Pray, Fast, Think: An Interview with Father John Riccardo

Father John Riccardo is the host of Ave Maria radio’s “Christ is the Answer.” He lives in Michigan and is the youngest of five children. Father Riccardo credits his parents for making a relationship with God and everyday faith a “normal” part of living. According to Father, his parents not only taught by their words but by their actions as well.

cross-and-bible.jpgFather Riccardo graduated from University of Michigan and spent some time working in the secular world before pursuing his vocation as a priest. He was ordained in the Archdiocese of Detroit in 1996. Father studied philosophy at Sacred Heart Major Seminary in Detroit and theology at the Gregorian University in Rome. He received a Sacred License in Theology (STL) from The Pope John Paul II Institute for Studies on Marriage and the Family. The radio program Father hosts, “Christ is the Answer” is a catechetical program and one of the most informative I listen to on Catholic radio. For more information on Father, visit www.AveMariaRadio.net where you can listen live to his show any weekday at 11 a.m. Eastern Standard Time (these shows are previously aired) or 8 p.m. on Wednesday evenings (new shows).

Most recently Father was a guest on Catholic radio’s pledge drive and spoke of the need for fasting and praying in the time leading up to this November’s presidential election. I asked Father if he would answer a few questions and he graciously agreed.

Father, you’ve mentioned fasting and praying, on Fridays, for the election. Could you give us a bit of direction on this and how we can join others in this cause?

Fr. Riccardo: The sense of a need to fast for this election came some months ago now when our readings at daily Mass dealt with the history of the people of Israel during the reign of the various kings, and in particular with the reality that the life of the king effected the people as a whole. This is a concept we don’t keep in mind much in the US. We tend to think a person’s private life is entirely their own. Now, there’s some truth to that, but the idea that the life of a leader has no impact on the life of the nation he or she leads is entirely in contrast to the revealed Word of God. It was during that time that I felt the Lord put on my heart a deep conviction to not only fast myself but to invite others to do the same for God’s mercy and blessing upon our land until and specifically for the men and women running for public office. Perhaps many of us forgot, or are unaware, of how often some of our Founding Fathers would call the nation to pray and fast during certain times.

As for the nuts and bolts of the fast, I myself just drink liquids on Fridays until dinner, and then break the fast at that time, trying to call to mind throughout the day the intention that I have. Some people, I know, can’t fast from foods for various reasons, but something else could easily be substituted in its place.

What do you see as the biggest challenge facing the Catholic Church today?

Fr. Riccardo: The Lord says in His Word, “My people perish for lack of knowledge.” I think that might be how I would answer that question. It’s a question with many possible answers, but this comes to mind right now anyway. That lack of knowledge would be manifold: about God, about His personal love, about the basics of our faith, about what it means to be a Catholic, and so forth.

What do you suggest Catholics do to live their faith more fully?

Fr. Riccardo: This, too, is a topic that could fill a book, but certainly some basics come to mind. First of all would be to put in place a game plan for how to live this life well. We have strategies for almost everything we do with regards to various parts of life, but seldom do we take the time to come up with one for all of life. I think it works best by starting with the desired end: heaven and hearing the words, “Well done, good and faithful servant!” That end, sobering as this is, is not a given. It’s a gift, to be sure, and so not something that we can earn, but it must still be received by each of us.

Each of us needs to prayerfully determine how we should respond to the gift of life entrusted to us by God, and how to live in such a way so as to try to honor Him in all we do and build up the civilization of love here and now. Fundamentally, I think, it starts by making a commitment to pray, to “waste time with God,” as I put it. This isn’t to imply that prayer is a waste of time; not at all! It’s meant to convey that we need to be in the daily habit of wasting time in a positive way with Him, of listening to His voice in silence and in Scripture, of praising Him, thanking Him, saying we’re sorry, asking for help, asking for vision, and so much more.

Finally, could you give us a little insight into your thoughts about the upcoming election?

Fr. Riccardo: We obviously have many pressing issues and needs in our country at present, and each day only seems to raise even more concerns, with economic concerns currently dominating the headlines. I think I’m sobered, quite frankly, by how much hostility seems to be out there, on all “sides,” and how little humility there seems to be.

Author’s note: If you’ve not yet read a Catholic voter’s guide or would like to understand, more fully, what it means to be a Catholic voter, here are a few helpful links… http://www.ewtn.com/vote/brief_catechism.htm, http://www.catholic.com/, http://westcoastcatholic.blogspot.com/2008/08/archbishop-chaput-vote-for-real-change.html, and http://www.stlouisreview.com/abpcolumn.php?abpid=7051

Cheryl Dickow

By

Cheryl Dickow is a Catholic wife, mother, author and speaker. Cheryl’s newest book is Wrapped Up: God’s Ten Gifts for Womenwhich is co-authored with Teresa Tomeo and is published by Servant (a division of Franciscan Media); there is also a companion journal that accompanies the book and an audio version intended for women’s studies or for individual reflection. Cheryl’s titles also include the woman’s inspirational fiction book Elizabeth: A Holy Land Pilgrimage. Elizabeth is available in paperback or Kindle format. Her company is Bezalel Books where her goal is to publish great Catholic books for families and classrooms that entertain while uplifting the Catholic faith and is located at www.BezalelBooks.com. To invite Cheryl to speak at your event, write her at Cheryl@BezalelBooks.com.

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  • http://yahoo.com Patrick

    A different approach to fasting

    Fasts have a tendency to be oriented towards things like giving up food or television.
    But there are many other creative ways we can welcome Jesus’ healing touch.

    Here are some suggestions for you to consider:

    •Fast from anger and hatred.
    Give your family an extra dose of love each day.

