GUEST RANT: the present Eucharistic Fast is a JOKE

Stuart Reid, a regular columnist in the UK’s best Catholic weekly, The Catholic Herald, wrote a smart thing the other day!

My emphases and comments:


Counter-Reformation corner (first in an occasional series on ways to reform the reforms): The present fasting rules must go (with respect), [Do I hear an "Amen!"?] and at the very least the three-hour fast must return, ["AMEN!"] perhaps to begin with through local initiatives. The requirement that Catholics should refrain from food and drink for only one hour before receiving Communion – that is, for half an hour before Mass begins – is an insult. It calls into question the strength, determination and moral fibre of the people now known as the People of God.

At school we managed the fast from midnight by going to Mass before breakfast. This was not, of course, a voluntary act of piety on our part, and I can’t say it was always an especially happy or holy experience. But I am pretty sure that none of us ever fainted from hunger.

There is no risk of anyone fainting from hunger at Mass these days, of course. Here’s how it now works in the Church Militant: you must finish your 10-course meal, with 17 different wines, plus cigars, by 5.30 in the evening if you want to go to Communion at the six o’clock Saturday-for-Sunday Mass. [ROFL!] Communion will not be distributed until at least 6.30, so you will have observed the fast. Provided that you are sober enough to reach the altar rails, or, depending on your parish, the "collection point" for Holy Communion, and have not been so gluttonous that you are in a state of mortal sin, you will be able to receive.

Fast? What fast? There is no fast. [Do I hear an "Amen!"?] It’s time there was one. Might we make an exception for tea, though? The older among us, I have been told, can’t quite get off to a flying start without regular cups of tea in the morning.

Good for Mr. Reid.  Bang on and kudos.

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  1. Well, Mr. Reid is bit more rambunctious than I was, but that aside, I argue for the same result: See Edward Peters, “The Communion fast: a reconsideration”, Antiphon 11 (2007) 234-244, on-line at

  2. Margaret says:

    Self-interested question: would such a rule apply to pregnant women?

    I do agree that one hour is a joke. There is no actual fasting involved. But I’ve also experienced many times during various pregnancies that going three hours without taking some small bit of protein or carb actually is enough to leave me pretty light-headed and shaky. The baby, after all, does not observe any fast whatsoever and merrily keeps taking food from mama as needed…

  3. medievalist says:

    Give me a long homily and you give me an opportunity to snack in the parking lot of the church on Sunday morning.

    The three-hour fast would be an excellent idea to bring back. And, although I try to keep it myself, I admit to sneaking in a cup of tea (but no protein/replacement shakes!) on those mornings where I face a long breakfast-less walk to church. If I want a more substantial breakfast…I get up earlier to make it.

    Of course, our fasting should always be in accordance with age, infirmity, condition, etc., which Holy Church has known since the beginning.

  4. dcs says:

    Self-interested question: would such a rule apply to pregnant women?

    I would think that, if any such rule were enacted, those who could not observe the fast (for whatever reason) could be dispensed by their pastor or a confessor.

  5. Bill in Texas says:

    Margaret, I think there are exceptions for people with medical conditions or pregnancy. I’m diabetic, for example, and long fasting periods can be risky (yes, I can deal with that by going to Mass early, I’m just sayin’ that the Church does make – and did make, in the old days – allowances for those who need them).

  6. dcs, et al., no need for a dispensation, medical necessity (e.g., pregnancy, diabetes, etc.) ALWAYS permits eating under these circumstances.

  7. Jenny says:

    Agreed that the current fast is not much of a sacrifice. Given the driving distance to our parish, I could finish breakfast right before I leave and still be in compliance. The only “sacrifice” is to make sure that I don’t pick up a doughnut on the way into church.

  8. Mickey says:

    I always treated the fast as 1 hour prior to the start of Holy Mass. My reasoning was that the distribution of Holy Communion was the culmination of the Eucharistics Sacrifice, and which began when the priest entered the Sanctuary…

    I recognize this is a bit of a narrow perspective, but a 1 hour fast is hardly that to begin with. Never really considered that I should be counting minutes…sort of makes it into a legalistic ritual for me if I resorted to counting minutes…

  9. NLucas says:

    Is there merit to the Faithful voluntarily following the three hour fast prior to Holy Communion? We’ve tried do that for a while, and we make the younger children fast from 1 hour prior to the start of Holy Mass, to at least have some manner of preparation.

