In My Thoughts and In My Words…

Sin begins in our thoughts. It’s no accident that, at Mass during the Penitential Rite, we ask forgiveness beginning with admission of those sins we’ve committed “in my thoughts” and then we add, “and in my words, in what I have done, and in what I have failed to do.” Repentance involves thinking.

That’s the primary reason that we practice fasting during Lent – not because food is bad but because eating involves thinking and we need to pay attention to our thoughts. We think about being hungry and how to satisfy that hunger. Fasting helps us to pay attention to our thinking at a very superficial level so that we can apply that same discipline to other levels of thinking that lead to sin. It’s brilliant psychology: start at a level that we can exert some control over and then apply that control to deeper levels of thought.

All this to say that we should encourage our students to fast during Lent while helping them connect that action to their thinking and how we need to “change our mind” during Lent so that our choices bring us closer to Jesus.

Consider inviting your class to choose a time to fast in solidarity with one another in the coming week. In other words, agree upon giving up a meal on a specific day at a specific time, knowing that you will all attempt to do so together. Encourage them to do something during that time that helps them to move closer to Jesus (pray, do good works, serve others). Then, the following week, you can talk about the experience and how the discipline of fasting gives us discipline over our thoughts which leads to discipline in our actions.

About Joe Paprocki 2742 Articles
Joe Paprocki, DMin, is National Consultant for Faith Formation at Loyola Press, where, in addition to his traveling/speaking responsibilities, he works on the development team for faith formation curriculum resources including Finding God: Our Response to God’s Gifts and God’s Gift: Reconciliation and Eucharist. Joe has more than 35 years of experience in ministry and has presented keynotes, presentations, and workshops in more than 100 dioceses in North America. Joe is a frequent presenter at national conferences including the Los Angeles Religious Education Congress, the Mid-Atlantic Congress, and the National Conference for Catechetical Leadership. He is the author of numerous books, including the best seller The Catechist’s Toolbox, A Church on the Move, Under the Influence of Jesus, and Called to Be Catholic—a bilingual, foundational supplemental program that helps young people know their faith and grow in their relationship with God. Joe is also the series editor for the Effective Catechetical Leader and blogs about his experiences in faith formation at


  1. I just read a piece on Lent that explained fasting & sacrifice in a very positive light. It said we shouldn’t only look at what we give up but we should look at what we receive when we give something up. For example if we are fasting from impatience, we should look at the calm we are receiving from being patient.
    It was a bit of a different spin that helped me…

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