POLL: How long should the Eucharistic Fast be?

I would appreciate it if other bloggers would link to this so that we can get a really large response.

Every once in a while I run into someone who doesn’t know about the Eucharistic fast before reception of Holy Communion.

We have to be properly disposed to receive the Eucharist.  We have a spiritual preparation, in examining our consciences and making sure that we are in the state of grace.  We have a physical preparation, which involves fasting.

For the Latin Church, the Code of Canon Law states that

“One who is to receive the Most Holy Eucharist is to abstain from any food or drink, with the exception of water and medicine, for at least the period of one hour before Holy Communion.”

Note: The law says before Communion, not before the beginning of Mass.  So, one hour isn’t very long.

In 1964 Pope Paul VI reduced the length of the fast to one hour.  Ven. Pius XII reduced the fast to 3 hours in 1957.  Before that, people were to fast from Midnight before Mass.

Our current law about fasting before Communion admits exceptions.

When a priest celebrates more than one Mass on the same day he is only bound to the one-hour fast before his first Mass.

Second, those who are elderly (considered to be 60 years of age) or who are sick (as well as the caretakers of people who are sick) can receive Communion even if a full hour fast has not been fulfilled.    This is helpful for people whose food comes on a schedule they cannot control.

Some think that the one hour fast before Communion is not enough and that the Church’s law should be change to require a longer fast.

Of course people can fast longer if they want to, but for now the law says one hour.

Let’s have a poll.  Please pick the best response and add your reasons in the combox, if you are registered here.

Under normal circumstances, should the Latin Church Eucharistic fast (for people who are obliged) before Communion be lengthened?

View Results

Loading ... Loading ...


By coincidence, Dr. Ed Peters is – right now – (5:30 EDT) on Relevant Radio with Drew Mariani talking about this very issue!


Check out Dr. Ed Peters page about this issue. HERE

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
This entry was posted in "How To..." - Practical Notes, Liturgy Science Theatre 3000, Our Catholic Identity, POLLS and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.


  1. Salvelinus says:

    I personally go by the 3-hour fast.
    The mass that I go to isnt until the late afternoon on Sunday (My diocese needs to get in 2 English and 2 Spanish Novus Ordo Masses in before the EF – Which is of course last, when Father is usually tired as are we).

    Fasting from Midnight the day before could be done, but then again being almost forced to wait until 4:30pm communion makes it difficult!

  2. Jack Hughes says:

    I voted for three hours although I would have preferred midnight.

    I observe the Midnight fast on Saturdays, Sundays and Holy Days of Obligation, at all other times it is three hours as either I will have been doing strenuous physical activity beforehand or it is simply too late in the day (as the Friday evening Mass) to have gone without food since midnight.

  3. David Zampino says:

    I voted for 3-hour.

  4. PA mom says:

    I think that the way communion is received in most places does not allow for the changing of this rule. It would seem completely arbitrary and unnecessary, another church ‘rule’ to worry about.
    Until the Eucharist and the Mass in general is linked more closely with sacrifice, until reception is treated with more reverence again, changing this would lead to annoyance more often than more proper preparation.

  5. gracie says:

    “Before 1964 people were to fast from midnight.”

    I don’t believe that’s correct. I received First Holy Communion in 1958 and the fast was three hours. My older sister, who had received FHC in 1954 had to fast from midnight. I think it was changed right before I did it because I remember her saying how lucky I was.

  6. Obumbrabit says:

    I think that making the fast more than 1 hour would have the effect of teaching the faithful about the seriousness and privilege of receiving Holy Communion. The shortened 1 hour fast is similar in my view to the permission given to the faithful to receive communion in the hand rather than on the tongue.

  7. Shonkin says:

    During the 1950’s and 1960’s I remember the fast being from midnight for Masses that started before noon, and a three-hour fast from solid food/one hour from non-alcoholic beverages for afternoon or evening Masses. Water was okay at any time.
    I think the fast should be a prescribed number of hours. Making it from midnight leads to ludicrous practices like eating a big meal on Christmas Eve just before attending midnight Mass.
    Disclosure: I’m 66 and take several prescriptions. One of them has to be taken with food. I would be exempt from the fast anyway, if I were attending a morning Mass too soon after breakfast time, but with a later Mass I would not mind the three-hour fast.

  8. Dr. Edward Peters says:

    Is this just a case of great minds running together, or did you know that Drew Mariani and I are talking about this exact topic at 5:15 Eastern, today? See also: http://www.canonlaw.info/catholicissues_fast.htm. Best, edp.

  9. Lepidus says:

    I voted to stick with the 1-hour, although, how about an “optional” or “recommended” 3-hour?

    As Salvelinus said, the midnight rule is pretty much unworkable. On the Assumption, for example, I could not get off of work for the morning Mass, so the anticipation (i.e., the only evening Mass) was the option. Not sure I would be making it all day with nothing. Same thing with the noon Mass I will periodically attend.

    Three-hours would be fine for a standard Sunday (or even Saturday) Mass, but again if it is after work it gets a bit tricky. Does it make sense to have a big “snack” at 3 or 4?

    The other thing I think about is the standard fast rules for times like Good Friday and how it applies to this. I’ve always wondered about 55 years old limit. My thought is that if your are sick and need to eat, it doesn’t matter if you are 22. If you are healthy and 65, why not a requirement. What I have been told is that some people, especially the elderly would try to fast and not easily excuse themselves without the age limit and that might be dangerous. If that’s the case, I can see the same thing here. My 70 year old mother gets up at 6:00 on Sunday to have a (single) piece of toast so she feels ok for the 7:30 Mass. If the fast were extended, I’m not sure what she would do (regardless of how it would be justified).

  10. Bosco says:

    I’ve observed that at most Masses I attend the vast majority of the congregation ‘receives’ (not ‘takes’, a word I loathe) the Eucharist. I believe a 3-hour fast before reception of the Eucharist will remove the practice from the realm of the thing you do automatically when you attend Mass to a practice requiring reverential, if minimal, sacramental preparation.

  11. dans0622 says:

    Three hours. One is not enough to be meaningful and midnight is impractical with Mass being allowed, and common, after noon.

  12. acardnal says:

    I chose the “from midnight” communion fast which is what I have followed for years.

    I would accept a change to three hours. I find the one hour fast to be meaningless; as you, Fr. Z, noted some people say they are not even aware of it! They are probably the same one’s I see chewing gum – or sucking on a throat lozenge when they aren’t sick – before receiving our Lord.

    I think a change in the communion fast is necessary. It should be lengthened. Priests/bishops should use the opportunity to catechize their parishioners as to why this is appropriate. I would hope that it would increase Eucharistic devotion to the Real Presence instead of the cavalier attitude I so often observe at communion time.

  13. If we went to a Sunday morning Mass it wouldn’t make a difference to me, but we attend 5:30pm Mass so my older sons can serve with no girls (they are desperate for altar servers at that Mass and work with us). So, we have to leave the house at 4:30pm and don’t get home until about 7. I serve an early supper such as pasta at 3pm, get everyone ready for Mass, and once home again get everyone bathed and ready for bed. A 3 hour fast just wouldn’t work for our situation.

  14. Seamus says:

    I voted for three hours. The current one hour fast is a joke. For almost every Sunday Mass (and many weekday Masses), unless you live next to the church or are eating a bagel in the car while driving there, it’s almost impossible *not* to satisfy the fasting requirement.

  15. av8er says:

    I voted for 3 hr but at present time, I believe PA mom has it right. My wife is not in full communion with the Church and I can tell you that that would be her exact reaction. “You see? Another rule.”

    Please pray for her full conversion.

  16. Gregg the Obscure says:

    I said three hours. A midnight fast would likely be more ignored than observed among large swathes of the population.

  17. Irene says:

    I didn’t vote because “It depends.” was not an option. I normally fast from midnight, except for water, unless I am going to work directly after Mass. At daily Mass especially that is often the case: receiving Communion around seven and going directly to work or another obligation would require either getting up extremely early (as with 3-hour) fast, or eating not-so-healthful food in the car on the way to work. For very late Masses a 3-hour fast would be practical, but from midnight would be better if possible.
    I believe the rules were changed the early fifties to allow water (and juice?). Before that it was fasting from midnight from all food and liquid, including water, with the usual medical exceptions.

  18. tripudians says:

    What I usually try to do is fasting from midnight for morning masses and 3 hours for afternoon masses.

  19. Pio12 says:

    I definitely see the good in at least a 3 hr fast and my husband and I uphold this as much as we are able, but I am appreciative when I’m pregnant that I am not required to fast for 3 hrs, otherwise I would never get to receive Our Lord for about the first 6 months of pregnancy due to morning sickness. If I don’t eat first thing in the morning, I’ll be too sick to receive Our Lord by communion time. As we go to a 7am weekday Mass and an 8am Sunday Mass, it would be very difficult to get up 2 and a half hours early for Mass everyday so that I can eat a small breakfast and still not break my fast. Not saying the laws of fast should revolve around your rare exceptions, just that I’m appreciative at this time that they happen to work in my favor.