    Aside from the obvious rationale of fasting to honor our Blessed Lord when we recieve Him sacramentally, so much of what we’ve lost in the relaxation of the fasting discipline is the value of simple obedience to the precepts of the Church. Do we run the risk of spiritual pride in going beyond the Church’s law in the Communion fast?

    In Christ,

  10. Salvatore_Giuseppe says:

    I agree it basically is no fast at all.

    I must also admit that I am guilty of looking at the clock, and justifying eating just a little more lunch(in the case of 12:05 daily Mass, I would go to lunch around 11, just across the way), on the basis of, “I’ll just sit further back.”

    Not the usual, I aim for a fast from midnight for Sunday Masses, but sometimes hunger gets to me

  11. Jack Hughes says:

    Although Stuart Reid is on to to something I do think that the rules need to be SLIGHTLY flexible e.g. I went to the day of Recollection in Bristol last Sunday and the Mass didn’t start until half past noon, it also went on a little longer than usual becuase on an exceptionally long (albiet Brilliant) homily.

  12. Tim Ferguson says:

    NLucas – not at all. I think it would be most salubrious to voluntarily extend one’s own fast byond the current precepts of the Church. There would be, possibly, a danger of spiritual pride creeping in, but that can be kept in check through regular examination of conscience and recourse to a confessor. Look at it this way – just because the faithful are enjoined to refrain from meat on the Fridays of Lent does not mean that they MUST eat meat on the other days. Similarly, just because the Church now (in a fit of misguided compassion, I think) has shortened the communion fast to one hour does not mean that you HAVE to eat something 61 minutes before receiving the Holy Eucharist.

    Voluntarily imposing upon oneself a stricted discipline (again, presuming a regular pattern of examining one’s conscience and regular recourse to the confessional) can be a very salubrious thing!

  13. I usually follow the 3 hour fast…the one hour is indeed a joke

  14. Frank H says:

    I had the privilege of attending a Mass this morning celebrated by the great Bishop Athanasius Schneider (author of “Dominus Est”). After Mass he gave a talk (same one we heard in Detroit on Saturday)on Eucharistic piety. While he focuses on posture and gesture, and didn’t mention the fast, it seems to me that the two concerns go hand in hand toward restoring more widespread belief in the Real Presence.

    I returned to the practice of a three hour fast about a year ago, and find it spiritually fortifying. It’s not a huge sacrifice, but does require enough of an adjustment to routine that your awareness is heightened. And it seems like that postponed cup of coffee tastes even better after Mass!

  15. Laura T says:

    I think my husband and I will start doing this. I think it would be beneficial to us because, as it is, the one hour fast is rarely a sacrifice and we don’t even have to think about it. I’ve also noticed that I sometimes still feel physically full while at Mass, having eaten only 30 minutes before it starts, and that just doesn’t seem right.

  16. bnaasko says:

    Considering that my preference on Sundays is the Sung High Mass, the one hour fast means nothing more than don’t eat at mass. Since there is usually at least an hour between the begining of mass and communion on Sundays, I think I could swing by the parish hall for a donut just before mass and still not violate the rule, which seems like no rule at all.

    Our pastor encourages everybody who can to keep the 3 hour fast.

  17. Dave N. says:

    I think virtually everyone could agree on this–a much neglected spiritual exercise and a good way to become cognizant of the Body (1 Cor.) that we partake in.

    Re-emphasizing the fast would also (potentially) cut down on people bringing those ubiquitous water bottles into the church! I hope liquids can be included.

  18. Titus says:

    “Re-emphasizing the fast would also (potentially) cut down on people bringing those ubiquitous water bottles into the church! I hope liquids can be included.”

    Even if the fast were reinvigorated, it would almost surely not extend to water. Water hasn’t been covered by the Eucharistic fast since the reign of Bl. Pius IX. Not that having a water bottle in church is necessary or appropriate in most imaginable circumstances . . .

  19. Melody says:

    My reaction to the current fast is “Come on, it’s not swimming!”

    I usually have a nice breakfast and attend mass in the afternoon, well past three hours later.

