Since the first days of the apparitions, the age-old spiritual practice of fasting has been an integral part of the Virgin Mary’s main message from Medjugorje. A good week into the apparitions the parish priest, Fr. Jozo Zovko, received an enthusiastic response from his parishioners when he urged them to pray and fast to understand what happened in their parish. After that it did not take long until the Virgin Mary issued her first formal calls to fasting.
During her earthly life the Virgin Mary witnessed how prayer and fasting constituted the source of the work of the Apostles – a labour whose ultimate conclusion would be the conversion of the Roman Empire. Now, in the Summer of 1981, the Virgin Mary appeared in Medjugorje, entrusted with the task “to convert and reconcile the whole world” (June 26th 1981).
Her method was to be the same that had worked so well among the first Christians:
“Especially live the fast, because by fasting you will achieve and cause me the joy of the whole plan, which God is planning here in Medjugorje, being fulfilled.” (September 26th 1985)
“Dear children! I come to you as a Mother with gifts. I come with love and mercy. Dear children, mine is a big heart. In it, I desire all of your hearts, purified by fasting and prayer.” (March 18th 2007)
“By fasting and prayer, witness that you are mine and that you live my messages.” (April 25th 1999)
The fruits of fasting
To the people of Medjugorje, and to most of the pilgrims who take up the practice and habit of fasting, Wednesdays and Fridays are days of bread and water. This is what the Virgin Mary asked for in this early message whose second sentence also reveals the ultimate potential of fasting, namely a source of miracles:
“The best fast is on bread and water. Through fasting and prayer, one can stop wars, one can suspend the laws of nature. Charity cannot replace fasting. Those who are not able to fast can sometime replace it with prayer, charity, and a confession; but everyone, except the sick, must fast.” (July 21st 1982)
So everyone “must” fast, the Virgin says. From her perspective, it is not only an option. More than that it is a basic necessity for anyone who wants to walk her path of conversion and make it safe through this time of intensified spiritual warfare. This fruit comes about because fasting draws the human soul closer to God. What is being given up in the flesh comes back in Spirit. The empty space (in stomachs) God fills up with His Presence which is why a great many people have discovered they pray better on fasting days than on ordinary weekdays:
“I desire to inspire you to continue to live fasting with an open heart. By fasting and renunciation, little children, you will be stronger in faith.” (March 25th 2007)
“I desire, little children, to draw you all closer to my Son, Jesus, therefore, you pray and fast.” (July 25th 1994)
Fasting as a means of protection
Satan shuns people who pray and fast. Such people grow in holiness and Satan cannot stand holiness. This is why experience shows that Satan flees from anyone who perseveres in prayer and fasting. Just like fasting cleanses the physical body, in the same way fasting purifies the soul. Fasting, for the human soul, is a powerful means of protection:
“Satan is strong and wants to sweep away plans of peace and joy and make you think that my Son is not strong in His decisions. Therefore, I call all of you, dear children, to pray and fast still more firmly.” (August 25th 1991)
“Do novenas of fasting and renunciation so that Satan be far from you and grace be around you.” (July 25th 2005)
“Little children, the one who prays is not afraid of the future and the one who fasts is not afraid of evil.” (January 25th 2001)
Starting out slowly and having the body adapt to a practice of fasting is better than starting out too hard, only to give up after short time. To begin with, half a day on bread and water can be okay. So can adding a piece of fruit. Gradually the body will adapt, the initial dizziness will leave and be replaced by a newfound closeness to God. Throughout the process, drinking lots of water will serve to make eventual minor headaches go away.
The bread should be chosen with care. White bread contains too few nutritients to suffice on fasting days. Bread with whole grains works better and is a lot healthier. Further on the matter of health, by the mid-1980s it was medically established that fasting on bread and water two times a week is not dangerous or unhealthy in any other way. This conclusion was reached by a French team of doctors who went to Medjugorje. Their finding was published in the book “Medical and scientific investigations of the apparitions at Medjugorje” by Dr. Henri Joyeux and Fr. René Laurentin (OEIL 1987).