Since I started this thread, here is the point I was making elsewhere:
People are arguing over "obvious" acts of piety: head dressings.
But when it comes to fasting and money, mum's the word.
People do talk about it. People publish cookbooks about it. And of course here I am talking about fasting from food. I think within the "family" (a parish) such issues are healthy to discuss. Consigning oneself to the often general pastoral guidelines for many who attend parishes where the Priest has little time for face to face counseling on such matters and many of the folks in the parish are converts, not discussing such matters can lead to problems.
We discuss openly here about fasting. Not to the degree we do it, but nevertheless we do discuss it, which I think is helpful.
Since I was a competitive athlete in a variety of sports where weight was a factor and had to conform to an often strict diet, whether under- / over-eating to make weight, the food issues ain't no big deal. It also helps that I grew up poor and in the country for a large part of my life. Food was often scarce, work was hard, and we ate just about anything you can imagine. Being hungry ain't no big deal to me. And I don't neurotic hang-ups on food like many Americans.
So, although I am a mere catechumen, I have practical knowledge on how to manage quick and possible large changes in diet. This has been helpful for more than a few people who are Orthodox.
(But as I write this I've been suffering severe abdominal pain, so perhaps I am full it, literally).
RE: Money / Stewardship
Some people know me in RL and more and more folks are getting to know who I am and the parish I attend, thus I say the following in hope that it is helpful and not harmful.
The parish I attend has some 100+ registered families I believe. It is also a rather affluent congregation. The first fiscal discussion I attended, when I look at the budget for the year, I thought for sure there was a typo and a zero was omitted at the end of the yearly expenditures.
A man who serves the diocese our parish is in on matters financial was at the meeting. My Priest soft-sells pastorally typically. Well this fellow stood up and made clear that the parish was operating on a shoe-string budget of which the great majority was from fewer than 12 families and trusts from reposed parishioners and of those 12, something like 8 were couples over the age of 55.
That is dangerous. He exhorted clearly that many of the parish families could and should be giving more. He made some very pointed comments. I was impressed and thought it was entirely appropriate. Many others were not.
So, I think there is room for frank discussion about how much of our incomes we give to our parishes. People send their kids to schools they cannot enter via scholarship and pay their tuition, drive new cars every four years, take vacations during the summer rather during the seasons of Lent and Nativity when help around the parish is need very much.
But when you have a confluence of immigrants who are not used to giving much to the parish and white middle to upper middle class Midwesterners who find talking about such matters to be impolite and his behind the Scriptural passages on "charity", it can kill a parish over time.
The discussion of finances within a parish is not discussing charity.
As are discussions of time spent helping out at the parish. When stuff needs to be done, it seems like many organizations 5% are doing 90% of the work. Since I can't give much in the way of finances and am not married not have kids, I can basically live at the parish if the need be. I made this clear to my Priest and made certain that he and others in charge of other ministries can basically call on me at any time. This was not boasting but a simple statement of fact. Just like I explain my possible contributions to my employer, I see no difference in having such clear and direct discussions with parish family. Families have exactly these sorta talks.
So we mustn't reduce stewardship to just wealth.
(As I write this, interestingly I just received a parish email about educating the parish more clearly on points of stewardship.)
A fellow comes to our parish whose fiancee is Orthodox. In the catechumen class, he mentioned that his "home style" of church they frequently allot $4 / day to eat on and give the balance what they normally spend to charities in the community.
A few folks were taken back by this by their body language. He was not boasting. He was interested how integrated as a community a typical Orthodox parish is on how they conduct their lives. His point was well taken by me and real food for thought.
I see no reason why a circle of folks if not an entire parish can make such decisions and support each other with love and work together.
RE: Such questions by newbies here
I think many folks who ask about such matters here are in situations where they might be shy to ask their Priest, if that is the case, then they should be encouraged to discuss the matter with their Priest. But some folks here truly have a hard time getting face time, in that case, why not be open about one's behavior?
The earliest Christian were quite open as well know, even with their confessions. Over time this has changed, but I think their is room for open and humble discussion of matters practical to health and longevity of our parishes and our own practical "spiritual practices". After all, many give advice here to newbies on a prayer rule . . .
I recently received some excellent advice on praying for the reposed non-Orthodox. And many here have concretely enriched my day to day practice in threads and in PMs by being open about their lives.
And let's remember St. Paul when he gives his bona fides, he mentions his "spiritual" experience to say he ought not boast of it (I crack up every time I read it) and then goes on to mention the litany of sufferings he had gone under to prove his authority. Was he boasting?
In short, I think piety is used to avoid difficult discussions, while at other times to beat other discussions to death.