  20. Grabski says:

    To be fair, the rules once said that you had to fast from Midnight, meaning you could come from Christmas Eve meal and could walk into the church munching…

  21. Fr. John Mary says:

    There is something very important about truly fasting before receiving Holy Communion…the desire to make God the very nourishment of one’s whole life. Of course, those who for medical reasons must eat are not the norm here; this is, as Dr. Peters has already said,a part of the understanding and application of the discipline of the Church.
    I think we need to also consider the aspect of participating in Holy Mass as an end in and of itself without seeing reception of Holy Communion as a required part of this. All too often, people approach the altar without the due preparation (whether it be out of habit or if they are in the state of serious sin but feel obliged to come to Communion nevertheless). I know frequent Holy Communion was something that was encouraged from the time of Pope Saint Pius X, and I do not discourage this; I am just wondering if we have become so accustomed to connect participation at Mass with the reception of Holy Communion. It used to be a devout custom to assist at Holy Mass (I do this in our community when I am not the celebrant at the EF Masses) as a form of adoration and praise of God, as well as a way to petition for special intentions.

  22. Kate says:

    My entire life has been under the one-hour fast.

    Some older Catholics I know spoke of the “bad old days” when you had to go without eating from Saturday night dinner until Mass the next morniong, and nearly fainting, receive Holy Eucharist.

    I was always thankful I did not have to suffer that way. Not to be crass, but I’m sure I would have been nauseous without breakfast.

    But three hours? When was this rule in effect? (Why, I can eat at 6:30 and go to 10:00 Mass without a problem.)

    I have read and heard that there is something mystical about physically hungering for Our Lord. One of my daughters (12) told me that on fast days, when she receives Holy Eucharist, she is not hungry anymore.

    While I truly admire that and have had it happen to me a few times, I must admit that when I have made a 24 hour bread and water fast, I spend the entire (entire) Mass thinking about what I’m going to eat afterwards. I would very much like to raise my thoughts to higher things, but I have not yet been able to get past a grumbling stomach. One Ash Wednesday I had to run out of the church because (tried thought I might), the nausea did not pass. What for one person may be a sensation of hunger may be a complete blood sugar crash for someone else. A cup of tea (with sugar?) might be a welcome option to go along with a more rigorous fast schedule.

  23. ROFL!

    With an evening meal like that, you may have other issues going on that require a visit to the Confessional! LOL. I think, then, if Mr. Reid’s ideas are implemented, we’ll need more Confessionals open before Mass on Sunday (an idea I think is also LONG overdue).

    My personal practice is I don’t eat on Sundays until after Mass so if I go to a late Mass it’s a really late meal.I’ve found myself avoiding the Vigil Mass in recent months. I think I much prefer actually attending Sunday Mass on Sunday.

  24. John UK says:

    I agree totally with those who seek the restoration of the three-hour fast, introduced, if I remember correctly, with the introduction of evening Masses.

    My own suggestion [based, admittedly, in a society where three meals a day remain the norm] is that this is coupled with the abstention from the main main meal preceding Mass. Thus – morning Mass: no breakfast; afternoon Mass [am I alone in alwys feeling very uncomfortable with these?]: no lunch; evening Mass: no dinner.

    I realise that there will be times when this is not appropriate – an early morning Mass may need to be followed by breakfast [break-fast] as has been since time immemorial; and an early evening Mass by dinner. However, I offer this suggestion, not as a hard and fast [pardon the pun] inflexible rule, but as a norm which should be departed from only with good reason [as, for example, under the older rules, the law of eucharistic fasting governed only those from age 7-70, not those who were ill, and so on].

    I would hope that something like this might satisfy the spirit, rather than the letter of the law, whose original rationale was that the Blessed Sacrament be the first food of the Christian’s day.

    The alternative would be to revert to fasting from midnight, and no more post-prandial or evening Masses. Some would weep with joy at this, others see it as an attempt to restrict access of the faithful to the heart of our Christian faith: the blessed Eucharist.

    John U.K.

  25. Eric says:

    plus cigars
    wait a sec
    one can smoke, can’t one?!