  20. JohnE says:

    If it takes a half hour to get to Mass and Holy Communion is not for at least another half hour, can it really be called a fast? Or am I fasting between swallows of my food?

  21. Geoffrey says:

    I voted “Yes, and it should be 3 hours before”.

    The old from midnight fast works if you go to Mass in the morning, but many parishes have Mass at morning, noon, and evening. This is probably what Ven. Pius XII was thinking when he made this change.

  22. Sieber says:

    Growing up in the 40s & 50s, there were no vigil Masses, the 12:15 was the last Sunday Mass. I served the 11:00 AM Missa Cantata every Sunday. No food OR water after midnight.

  23. Supertradmum says:

    gracie and others

    Here is the link and the change was in 1953. But let me explain the reality.

    I made my First Communion in 1957, when the Three Hour rule was in, but, in effect, we still did the day before fast. Why? We in the children’s Gregorian Chant Choir sang at the 6:30 am Masses for the Requiem Memorial Masses. (Not the funerals, which were later in the day) The daily school Mass was at 8:00 am and we could only receive Communion once. Therefore, even though we were singing early, rarely did we eat until after the second Mass, when all the kids brought bagged lunches and milk was ordered the day before for those who were going to Communion. Not all kids did, but in effect those of us who did would not have eaten from dinner the night before.

    Now, in the Midwest in those days, dinner was at five or six, not later. Sometimes, rarely we would get a snack at bedtime. So, again, in effect, we had the long fast. No one was bothered

    On Sundays, we never ate before Mass and my parents usually took us to 9:00 Mass and we had an enormous brunch afterwards. This is opposite the big English noon Sunday meal, which is most likely not a Catholic tradition, as one would not have a huge breakfast and then a huge noon dinner.

    So, all of us kids survived. And many people thought the new 1964 law was stupid and just kept on fasting for three hours.

  24. MarkG says:

    I was taught that the fast in 1962 was actually:
    3 hours for solids
    1 hours for liquids
    water and medicine does not break the fast

  25. Supertradmum says:

    PS One has to understand that the culture of the 50s and 60s included families eating dinner together, rare snacking and no grazing.

  26. Elizabeth R says:

    I’d like to see the current 1-hour fast observed! Honestly, I have seen priests drinking coffee in the sacristy before the earliest Mass of the day.

    That said, I do think a 1-hour fast is the best before a daily Mass, when many of the attendees are then leaving for work. And fasting from midnight might discourage people from attending afternoon or evening Masses. How about an indulgence for a 3-hour fast, instead of a requirement?

  27. Supertradmum says:

    Shonkin you are wrong about Christmas Eve as that was a day of fast and abstinence and even after this was suspended I think when I was about 10, there were still indulgences which many families followed. For example, we ate no meat and did not eat between meals on Christmas Eve.

    One reason why we visited one Grandma on Christmas Eve and another on Christmas Day was for the reason that the first Grandma had things like cabbage roles or perogies, or vegetables. The next day was for Christmas breakfast at second Grandma’s and dinner at home. Eventually, the Grandmas joined us for dinner when they got old.

  28. Supertradmum says:

    Do people eat up to Midnight?

  29. Of course, I really think the 3-hour fast before Holy Communion was just right, and voted accordingly. However, I wonder whether the current farcial 1-hour “fast” (belch and throw your Big Mac bag in the trash on your way out of the parking lot) as been so destructive of Eucharistic piety . . . That as a needed corrective measure a fast from midnight should be imposed, at least temporarily. Regarding those later Masses . . . If this served to curb the universal communion mentality–everyone going to communion whether or not they’re spiritually prepared–so much the better.

  30. MarkG says:

    >>> I’d like to see the current 1-hour fast observed! Honestly, I have seen priests drinking coffee in the sacristy before the earliest Mass of the day.

    He may be in compliance. If he is over 59 and/or if actual Communion is 1 hour past the coffee. Or if he served a private Mass beforehand.

  31. Supertradmum says:

    IMO fast food has ruined our culture, as people never ate on the street while walking-nor drinking. The nuns taught us it was bad manners to eat outside of home, restaurant or picnics. Eating etiquette is gone, but with the strikes, maybe we shall be going back to better manners. Here in Ireland, people bring their coffee into the church which to me is unbelievable. Saw it today, at Mass.

  32. Ad Orientem says:

    Caveat: I’m not Roman Catholic.

    That said the traditional Eucharistic Fast is from midnight. We still keep that with few major problems. In those rare cases when liturgy is served late in the day the priest will usually grant a slight moderation in the strictness of the fast.

  33. Will D. says:

    I picked three hours, which seems reasonable. From midnight would be excessive for people who are obliged to go to a later Mass. I’m not much of a breakfast eater, so except for the odd evening Mass, I just don’t eat between the previous night’s dinner and the Mass.

    I think a useful compromise, however, would be to make the fasting start 1 hour prior to Mass. As it stands now, a guardhouse lawyer could justify snacking during the Easter Vigil, for instance. Incidentally, my former pastor said in a homily that priests had to observe the fast as one hour prior to the start of Mass. Is this a universal rule, or might it have been a diocesan directive?

  34. cheyan says:

    I would be happy with just “one hour before Mass starts”, since as it is I could run out to my car five minutes before Mass, have a snack, run back in before the opening hymn is over, and receive communion an hour later with no issues. (One hour before Mass is also less ambiguous, because there’s no sure way to know how long Mass will take but “an hour before 12 noon Mass” is always 11 am.)

    Three hours before would be even better in terms of providing a plausible excuse for people who know they shouldn’t be receiving communion, but it’d be a lot harder to adjust to from the present fast. I like Elizabeth R’s suggestion of making a three-hour fast indulgenced, especially since it seems like it’d provide a great incentive for a homily about reverent reception in general.

  35. Supertradmum says:

    Just curious, why is three hours hard for a morning Mass? If one goes to 7, 8, 9 or even 10 Mass, this should not be a problem. If food is three hours and liquids one hour, one could still have a cuppa up to an hour before Mass.

  36. The Cobbler says:

    I voted for three hours, but I’d prefer to say, “Let each bishop choose for his diocese between three hours before Communion or one hour before Mass for Sundays and Holy Days of Obligation, keep the current minimalistic fast for daily Mass.” Dr. Peters discussed a daily Mass exception to the recommended amendation recently, if I recall correct; and the rest is simply my sense of balance and flexibility-within-limits speaking.

    Mind you, I barely wake up in time to get to Mass on time owing to being a night person and not a morning person, so I tend to keep the old midnight fast in practice entirely on accident, and if the rule were set the way I’d recommend I’d either be quite likely (in the case of an hour before Mass fast) or pretty much certain (in the case of three hours even only before Communion) to be obliged to keep it in practice… Small change for me really, but might matter to others who are not morning people. Then again, if it didn’t matter, it wouldn’t be much of a sacrifice, would it?

  37. Emsley says:

    I voted for the three hour fast.

    This is what I always try to keep, though sometimes it is impossible on weekdays. On Sundays (and de facto, weekdays with 7 am Masses) I always fast from midnight. I liked Dr. Peters’ idea of and rationale for reinstating the three hour fast for Sundays, but not for weekdays (see his link above).

    I have one concern though: my fiancée sings in her church’s choir for the OF Mass (where she does not receive, because she cannot perform and sufficiently participate at the same time), but then attends (and receives at) the EF Mass, which takes place shortly thereafter. It seems like some leeway (perhaps only the one hour fast) should be allowed for people like choir members who have to exert a significant amount of energy for the sake of the Mass. The other calls for exception here, like Pio12’s, also seem reasonable.

  38. Supertradmum says:

    I disagree with the difference in daily Mass. As I said above, this is abused-coffee in the Church and so on. One needs to plan Mass and prepare for Mass even before one walks in the door. I am much older than most of you all and have trouble fasting, but try and not eat before Mass even if it is at 11 or like today, 11:30. Coffee yes, tea or water, sure. Sacrifice should hurt.

  39. APX says:

    I voted 1 hour simply because of the practicalities of not having early morning Mass, but Masses that are at lunch, in the afternoon, evening, etc.

  40. Shonkin says:

    Supertradmum: Remember that “fast” in the sense of “a day of fast and abstinence” does not mean the same thing as the Eucharistic fast. It means one full meal and two snacks. The full meal is usually supper in the cities and ‘burbs (although in rural areas dinner is still at noon and supper is in the evening, and dinner is the main meal). So people would have a big meal (maybe spaghetti or fish) on Christmas Eve and then go to Mass at midnight. Anyway, the American bishops moved the day of fast and abstinence to December 23 in 1959, and a few years later it was abolished completely.

