'Love, self-restraint, contemplation and prayer accord with God's will, while gluttony, licentiousness and things that increase them pander to the flesh. That is why "they that are in the flesh cannot conform to God's will" (Rom. 8:8). But "they that are Christ's have crucified the flesh together with the passions and desires." (Gal. 5:24)'
St. Maximos the Confessor
Most Catholics seem to have a ‘thing’. Some have a ‘thing’ for a specific devotion. Others have a ‘thing’ for Saints, or a specific Saint. And others, still, have a ‘thing’ for the Holy Ghost. As for me, I have a ‘thing’ for the phrase ‘Thy will be done.’
This ‘thing’ of mine began well before Fulton’s accident, but it was solidified in my soul as I suffered alongside my son. Understanding that everything that happens in our lives – good and bad – is either God’s will or is allowed by God serves as a huge comfort to me. Once understood, it is, in fact, a great source of joy.
But that is not the reason for this article.
I have been pondering the many ways in which Our Lord has made His will known to me and am forever grateful for every Cross He has placed upon my shoulders. And I am well aware that despite all the trials I have carried in life, I still fall far short of what He created me to be. So far from holiness. So far from sanctity.
And this makes me sad.
But it has also made me determined. Determined to remove what remains of myself and replace it with My Lord wherever He wants to be in me.
And today, as I stepped on the scale and have found that I have yet to lose a single pound since the birth of my daughter a year ago, I realize where He wants to be in my life.
He wants to be in my stomach.
Before you laugh (or as soon as you are finished) please hear me out.
It is a well-known fact that conquering your base desires, such as the body’s temptations to overeat, is a simple way towards dying to self. Simple in thought – but difficult in practice, as the number 174 proves on my bathroom scale. We need food to live, to function, to fulfill God’s will in our daily duties. And so we eat. Yet the sin of gluttony is only one extra serving of mac and cheese away. It is a fine line between eating to live and eating for self-pleasure. 15 bites of food is good and can be holy. But the 16th bite could very well be an unholy thing.
I am no theologian. I am not a doctor. But I see how my poor eating habits effect me both spiritually and physically. And because of all He has given to me, I believe I am obligated to give to Him more of myself back to Him in return. I am ready to hand over to Him my will over food.
While there are a few different ways in which we can fall into the sin of gluttony, I will only mention the 2 ways that seem to pertain to most of us who fall to this temptation.
1) Gluttony can occur when we try to derive from food a level of pleasure that was not intended. How many memes do we read about wine, chocolate, bacon, or any other food where the food itself is raised to a status of a god?
We celebrate them.
We even covet or hoard them at times.
I also include eating non-food items under this category because – let’s face it – do we eat Cheeze-puffs for its nutritional value? Or strictly for taste?
2) Gluttony can also occur when we become overly concerned about the quality of that which we eat. (Please note: I am not referring to people who have legitimate health issues with food, of course. Nor am I referring to food that was prepared in an unsafe way.) Refusing to eat something that was not cooked the way we like, or being a food snob, is not only a form of gluttony but also crosses the line in other ways as well. It is a special form of pride and leads to uncharitable behavior towards those preparing or serving us food.
With this in mind, I decided that the best way for me to tame the glutton-beast within was to put all my food through my ‘thing’. Thy will be done.
What does this look like? It is really very simple.
Anything I am about to eat must first pass the question, “Does God want me to eat this?”
Sometimes it is not so clear, so I have set certain rules for myself to help me discern.
I have set meal and snacktimes. If it is not breakfast, lunch, dinner or 3pm snacktime, I should not be putting anything in my mouth.
Is the food considered healthful? No matter what the occasion, I do not think Our Lord wills us to eat food considered harmful to the body He created. Therefore, Cheeze-puffs are no longer on the menu. *sigh*
Am I truly hungry or just bored? If it is snacktime and I am NOT hungry, I do not need to eat. And most times, I wander into the pantry because my mouth is bored. Or grumpy. If I am grumpy, I need to consider whether I am running low on energy. If so, a few almonds or a slice of cheddar cheese may fix the problem. But not a bowl of ice cream.
And if my eating has passed the above tests, the following rules are then also applied:
Prepare a place to eat. Get a plate or bowl. Get a napkin. Sit at the table and appreciate the food I am being permitted to eat.
Say grace before eating. No matter what it is or where I am. Yes. I say grace over the 8 almonds and prune I ate at snacktime. St. Jean-Baptist de la Salle tells us "The most efficacious means of keeping in mind the rules of temperance, and obtaining strength to follow them, is to say, piously, the prayer before and after meals. By this we shall draw down upon ourselves the blessing of God, and obtain the grace not to offend Him." Which leads me to....
Say the aftermeal prayer after everything I eat. This one seems to really drive home what I had just done (eat) and what I am now fortified to do (do God’s will). Suddenly a handful of Cheeze-puffs does not seem to be worthy of such a role in my life and in my body.
We give Thee thanks for all Thy benefits, O Almighty God, Who livest and reignest forever. And may the souls of the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace. Amen.
Is the amount I just ate sufficient to sustain my body? If so, do not take seconds. And only take what you need to begin with.
Have I offered the best to others instead of taking it for myself? Make sure you do not receive the perfectly cooked burger, the crispiest piece of fried chicken, etc. Let the best pass you by. Always.
Please note that I am not asking you to fast for 40 days. Our mortifications must be within our ability and means. Even Our Lord says to St. Bridget of Sweden:
'Your new food is prudent abstinence from gluttony and from delicacies, as far as your natural constitution can endure it. Acts of abstinence that go beyond the capacity of nature are not to my liking, for I demand rationality and the taming of lusts.'
Consider this exercise as a mini examination of conscience. After doing this for about a week, it will pretty much happen at the same time you are eating and will hopefully become a habit. But until then, lets use the above questions to help us overcome this common vice!
Remember – this is not a diet. This is simply a method of learning to die to self for love of God and to conform our wills to His.
One vice at a time.
And when I am comfortable with my attack on gluttony, my next battle will be over SLOTH!
Won’t you join me on this journey? Let me know how you are doing! And check in from time to time and watch for my announcement when my new blog will be created!