QUAERITUR: How long must we fast before Communion in a TLM?

From a reader:

When [receiving Holy Communion] in the Extraordinary Form Mass is one required to observe the older fast (as opposed to the 1 hour fast required for the OF)? 

If so, how many hours of fasting is required?


No.  You are not required to keep a Communion fast according to the old laws.  You are required to observe it according to the law presently in force.

The law at present, for Latins at least, says one hour before the reception of Communion.  That is, not before the beginning of Mass, but before Communion.

Of course you are free to do more than that.  In the old days, three hours became the length of time for the Eucharistic fast.  Before that, it was from midnight.  All this was changed.  The 1983 Code is in force now.

We must be properly disposed to receive. 

We are creatures of both soul and body.  Both need their disposition.

The spiritual disposition is being in the state of grace.

The physical disposition is fasting beforehand for the length of time determined necessary by the Church.

Holy Church would do well to return us to a three hour fast. 

Making it just a little harder might help people understand that what they are doing is important, and it has consequences.

A longer fast (i.e., making things just a little harder) would help to increase both our sense of the importance of the Eucharist and also our own need to be properly disposed, spiritually and physically, to receive. 

But no one has asked my input about that.

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  1. David D. says:

    Unless one is eating in the church parking lot or during the Mass itself, how could one really fail to keep the fast under the current law?

  2. Frank H says:

    For the last six months or so I have returned to the observation of a three hour fast before Holy Communion. It is quite remarkable how it has elevated my awareness and prayerfulness during the Mass.

  3. Pseudomodo says:


    What is one to do in the case of a breakfast before mass only to find that mass is VERY short and that communion is less than one hour after one has eaten? Would it be prudent to refrain from holy communion in this case?

  4. Jenny says:


    Donuts in the lobby! :)

  5. Frank H says:

    To follow up on David’s comment – last summer our Parish concluded a week of youth group activity with a buffet dinner…followed by Mass! It did not appear that too many of the youth, nor the adults, were conscious of the one hour fast, while I was keeping my eye on the clock. That experience helped me appreciate the benefits of the three hour fast, as I mention above.

  6. Flambeaux says:

    In the case of a Low Mass in the EF, you can get from the Introibo ad altare Dei to the Communion in under an hour.

    I’ve also noted this is likely in the OF for daily Mass.

    I agree that it is less likely to occur on a Sunday or Feast Day, but it is still possible (short songs, short reading, short homily) to get to Communion in a sung OF in under 45 minutes.

    Least likely in Sung or Solemn Mass in the EF, or any kind of Pontifical Mass. Although I have no experience of the Pontifical Low Mass so I really can’t comment there.

    In all things, exercise prudence and caution. When in doubt, I elect to make a spiritual communion rather than a physical.

  7. Andy K. says:

    I always fall back on what the Angelus Press missal says:
    The minimum LEGAL requirement in force for the year of this missal’s publication (2004) is set out here for your information however, it must be remembered that living the Catholic Faith requires far more than accomplishing the bare minimum.

  8. Amelia says:

    I hope people are speaking up when these doughnuts and dinners before Mass occur. Inexcusable.

    The fast from midnight was, from what I’ve understood, because there was usually just one Mass and it was at the crack of dawn. As children we did it easily and unbegudgingly even when the Mass wasn’t until 11:00. My mother encouraged us to do more, not less, regardless of what the Church in America allowed.

    Doughnuts? They should be drawn and quartered. Did it cease after you educated them and had a chat with your priest?

  9. Michael E says:

    As a younger person who has recently discovered the joys of the TLM, I am struggling with these issues.

    It seems to me that the 3-hour fast before the Eucharist and abstention from meat on Fridays are great traditions and beneficial practices. So, I have been trying to follow them, and have been for the most part successful.

    But part of the beauty of these practices, it seems to me, comes from the fact that I have no choice. That is, these are Rules imposed by the Church — and so it forces me to sacrifice my own physical needs and desires for the “greater good.”

    But that is not the reality. Because instead I read that the one-hour fast (i.e., a negligible fast) is all that is required, only that it is even “better” should I take it upon myself to fast for 3 hours or from midnight the night before. Or that I need not abstain from meat, though the practice is “especially encouraged” by the Bishops.