    •Fasting from judging others.
    Before making any judgments, recall how Jesus overlooked our faults.

    •Fast from discouragement.
    Hold on to Jesus’ promise that he has a perfect plan for your life.

    •Fast from complaining.
    When you find yourself about to complain, close ypor eyes and recall some of the little moments of joy, Jesus has given you.

    •Fast from resentment and bitterness.
    Work on forgiving those who may have hurt you.

    •Fast from spending too much.
    Try to reduce your spending by ten percent (10%) and give those savings to the poor.

    Wish you all the Love, Peace and Happiness for the Easter Season

    SMILE – Jesus loves you.

    PATRICK

  • David

    Patrick, Your suggestions for an alternate fast are excellent, but they always leave me wanting. Its difficult to get a sense that I have done them well if at all.

    I think fasting requires the sacrifice of something that is good rather than the avoidance of something that is a vice and replacing it with something virtuous. Food is good and fills a primal need. To sacrifice this good and offer this for a greater good (God) fulfills an even great primary need, to express our love for God in a tangible way.

    Fasting with food is so rooted in scripture and tradition that we should be cautious about finding ways to get around it. Your suggestions are an excellent daily plan for each of us to answer our call to holiness. And yes, I am smiling. God Bless!

  • bambushka

    I agree, David, Fasting from anything but food leaves me bewildered. Did I actually offer up the discomfort of not watching TV, or not losing my temper, or spending 10% less?

    Hunger keeps you on the edge of prayer. You cannot deny it’s presence. It was what Jesus did to fight the devil and receive the power of the Holy Spirit.

    Patrick, Those things that you listed are actually “alms”, which is an action that comes out of fasting. This is a three legged stool. Prayer, Fasting and giving Alms. But giving Alms is not fasting. All three are at the heart of powerful conversion, which we are always called to become (converted) in our journey through this life unto the next.

    Pray and fast for this country and her leaders. We are about to be tested.

  • http://www.BezalelBooks.com Cheryl Dickow

    I agree with both these excellent responses. There are so many ways to fast in our current age of excesses but I am finding my own spirit recalling the way in which Queen Esther called upon her community to fast (from food) and pray.

    With so much at stake in this upcoming election, it seems that if we are able to (without harm to ourselves) fast from food until dinner, on Fridays, we will be able to open our hearts to God’s will for this election and better respond to the Holy Spirit’s guidance as we cast our votes.

    There seems to be so much “out there” that our emotions are creating a situation in which we may not be listening to the still, small voice but are more concerned with showing how we are right. Only God’s will is right and fasting and praying as a Catholic community will help us discern, collectively, what His will is and not push our own agendas.

  • bambushka

    P.S. I am a Fr. John Riccardo groupie. He has other amazing teachings on his church’s website, Our Lady of Good Counsel, also,his Sunday homilies and the segment I am so excited about, RCIA for Catholics. These are on my ipod and are very good catechesis.

    He is truly a gift from God.

  • trailblazer

    Fasting from food is something that happens inside instead of outside, that is, it is something as already pointed out, is with you every moment and, therefore, makes a great and constant reminder of the sacrifice being made. It is really difficult to to say no to the appetite for food; to walk past the sight and smell of food you have learned to enjoy and discipline yourself to avoid taking even a single bite.

    There is a rich tradition in all of our history of fasting. Some of the Saints have even suggested it is not possible to hear clearly the voice of the Holy Spirit when we have first satiated ourselves with earthly food. It is painfully obvious that a vast majority of Americans (including myself) do not or previously have not restrained themselves in matters of physical appetite for food let alone so many other areas.

    Michael

  • MICHAEL

    Maany in the usa and world will have alot of fasting (forced)the globalists-international bankers are going to put us in a depression to get there new world order…..

  • Cooky642

    While I agree with David, I also find Patrick’s approach fulfilling. Some of us (like me) are diabetics who simply cannot fast from food. However, having been Catholic since before Vatican II, I know how to do a “personal fast”–i.e., no meat and no “treats” (those little delicacies that put a finishing touch on a meal). Nevertheless, fasting from other amenities can be just as powerful: how about telephoning a person you’d really rather not, watching a friend’s or neighbor’s child (or, elderly parent) when you’d planned on doing something for yourself, or giving up an hour of TV for an hour in Adoration? Choosing genuine self-denial is the key, and it works!

  • kirbys

    SInce I am pregnant, I am not fasting from food, but from the radio! During an election season–it’s killing me! ;)

    More Adoration time–that is such an awesome awesome response!!!

  • fw1952

    I very much apreciate the DVD that Father made with the protestant Minister regarding the similarities and differences between the respective beliefs. I use this in my CCD class and have given it to local ministers. However, his response to the last question left me wanting more. Abortion is THE issue for Catholics as it affects so many more issues. The death of an innocent child is a travesty for the mother, the child, and the abortion provider. Souls are in peril and there can be no greater concern to Catholics.

    If we can kill a child for our own convenience, what can’t we do to make ourselves comfortable? Certainly adultery is not out of question. And why care about immigrants or the human rights of anyone? As a matter of necessity, we must have open borders if we are killing so many of our future workers. And for those who think abortion doesn’t affect them, how, in the world can we pay Social Security to the elderly if we don’t have workers paying into Social Security? And how dare we echo a concern for minorities if we are willing to abort black children at three times the rate of their proportion in society.

    If health care gets too expensive, if can kill our children so we can finish college or hold a job, why would we pay for health care for a 75 yr old who is no longer able to carry his own weight? Because of the acceptance of abortion, it is no wonder why 90% of Downs Syndrome children are aborted.

    Abortion affect every important issue in out society, and I hope that Father Riccardo preaches this to all he comes in contact with. I’m sure he does.

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