  41. JDBenedictH says:

    Somewhere (it may or may not have been here), I read an article advocating a 3-hour fast on Sundays and Holydays, when Mass is required and usually a time is set aside for it. For daily Mass, a one-hour fast would remain in effect, since occupations frequently cause a 3-hour fast to be impossible or at least impractical. Since there was not an option for that on the poll, I voted one-hour.

  42. Marion Ancilla Mariae says:

    My late mother recalled the fast from midnight era. I agree, most grown-ups should have no problem managing without sustenance until after Communion, but Mom spoke of more than one young girl, including her cousin, fainting during the 10:00 AM Mass because of the no food rule. And an earlier Mass is not always an option if you’re just a kid: kids must go where to the Mass their parents drive them to.

    I am from the three hour and the one hour fast era: I remember seeing someone faint during Mass only twice. These instances had nothing to do with any sort of fasts: the people involved came to Mass while an illness was upon them.

    I think to require the fast-from-midnight would be fine in the case of healthy adults over 18 years of age. For those under 18 – get up early and have a decent breakfast! And then to fast for one hour before Holy Communion.

    And no gum ever!

  43. J_Cathelineau says:

    In my opinion the rules established by Pius XII were prudent with a distinction between morning and afternoon Mass.
    From Midnight in the first case and three hours for the second.
    Im not sure but I think that Mass was only prayed in Morning time, except extraordinary causes.
    Anycase here are the links for the Motu Proprio Sacram Comunionem and the Apostolic Constitution Christus Dominus, by the aforementioned blessed Pope.



    Very interesting debate, I never knew about these matters. I suspect everything was deliberated hid by a generation that decided that we dont deserve to receive what they did. So they did not pass it through.

    regards from S. America, and apologize for my poor English.

  44. Supertradmum says:

    Marion Ancilla Mariae fainting was rare, and usually older girls for other reasons. I was anemic from 12 and never fainted because of fasting, and these current generations seem to eat all the time. Snacking was rare, very rare. I think this is all connected to a much bigger problem of a lack of discipline about eating brought on by too much money, grazing (horrible) and fast food places.

    The culture does not know how to fast as a culture, which we must do. Here we are facing perhaps the greatest era of persecution the Church has ever seen and people are quibbling about one to three hours.

    Wait until we cannot get food when we want it…

  45. Speravi says:

    I voted 3 hours. It is enough that it would actually force most people to do something different than they normally do in the morning. For example, if you go to a 1 hour Sunday Mass at 9AM, you would have to be finished eating by around 6:30AM or else just wait until after Mass. On the other hand, it would not force someone attending a 5PM evening Mass to fast for 16.5 hours.

  46. Priam1184 says:

    I think the three hour for solid food fast and one hour for liquids is probably the best idea. I am an insulin dependent diabetic so I fall under the exception. That said I have tended to practice the one hour before Mass begins fast because that is what my family did growing up possibly owing to a misunderstanding of the change in Canon Law back in the ’60s. If I have to eat something to raise my blood sugar level during the hour before Mass I just don’t receive Holy Communion. I am grateful for the exception the Church offers for medical conditions, but in truth I just don’t think I should do it.

  47. msc says:

    We usually go to a 9:00 a.m. Mass, so three hours would mean eating before, say, 6:30, and getting up at 6:00, and that’s way way too early for a Sunday. I still need eight hours of sleep if I’m going to function at all well the next day (or not need a good nap in the afternoon, so that means being asleep by 10:00 p.m. on a Saturday. So I vote for an hour. I’d have no trouble with three hours if we went to noon Mass, or an afternoon one, but we don’t. On the other hand, I usually spend the hour before Mass in divine reading and reflection, so I feel I’m preparing myself in some way for the Eucharist.

  48. WesleyD says:

    To me, more important than changing the official rule is to have priests occasionally preach about the Eucharistic fast. A new rule with no explanation wouldn’t be very helpful.

    This applies to fasting on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday as well. I mentioned to a Hindu friend that Catholic law defines fasting as “two small meals and one medium meal” and he burst out laughing. But rather than strengthening the law, why not have a priest explain the goodness of voluntary fasting, encouraging those who can do more to try to do more?

    Then eventually, once most of the Church is doing more fasting, we can expand the law to match behavior. In other words, change behavior by explaining the Christian purpose of fasting, not by changing the law with no explanation.

  49. Phil_NL says:

    Frankly, I just don’t get the point from fasting, maybe I’ll discover some spiritual benefit of it later in life, but thusfar, no such luck (blunt version: either I don’t notice it, or it gets me annoyed, neither having any benefit for me nor be pleasing to God, I daresay). One follows the rules simply because they are the rules, but for me, that’s it, alas. Consequently, I don’t mind the fast being abolished altogether.

    What I do mind, however, is people eating in church. That just seems disrespectful regardless of whether one receives or not (and that’s frankly one of the problems with it being an Eucharistic fast – it only applies to those who plan to receive). What one does in terms of eating or drinking before one crosses the doorstep (assuming it does not have consequences that carry on) is not particularly interesting, I’d say.

  50. Supertradmum says:

    Question: if you all knew that in one or two years you would have no rights as Catholics, no church because it was closed to pay fines to the government or law suits to ss couples who wanted to get married, or no priests, because there are not enough sems, would you fast now? I cannot believe that we as a group of Catholics cannot see the absolute need for penance now in order to either shorten the time of persecution or learn to do with less. In the Davenport Diocese by 2015, there will be 15 priests for 100,ooo people spread out in rural areas. And, in England, the problem in some dioceses will be similar. Is this not a good enough reason to fast now before Communion, as well as preparing ourselves for receiving God Himself?

    Fasting is supposed to be hard, that is the point.

  51. Woody79 says:

    I don’t think it matters what time you pick to fast. The problem since the 60’s has been telling the people what is the rule. The bishops make and change the rules and then don’t bother telling us what is the new rule. The priests don’t seem to care, exception for Fr. Z, and the rest of us do what we think the fasting rule SHOULD be. It’s the same for doing penance on Fridays. You mean we still are required to do penance on Fridays!? I thought they got rid of that rule. When did it change? And it goes on and on and on. Good thing we Fr. Z’s blog.

  52. Michelle F says:

    I voted for making the Eucharistic fast begin at midnight.

    I eat dinner between 5:00 PM and 6:00 PM on Saturday night, and usually I do not eat anything else before bedtime. I get up on Sunday morning at 6:30 AM.

    If I am going to a Novus Ordo Mass, which start anytime from 8:00 AM to 12:00 PM, I do not eat until after Mass – although I do have coffee.

    If I am going to a Tridentine Mass, the starting time is 2:00 PM. I will have breakfast between 8:00 AM and 9:00 AM, and then not eat again until after Mass.

    This type of eating schedule is pretty easy to keep; much easier than some people might think. Furthermore, the Church always makes allowances for people who are ill – even if they are only temporarily ill – so I see no reason why the average adult could not maintain a fast from midnight if he or she intends to receive Holy Communion the next day.

    Oh, and the Church could make an exception for travelers attending vigil Masses, permitting them to receive Holy Communion in as little as an hour after they have eaten if the only Mass they can find is one that starts soon after they have eaten. Of course, the obligation is to attend Mass, not to receive Holy Communion, so travelers could just skip Communion.

  53. lmgilbert says:

    Lengthening the Communion fast may be a great idea, but it seems absolutely critical that it NOT be under pain of mortal sin. The lengthy communion fast of yesteryear, which stipulated no food OR water from midnight on, was under pain of mortal sin, as was the Friday abstention from meat. When this was relaxed I remember ironical comments that now they were going to install water fountains by the communion rails.

    From an apologetic standpoint this was a disaster. “So, you Catholics think you’re going to go to Hell just because you ate some meat on Friday?”

    My understanding now, perhaps incorrect, is that Friday abstinence is strong recommended, but it is not under pain of sin. If, similarly, a lengthening of the communion fast were strongly urged on us by the Church, wonderful. Who could argue, really? We have been babying ourselves for a long time. Yet should we be at hazard for our eternity over non-compliance? What would be the justification for putting us in that position once again?

  54. Marion Ancilla Mariae says:

    “Marion Ancilla Mariae fainting was rare, and usually older girls for other reasons. “

    In which case, I would have expected to see these fainting episodes continue into my own era. But I didn’t.

    If girls were . . . very “tired” – or had any other issue – in the 1940s and fainted, surely their daughters in the 1970s and their granddaughters in the 2010s were also at times very “tired” as well . . . but the latter two groups aren’t swooning. Not that I’ve ever seen or heard of, anyway.

    Just the girls from the fasting from midnight era. And after that . . .

    . . . Not.

    Clinches it for me.

  55. Marion Ancilla Mariae says:

    P.S. The fainting was rare . . .

