I was reminded this evening as I was scrolling through my facebook feed that August 1, 2011 is the first day of Ramadan for my Muslim friends. I had the opportunity to work with three Muslim women at different times. This was barely post-9/11 and I was working in Hoboken, across the river from Manhattan. All three were so different in so many ways, only one of which was their faith. One was very strict and did not let any part of her hair, arms, legs, chest, etc. be seen. Another was more casual about covering her hair and arms, especially in the classroom. One was kind of in between. I became really close to the woman who was more casual; she is a great friend.
All three women fasted during the month of Ramadan. I understood it from a religious perspective because of my knowledge of Lent and the importance of fasting within the religious experience. But from the hungry girl inside me perspective, it is almost unfathomable. I am not a very nice person when I am hungry, and, for instance, right now I am trying to work on eating healthier and I am hungry!! I had a great dinner and even had a piece of fruit right before I came upstairs. And all I can think about right now is food. These women were working in a preschool classroom. We had morning snack, lunch and afternoon snack! There was no avoiding food, yet they never wavered.
I have respect for people who can make a sacrifice like that in the name of their faith. It makes me want to be a better person and a better Catholic. I know there is a lot of anti-Muslim sentiment out there. I can understand the why and how of that, as well. I just believe that it is misguided to denounce an entire faith because of it. When I speak to my friend about faith and life issues, our thoughts are more aligned than not. She reminds me to pray. She reminds me to pray with and for my husband, my marriage and my child. We share similar taste in clothing, jokes and food. She has made me food that is different and delicious and decidedly out of my comfort zone. It all comes back to food!
I wish blessings upon my Muslim friends this month. I am reminded that sacrifice plays an important role in faith. I think of it in this way: you can talk the talk, but can you walk the walk? What can I do to walk the walk of my faith?
Added 8/1/11 @ 9am:
Last night I was reading my bible (Catholic Women's devotional bible) before I fell asleep. Every few pages they have writings, devotionals, meditations, etc, written by a variety of authors including Mother Theresa, Catherine of Siena and Maria von Trapp. I was flipping through looking for a particular one on marriage when I found an article on fasting. Interestingly enough, it starts off about fasting in relationship to our weight-obsessed culture. I actually have a private blog in which I write about my daily struggles to get healthy so that really spoke to me on a deeper level.
However, the meat of the article was speaking to fasting as a work of mercy. It is presented in scripture as part of a holy trio of penitential practices that also include prayer and almsgiving. (Tobit 12:8; Matthew 6:1-8) A 5th century Doctor of the Church, Peter Chrysologus said: "Fasting is the soul of prayer, mercy (almsgiving) is the lifeblood of fasting. let no one try to separate them....so if you pray, fast; if you fast, show mercy."
Huh, I write about fasting and a few minutes later I happen to open the Bible to a writing on the very subject. God speaks to us in all different ways; I am glad I was listening.
My apologies for the paraphrasing of the text from The Catholic Women's Devotional Bible.