Over at In the Light of the Law, canonist Edward Peters has a proposal.
Be sure to go over there and spike his stats.
Here is his piece, with my emphases.
Proposal: Extend the Communion fast
I have just published a short article proposing that the Communion fast (1983 CIC 919) be calculated from the start of Mass (instead of from the reception of Communion) and that the fast be extended to three hours (instead of the current one hour). See Edward Peters, "The Communion Fast: a Reconsideration", Antiphon 11 (2007) 234-244. Briefly, my reasons are:
1. A one hour "fast" is physically insufficient to bring the human body into a fasting state, meaning that the spiritual benefits long associated with corporal preparation for Communion are lost. [We are both body and soul, according to our human nature. To be properly disposed to receive Holy Communion requires a spiritual preparation but also a physical preparation. That is one reason, not the only, why we fast before Communion. Remember that the physical dimension is very important. We are not merely ghosts in a meat machine. Think about the importance of the physical manner of reception of Holy Communion: standing does something different to us than kneeling.]
2. Making reception of Communion relevant to calculating the fast leads to distracting cogitations about the liturgy itself (e.g., worrying about whether the length of the homily or sung responses or angling to the end of the Communion line might allow one to complete the fast in time).
3. Calculating the fast from reception of Communion reinforces the assumption of many that "going to Communion" is the only important thing about Mass (rather than helping them see, e.g., the Sunday obligation as a liturgical one fundamentally oriented to worship [Rather than merely getting your obligation ticket validated.]).
4. A fast oriented only to reception of Communion diminishes the faithful’s appreciation for the Liturgy of the Word as an encounter with Christ worthy of preparation in its own right (see Mk VI: 34-42 on Jesus’ example of teaching hungry people before He fed them). [Related to the previous point.]
5. The brevity of the current fast means that Catholics with guilty or doubtful consciences have no discrete way to refrain from going up to Communion without attracting attention, resulting in pressure on them to approach the Eucharist under conditions that risk profanation. [I think this is one of the most damaging things that resulted from shortening the Communion fast. I have written on this many times and am very glad Peters has too! Well done. There is too much psychological pressure on people at Mass to get up and go forward. Row by row Communion does this too, I think.]
6. Imposing as a requirement of law what is scarcely impossible to avoid doing anyway (how many people really eat and drink on their way to Mass?) makes legal norms seem like empty exercises, in turn fostering a diminished respect for the role of law in ecclesiastical society. [Hmmm.. subtle, but good.]
My article outlines these problems in light of the history of the Communion fast and demonstrates, I think, that reforming the Communion fast as proposed above would resolve each of these issues quickly and completely.
We’ll see who might agree. [I do.]
PS: If you don’t already know the Society for Catholic Liturgy, publisher of Antiphon, check it out today!
Remember, the present law is one hour before the reception of Holy Communion. That is the law. You can fast longer if you wish.
However, Peters has a longer view here. He is considering big picture issue, such as
What do we think Mass is?
What do we think the Church’s law is for?
What do we receive at Mass?
I think these questions, and therefore the proposal, is also bound up with Pope Benedict’s efforts to revitalize our Catholic identity in the modern world, ruled by secular relativism.
If we don’t know who we are, we have nothing to say to or give to the world.
Our Catholic identity was once shaped by many traditions, often codifed in law. We not only knew more about ourselves as Catholics through these things, but non-Catholics recognized us as well out there in the world.
For example, meat-less Fridays: everyone knew this about Catholics. Women and girls wearing veils, even on the way to Church. Fasting. I am sure you could come up with other things.
I think we have lost too much.