    I would say even one instance of a youngster hitting the deck, and possibly slamming his or her head on the floor is one too many such occurrences, particularly if it’s readily preventable by a simple modification to the rules.

    I can’t be cavalier about even one child per year losing consciousness during Mass, first, for the sake of the youngster and his or her family. Secondly, for the sake of the due gravity and solemnity of the celebration.

    Y’all’s mileage may vary.

  56. Supertradmum says:

    Marion Ancilla Mariae, more girls in my private high school in the days of the one hour fast fainted as they were either on stupid diets, swooning over the Beatles (yes, especially when one got married), or just for attention. Really, this argument is circumstantial. Kids were healthier, outside more, not at all overweight, etc. No, I contend people cannot fast because they have been spoiled eating too much, too often. We need hard fasts and three hours is what most people have between meals anyway, if they are fortunate enough to have three meals.

  57. Fr. Thomas Kocik says:

    Readers might want to check out “The Eucharistic Fast in Perspective” (which references Dr Peters’ work on the subject), published in the Sept/Oct 2010 issue of The Catholic Response magazine. I provide a history of the Eucharistic fast and, like Dr Peters, make a compelling case for a return to the 3-hour fast.

  58. Marion Ancilla Mariae says:

    Supertradmum, my late mother’s observations of young girls fainting during Mass were made during her own teen years in the post-World War II era, when butter and meat were still difficult to obtain and people were still tending their Victory Gardens. There is little question girls or anyone were accustomed to stuffing themselves or eating fast food.

    My mother’s reminiscences from those days – the days of the fast from midnight – are quite different from the era about which you have been sharing. Unless I’m mistaken, Beatles and fast food would have appeared on the scene about 1962 or so, about fifteen years give or take subsequent to the era in which my mother recollections were centered.

    So, I think we may have been comparing apples and oranges.

  59. Marion Ancilla Mariae says:

    P.S. Trying to clarify whether the era properly under discussion is circa 1946 or 1962 would cause much eye-rolling among my high-school aged niece and her friends.

    “What’s the difference?” they’d ask. Because, to them, both years would verge upon the Pleistocene epoch.

  60. Phil Steinacker says:

    It seems to me, based on the varying comments so far, that the changes in the Eucharistic fast must have been rolled out on different schedules per diocese here in the states. A very good friend grew up in Bridgeport CT and they went straight to the one hour fast, which someone already mentioned above, I think.

    I received my FHC in 1957, and in those days we observed the fast from midnight the previous night for a few more years. I can’t remember exactly when the Archdiocese of Baltimore introduced the three hour fast, but I was so used to the midnight fast I couldn’t see the big deal. I certainly didn’t think of it as a hardship. How quickly perspectives change so that what is seen as routine becomes a hardship.

    When the shift was made to the one hour fast I believe I was in my early teens or just pre-teen (12-13?) I remember thinking it was a nice break but wholly unnecessary. Very quickly I wondered what sort of Catholic would request such a change, which left me very unimpressed, as in underwhelmed. I quickly regarded the new fasting rules as having been designed for wimps (or whatever term was in vogue to describe that concept).

    Of course, anyone aged or infirm had always been excused, and special circumstances (i.e. going right to work on weekdays) could get you dispensed by a priest, so anyone making such arguments seemed to me to ignore the Church had provided for those hardships. Where was the problem? BTW, I wasn’t particularly a saint in the making, to which my later life could attest.

    I also remember my parents – including my father who rarely attended Sunday Mass – enforcing the midnight fast whenever I was permitted to be up that late. This is still another reason why I think we were behind so many other dioceses in making the changes. I rarely got to do that until about age 12 (1962).

    After the three-hour fast was imposed which Mass my mom and I chose to attend was strongly influenced by how hungry we were. We mostly assisted at the 9:00 Mass so we could still have breakfast. We rarely attended the 11:15 or 12:45 until the one-hour fast was imposed.

    Then came the surprise! Suddenly those two late Masses became the most heavily attended at our parish, so much so that we quickly scheduled two of each – one in the main church and one downstairs in the old cafeteria for the overflow (our parish had three priests, and at Holy Communion one of them came out to distribute Communion upstairs). Both upstairs and downstairs of these Masses were routinely packed, with lines of worshippers standing along the walls – those were the days! To get a seat you had to plan.

    However you might regard this behavioral change, it was clear the new one hour fast allowed people to sleep in on Sunday mornings or at least put off until later the fulfillment of Sunday obligation. Certainly this response is not sinful or nearly as serious as the abandonment of other forms of customary Catholic worship and spiritual practices (i.e. weekly confession, which I practiced – back then).

    However, now I’m wondering if losing a reason to get to Mass earlier on Sunday mornings, even if motivated by hunger, might not have unknowingly and thoughtlessly embedded within us a less rigorous attitude towards acknowledging and worshipping Our Lord on His day with the proper interior disposition, the attainment of which I have begun to see, after so many years, can take all morning to whip into shape (so to speak…no self-flagellation for this hedonist wanna-be!).

    Rolling into a 12:45 Mass (the absolute last chance of the day – there were no afternoon Masses anywhere) stood in sharp contrast to the relative rigor required to get moving and make the 9:00 on time and with the proper disposition. It became much harder to attain that when preceding a later Mass one’s morning was routinely lazy, which of its own nature is centered upon me/you/us.

    As you may suspect I agree with those regarding the on-hour fast as a bit of a joke. I say bring back the midnight fast, which causes enough pain, discomfort and inconvenience to be a true sacrifice for us. However, I suspect today it might be very difficult for well-meaning faithful Catholics to see past their own inconveniences for them to properly receive it.

    Perhaps combining it with the restoration of meatless Fridays with preaching from the pulpit about both might work, drawing upon the effective, time-honored practice of distracting one’s attention from pain by inflicting another serious pain of a different sort. :-)

    Some of you might recall the good nuns (who rarely, if ever, rode a bus in those days) teaching us to let the Host dissolve rather than chew it to preclude particles from becoming stuck between our teeth, and to rinse our mouths with a little water after Communion. They taught us that we fasted so we wouldn’t profane Our Lord with residual food particles when receiving Him. It was assumed an overnight fast was sufficient to accomplish this condition.

    I fear religious sisters today would be clueless about this discussion.

  61. Precentrix says:

    I voted three hours. One hour is not even noticeable, really… but for those of us who regularly attend Mass in the evening, even on a Sunday – for various reasons – midnight is definitely not do-able. I can attend a 7pm Mass and a three hour fast means waiting until afterwards for dinner… maybe eating nothing since lunchtime. The hunger is noticeable, but no one’s going to pass out – and those who would are presumably exempt from fasting.

    The three hours (for solids) seems to be enough of a return to traditional practise to satisfy many of my EC/EO friends about the matter, and in the case of morning Masses would in most cases result in a de facto midnight fast. I’m hardly going to get up at 5am just to have breakfast.

    That said, I am not averse to taking advantage of the lenient one-hour rule and would appreciate the one-hour being retained for, e.g., coffee.

  62. Precentrix says:

    P.s. Do the results of this poll get sent to the CDW?

  63. Rachel K says:

    I think an hour fast is ok. It is not that long, agreed, but still requires us to think about and be aware of what we are doing before Mass. I think that undue harshness has a negative impact on people these days, especially youngsters. I also think it would help to educate our younger Catholics about the flexibilities of the rule, and other rules, with regard to the sick, elderly and carers as this shows them that the Church is a loving (and wise) mother and not a patriarchal despot! She applies her rules in a flexible way to allow for particular circumstances and not in a rigid and litigious style.
    On a personal note, I found the hour fast impossible when I have been pregnant due to horrible and continued “morning sickness” ( in fact, 24/7 nausea and vomiting for at least 30 weeks of each pregnancy). I suffered greatly with scrupulously until reassured by a priest that I was exempt from the fast due to the sickness. I even had to nibble a cracker during Mass once or twice to prevent me heaving on reception of communion; my worst fear was to be sick after receiving , thank God this never happened.
    I am trying to illustrate that these rules are positive things that help us and don’t bind us. Certainly, I was ignorant of the fact that my sickness legitimately released me from the rule, and was upset by not managing to fast. I could however make an effort to drink just water or moderate what I ate at other times to show my love for Jesus when I was able.

  64. padredana says:

    Call me liberal, but I think that one hour before MASS is a good idea (which would end up being about 2 hours before Holy Communion. Three hours seems to be a bit long, and I say that for purely practical reasons. I frequently have altar servers, as well people in the congregation passing out because their blood sugar is low (they didn’t eat breakfast). I can’t imagine what would happen to these individuals and others if they COULDN’T eat breakfast before Mass, unless of course they got up at 4 in the morning to eat! I fear people would be passing out (or as some might say, slain in the Spirit) all over the place! I also fear for those, like myself, who need coffee in order to function with any sense of kindness and gentility. My homilies might be a bit more “grumpy” than usual if I couldn’t have my coffee. Which brings up a somewhat related, although remotely so, topic. Does coffee break the fast? I have heard that some canonists, some of whom wear read hats, claim that it does not break the fast, yet other canonists say it does. I would like the chief unreconstructed ossified manualist’s opinion on that.