  26. Fr. John Mary says:

    John UK: I think you are on to something important. And I reiterate my previous post where I said that participating at Holy Mass is an end in and of itself. Spiritual communion used to be a very treasured practice: the desire to receive our Lord sacramentally when one could not, in fact, receive Him.
    There is a venerable tradition, going back centuries, where spiritual communion was looked upon as a very important part of Catholic spiritual life. Not that receiving sacramentally was not important; far from it. But when people, for whatever reason, were not properly disposed to receive our Lord in Holy Communion, a spiritual communion could, in fact, bring many graces, and a fruitful participation in Holy Mass. Just a thought.

  27. Scott W. says:

    Frankly, before we start this, we ought to make days of obligation actually fall on their respected days instead of rolling them over if they are within a light-year of a Sunday.

  28. lmgilbert says:

    In my youth and childhood we fasted from Midnight, and it was not a good thing for family life on Sunday morning. In fact, it was a disaster. Both my wife and I recall having to abstain from water during the reign of Pius XII.

    If there is a three hour fast, it should be restricted to adults IMHO, lest children be provoked to resentment.

  29. twherge says:

    The last comment about tea reminds me of Bishop Sheen’s advice to priest to not make their morning holy hour until they’ve had a cup of coffee, but that is something not fixed in time against the Mass.

  30. Prof. Basto says:


    This is the Latin Church. Children, children in the strict sense, shouldn’t receive Holy Communion.

    Only teenagers, who, having gone through Catechism classes, can appreciate the value of the Most Holy Eucharist.

    If one cannot appreciate the value of the Eucharist — and therefore accept the Eucharistic Fast as a necessary act of preparation for the reception of this, the greatest of all Gifts from Heaven — then one shouldn’t communicate in the first place.

    So, a teenager or adult either accepts the Eurcharistic fast directed by the authority of the Church (be it a 1 hour legal fast; a 3 hour fast or a fast from midnight) in good will, or that person is not properly disposed to receive the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of our Most Holy Redeemer.

    Plus, no one is under obligation to receive the Eucharist. If you have to eat, you can attend Mass (if it be a Sunday, you will be also discharging the canonical obligation), without receiving Holy Communion.

    The promotion of frequent Communion is a salutary thing but perhaps it has gone too far. The limit is when, directly or indirectly, one starts to promote a reception of the Eurcharist that is lacking in reverence or in preparation. To receive the Eurcharist, one must be properly disposed.

    I too believe that the current fast (that is, in all practicallity, no fast at all), is a joke. We should revert either to the Midnight rule (I have read the very insteresting article by Dr. Peters via the link he provided above, and I understood from that reading that a rule requiring fasting from Midnight/from the end of the previous day was the norm from the 3rd to the mid-20th Century. That’s a long time; such an ancient rule, that covers almost the entire history of the Church, deserves respect), or (if the Midnight rule is found inconvenient due to the 20th century novelty of allowing afternoon and evening Masses), then we should at least revert to the 3 hour ban on food and drinks.

  31. dcs says:

    one can smoke, can’t one?!

    Smoking does not break the fast.

    As far as children and fasting are concerned, one wonders if it would be a problem if the age for receiving First Holy Communion hadn’t been lowered. But I think most young children are capable of fasting for three hours.

    I understand that parishes often had “children’s Masses” in the early morning at which children could assist so they could break their fast earlier.

  32. Rachel says:

    Every day I get up at 4:30 AM, drink tea until 5:00, and make the long drive to my parish for 6 AM Mass. I’ve thought about giving up the morning tea because it would be good and appropriate to eat nothing before receiving Holy Communion. But I’m afraid I wouldn’t be able to stay awake on the drive, or during my holy hour after Mass.

    Of course the solution to this is to get more sleep, but that’s not easy…

  33. Rob Cartusciello says:

    The one hour fast >is< a joke. Of course, I’ve encountered many people who can’t even maintain that discipline. Heaven forbid one should actually abstain from receiving Communion if one is not prepared….

  34. MikeM says:

    I’ve always treated it as 1 hour before the start of Mass. I get antsy when I get hungry, so I don’t think it would be helpful for me to have a serious fast before hand… I think that would only make me more distracted.

  35. Hans says:

    Admittedly, I’m not a morning person, but I’ve never understood how anyone has time to prepare anything to eat on a Sunday morning anyway. I have enough trouble getting there on time. Stopping to prepare food on a Sunday morning (excluding, perhaps, those exceptional cases discussed above) adds hurry to the day that takes away from the proper focus of the day — Jesus and his sacrifice for us.

