Blessed Detox

Don Dolindo’s Soul Purification Through Fasting

The Book of Deuteronomy resounds with Moses’s final counsel to the Israelites before entering the Promised Land. In chapter 9, Moses recounts their rebellious history, yet seeks God’s mercy for them through a 40-day fast. Centuries later, Italian priest Don Dolindo Ruotolo penned a pivotal commentary on this passage, elucidating the profound spiritual benefit of fasting. Don Dolindo explores how Moses’s sincere act of self-denial and repentance opened a portal to divine communion. Through rich biblical exegesis, Don Dolindo extracts powerful insights, examining how we can employ fasting and prayer to emerge from the tangles of sin, lift our souls heavenward, and transform spiritually like a caterpillar shedding its cocoon. His words invite us to view fasting not merely as an act of penance, but as a journey of enlightenment through which we can deepen self-discipline, cleanse our spirits, commune with God, and take flight on our soul’s true vocation.

In his commentary, Don Dolindo digs deeper into the spiritual insights underpinning Moses’s message and example in Deuteronomy chapter 9. As he writes, “So here, Moses has outlined in his second speech, the way to Heaven: we must observe the divine commandments (chap. 5); we must love God with all our heart, with all our soul, with all our strength, without testing Him and acting insolently against Him (chap. 6); we must fight evil, without yielding in anything to the world and without harboring its abominations within us (chap. 7); we must never forget God in the comforts of life, thinking that our goal is Heaven, the true promised land, which we must reach through struggles against our passions (chap. 8); finally, we must profoundly humble ourselves in the memory of past sins, thinking that we are undeserving of any benefit (chap. 10). Following Moses’ example, who implored for mercy by fasting for forty days and forty nights, we too must repent for our sins, at least by scrupulously observing the fasts and abstinences imposed by the Church.” Going on, Don Dolindo expounds how Moses sets forth the path of repentance, obedience, love, and fasting as portals to divine grace.

Don Dolindo continues writing in his commentary about chapter 9 of Deuteronomy: “Lent must be for us, the sacred time of our lives, must be for us, at least in the merciful form in which the Church imposes it, our forty-day supplication like that of Moses.” As Christ fasted forty days in the wilderness (Matthew 4:2), the season of Lent mirrors this holy journey, serving as our annual spiritual renewal.

Echoing St. Paul’s teaching that “the body is dead because of sin” (Romans 8:10), Don Dolindo expounds that fasting liberates the soul, writing “In repentance and fasting, the soul emerges, so to speak, from the tangle of snares that bound it, is more apt to pray, to implore, to adore, to give thanks.” Through self-denial, the spirit is unshackled from bodily constraints and worldly habits that previously drowned out the whisper of the Holy Spirit. As Christ proclaimed, “everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst” (John 4:13-14). 

Don Dolindo provocatively asks, “We, who know how to submit to much more painful diet restrictions when they are imposed by our doctor for bodily health, we who can renounce meat, pasta, sugar, salt, wine, smoke when we are diabetic or when we are suffering from arthritis or nephritis, will we be ashamed not to perform such a mild fast?” Comparing our willingness to undergo medical diets with the expectations of Lenten sacrifice, he calls us to examine our priorities regarding physical and spiritual health. As James wrote, “So faith by itself, if it has no works, is dead.” (James 2:17). Putting faith into practice through fasting demonstrates sincerity.

“Are we not the true diabetics of the soul, we who waste all God’s sweetness into our senses and diffuse the false sweetness of the world into our blood?” Don Dolindo’s metaphor evokes the idea that overindulgence in fleeting worldly pleasures causes us to develop spiritual diabetes, unable to metabolize God’s enduring sweetness and grace. As the psalmist proclaimed, “Taste and see that the Lord is good” (Psalm 34:8). Yet when we become drunk on false sweetness, our spiritual taste buds become numb to the wholesome goodness of God. 

“Are we not suffering from nephritis, we who cannot cleanse ourselves of evil, and we sediment it into our inflamed kidneys?” Through this vivid imagery, Don Dolindo suggests that sins, swirling unchecked within us, accumulate over time into harmful sediment clogging our spiritual organs. The apostle Paul urged followers of Christ to “clean out the old leaven” from their hearts and lives (1 Corinthians 5:7). But when we allow wickedness to fester internally, it causes inflammation blocking our spiritual filtration system.