  65. mamajen says:

    I voted for 3 hours. The arguments I’ve seen for a longer fast seem good to me, and I think most people should be able to manage 3 hours. I rarely ever eat before mass anyway–I have to take medication on an empty stomach and can’t eat for an hour after, which usually doesn’t work well with the mass schedule. Even fasting from midnight wouldn’t be that hard for me. I think maybe younger kids might find it difficult to go longer, though. Maybe the stricter requirement could start at age 14.

  66. Elizabeth M says:

    We’ve always done 1 hour before Mass. Keeps it simple. Mass starts at 8am, don’t eat after 7am. No need to calculate, well, if Father starts on time, then I can have this last sip of milk as I’m walking out the door…
    Plenty of people suffer from low blood sugar without being diabetic. I would think that diabetes would be one of those things that could excuse you from this fast.

  67. Supertradmum says:

    padredana s
    1983 Canon Law Code 919
    “One who is to receive the Most Holy Eucharist is to abstain from any food or drink, with the exception only of water and medicine, for at least the period of one hour before Holy Communion.”

    and Father Z talked about his before……….

  68. Supertradmum says:

    sorry this not his=late

  69. Precentrix says:

    If it were three hours for solids, one hour for liquids (other than water), coffee would be one hour. Unless it were very, very thick…

  70. ChristoetEcclesiae says:

    “He fasted for forty days and forty nights, and afterwards he was hungry.” Matthew 4:2

    Before receiving Holy Communion, I think we should be hungry to receive Our Lord. As we are body and spirit, a physical fast helps us to be spiritually hungry, too. Several years ago in preparation for Lent, Papa Benedict reminded us that fasting helps prepare us to do the will of God. Fasting is a powerful practice, too little observed; it is a practice we need, especially now. What is fasting but a kind of cooperation with God?

    Is a one-hour fast really fasting? Does it serve as such preparation? Do we feel, at least a little, discomfort? A change in the rule and a longer fast would make each of us consider what our habits have been; we would have to be more conscious of time and of our choice to go forward and receive. Many of us would think of Jesus more often. It would afford our priests a clear opportunity to catechize about the change and its meaning and value. A longer fast would be a good thing. Growling tummies in Communion lines are good when going forward to receive the Bread of Life. They remind us that God will provide for our needs.

    At least for Sundays and Holy Days of Obligation, the length of the fast should be no shorter than 3 hours before Mass begins, and I would be in favor of longer, though I would recommend, for adults, that it be set for a number of hours (6? 8?) rather than from a certain time of day (midnight). In this way, if you are to attend an evening Mass, your fast might begin after lunch that day rather than from midnight. In theory, I think the fast should be longer than the time between two regular meals so as to make it noticeable. If you eat breakfast at 7 and lunch at noon, a 5-hour fast is normal for you and has little to do with preparing to receive the Eucharist. So, for you, even a 6-hour fast would be a real sacrifice because you are getting hungry. I think fasting aids in longing for the Eucharist, and satisfaction in its reception.

    Perhaps the three-hour rule as the general rule, and the longer strongly encouraged for those who can?

  71. sunbreak says:

    I voted for the 1 hour fast. I think it’s long enough. Let’s say, for example, that someone likes to go to a Mass before work and the Mass starts at 7am. It just isn’t very practical that they should have to get up around 3:30 am to prepare breakfast so that they are done eating by 4am for a 3 hour fast. Eating after Mass is not practical either if they have to be at work soon after the Mass ends. Eating in the car while driving to work doesn’t cut it either – that’s just almost as bad as texting while driving.

  72. Imrahil says:

    Without giving an opinion to the general question (I may yet),

    I do opine that this specific question does not admit many “strongly encouraging”-solutions.

    Because they are not about “are we for fasting”. They are about “given a man has eaten which is no sin, and attends Mass which is laudable, is he to voluntarily abstain”. Now there may be some points for voluntarily abstaining, but it is at least in present (and quite official) Church understanding a rather awkward thing to do. Still, one might argue for it. But it is this and this only which “strongly encouraging” can possibly mean. Otherwise, we just say “fasting would a good thing to do; I did not fast; it is not commanded; I see no reason not to communicate; I communicate”. Where does “strongly encouraging” have a place here?

    What the actual requirements should be is a quite valid question though.

  73. joan ellen says:

    I voted for the 12 hour fast. I need the discipline…badly. I have used the 3 hour fast when needed
    and do not have any qualms about that. According to some on the internet, it is healthier to fast than not to fast. It does make sense to think of the future and also to think of what Jesus did. Fasting is a good opportunity to practice mortification which is a foreign word these days for many.

    “Perhaps the three-hour rule as the general rule, and the longer strongly encouraged for those who can?” as ChristoetEcclesiae says:.

  74. Chuck3030 says:

    I would recommend the midnight, except that that would very often become an all day fast on a feast day, which does not quite make sense. Since one hour before reception is not even a fast for most people, I would recommend either one hour before mass, or three hours.
    One obscure question on a tangent: Is it required/recommended to make the fast even if you are not in a state of grace (and thus know that you will not be recieving the Eucharist)?
    One more obscure question on a tangent: If one attended a midnight mass with the old rules (should mention that I am not sure these were offered then), which midnight were they required to fast from?

  75. Mike says:

    Wouldn’t be great if: the Holy See drew up a battle plan that incrementally, over, say, five years, did the following for the Church universal, step by step: 1. change to three hour fast, 2. Communion only on the tongue, kneeling, 3. Kyrie, Gloria, Santus, Agnus Dei, must be in Latin, 4. make the “Roman Canon” in Latin obligatory for all Sunday Masses, 5. Ad orientem for all NO Masses, 6. no “jazz, drums, saxes, or electric guitars or basses at Mass.

    I mean, how hard would that be? If I can think of it by reading a few fine blogs, like this one, shouldn’t the Vatican be able to?

  76. Brandon Underwood says:

    I voted for midnight, but from reading some of the comments can see that there may be some problems with this where masses later in the day (e.g., a vigil mass as someone mentioned) are concerned. In retrospect a flat three hour fast may be best. But that is just my humble opinion; and it is of course up to the Church, not me.

  77. NickD says:

    I think that, in this day and age, a good medium would be 1 hour before the start of Mass. I remember reading somewhere that that is the practice for Eastern Catholics, but I’m not sure if it’s true.

  78. Lin says:

    I voted for 1 hour but that is only because I suffer from low blood sugar and once it hits, I can be sick for the whole day. As a child, I always observed the midnight fast but we went to mass very early in the morning. And even then, I was all but ready to drop. And at the age of 7, I wasn’t about to ask for a health exemption! My Grandmother raised me and she would not have excused me from the fast under any circumstances.

  79. slainewe says:

    I read somewhere that POW’s during WWII would sacrifice their meager morning ration of food (the only nourishment they would receive all day) in order to receive the Eucharist from a visiting chaplain later in the day.

    What little love we have!

  80. bookworm says:

    “is it required/recommended to make the fast even if you are not in a state of grace (and thus know that you will not be recieving the Eucharist)?”

    I believe the answer is no, you do not have to fast if you aren’t receiving Communion, though you certainly can as an additional gesture of penance (which can’t hurt if you are in a state of mortal sin and can’t make it to confession just yet). I remember reading in one of my mother’s old Catholic family life books from the 1950s that intentionally breaking the fast might be a GOOD thing if you knew you weren’t properly disposed to receive Communion but didn’t want to make that obvious to your family or the rest of the congregation. It gave you a “cover” for not receiving that didn’t make you look bad, in other words. Come to think of it, maybe returning to a stricter (3 hours seems reasonable to me) fast would help relieve some of the social pressure we experience currently to receive Communion when not properly disposed to do so.

  81. Skeinster says:

    One hour before the beginning of Mass. No math necessary.

    If I want to support my EF parish, it involves driving, by myself, 30 minutes on major urban highways. Which would be unsafe, if I were fasting from midnight. Many of the rules from previous centuries merit at least some re-evaluation in the light of the automobile. It’s not a matter of devotion, but common sense and safety.