    As for fasting from midnight for those of an age to receive Holy Communion, is such an ascetic practice really that difficult? Consider that Muslims fast from food and water from sunrise to sunset for a month during Ramadan, sometimes during the long hot days of summer. We can’t cope with half a day once a week? Not that I’m suggesting that the mandatory midnight fast be restored, but there is no reason it couldn’t be encouraged, aloud, as a pious practice.

  36. Margaret says:

    This is the Latin Church. Children, children in the strict sense, shouldn’t receive Holy Communion.

    Only teenagers, who, having gone through Catechism classes, can appreciate the value of the Most Holy Eucharist.

    Prof. Basto– I’m a little lost here. I’m not sure if this is a language issue or something else. Pius X lowered the age for First Holy Communion to seven. Are you saying we should revert to an older age for children (teenagers?) to receive?

  37. Marysann says:

    I agree that the current regulation involves no sacrifice at all. Our parish’s Latin OF Mass is also so long that if you finish your candy bar in time to throw the wrapper into the waste basket at the church door, you will have fulfilled the fast. When I was a child in the 1950’s, it was different. The respect due to our Lord in Holy Communion was driven home to us especially on the big holidays. We wouldn’t dream of touching the candy in our Christmas stockings or Easter baskets until we had returned home from Holy Mass. As children this wasn’t easy, but we learned an important lesson. How are we teaching this lesson to our children today?

  38. Prof. Basto says:

    Dear Margaret,

    There are several observations here.

    First, St. Pius X indeed lowered the minimum age of Holy Communion so that children as young as 7 year olds (7 is the age when a minor is presumed by canon law to have the use of reason – can. 27 §2 – only minors under the age of 7 are called infants by canon law).

    Secondly, the current canon law of the Latin Church governs the admission to the Eurcharist of children not in danger of death in canons 913 §1 and 914:

    Can. 913 §1. The administration of the Most Holy Eucharist to children requires that they have sufficient knowledge and careful preparation so that they understand the mystery of Christ according to their capacity and are able to receive the body of Christ with faith and devotion.

    Can. 914 It is primarily the duty of parents and those who take the place of parents, as well as the duty of pastors, to take care that children who have reached the use of reason are prepared properly and, after they have made sacramental confession, are refreshed with this divine food as soon as possible. It is for the pastor to exercise vigilance so that children who have not attained the use of reason or whom he judges are not sufficiently disposed do not approach holy communion.

    As you see: (i) children who have not attained the age of reason are not to receive the Eucharist; (ii) children who have reached the age of reason are to be prepared properly.

    At least here in the Archdiocese where I live, proper preparation means two years of weekly Catechism classes. Only children who have attained the use of reason can take part in those classes. So, in the bare minimum, a child that started preparation at the age of 7 would receive the Eucharist at the age of 9. Most complete the Cathechism when they are between the ages of 10-12. That’s why I used the word teenages.

    Those are, I believe, appropriate ages for First Communion. And if those children have really learnt what they should and are really adequately prepared, then they can undergo the Eucharistic Fast as the generations before them did.

  39. RichardT says:

    You’re forgetting the drive to Church; allow 20 minutes for that, plus half an hour of Mass before communion, and the fast is effectively 10 minutes. It takes my wife longer than that to find her keys!

  40. Kate says:

    My twins made their First Holy Communion at the age of seven. They certainlly understood “the mystery of Christ according to their capacity” at the time.

    We have been blessed to be inspired by the lives of Little Nellie and the children of Fatima.

    I sometimes have had the experience of looking over at one of my daughters during Mass only to find her close to fainting because when she woke up, there was no time (even with the one hour fast) for breakfast before Mass. I tell you quite plainly, if I woke up too late to eat, I’d go to a later Mass. Many times it is children who teach us a thing or two about loving God.

    As for the longer fast, I certainly would have some struggles accomodating my current habits to it, but I think for the sake of reverence, I would gladly undertake a new discipline.

  41. pappy says:

    Following the practise of one Mr Ewanco, I recommend the fast from
    midnight, esp. for Sunday morning Mass. Let your first meal of the
    week be your best meal of the weel.

  42. It’s no joke to walk a couple miles to Mass on an empty stomach. One minute you’re fine, and the next minute you think you’re going to die.

