Saint Pope John Paul wrote, “Jesus Himself has shown us by His own example that prayer and fasting are the first and most effective weapons against the forces of evil (cf. Mt. 4:1-11). As He taught His disciples, some demons cannot be driven out except in this way (cf. Mk. 9:29)” (Gospel of Life, 100).
He fasted even when eating with others. One day, when he was fasting by eating very lightly in the company of some guests, one of them asked, “Holy Father, when did you start eating like this or, rather, I should say when did you stop eating like this?”
At his Angelus Address on March 10, 1996 he said:
1. The penitential practices suggested by the Church especially during this Lenten season include fasting. This means special moderation in the consumption of food except for what is necessary to maintain one’s strength. This traditional form of penance has not lost its meaning; indeed, perhaps it ought to be rediscovered, especially in those parts of the world and in those circumstances where not only is there food in plenty but where one even comes across illnesses from overeating. . . .
Fasting is to reaffirm to oneself what Jesus answered Satan when he tempted him at the end of his 40 days of fasting in the wilderness: “Man shall not live by bread alone but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God” (Mt 4:4). . . .
2. . . . One of the meanings of penitential fasting is to help us recover an interior life. The effort of moderation in food also extends to other things that are not necessary, and this is a great help to the spiritual life. Moderation, recollection and prayer go hand in hand.
This principle can be appropriately applied to the mass media. Their usefulness is indisputable, but they must not become the “masters” of our life. In how many families does television seem to replace personal conversation rather than to facilitate it! A certain “fasting” also in this area can be healthy, both for devoting more time to reflection and prayer, and for fostering human relations.
3. . . . Mary is the model to whom we can all look. Let us ask her to give us the secret of that “spiritual fast” which sets us free from the slavery of things, strengthens our soul and makes it ever ready to meet the Lord.