Youth and Fasting: A personal view
A few days ago before Ash Wednesday, the beginning of Lent and the forty days of fasting, a young man called from Maryland to ask me, "At what age can a Christian begin fasting?" It was this question that prompted the title of this article.
Before my response, I asked this fellow, "What fasting are you talking about?" He answered, “Staying away from food.” In general, fasting for some people is to stay away from food or reduce its consumption. We may extend the act of fasting to other aspects of life, including our habits. The Bible talks about several forms of fasting including the exultation fasting and affliction fasting. There are also internal purifications to prepare oneself for situations such as baptism, confirmation, marriage, communion, reconciliation, etc.
I believe it is inappropriate to establish an age limit for Christians when they should begin fasting. We must respect the laws of human physical growth. Young people need to eat to reach a full stature. They may refrain from food only after having completed their cycle of physical growth, which could reach 25 years of age. On the contrary, they can perform spiritual fasting at any age. An example is to stay away or reduce the time they spend on their electronic devices, including the telephone, games, and television. This act can be understood as a form of fasting.
Relativity should not be established between the word youth and the physical dimension of fasting. Fasting is a path to God, an act in which we remain faithful to God even beyond our human needs. The physical dimension of fasting calls for spiritual conversion. Fasting makes us more mindful of the spiritual nature of God and our neighbor. Because of the various forms of fasting and the need for human physical growth, it is difficult for the Church to recommend an age to begin the fasting. So I invite you to follow your heart and do what the Spirit tells you in this critical forty days before Easter.