    Of course, in the really old days, you usually received only once or twice a year; so you could have breakfast before walking to Mass.

    And in the really really old days, you lived in the city quite close to your bishop, within easy walking distance, just as Jews lived in easy walking distance of the synagogue. So fasting from midnight wasn’t such a hardship; and if you went to a dawn or post-midnight Mass, hardly a hardship at all.

  43. Bornacatholic says:

    A decrease in fasting leads to an increase in perversion. That is an iron law I think I read in “The Liturgical Year” or somewhere else; or I just made it up.

    In any event, it has been tried and proven true these past two score years.

  44. I don’t mean to sound harsh. I had a bad experience recently, though, where after a stressful week, a big breakfast, and a hot dog on my way to church for Confession, I no more than walked out of church than I had a low blood sugar meltdown. Shaking hands, crying jag, stomach didn’t know it was hungry — the usual. I mean, it hadn’t hardly even been an hour since the hot dog, and I hadn’t even walked up the hill fast, and the weather was pleasant enough. Not a clue it was going to happen.

    I will add that, despite many blood tests down the years, my blood sugar isn’t even officially low. I’m usually well within the moderate range when I start to shake and feel cold.

    Of course, it’s a lot easier to eat breakfast late than to fast during the day, and it almost certainly wouldn’t have happened without all the stress a long time beforehand.

    But still, longer fasts from food before Mass would mean long, long fasts from the Eucharist for a lot of us. Don’t see how it could work any other way.

  45. Bornacatholic says:

    BTW, it has not been uncommon to see a certain Priest in my area drinking coffee as he walks into the Vestry to prepare for Mass.

  46. Frank H says:

    Suburbanbanshee – see Dr. Peters’ post above. Medical reasons allow you to dispense with the fast.

  47. Well, if it were a matter of certainty that I couldn’t fast, I would blithely dispense away. My mama didn’t raise no fools who walk to Mass during blizzards.

    However, since I can do it most of the time (as long as it’s only an hour), it would seem to me that I am indeed bound to fast. I could probably usually do three hours, except that there’d be an increased number of times when I wouldn’t. I can usually do Lent (and all the abstinence, of course), except the Fridays when careful planning fails. And I was doing just fine with walking to Mass the morning after the ice storm. Not at all dangerous, not really slippery. Not until my feet went out from under me, and I broke my arm a block away from church. :)

    If the fast had always been since midnight, I’d already know how to cope with that, one way or the other. If it had always been three hours, ditto. But if one week it’s fine to grab a donut between cantoring the 8 and choir at the 9:30, and the next week people are taking scandal even though you’re not planning to go down for Communion in Mass #2, that’s a problem.

    Hrm. Should actually make a point here.

    1. An hour isn’t a wimpy fast for some of us.
    2. Until blogs started, I always heard it was an hour before Mass, not an hour before Communion. Read it on a trad site, in fact. Blogs and their factchecking are a bad influence. :)
    3. I don’t mind if other people want to fast longer, as long as they don’t lean on the rest of us and try to make us feel guilty. I get very tired of the Lent round of “let’s impress each other with our jejunian athletics” every year.
    4. I don’t mind if the Church changes a discipline rule like this. But if they do, they better not change it any more than that — or they should say right off that they’re going back to the midnight rule in X years and that the three hour thing is just training wheels. Don’t leave people guessing.

  48. Supertradmom says:

    One of the Popes who is a saint lowered the age for Holy Communion. I grew up fasting three hours with no problem. Children need to awakened early in the morning for a little breakfast and then, after Mass, the family can eat a larger meal. The problem is one of organization and cooking. Many younger moms admit to me that they never cook from scratch, which I do, (I do not even have a microwave), and therefore, cannot cope with planning meals and allow their kids to “graze”. I am old enough to remember a very brief time of fasting from midnight. I brought my breakfast to school in a paper bag.

    I think Americans are addicted to food and the three hour fast would truly be a penance, which is good. And, I am sure children would not have problems. My parents, members of “the greatest generation” fasted from midnight. Dad is 85 and Mom is 81.

    Good idea and good post, Father Z.

  49. Supertradmom says:

    PS I do not know what one commentator meant by receiving Holy Communion only once or twice a year. My grandparents, two who were born in 1890 and and two born in 1900, not only received Holy Communion every Sunday, but, when they could get to daily Mass, did receive during the week as well.