  82. Cafea Fruor says:

    My option wasn’t listed. I’d say three hours or even after midnight for Sundays, but one hour for weekdays. Maybe I’m selfish or something, but it’s a matter of practicality. I attend Mass 7:00 a.m. Mass on weekdays, and that’s my only option. I get up to pray for an hour from 5:00-6:00 a.m., and then I have to get ready in a flash and run out the door to catch a bus at 6:20 to get to Mass at 7:00. I eat breakfast really, really quickly at 6:00, which give me just over an hour to finish breakfast before Communion, which is around 7:15-7:20, depending on which priest says Mass. And then I go to work right after Mass. I already am usually schlepping a lot to work – my lunch and my purse or backpack, plus some combination of an umbrella, my textbooks for class after work, library books to be returned after work, my laptop, etc. – on the way to work on a crowded bus on which I often have to stand, which means I have one hand occupied by holding myself upright, and only one hand free for carrying other things (even if you sit, space is limited). If I had to fast for more than an hour, I’d have to schlep breakfast with me, too, and I usually am too loaded down to carry any more on my back or in my one free hand, so I’d either have to skip breakfast entirely, which I can’t do, or get a car to carry everything, which I can’t afford, or skip receiving Communion, which I would rather not do I sure as heck need the grace from the sacrament.

  83. mysticalrose says:

    My parents kept the midnight fast, and I’ve never broken out of this practice. I’ve never found it particularly difficult unless I’m expecting. But then, we always go to Mass sometime before 10:00.

  84. Supertradmum says:

    slainewe indeed, what little love. And to be honest, this has been one of the most revealing threads as to the weakness of the spiritual life of the laity. If a grown person, especially a man, cannot go without food for let’s say a coffee break in the afternoon to an evening Mass, we are really nursing babies. As a teacher, I could not have drinks in the classroom, had only one coffee break many days, and had to be disciplined about eating. No food or drink in most college classrooms, for good reasons. So planning meals was important, and planning fasts as well.

    I am hypoglycemic and still managed to keep long fasts by planning until very recently, as age 64, where for the first time, I have to consider health and medication issues. Is this the problem or are people not as healthy as the boomers when younger? We fasted before swimming as well in the summer, and before other exercises, like aerobic dance classes. I mean, I do not understand the inability to keep at least a three hour fast. If one is working, one can take breakfast to work, as I did sometimes-like an egg and cheese sandwich and fruit. And, when I was working in Minneapolis, or even Davenport, I could go to noon Mass when I could and eat afterwards. Half hour Mass, half hour lunch or slightly less. Most cities have downtown parishes and if one works in the suburbs, it is harder, but there are usually more than one parish with options. For example, in some dioceses, Masses are planned so that everyone knows which churches have morning Mass, which noon and which evening. The noon Masses in the Midwest are packed out with working people, even now. I know lawyers, teachers, business men and women and doctors who manage noon Mass and fast from breakfast, except for coffee break. But liquids were always only one hour.

  85. AnnAsher says:

    I think there should be no law. I think the fast from midnight should be encouraged. (Why can’t I comment on mobile theme?)

  86. wmeyer says:

    This fast is a minor sacrifice, and in so many messages here I see little thought of that. In fact, it seems commonly to be about what may be inconvenient.

    I voted for the three hour rule, but I do not eat before morning Mass, so in practice, I support the midnight rule. For a daily Mass, I follow the three hour rule.

    Is it so very difficult to make such a small sacrifice, when our Lord gave His life?

  87. Sonshine135 says:

    I personally like the 1 HR Fast. I have a tendency to go to the Saturday, 5 PM Mass. I typically like to do a lot of work in the yard throughout the day. Sometimes, I get so busy during the day that I do not stop until an hour and a half before Mass to wash up, get into my “Sunday Best”, and grab a bite. I do not have any problem with anyone who dedicates themselves to a longer fast. All suffering can be offered up for God’s greater glory.

  88. Gemma says:

    I think we need to focus on other things right now. The church and the world is in such a mess that I believe that just getting people to church and confession should be our priority. The families today are so busy and fast pace that imposing a fast would leave many without the grace of communion. The order that was in the family and life back in the three hour fast days is gone. We need to start from the bottom up all over again. Our present society with all its norms is crushing the family. It
    does not support a three hour fast. Most families barely see each other.

  89. Athelstan says:

    I share the belief given by many here that the midnight fast really is not very workable for days of obligation.

    It’s not that it’s not possible to fast for 18-24 hours – which is what might be necessary in some cases – but that it’s not always easy to do if one has to work certain jobs in the interim. Imagine that it’s the Feast of the Assumption, and you can’t make it to a morning Mass, or even a mid-day Mass. You’d have to work your full day, and fast until 6 or 7pm. People of faith might make all kinds of sacrifices for the Kingdom, but it’s a bit different to ask that as an obligation.

    I think the three hour fast was closer to idea. Long enough that the fast actually has meaning, but also a fixed time frame that’s reasonable to ask. Unless it’s a low Mass, after all, a one hour fast before communion could allow you to be munching happily away walking into the church.

  90. Carolina Geo says:

    A “one-hour fast” is oxymoronic. And, frankly, the decision to have a “one-hour fast” was simply moronic. Not eating for an hour is what most people do naturally right after they eat. It is in no way to be considered a sacrifice.

    When I explain the “one-hour fast” rule to non-Catholics, they typically look at me as if I were from a different solar system. It makes being a Catholic embarassing.

  91. Marion Ancilla Mariae says:

    I don’t mind fasting, nor do I object to my fellow adults fasting as long and as much as they like. We are full grown, and most of us probably have the energy reserves necessary to cope.

    However, it is so important to remember that youngsters – kids – 8, 9, 10 years of age, and even pre-teens and younger teens are growing, often very fast, and they just don’t have the energy reserves to cope with lack of sustenance in the way they will have when they are full-grown or almost full-grown adults. These may suffer from a lengthy fast far more than an adult would. I so hope parents will carefully monitor their fasting youngsters for paleness, sweating, weakness, lethargy, dizziness and also ask how they are feeling. Please, parents, don’t be hard on the young ‘uns, forgetting their littleness and weakness. Even our military doesn’t send our citizens into battle until they have achieved manhood.

  92. JonPatrick says:

    I originally voted for 3 hour fast, but after reading the posts above, especially Supertradmum’s I have had second thoughts.

    If we are truly the Church Militant we need to train like an army, fasting is a spiritual exercise, like troops that go through basic training to toughen themselves up for actual combat.

    Not sure about passing actual rules other than it sends a signal that the Church is serious. Committed Catholics will fast anyway, and non committed ones will ignore the rules, as many do currently for the Friday abstinence / substitution of penance.

  93. wmeyer says:

    It’s not that it’s not possible to fast for 18-24 hours – which is what might be necessary in some cases – but that it’s not always easy to do if one has to work certain jobs in the interim.

    OK, so we should not be asked to do that which is not easy?

    Lord have mercy!

  94. Titus says:

    Someone has likely already noted this, Father, but you have a scrivener’s error:
    “In 1964 Pope Paul VI reduced the length of the fast. Before 1964 people were to fast from midnight.

    Pius XII moved the fast from midnight to three hours in . . . some time before 1964.

    Interestingly, I believe the rule that water does not break the fast was an innovation of Bl. Pius IX.

  95. Fr AJ says:

    I voted for midnight since I do that anyway except for evening Masses. Not much would make me happier than to bring the midnight fast back and do away with Saturday evening vigil Masses!

  96. The Masked Chicken says:

    “I have one concern though: my fiancée sings in her church’s choir for the OF Mass (where she does not receive, because she cannot perform and sufficiently participate at the same time), ”

    Those who sing in choir are performing a liturgical function and are already considered to be participating in the Mass, sufficiently (assuming they are properly singing). Surely, the organist can play an interlude while the choir receives.

    As for people passing out, this was common in young kids in the old days (pre-1964) because:
    1. The churches were packed to the gills
    2. Most churches were too hot
    3. CO2 is denser than air so, as the air was heated, the air rose faster than the CO2, so more of the CO2 stayed closer to the heads of the shorter young people (adults have their heads up higher in the good air)
    4. Children have smaller lungs
    5. Children often have hyper metabolisms and with a midnight fast, this was not good

    The phenomenon of kids passing out was a real one. Now, there is so much air in churches because of lack of people or changing architecture and the rules for fasting are so lax that passing out is rarely a problem.

    That being said, while I support the midnight fast, I think, at the present time, only the one hour fast is reasonable for the reasons that Gemma and Marion Ancilla Mariae mentioned. Back in the day, life was much more regulated. Kids had mom at home, dad came home every day at the same time, daily rhythms were just that – rhythms. In such an environment, it would have been easy to have a midnight or 3 hour fast. In the modern world, with all of the topsy-turvy schedules that some people have to maintain, it would be very difficult to impose any sort of longer fast. So, the change in fasting times is really an accommodation to the hell on earth that modern life organizing has become. FIX THE FAMILY, fix the greed of employers, and then fasts will be easier to regulate.

    I’m all for heroic sacrifices, but if a daily Mass-attending doctor gets called in to do emergency surgery at 2:00 am, I sure as heck want him to eat something before he gets there. In my case, I don’t have the hunger sense that most people do (because of my brainstem issue, I suspect), so, in the old days, when I was healthier, going three days without food didn’t really register as much of a sacrifice. Different things are sacrifices to different people. Now, as a corporate witness of the Church a longer sacrifice might be noticed by the world, but on the individual level, there is a great deal of variability as far as constitutions are concerned. Things should not get to the level of a spiritual competition.