“Are we not arthritic, so hindered in the movements of the spirit?” With this metaphor, Don Dolindo indicates that absorbing worldly toxins restricts the soul’s joints, stiffening its flexibility to follow God’s lead. As the writer of Hebrews warned, “See to it that no one fails to obtain the grace of God; that no root of bitterness springs up and causes trouble” (Hebrews 12:15). An arthritic spirit grows rigid not supple, calcified not fluid, and struggles to move freely with the guidance of the Holy Spirit. 

“Why then do we find so much difficulty in undergoing a healthy treatment for the soul when we know how to do even days and days of complete diet for the body?” Don Dolindo’s convicting question reveals a contradictory priority regarding physical health over spiritual wellbeing. Yet Jesus himself asked, “What good will it be for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul?” (Matthew 16:26). Maybe our perspective needs readjustment through the spiritual healing of fasting.

As Don Dolindo highlights, “Moses fasted twice, forty days and forty nights: once to receive God’s law, another time to implore for mercy.” Moses’s fasting opened up a portal to commune with the Divine Presence. Likewise, as Jesus taught, “when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, so that your fasting may be seen not by others but by your Father who is in secret” (Matthew 6:17-18). Our Heavenly Father waits to meet with us in the stillness cultivated by self-denial.

Don Dolindo further emphasizes, “So, even if we did not have sins to atone for, we would certainly have to implore God for enlightenment and grace!” Beyond repentance, he compels us to fast as a channel for wisdom and strength from above. As Jesus assured, “Ask, and it will be given you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.” (Luke 11:9).

Don Dolindo leaves us with an inspirational image: “The soul cannot communicate with Him in the heights of contemplation and devotion if it does not mortify its body and its senses. Only then is it like a caterpillar that emerges from its cocoon, spreads its wings, and flies in the vast blue of the sky.”

As we embrace the spiritual discipline of fasting, we must guard our hearts against pride and self-reliance, but rather anchor ourselves in humility and prudence. The season of Lent provides a special opportunity to grow in holiness, yet we require wisdom in order to walk this narrow road well. The precepts of fasting outlined by the Church aim to strike a merciful balance, making “the path of the upright […] a level highway” without unduly harming bodily health (Proverbs 15:19). Therefore we ought not fast more strictly than Church guidance nor judge ourselves superior for extra austerity; as St Paul warns, “Let every one be fully convinced in his own mind” (Romans 14:5). Yet neither should we despair that our fast is insignificant, for Scripture assures that “God gives power to the faint, and to him who has no might he increases strength” (Isaiah 40:29). We must reject the temptation toward self-sufficiency, instead humbly admitting with St Paul, “when I am weak, then I am strong” (2 Corinthians 12:10), ever fixating our spiritual eyes upon Christ (Hebrews 12:2) and trusting in the grace He faithfully supplies (2 Corinthians 12:9). Alongside bodily discipline, let us cling to the Lord who perfects and sustains.

In his commentary on Luke chapter 4, Don Dolindo further reflects on the fasting that Jesus underwent and the temptations of the devil in the desert. He explores how fasting is closely linked with obedience, stating that while physical deprivation sacrifices bodily vitality, obedience allows the soul to almost transcend its earthly confinement. Thus self-denial and submission to God’s will grant enhanced spiritual receptivity. Here are his words from his commentary on St Luke chapter 4: “Therefore, fasting possesses great supplicatory power in the presence of God, which is why Satan strives to minimize its importance in our spiritual lives. Let us clarify right away that fasting is closely linked to obedience because, while reducing our physical being is a form of sacrifice, it is in vain without the sacrifice of the soul. The body diminishes its vitality through deprivation, and the soul almost transcends its physical existence through obedience. Thus, it is explicitly stated that Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness. He did not go there willingly but added spiritual immolation to the sacrifice of the body. Furthermore, it should be noted that the fasts commanded by the Church, although seemingly gentle, are the most beautiful ones to observe. This is because during such times, it is the Holy Spirit Himself who guides the soul towards penance through the Church.”