  50. rwprof says:

    We fast from either after the end of Great Vespers on Saturday evening or midnight, depending on the priest, and the fast includes water, coffee, and yes, smoking. Our priests have more power to set policy under oikonomia than yours, so when children are expected to start fasting depends (we do not believe that one must understand the Eucharist to benefit, no more than we believe one must understand Baptism to be baptized). Pregnant women and nursing mothers, as well as those with blood sugar problems or other health problems are usually exempted (again, it’s up to the priest, who is the guardian of the Chalice, and there is no church policy.) In our parish, to commune, one is expected to attend Great Vespers the evening before, keep the fast, and go to confession at least once a month (confessions are after Vespers).

    There is a mad rush for the coffee downstairs after Divine Liturgy, by the way.

  51. Folks: Remember that people who have diet or health concerns apply the Church’s fasting rules differently and with prudence!

  52. “Frequent Communion” is a recent initiative — only 100-150 years old! :) How often laypeople generally went has ebbed and flowed in the Church throughout her history. Of course the Catholic Encyclopedia has a good article about it.

    Anyway, the Popes before and after the turn of the century really pushed people to go to Communion much more frequently than just fulfilling their Easter duty, and to get kids receiving Communion earlier. They had to write up a big decree in 1905 expressly declaring that yes, darn it, it was perfectly okay to receive Communion daily, even, and nobody was allowed to hinder people in a state of grace from coming up to receive, period, and nobody else may argue with Us any more on the subject.

    1905. And yet, in 2009, we’ve totally forgotten that this was ever a problem. I guess that decree did the trick. :)

    I was a bit overdramatic today. Sorry, everyone.

  53. Fr. John Mary says:

    The present “crisis” of the Sacrament of Penance may be due to the misunderstanding of many (including priests, I’m afraid) of the relationship between being properly disposed to receive Holy Communion and the Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist. Pope Pius XII not only recommended frequent devotional confession but lauded it. The present one hour fast from food/drink other than water might contribute to the practice of practically everyone going to Communion at each and every Mass they attend. Careful preparation in receiving the Lord is not just making it to Mass on time. It requires, as Saint Paul says, a “discernment”; not just believing in the Real Presence but also making the necessary preparation (regular confession, fasting with a spiritual motive, thanksgiving after receiving our Lord in Holy Communion).

  54. ssoldie says:

    I am 73 ,had 5 full term pregnancies, was then, sill am, fasting from 12 midnight till recieving my Lord (now) 10:00 Mass, T.L.M., so most of time is almost noon till am taking solid food. Have never gotten sick, never fainted, always rinsed mouth out before going to Mass, but then when thirst comes during Mass, always think of my Lord from Holy Thursday, till Good Friday, and how He thirsted, and such a small fast this seems to me, before recieving Him.

  55. Prof. Basto says:

    Pope St. Pius X lowered the age for Holy Communion but kept the fast as it was (from Midnight). And kids were perfectly capable of following the norm.

    My Father went to Sunday Mass in his school, all classes attended in special uniform, and he frequently received the Eucharist, fasting from midnight.

    After the Mass, there was a collective breakfast for the students and teachers.

  56. mfg says:

    What is this, the wimp hour? Has no one ever heard of ‘offering it up’? Kate: those ‘older Catholics’ you know are having fun with you. I fasted from midnight while I was pregnant with six children. Many, many other women at Mass were in the same state and I never saw anyone faint. All the midnight fast means is abstaining from food and drink from dinner the night before. You never ‘had to suffer in that way’. Don’t make me laugh. Those were the halcyon days of the Catholic Church in America. The suffering came in the 60’s when they took the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass away from us and gave us the community meal. For your information the Church has always allowed a dispensation from rules in cases of need. simply explain your problem to your confessor.

  57. MarieSiobhanGallagher says:

    The day after our wedding, my husband and I attended mass and realized that the homily was so short, we had not fasted for an hour prior to when Communion was distributed. So, we refrained from receiving. After mass we said our prayers and noticed the priest was walking up the aisle. We flagged him down and asked if we could then receive communion, as we had seven minutes to go at the time of Communion, but now were beyond the hour fast. The priest said, “Don’t EVER do that again! Just receive!” We were completely stunned! Why would a priest give such advice? What if it was ten minutes, or twenty, or half hour? What was the point at which he would have said that we acted correctly? He did distribute communion to us; we both agreed we would have done the exact same thing if it ever happens in the future….

