Holy Week has had me thinking about a tendency I sometimes have to be stricter than the Church. You see, I'm not required to fast on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday, because I'm breastfeeding. And yet, every year (except for last year, when I was heavily pregnant and nauseated on Ash Wednesday and had a 6-day-old baby on Good Friday), I try to fast because I feel like I should, even though I end up feeling ill. Those who know me know that I can be quite mean when I'm hungry - it's worse when I'm breastfeeding, because I'm even hungrier.
I don't know why I try to make myself fast from food, at least somewhat (I didn't completely fast, just ate quite a bit less), but I do. As my husband was gently scolding me for doing that, it occurred to me that what I was doing was in a way not trusting God. I fully believe that God has provided us with the Church, and the Church has set forth the requirements on fasting for Ash Wednesday and Good Friday, and I should trust. I guess it's along the same lines as someone thinking the penance they've been given is too light and adding to it, when we should trust that the penance given was exactly what was needed.
Now, I think there's nothing wrong with going above and beyond the requirements when done out of love for God. For example, there's nothing wrong with someone observing the old Eucharistic fast from midnight instead of the 1-hour Eucharistic fast that is now in place, provided it is done out of reverence and not because one thinks it is required or that the new requirement is too lenient. In fact, I think it is an act of humility to submit in this way. For me, it is humbling to admit that I need to eat regularly instead of fasting on those days, and not to try to make it too burdensome for me. Really, that defeats the purpose, for it is not to be a burden, but a reminder to look to God and to trust in Him. It's a mortification, yes, but isn't intended to make us miserable or ill. Hopefully I can remember this next year.