Tomorrow is the Feast of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, which you may have noticed is exactly nine months after 8 December: the feast of the Immaculate Conception.

(Just like Christmas being nine months after 25 March: the Feast of the Anunciation.)

Since tomorrow is a Solemnity, celebrating the Resurrection of the Lord, which doesn’t lend itself to penance, Pope Francis has asked all Catholics to fast and pray today, in honour of Our Lady, Queen of Peace, and for the intention of peace in the Middle East.

Here’s a copy of the urgent instruction communicated from the Papal Nuncio in Canberra to the President of the Australian Catholic Bishops’ Conference:

For a legal analysis of the Pope’s request, visit In the Light of the Law. And for good background and context, you can’t go past The Moynihan Letters.

Fasting takes many forms of course. The spirit of fasting — a spirit of penance and mortification — can be applied to activities other than eating.

Maybe you really hate voting. Well, in a spirit of penance, you might consider voting below the line!

Sack cloth and ashes.