acquire virtues. Our Lady said on August 15, 1983:
So, when you decide to fast, satan is enraged against you. You collaborate with his rage by allowing yourself to get irritable. Jesus said that when you fast, you should not change your appearance and look gloomy, but rather comb your hair, and look like you are not fasting. The purpose of fasting is to tame your passions. Irritability is not a disposition from God, it is from satan. Are you lying to yourself in looking for a way to get out of having to fast? If you must, go to Confession every day of the fast. Instead of making an excuse, make yourself better.
I heard that Catholics do not fast on Sunday. The nine-day fast would require us to fast on Sunday. What should I do?
Fast on Sunday. We live in an age where the norm is not the norm. What might have been okay 50 years or 100 years ago is not okay today. Our Lady said on March 18, 2003:
The choice before us is whether we are hearing and listening to the call to change our lives. While the norm in the past was that many Catholics did not fast on Sunday in honor of the Resurrection, in this particular time, in this age, Our Lady needs our prayers and sacrifices. Our Lady of Medjugorje said in May 1984:
I really love bread and it would not be much of a sacrifice. I wonder if I should fast on something else?
Nice try. But, everyone gets tired of the same kind of food. The Israelites loved the taste of the manna from Heaven, but they eventually began to grumble, “Is this all we have to eat?” If you really love bread, you will get to the point where you get a little tired of it during the nine-day fast.
I know that I will be really tired during the nine-day fast. Should I limit my activities during the nine-day fast?
Often nine-day fasts are during some of our busiest times at Caritas. We can tell you from experience that the last thing you want is to be idle, or have a lot of free time. You do not want to find yourself staring at the refrigerator. You should keep yourself busy, keep yourself active, cleaning, volunteering, for example, to serve at a soup kitchen, etc. In reality, you will find that if you are drinking enough water, after about three or four days, your energy level will rise, even though towards the night, you may feel sleepy. Not only will you spiritually feel light, but also it has been our experience that physically you will feel better because you are not being weighed down by lots of food.
I am pregnant. Should I fast? What does the Community do?
Pregnancy is not a sickness. The world looks upon this in the wrong way, but God has programmed this as a beautiful gift. In ages past, it was common that bread was the only thing to eat. Many pregnant women found themselves in this kind of situation. However, this having been said, there are responsibilities with carrying a life within you. This would include proper nutrition. The mothers of the Community when pregnant make sacrifices by eating healthy foods, no sweets, eating more measured, making more nutritious bread, etc. It is a way of sharing in the sacrifice while at the same time keeping their responsibilities towards the life God has given them to carry. God designed the body to tell you exactly what it needs. Some pregnant women may be able to go without eating between meals, while others may not be able to do that. You can join in the sacrifice while still keeping your responsibility towards the life within you.
What about our children? How old should they be to fast?
Medjugorje visionary, Jakov Colo, was included by Our Lady at 10 years of age to fast with the other five visionaries. In our Community, we have had children down to six or seven years old fast for nine days. Because all the Community fasts, the children go day by day eating what we eat, running around playing , etc., as if it is nothing. They do not complain because they are raised and witnessed to by the older youth and adults. In all fasts, all children, even down to young children (except babies), give up sweets, sugar cereals, and drink only water, etc. Therefore, they are raised in a spirit of offering to God in sacrificing. It is very normal and helps them to understand and appreciate the gift of food and to have more sensitivity of what it would be like without the food we are blessed with.
I want to fast but it would make my husband mad. What should I do?
The Scripture says that obedience is greater than sacrifice. If your husband forbids it, then you will do more by your obedience to him than by fasting. But, there again, you can be very measured in what you eat. You could skip what you crave most and eat at each meal what you care for the least. If however, your husband does not forbid it outright, then you can do your fasting in secret. One woman wrote to us and said that she went the entire nine days fasting on bread and water. She knew her husband would not necessarily like it, so she did it in secret. She cooked normal meals, sat down with her husband, put food on her plate and acted like she was eating, like Margaret of Scotland already mentioned. Her husband never said a word about it. On the morning after the nine-day fast ended, she sat down to have a cup of coffee with her husband, took her first sip and said, “Ah, this coffee is so good!” Her husband turned to her and asked, “Are you done with that fast yet?” She was shocked and told us, “My husband’s so smart!” But, because of her disposition, she did not anger him. Our Lady calls us to the same. Our Lady said in July 1985:
We will tell you that if you throw fasting at your husband, if you beat your husband over the head with fasting, you will lose. He will not be interested in you, your fast, or what you believe. Instead, following Our Lady’s words, you will gain his admiration.
How much does it cost to sign up for the nine-day fast? (Caritas of Birmingham leads a nine-day fast annually in the fall of each year)
To sign up for the nine-day fast, it only costs the sacrifice of eating bread and drinking water. There is no monetary cost to join the fast, though we recommend that the money saved for meals during the fast, is given to God as a tithe.