As we practically apply fasting to our spiritual lives, it is wise to seek both divine empowerment and human guidance. First, begin by praying to Jesus, asking Him to grant you the grace and fortitude to complete whatever fast you have decided upon. Entreat the Holy Spirit for the self-control, discernment and energy needed to persevere. Also, if your planned fasting regime exceeds general Church guidance for health and moderation, be sure to consult your spiritual director or confessor. Meet with him when possible at least once throughout your fast to provide updates and receive counsel; be honest about any physical or emotional struggles encountered along the way. A spiritual director can help personalize guidance so that your fasting remains reasonable and fruitful. Also, heeding the insights of an experienced spiritual mentor aids in maintaining a balanced perspective when our natural zeal might otherwise turn extreme. By humbly relying on God’s grace and the Church’s supervisors, your fasting can progress upon solid footing. On this topic, Don Donlindo’s advice as written in his autobiography (Fui Chiamato Dolindo Che Significa Dolore, chapter 9) resonates very well: “God never reveals supernatural light to those who pretend to judge it. The first act of the soul on the paths of God is necessarily an act of humility, trust, and faith. Fanaticism is neither humility, nor trust, nor faith; it is the exaggerated esteem of one’s own judgment. In reality, the fanatic is as incredulous towards God as an unbeliever; both give different importance to their own judgment and impressions. When the soul realizes that God is at work, it must humble itself, trust, and believe. If it does not do this, it becomes lost, God hides from it, and what is light will seem darkness to it, because the ways of God are so different from the ways of men.”

In sum, Don Dolindo’s rich commentary on Deuteronomy chapter 9 and St Luke chapter 4 compels self-reflection regarding our willingness to undergo bodily discipline to restore spiritual health. Also, he cautions against fanaticism in spiritual life, urging humility and faith when following God’s leading, however unusual it may seem. As we consider embracing Lenten fasting, we must examine our priorities and motivations. Does aligning with fasting’s higher purpose require a realignment of focus from earthly to eternal? Are we truly ready to emerge from the entangled habits and self-absorption that hinder sacred communion? The Lenten invitation to heightened devotion through self-denial awaits our response. Approaching this narrow road with prudence, prayer and spiritual guidance, yet fixating on heavenly hopes, our souls can take flight this Lenten season. Don Dolindo’s profound words serve as a powerful reminder of the spiritual transformation that occurs through fasting. This metamorphosis allows the soul to break free from its cocoon and spread its wings, making every struggle worthwhile for those seeking to embrace “a newness of life” (Romans 6:4).

O Blessed Virgin Mary, beloved Mother of Jesus and radiant Queen of Heaven, teach us how to walk the way of penance, prayer, and fasting as you implored the children at Fatima. Help us to embrace the spiritual tools that your Son prescribe in Sacred Scripture and through the precepts of His Church for cleansing our souls, including prayer and charity (Luke 11:41), tearful repentance (James 4:9), acts of righteousness (Acts 24:16), and self-control (Galatians 5:23). Instill in our hearts the humility, sincerity and perseverance embodied by holy devotees like pious Hannah crying out in the temple (1 Samuel 1:10) and righteous Anna worshiping day and night in fasting and supplication (Luke 2:36-37). As you pondered the shepherds’ words in your heart (Luke 2:19), lead us to ponder the spiritual insights gleaned from saints across the centuries. May their holy zeal rekindle our own through Lenten discipline, fueling our spiritual metamorphosis. Emerging renewed through self-denial, grant for us the grace to soar heavenward on wings of prayer. Thus transformed by biblical fasting, may our souls magnify the Lord (Luke 1:46) and bear the sweet fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23). Amen.

Photo by Parsing Eye on Unsplash

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Elie G. Dib has directed his interests towards studying the writings and life journey of the Servant of God, Don Dolindo Ruotolo. Known for his monumental 33-volume commentary, Don Dolindo left an indelible mark on religious literary work. Elie is ardently invested in translating this extensive commentary from Italian to English, with a vision to break the language barrier and make this profound work accessible to a wider audience. Through his translation efforts, Elie aspires to disseminate the teachings of Don Dolindo and inspire others with his deep insights into the scripture. His Substack can be found at: If you would like to read more about Don Dolindo's insights on Sacred Scripture, check out this new book:

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