    So now, rather than following a simple Rule of the Church, I am left with having to choose what rule I want to create for myself, and then to stick with it. It is more trying this way. And 95% of other Catholics that I meet do not share these traditions. I hope that one day these practices will be brought back to prominence and be widely followed and enforced.

  10. James says:

    The one-hour fast is a joke. I would have to go out of my way to violate this fast, when it should be the other way around.

    Why bother having one at all if it is going to be negligible?

    I honestly don’t know what our shepherds were thinking. How many Mass-going Catholics even think about abstaining from meat on Fridays? Not very many. And consider that most Catholics don’t even go to Mass each week.


  11. The Church can be stricter or looser in its discipline to deal with the times. We have seen the results of too lax a discipline, and the results are not good. We should definitely return to a 3-hour fast.

  12. Martin says:

    In recent days, I have been going to Mass at 10am without having had breakfast, whereas before, I had breakfast before Mass, though of course observing the one hour fast. For me, there is no great sacrifice involved with a midnight fast. I retire at around midnight, get up, say prayers, get ready, go to Mass. Then after Mass I am able to have breakfast, though of course not immediately. I have to drive home first, debrief and so forth.

    On reflection, the one hour fast actually takes more effort for me, since one is engaged in watching the clock and trying to gauge when to stop eating! But there is really no sacrifice or hardship here, and a one hour fast is, as someone else said, negligible.

    I’d argue for the return of a three hour fast, I think.

  13. The Orthodox and Byzantines observe a strict fast (nothing but water) from Vespers Saturday evening.

  14. therese b says:

    My grandmother got diabetes in the 1930s and could not make it to Communion for years, because she has to break her fast – there may have been a dispensation even then, but news of it did not make it to Birkenhead, or perhaps she just took her faith very seriously. On the other hand, when I caught my son, an altar server, eating just before going to Mass, he was perplexed when I told him he could not go to Communion. (Catholic primary school two years since 1st Communion- just don’t ask – and his friends are the same.) I know I sound like I’m about 180 – but goodness me! I wish the Holy Father would cause a letter to be read out in all churches explaining the rules – all of them. My son also says that he is the only child in his class that has been to Confession more than once. And, sadly, I believe him.

  15. Dave says:

    At the parish where I currently play the organ, they have coffee and donuts in the gym after each of the three Sunday Masses (8, 10, and 12.) Many of the choir members who sing for the 12:00 Mass routinely get food and drinks between choir warm-up and the start of Mass. I mentioned to the music director once that they shouldn’t be doing that because of the communion fast, and her response was, “No one follows that anymore.” I know the priest here wouldn’t care either; in fact, at a recent weekday Mass, he preached about how we shouldn’t be too concerned about following the rules, and he used the communion fast as an example. It’s hopeless.

  16. Nathan says:

    I’m in agreement with most here who think the 3 hour fast is a good idea. I wonder, though, if Our Blessed Lord has allowed the relaxation in the discipline to occur at this time so that we can voluntarily observe the more traditional fast prior to Holy Communion out of love rather than juridical obligation.

    Of course, Christian obedience is an act of love as well. I am not trying to imply that following the one hour fast is sinful or is somehow lacking in love, just that there is an opportunity here to perform a little extra sacrifice that Catholics have always done as an act of love and reparation.

    In Christ,

  17. Jess says:

    I disagree that a three-hour fast is a good idea. It would make it much more difficult for people to communicate daily, since often we must squeeze Mass in in the middle of our commute, after a lunch meeting, etc.

    I do think the Church should do more to emphasize making oneself properly disposed for Holy Communion. It is much better if one intentionally fasts for an hour than if one fasts after midnight because one sleeps too late to make breakfast before morning Mass.

  18. Seminarian says:

    The parish priest at my internship parish (I am a seminarian) often finishes eating supper a few minutes before our evening Mass on weekdays. The Mass only lasts about 20 minutes, so he is definitely not following the 1-hour fast. He told me that he follows “the Roman fast”.

    Also, I heard from someone that there might be a dispensation for the 1-hour fast for priests celebrating several Masses closely together (presumably so that they don’t faint from lack of nutrition during the latter Masses???).

    Does anyone know whether such a dispensation exists, and also what the “Roman fast” might be? I would be very interested in knowing.