  58. Fr. John Mary says:

    MarieSiobhanGallagher: You did the right thing. I’m sorry that priest gave you grief. I find it rather edifying that the faithful take these things seriously. You would have had no hassle from me.

  59. capchoirgirl says:

    3 hours isn’t bad at all. If you’ve ever had surgery or any sort of invasive medical procedure, you often have to fast for much longer than that–9+ hours is quite normal.
    I went to Catholic elementary school, and my fifth grade teacher told us that we just needed to fast “an hour before COMMUNION”, meaning if Mass was at 10:00, then communion would be around 10:40, so we could just not eat from 9:40 on. Even as a fifth-grader, I thought this was sort of suspect.

  60. Kate says:

    I’m not trying to make anyone laugh. This is a completely new idea for me. Is it really true that Catholics are not supposed to eat breakfast before Mass? Even daily Mass? What if I’m up at 5:00 (which happens often) and I go to daily Mass at 9:00? I mean, I have long understood the “break the fast” meaning of breakfast, but after all these years, I’m having a difficult time realizing that I haven’t been doing enough for God. (Not that we can ever do enough, but…)

    Is there any priest who can answer this question for me? I do not understand all of these posts about not eating until after Mass. If the three-hour rule were to go into effect again, would it be allowable for me to wake up at 6:30 for a cup of coffee and a bagel and finish eating before 7:00 and then attend the 10:00 Mass? Or is the intent of the three hour fast basically the same at the “from Saturday night to Sunday Mass” rule and you are not supposed to eat breakfast until after you receive Our Lord in Holy Eucharist?

    I’m not diabetic, but I do start to sweat, shake and vomit if I don’t eat regularly. Certainly, no one wants me doing this at Mass.

  61. Frank H says:

    Kate, it’s pretty simple. The current Church law says to fast for one hour before reception. The old rule prior to the mid-1960s was three hours before reception. Before that it was from midnight.

    Some of us fell the one hour fast is really not much of a sacrifice, and are just talking about “what if” a lengthier fast was again legislated. And some of us voluntarily observe a longer fast than one hour..

  62. Grabski says:

    Frank: the rule that it was from Midnight led to a 1 hour fast; it was not a good rule from that point of view (receiving at midnight masses). The three hour rule is easy; we do not eat every three hours. It should be revived.

  63. Ed the Roman says:

    I am a cantor. I usually sing at 7:30. That’s not a happy time for most voices, and the pipes get dry and gunky quite easily then. Swilling 3 pints three hours before is not going to hack it.

    Now I would no more bring a water bottle when NOT serving than I would bring a sandwich, but does water used to avoid croaking sounds break the fast?

  64. Fr. John Mary says:

    Ed the Roman: No.
    When it is hot and humid (we have no air conditioning) or my asthma is bad, I have to have water as a stand-by even during Mass (don’t gasp!) and this does not break the fast.
    (And the precedent for me, anyway, is that when I was at Merton College, Oxford, for the CIEL Conference in 2006, the celebrant had a glass of water at the podium for use during his homily).
    Now that’s my story; if someone more authoritative can correct me, I’d be happy.

  65. tired student says:

    Is there a Vatican directive on drinking fluids other than water while fasting? I take many pills during the day, and it’s a lot easier on my stomach to drink the pills with milk or fruit juice. Otherwise I get quite nauseous, especially when I make the Sunday fast. I can’t wait to take the medication until after Mass. Can a priest permit me to drink milk or juice solely to take the medication, or do I have to drink water only and give up the side effects as a penance?

  66. Frank H says:

    Grabski, I wasn’t extolling the virtues of the midnight fast, I was just giving a very condensed history. The midnight Mass was only experienced occasionally, like on Christmas, right? And, effectively, people probably didn’t eat after supper, from maybe 7 pm on, so it was really a six hour fast at a midnight Mass.

    Anyway, I like the three hour fast, would favor it’s “official” return, and voluntarily abide by it myself presently.

  67. Grabski says:

    Frank I was just explaining why I think you’re right about the 3 hour fast, rather than the Midnight or 1 hour fast rules.

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