    Secondly, with an aging world population, imposing a longer fast will simply be impossible for larger and larger numbers of people (although many might try to keep it). If one is borderline diabetic, but also poor, one might not be able to find out this fact (more and more old people will be exactly in this situation), so, a longer fast could, literally, be endangering their health and they wouldn’t know why.

    So, I propose that the fast time be determined by the ratio of stable marriages in a country modified by the age of the population. The higher the ratio, the longer the fast.

    The Chicken

  97. The Egyptian says:

    Dr Peters has nailed it

    “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.”

    the looks that abstention bring are terrible, “did he murder someone, adultery??” and the ushers urging you to get moving are a disgrace. Peer pressure at it’s finest. Row by row should be abolished

  98. Marion Ancilla Mariae says:

    I have tried fasting for 18 hours. Just water. I chose a work day. By mid-morning, I was a blithering idiot. A manager asked me a simple question about where something was which I should have been able to answer in my sleep; my response to him could not be transcribed in any known language. The nonsense syllables just kept coming out. I wanted the floor to open up beneath me. (Although looking back, the look on my interlocuter’s face was absolutely priceless. Almost made it worth it.) Luckily for me, I had a long history on the job, an excellent reputation, and that particular manager was a sweetheart of a guy with whom I had worked for some time and knew me well. So, no harm no foul. If it kept it up, though, I would have certainly been fired eventually. Taught me a lesson: DO – NOT – FAST – AT – WORK – OR – ANYTIME – YOU – NEED – TO – MAKE – SENSE.

    I immediately left my workstation and went to the caf. and got a granola bar and a thing of milk, had those, and was fine until dinnertime. “Fine” as in, “able to function according to workplace standards, including responding in fluent English to questions.”

    Here is my mortification: For one day, to treat everyone I meet as I would my immediate superior (within reason, of course, and not to such an extent as to cause the other party to back slowly away.) And here’s the killer one: For one day, to treat every other driver on the road as if he or she were my immediate superior. (Arrgggh! That one is like pulling my own teeth.) I don’t do these often enough.

  99. Imrahil says:

    Dear @wmeyer, forgive me, but I think the dear @Athelstan gave a sufficient and irreproachable explanation of his reasoning when he wrote,

    People of faith might make all kinds of sacrifices for the Kingdom, but it’s a bit different to ask that as an obligation.

    And indeed it is. We are not talking about obedience to given law, but about our musings how the law should be… and just that it proposes something more difficult does not make a proposal better.

    Now for some arguments, but still no opinion, of my own…

    There is a good argument for a long obliging fast, in that it makes people fast who otherwise would appreciate but not practice it.

    Also another, that it may perhaps make us re-valuate the spiritual Communion.

    Also another, often mentioned by the dear @Dr Peters, that the grave sinner can hide behind the obligation (though in a later comment he seems to have considered the practice, personally “tested”, inconvenient, and somewhat backed down).

    There is a good present-day argument against it, in that it burdens the good obedient Catholics, while the rest just does not care and will not begin to care.

    Also, the idea of “we are going to do heighten up a bit our discipline, and what hitherto was okay will no longer be” is not easily communicable. The plain man-in-the-street will either stubbornly keep to the older practice, or feel thrown out as if he is no longer worthy.

    On the other hand, the “fainting”… my my… is one of the instances where my perhaps not so sympathetic “what does not kill you serves to harden up” side comes to the surface. I cannot help that it might even have sounded like sort-of boasting when I told people that we had, as altar servers, “five” (or was it four?) “casualties out of twenty” on Easter Vigil (which was in the morning at half past five). I was not one of them; and I just deleted an “of course” from this sentence… Still, mightn’t there something be to it? What does not kill you serves to harden you up. If going to Communion gets some area of masculinity, that cannot, in itself, be harmful. Forgive me, dear women, that I did not inquire how much these thoughts do and do not extend to female communicants…

    And then there is still this problem which I am particularly bad at, even imaginatively, solving… but which I do recognize: The rule should be easy enough.

    If that was not there, I might have given an opinion depending on how often a person goes to Mass and Communicates, when her last confession was, how often she fasts without connection to Communion, whether she has been there the entire Mass before Communion and whether she had prayed a rosary before, whether she has a spiritual director and what he says, if she has not what her Confessor says, and so on and so on.

    As I do recognize that any rule should be easy, I still do not opine.

  100. I wish the fast was more like a half hour before the start of Mass. With the current fast requirements and the length of our Sunday Mass, as long as we don’t eat on the way to Church, we are fine. For me, the most important part of the fast is to keep me focused on where I am going. Three hours is too long and would lose me in the hours leading up to Mass. However, if the fast were a half-hour before the start of Mass, the whole hour before Mass I would be thinking about where I was soon headed as I focused on when (and why) I could and couldn’t eat. The fast needs to simply be long enough that you actually have to think about it, in my opinion. Nothing more, nothing less.

  101. tzard says:

    There is another reasonable option: 1 hour before Mass starts. Currently, if it takes you 15 minutes to drive to Mass, you don’t have to fast at all, just dont eat in the car or eat pizza in the back of the Church (That’ happened before).

    I wonder if choosing “past midnight” will help revitalize our Catholic culture and encourage people to go to morning Mass.

    That said, I chose 3 hours as the best option for now.

  102. wmeyer says:

    I have tried fasting for 18 hours. Just water. I chose a work day. By mid-morning, I was a blithering idiot.

    There are valid exceptions: hypoglycemia is one. Low blood sugar can make it impossible to remember that 2+2=4.

  103. Marion Ancilla Mariae says:

    What does not kill you serves to harden you up.

    I think maybe there is something to this. I’m thinking of starting a “Toughen ‘Em Up” line of accessories for toddlers – Hairshirts to fit ages 3 and up; Cinctures (iron waistbands) for ages 5 and up.

    And if they cry or complain, smack ’em.

    I think maybe La Leche League ought to be encouraged to create guidelines for nursing infants: let them fast for a number of hours each day from birth. Will toughen them up for later. Get ’em started early.

    Who cares if the children suffer or are harmed in any way? The important thing is to harden them.

  104. slainewe says:

    There seems to be some superstition in the way some posters view the Blessed Sacrament. It is my understanding that we receive graces in proportion to our love. Therefore, one who makes every attempt to fast from midnight and fails, so must make a spiritual communion during Mass, may receive different and greater graces than those who actually receive. (Maybe even the grace to see one has been making unworthy communions.)

  105. be glad to link. I could copy/paste the link but there has to be some way to DIRECTLY link the entry? How?

  106. tjvigg3 says:

    I wholeheartedly agree with Dr. Peters. Not only does a three hour fast call attention to what we are doing when we communicate, but it also gives cover for those who should not be communicating because they are in a state of grave sin. I also agree with Dr. Peters’ proposal to limit the three hour rule to days of precept, but retain the one hour rule for daily Mass. I would alter his proposal slightly by arguing that the three hour rule should additionally apply to weddings, funerals, and (ritual) Masses where other Sacraments (e.g. Confirmation or Holy Orders) are conferred.

  107. Supertradmum says:

    JonPatrick thanks and if we are not in boot camp now, we are not going to make it. And as to obligation, that fosters the virtue of obedience, which excepting true love of God and selfless love of persons, is THE highest virtue. How can we let go of self-love if we are not asked to do things under some authority?

    The lay persons have a harder time becoming holy because they are not in daily obedience to a superior, as in a convent, monastery or order, or under a bishop. We have to learn to bear things we do not want to do, which is a short-cut to holiness.

    As to children growing, I have grandfathers who fasted and abstained along with the rest of the family and they were big guys. This idea that growing children cannot be disciplined with regard to food is simply not true. On my great uncle’s farm in the 1960s, the men ate four times a day, but not in between. He has seven hands plus himself and they managed to fast, as they were Catholics, and I have never seen such healthy men. They grew up like that and were very tall and strong.

    Again, if we are not doing hard, really hard things and teaching our children to do hard things, they will fall away and join the Cramners and the likes of Sir Richard Rich who could not turn away from comforts and good things. Even Thomas More said in the Tower he wished he had done more penance, and he wore a hair shirt.

    The time for choices is coming fast and I for one want to be ready and do hard things now so that I have the moral strength to choose correctly. I am not presumptuous.

    I made my son fast and abstain as much as possible, and now, as a seminarian, he has taken on himself the Byzantine fasts. How one is formed as a child makes a difference in adulthood.

  108. Imrahil says:

    Dear @Marion Ancilla Mariae,

    there I go again… the minute I start to describe what is, and is explicitly admitted to be, not based on principles and logical deduction, of course it goes awry.