    PS: I recently asked my parish priest if I could just eat after the Mass (or earlier than he does) so as to keep the 1-hour fast. He smiled at me a bit condescendingly and said, “Or course”. I am grateful that he at least respects my desire to follow the Church’s discipline in this regard.

  19. 3 hour fast would be a good idea…but the question would be would my sleep hours be counted amongst the 3 (I go to daily Mass in the morning usually)…if that’s the case it shouldn’t be too bad for those of us daily Communicants when Mass is celebrated in the morning, I could be wrong, feel free to correct me.

  20. tradone says:

    Jess said; “I disagree that a three-hour fast is a good idea. It would make it much more difficult for people to communicate daily, since often we must squeeze Mass in in the middle of our commute, after a lunch meeting, etc.”

    In this case, if on has not fasted they simple attend Mass and don’t receive Communion. There is such a thing as “spiritual Communion. But this is probably never taught. People just don’t get it!

  21. Genna says:

    The children making their First Holy Communion on Trinity Sunday (don’t ask me why) this year were called on to the sanctuary by the deacon and asked if they knew what Holy Communion meant. Silence. The deacon explained that it was to learn to love one another, then added that we should all think of the homeless and hungry when we received the food of Holy Communion. And what did they all have for breakfast? One little lad knew the answer to that one. “Sausages!” he shouted confidently. Ripples of laughter through the congregation and an indulgent smile from the celebrant. That’s when I got up, genuflected, and left for a later Mass at another parish. It took all my self-control not to weep.

  22. Muscovite says:

    I’ve seen a teenage boy eating an apple while walking into Mass with his mother at our parish, so I think it IS possible, if not easy, to break the one hour fast.

  23. Prestonian says:

    … and my eldest was offered a sweet as we walked to church for his first holy communion. Offered it by the grandmother of another first communicant walking with us!

    The “No!” was audible all over the parish.

    Names have been changed to protect the guilty.

  24. Prestonian says:

    Incidentally, that was on a Trinity Sunday. What’s odd (Genna) about first communions being on Trinity Sunday?

  25. paul says:

    I think instead of legislating laws on fasting, we should listen to the reasons for so many of the changes in the fasting laws. The popes liberalized these laws in the hopes that more people would communicate at Mass I believe. Today practically everyone receives Holy Communion- perhaps we should take it upon ourselves to see what we voluntarily can do. I have started to fast from midnight for morning Masses- for a reasonably healthy person it is not much of a sacrifice.

  26. Alice says:

    I’m in the minority here, but I’m thankful for the one hour Communion fast. If it were longer, I would have gone my entire pregnancy thinking “Surely, I will feel better soon” and not asked for a dispensation from the fast. Even an hour without something to suck on or eat was hard for me, so there were a couple months when I couldn’t receive. When I can, I like to fast from Midnight.

    I do teach my first Communicants about the fast and I do know that they teach about it in the Catholic grade schools around here. The parents may not know about it (and teach their children that it’s not important by example), but I don’t get the vibe that people ignore it purposefully.

  27. Magister 63 says:

    Great! With the one hour fast before communion, at our parish during High Mass I could share my 2 year olds’ snacks during the Prayers at the Foot of the Altar and still be OK. I think the Traditional Mass demonstrates the absurdity and spiritual uselessness of the Pauline fast! We keep the three hour fast, or close to it. Even with a Novus Ordo, the fast is fairly difficult to derive any meaning from. If you have a twenty minute or half hour car ride after breakfast, there is no reflective time before Mass where the fast is recognizable.

  28. Joe of St Therese – Fasting “counts” while you are asleep. If you get up and go to Mass before breakfast you have fasted from the time you went to bed or, really, the last time you ate before you went to bed.

