We continue the 52 week plan to grow in Catholic Manhood by becoming a better Catholic Son and Catholic Father. 

We have been reflecting on the fourth major habit: Major Habit 4 – Battle Against Sin and Vice and last week reflected upon : Habit 14 – Recognize sin and make deliberate plans to stop sinning.

We turn our attention to Habit 15.  

Habit 15 – Mortify gluttony by regular fasting and abstinence

Mortify physical and mental gluttony by weekly and seasonal fasting from food and drink and by limiting or abstaining from the consumption of soul-killing media.

What is the deadly sin/vice of Gluttony? Gluttony (from a Latin word  that means, “overeat”) is one of the 7 Deadly Sins (Pride, Avarice/Greed, Envy, Wrath, Lust, Gluttony, SlothCatechism of the Catholic Church: paragraph 1866 [CCC 1866]) and is a vice (bad habit). Traditionally, Gluttony was defined as physical gluttony which is the overconsumption of food and alcohol but in recent times the meaning has been expanded to include overconsumption in general, and includes mental  gluttony (Vice of Curiosity).

What Virtues battle against the Vice of Physical and Mental Gluttony? – The Virtue of Abstinence/Sobriety (generally called Temperance) is the good habit of a man who has the self-restraint to moderate the amount and type of food/drink he consumes so as to maintain his health to have the longevity and vigor to serve God to the best of his ability (CCC 1809, 1838). The man of Temperance eats to live, not live to eat. 

The Virtue of Studiousness opposes the Vice of Curiosity (e.g. mental gluttony) and is the good habit of a man who uses his God-given intellect and reason for the purpose of accumulating knowledge in service of God and the good of others. The studious man pursues knowledge which is useful and not corrupting, in moderation and in proportion to his vocation and abilities.

What is physical Gluttony and why is it dangerous? – Modern culture is obsessed with eating and drinking (fast food, food “porn”, binge-eating and drinking, finickiness). The vice of  physical Gluttony is the bad habit of a man who lacks desire and self-control to moderate his consumption of food/drink (or drugs, tobacco, etc.) and habitually eats or consumes unhealthy things to excess. The glutton is often finicky and pathetic in his unseemly desire for specific tastes and the attention, time and money he spends in pursuit of gourmet or special foods and drink to please his mouth. 

Physical Gluttony is spiritually and physically destructive; Jesus calls men to not be anxious about food and drink (Mt 6:25-34) and confirms the sinfulness of Gluttony (Lk 12:16-21). From a spiritual standpoint, a man addicted to overconsumption of food/drink becomes distracted from spiritual pursuit because of his enslavement to physical things. From a physical standpoint, physical Gluttony leads to the destruction of physical health due to obesity, disease and/or mental impairment. Today, physical Gluttony is an epidemic, demonstrated by the high levels of those who are obese, overweight and addicted to food, alcohol, tobacco and drugs. 

What is mental Gluttony and why is it dangerous? – The Vice of Mental Gluttony (traditionally called the Vice of Curiosity) is the bad habit of a man who lacks desire and self-control to moderate his curious desire for mental stimulation which opposes his pursuit of holiness and his worldly vocation; the preponderance of modern media directly opposes God and is at best, trivial and foolish, and at worst, directly or subtlety promotes sin in all its forms. Much of modern media is not Godly (good, true and beautiful) and very often overtly evil (lies, bad, and ugly). Today, mental Gluttony is primarily fed by the internet and takes the form of advertisements, movies, shows, “news”, videos, blogs, podcasts, e-books and games.

The mental glutton has an enslaving craving for information and compulsively seeks mental stimulation many times a day, searching and consuming media. Often, the mental glutton rationalizes his obsessive pursuit of mental stimulation as his duty to be “well-informed” or that his obsession is  harmless entertainment.  

Mental Gluttony is spiritually and mentally destructive; it kills the soul. The mental glutton handicaps his mind with much useless or harmful information, dulls his hunger for God and his moral wits, and because of the evil and demonic which pervades the internet, he regularly puts himself in the near occasion of sin where he becomes vulnerable to temptation, and often falls into The 7 Deadly Sins. 

Today, mental gluttony is an epidemic, demonstrated by high levels of electronic media consumption and the growing epidemics of porn, general internet addiction and materialism. Worse, the internet has dramatically increased Satan’s ability (CCC 394-395) to tempt men and many who are addicted to the internet have become minions of Satan; many are in a constant state of mortal sin due to porn addiction alone. 

What is mortification? – “Mortification” (from a Latin word which means “putting to death”) is the practice of denying the desires of the flesh (physical and mental) and suffering discomfort to free one’s self from sin, make reparation for one’s sins and the sins of others, and to free one’s self to more clearly hear and follow God’s word.

Why is mortification essential? – First and foremost, because Jesus calls all men to mortify their unholy desires: prior to His public ministry, Jesus demonstrates mortification in His voluntary 40-day fast during the Temptation (CCC 538; Mk 1:12-13) and specifically calls on men to practice mortification (Mt 6:16-18). Second, through obedience to Jesus, the Holy Church confirms, by the 4th  Precept, all Catholics are obligated to practice mortification (CCC 2549) so as  “acquire mastery over our instincts and freedom of heart” (CCC 2043), to do penance (CCC 1438) and reparation (CCC 1434). “Spiritual progress entails the ascesis [rigorous self-discipline] and mortification [self denial] that gradually lead to living in the peace and joy of the Beatitudes” (CCC 2015).

