As I was watching this clip from 1987’s The Barbarians, the first thing that came to mind was, “Wow, Princess Amidala really let herself go!”
But the second thing I thought of was how much there seems to be a tangible feeling in the Catholic blogosphere right now that if you’re in any way trying to follow the teachings of the Church, then the culture at large is out to get you like some angry, freakish mob. Or maybe I’m just projecting my own paranoia. Or both.
Whatever the case may be, it’s nice to know the Bible has us covered. In Ephesians it describes a whole set of spiritual armor we can don whenever we feel under attack. “Therefore take the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. Stand therefore, having girded your loins with truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and having shod your feet with the equipment of the gospel of peace; besides all these, taking the shield of faith, with which you can quench all the flaming darts of the evil one. And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.” Pretty cool, huh? (And just in case you’re a literalist, don’t worry, we’ve got you covered there also.)
But anyone who’s ever browsed around the stalls at their local Renn Fest knows armor can be pretty heavy. You need a tad bit of strength just to pick it up and put it on. So what can we do to buff up and get a little spiritual muscle so we’re prepared for those time when it seems like the secular throng is trying to slip the noose over our necks? Well, Paul states the obvious in Ephesians, by reminding us to “pray at all times”. But Tara Little, writing in the Arkansas Catholic, suggests something that may not come readily to mind when you’re thinking about bulking up; fasting. Ms. Little likens fasting to “a matter of stretching ‘the spiritual muscle’ the same way one exercises his or her body.” In the article, Msgr. James Mancini concurs, noting that by fasting we recognize "that the Spirit and the flesh are in battle with each other. [In fasting] we try to limit or modify the demands of our appetites. The appetites are not wrong, God gave them to us for a purpose, but they definitely need discipline… Once we do start denying the flesh, we're able to sense Christ's influence much more [because] it's in our spirit that we're able to relate to him… God only needs the heart. He doesn't need all this time, and all this big effort. But we need to do something physical that will engage our heart to make that choice."
So, pray, pray at all times. But if you’re feeling a little extra flabby in the spiritual department, then try adding a little fasting to your religious workout. It can work wonders.
Braying like a jackass, on the other hand, is completely optional.