    A few thoughts:
    – Mass and Communion do not always go together as they do in the US or other places. In mission territories people might not have notice to fast from midnight or for three hours before receiving communion, especially if they don’t know when the priest or Extraordinary Minister of Holy Communion will arrive. Things are not the same everywhere and the CJC legislates for the entire Church.
    – Another reason the law of fasting was changed was because, as seems to be the case with some people here, the focus was on the fast and not on the other requirements for receiving communion which Fr. Z mentioned: being in a state of grace, being spiritually disposed by prayerful preparation for Mass and Communion. Consider this: If it’s less than an hour between the time you get to church and begin your preparation for Mass and Communion and the time you receive Communion you might not be adequitely prepared.
    – In the same vein, those who were ill and could not fast absented themselves from Communion for years depriving themselves of sacramental grace, grace without which their salvation was/is much more difficult.
    – Fasting done out of love of God is of
    greater merit than that done out of obedience to a law. Rather than bemoan and criticize the current legislation why not keep a longer fast out of love for God or in reparation for sins and of course, keep it to yourself. The latter leads to holiness, the former to sin.
    – Fasting done because “it’s the law” is of little merit. It fulfills the obligation but is legalistic. Remember what our Lord said about the sabbath laws. How many people couldn’t wait for daylight savings time because it meant that technically they could stay out and party until 1:00 am and still receive communion? How many people start snacking at midnight on Ash Wednesday?
    – YOU are responsible for your salvation, not the Church. The Church and her bishops and priests provide you with the help and means, but the responsibility is yours. It’s up to you to take that responsibility; it isn’t up to the Church to impose laws to that end. And even if she did, keeping laws wont get you saved.

  29. Joe M. says:

    Both Mt 26:26 and Mk 14:22 explicitly state that Jesus required no fast at all at the initiating Eucharist.

  30. Frank H says:

    “Both Mt 26:26 and Mk 14:22 explicitly state that Jesus required no fast at all at the initiating Eucharist. Comment by Joe M.”

    And your point is?

  31. Mark G. says:

    Tradone – a spiritual communion is more of a theological proposition than doctrine. Yet the Church does certainly admit that God can & does impart grace outside of the normal sacramental means, yet does not define to what effect or under what circumstances – it’s completely God’s perogative!

    Still, a valid point is made that a huge number of people receive when they shouldn’t, even if they break the fast accidentally, as I saw a parish kitchen staff worker do recently. And certainly those people, should they not receive, should pray for the gift of grace.

  32. Allena says:

    Well, i currently do the one hour fast, and I’m grateful for it. We live an hour from Church, and with five kids it’s hard enough. Add to that, our mass is at 7 pm, so we’de have to eat at 4. We don’t get home till 10, so it’s too long for the kids. Previously, except for during pregnancy, I did the old fast from Midnight, and I prefer it. It “feels” right.

    I think the new fast can be helpful, such as in cases of pregnancy and situations like ours, but it is sad that so many disregard it entirely now.

    I find it even more disturbing that people line up, manhandle the precious body, then troop back to the pew when they BRAG that they haven’t been to confession in months/years. It’s another sad example of the degeneration of the theology of the real presence.

    It seems to me, that you give an inch, and Catholics take it to mean, anything goes. sad.

  33. Jacque B says:

    My 2 cents on this subject is… Making more rules only makes more rules. How about we start teaching the rules that we already have. How about the American Catholics stop whining about what they can’t do and start doing what the Church actually teaches. (I’m talking to myself here as much as anyone else.)I’m a convert and have found the Church to be so full of tradition, that sets us apart from other Christian traditions. Why should we want to be like everyone else?
    Just my 2 cents.
    Jacque B

  34. Ken says:

    If someone asked me if she should get an abortion, I would not merely cite her the law.

    The FSSP is to (finally) be commended for, in its 2009 Ordo, spelling out the fast and abstinence regulations in place in 1962. After all, we are talking about the 1962 missal, no?

    You are not required to fast from midnight until Communion or to abstian from meat on Fridays and during Lent under the post-Vatican II law, but neither are you required to attend the traditional Latin Mass.

    To me, belching a Denny’s Grand Slam during the traditional Latin Mass just doesn’t seem right. No, it’s not required to fast from midnight or at least three hours — but we should PROMOTE it — it should be the first response before citing the law. This blog, instead, has (several times) merely recommended to do what you think is best for you. I disagree with that approach and favor the FSSP approach.

  35. phy1729 says:

    Although the three hour fast is a good discipline, I do not think it should be the necessary fast. I receive Holy Communion daily; but unless I woke up at four, I would not be able to eat breakfast; and because I have school afterwards, eating breakfast after Mass is not an option.

    It is quite possible to break the fast for a weekday OF Mass as at my school it is usually 20 minutes long and one priest will usually finish in 15.

    At last Sunday\’s Mass the time for confession before Mass went over about half an hour, and one person started to eat, but before he could take a bite someone reminded him about the fast.

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