What is physical fasting? – Physical fasting is a type of mortification through which a man abstains from eating and drinking in varying ways (from all food, from specific foods [abstinence], or from alcohol or other stimulants, etc.) for varying periods of time (at least an hour before Mass, a full day or days). Physical fasting is an important discipline to help a man battle against excessive physical cravings for food and drink and helps a man build the Virtue of Temperance. 

What are some requirements of Catholic fasting? – Requirements for fasting and abstinence in prior times were much more demanding than the current norms. 

Fasting Catholics (ages 18-59, who are physically able to fast) are obligated to fast and/or abstain under the following conditions:

  • Fasting prior to Mass – Catholics are obligated to fast (all food/drink except water) and must be in a state of grace (CCC 1385) before receiving the Sacrament of the Eucharist in accordance with the practice of their local church (CCC 1387); for most, fasting for one hour prior to reception of the Eucharist is the norm. 

  • Fasting during Lent – Catholics are called to perform acts of penance during Lent (CCC 1438). The Church continues to “strongly recommend” fasting on all weekdays of Lent but only obligates Catholics to fast on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday (two small snacks and one meal) and to abstain from eating meat on the Fridays of Lent. 

  • Fasting/Abstinence on all Fridays outside of Lent – Friday fasts are an essential Catholic discipline which reminds and elicits sorrow for the Good Friday Crucifixion of Our Lord and all Catholics are required to perform some act of penance every Friday (except Solemnities).  The Church especially recommends abstinence from meat on Fridays; if a Catholic chooses to eat meat on Friday, he/she is obligated to perform some other meaningful personal act of mortification in replacement of abstinence. 

What is mental fasting? – Mental fasting can be thought of as the practice of voluntarily choosing to abstain from the consumption of certain types of licit [not-sinful] media for some period of time.

What are some examples of mental fasting? – Examples include:

  • Limiting some forms of media – Understanding one’s vulnerability to compulsive consumption of media can guide a man to limit some forms of media (e.g. movies and shows, video gaming, social media usage, news, commentary, etc.). Setting strict limits on internet or specific media is especially important for those who over-indulge or have  become addicted. Limits can be for days of the week (e.g. no video gaming on week days), specific hours of the day (no social media during the work day) or for the number of hours a day (one hour internet time per day). 

  • Permanent abstinence – Many are beginning to realize the harmfulness of addiction and are choosing to permanently abstain from some types of media (e.g. stopping all social media or reading mass media news). Others are realizing the addictiveness of mobile devices and beginning to practice digital minimalism (e.g. using a “dumb phone”). Going beyond simple mental health, a Catholic man should turn away from many media sources permanently to avoid distraction and being continually in the near occasion of sin. 

With the time freed up from limiting or abstaining from harmful media, men may pursue the Virtue of Studiousness and consume holy and helpful information instead (Scripture, religious reading, uplifting media, vocation-specific reading to grow in skills/usefulness, etc.). 

How does God help a man overcome Gluttony? – To help a man overcome Gluttony and grow in Temperance, the Holy Spirit gives a receptive man the Gift of the Fear of the Lord which builds upon a man’s just fear of punishment for sin and elevates it so that a man has such awe and gratitude for God’s bountiful gifts that he fears to disappoint and become separated from God. A man’s holy fear of being separated from God causes him to have guilt, shame, and sorrow and to grow to hate his Vice of Gluttony and gives him newfound strength to battle against his sinful impulses and vices.

This week’s questions – Here are some questions to meditate upon this week’s habit: 

Does my current body fat level suggest I have been gluttonous and need to curb my physical eating/drinking? How might I be blessed by mortifying my desire for food and drink through fasting or abstinence?

How much media do I consume each day and am I compulsive in my use of media? How might I be blessed to eliminate or dramatically reduce my consumption of media?

This week’s commitments Making a habit a reality requires commitment to concrete action. Here is this week’s challenges:

1) Examine the extent to which you have fallen into or are prone to physical gluttony (e.g. weight, body fat, “guilty pleasures”, compulsive eating, etc.). 

2) Examine the extent to which you have fallen into or are prone to mental gluttony (e.g. hours of internet usage per week, daily “pick-ups” of mobile phone, assessment of frequency of internet sites visited, etc.). 

Don’t forget to pray with the ECM Daily Gospel Devotional each day.

Consider listening to the EveryCatholicMan.com Gospel Devotional Podcast to be better prepared for Sunday Mass.

Daily Prayer – During the week, pray this short prayer, or one like it, to mortify gluttony by regular fasting and abstinence:

Lord Jesus, Perfection of Temperance, allow me to receive the Gift of the Fear of the Lord so I can build the Virtue of Temperance and overcome my enslavement to physical and mental gluttony and turn my attention and focus more and more to You in my daily life. Amen.