    Then again, did you never hear old men describe the days of their youth, etc. etc., when they with some sort of pride insisted that they still had it the hard way? With a special focus, of course, on the military service. Here you do not need to be an old man; it suffices to be two years’ senior or even just the immediately previous boot-camp to boast in one’s own efforts as compared to the ones later. This is sometimes justified and sometimes not, and it is frequently called “looking down upon” which it sometimes is, but that’s not the point here. It is, at any rate, this sort of feeling which I did not outrightly subscribed to, but meant, “there may be something to it”.

    Now back to the safe ground of principle…

    Giving my first outright opinion, I do not think the fast on water should be reintroduced for anything except possibly the time of Mass itself and a quarter of an hour previous.

    And I do think, even principally, that two things ought not to be treated equally:

    Who cares if the children suffer or are harmed in any way?

    I care for both; but I insist that suffering and harm are entirely different things. Of course I care for the latter way more than for the first.

    Any reintroduction of “feelable” fasting, by the definition of the thing, means a sort of suffering, albeit of the sort willingly preferred (by them, not by me unless I would favor the midnight fast). What is more, it would mean the toleration of some sort of suffering which, I agree, should not be willingly provoked, but might still be tolerated for the sake of fasting – for any fasting in a greater populace will by necessity lead to such things: very occasional faints, and less rare sicknesses. One thing will not be the result and that is actual harm.

    It is here that it must be said: It is not a valid argument for not doing something otherwise good (which is the point I do not opine on) that it might reduce what is a residual risk. Security at all costs is not an option.
    Once again allow me to prove by example. I guess we are all for boys to play outdoors in the woodlands, fields, and even streets (I do of course not mean main roads). But sore knees, torn-up pants, scuffles and even a theoretical possibility of accidents (which does mean harm) is the result.

    [For the record, I do not think that your ironical proposals should be followed. It is once again, if anything, a “drawing the line” question.]

  109. CPT TOM says:

    I voted for three hours, but I think if you go to a morning mass before 10am it should be from 12 midnight, with only liquids allowed an hour before mass in both cases. I think fasting from midnight to morning mass is no big deal otherwise.

    I say this as I sing in a schola at 7:30am and if I don’t have coffee or at least some hot lemon and honey, my voice doesn’t warm up enough for chanting some mornings (especially in the winter). Now for when we have EF masses they are almost always 1pm or later…and keeping the 12 midnight fast would be potentially a problem for concentration to pay attention to mass, and also an unnecessary distraction.

    However, as others have said, the transition to 3 hours or 12 midnight better be proceeded by catecheses because to combat “it’s another rule” mentality that is rampant through out the US Church.

  110. Imrahil says:

    Dear @Supertradmum,

    one technical thing: obedience is not the highest virtue after charity. At least faith, hope (in whichever order), prudence, and proper justice (of which obedience, along the scholastic lines, is a by-virtue) still come in between.

  111. Imrahil says:

    The parenthesis
    (by them, not by me unless I would favor the midnight fast)
    stems from a previous draft of the comment and does not really belong to it. Sorry.

  112. Supertradmum says:

    Imrahil, ok, obedience according to Aquinas is the most praiseworthy of all the moral virtues, excluding the theological…hope that makes you happy. St. Alphonsus writes that obedience which is heroic is oneness with God’s Will. He also notes that “It is obedience that brings chosen souls to glory”. So, I stand corrected, but like these men and others extol obedience over all the other virtues. outside the theological.

  113. Supertradmum says:

    PS again for more exactness, St. Alphonsus was quoting another saint on the quotation above-St. Brigid if I remember correctly.

  114. robtbrown says:

    Supertradmum says:

    The lay persons have a harder time becoming holy because they are not in daily obedience to a superior, as in a convent, monastery or order, or under a bishop. We have to learn to bear things we do not want to do, which is a short-cut to holiness

    Religious, even Benedictines who have a high obligation to obedience, are sanctified by a rule of life that provides the means of sanctification. The question must be asked whether a superior can make a priest do things that contradict that way of life.

  115. Supertradmum says:

    robtbrown, you missed my spiritual point. Obedience in the orders is a short cut to holiness, as one is constantly laying down one’s own will and doing the will of God through the superior. I am not getting into sticky example of dubious requests of obedience but the rules themselves.

    As lay people, we do not have this short-cut to perfection and so when such things as fasting and abstinence or other Church laws come up, we should be very glad to have the opportunity of dying to self….

  116. Phil_NL says:

    The Egyptian said
    “Dr Peters has nailed it (…) the looks that abstention bring are terrible, “did he murder someone, adultery??” and the ushers urging you to get moving are a disgrace. Peer pressure at it’s finest. Row by row should be abolished”

    May I humbly suggest that those are completely unrelated problems for which the esteemed Dr Peters is suggesting an ad hoc fix that has nothing to do with the cause of the issue?

    That there is peer pressure is something that is regrettably part of human nature, but it’s something we should fight against, head on, rather than accomodate. First of all, shame on those staring and gossiping. It may be human, surely, but it is wrong nevertheless. Secondly, ushers are completely and utterly unnecessary, abolish them completely, especially if they are a tool that promotes improper reception or anxiety. Thirdly, row by row communion is again something that is only relevant if there are gossiping ladies (fine, men can do it too, but the stereotype is likely to be correct) taking note of who approaches and who doesn’t.

    A dozen fire-and-brimstone homilies about gossiping would be much more applicable than providing people with a I-didn’t-fast-excuse. Moreover, as if the gossip wouldn’t move from “did he murder someone” to “geesh, can’t he stay clear of the liquor/goose liver/bacon even on a Sunday morning?”. This kind of peer pressure should be fought, not swept under the rug. It makes a pretty big bulge anyway.

    PS: Fr AJ,
    Repsectfully, but if there are no vigil Masses, would you and other priests be able to say Masses on Sunday from dawn till dusk (and beyond)? I think it’s a poor thing to force people to choose between (e.g.) attending Mass or visiting a sick grandparent on what for many is very rare time off. And then I haven’t started about the fact that outside the US, masses starting later than noon are pretty much unheard off, making the window of opportunity on Sunday smaller still.

  117. Imrahil says:

    As it were, it can generally be seen who approaches to Holy Communion and who does not… but as far as talking about it with him afterwards, and gossiping to others, it belongs according to my own feeling (feeling again! alas) to the same category as breaking the seal of the confessional.

    I do not mean this as a piece of either canon law or moral theology – that is, I do not say it is criminal or even a sin (though it may be the latter). I mean it as a point of human decency and manners from the Catholic standpoint, and it would certainly be a fundamental breach of them.

  118. Suburbanbanshee says:

    Re: “taking Communion” isn’t about taking stuff. It’s a Middle English expression derived from the meaning of the verb related to eating. Like, “I couldn’t eat on Monday because I was sick, but on Tuesday I took some food.” It doesn’t mean, “I took some chicken soup and crackers in my hand and just sniffed at them.” Taking means consumption of the food or drink; it’s more like “intake.”

    So yeah, “taking Communion” is a very old-fashioned way of saying, “consuming Communion.”

  119. Marion Ancilla Mariae says:

    “taking Communion” is a very old-fashioned way of saying, “consuming Communion.”

    Yes. A meaning of take is consume. In books from the 19th c., you will come across lines like, “‘Will you take some chocolate at bedtime?” (meaning “have” or “consume”) or “we took luncheon with the ladies.” (meaning “ate” luncheon.)

    And when speaking in French, one who wishes to say “to have lunch,” will say, a prendre déjeuner lit., to take lunch.

  120. mightyduk says:

    If you can’t fast for 3 hours, perhaps you can abstain? I mean, we are supposed to only approach the communion rail if we’re properly disposed. In fact if more people abstained periodically because of the greater fasting rule, perhaps it would reduce the social pressure to receive even when not in a state of grace.

    For those folks with special circumstances that would make it difficult to ever meet the 3 hour fast, I’m sure the pastor can offer an alternate sacrifice and dispense the obligation (or at least he should be provided such authority).

  121. Marion Ancilla Mariae says:


    People who faint in church often smack their heads hard on the back of the pew in front of them or on the floor. They can break or lose teeth. Head injuries, in general, are not something to play . . . .

    . . . oh, you know what, forget it.

    I’m on board: All the torture and misery for little ones that the young ones can take. Torture, misery, pain, and more pain. It’s a good thing. Mkbye. And have a good . . . oh, sorry, I mean, a painful, day. Our new team chant: Hey! Hey! We’re Catholics! Ouch! Somebody call 911! But not in too big a hurry.

    Learn it! Live it!

  122. gheg says:

    I do not see why there needs to be a change in the law. Just tell the people that it has been a pious practice from time immemorial that the Holy Eucharist is to be the first food taken in the morning, and that they are encouraged to abstain from eating or drinking from the time they wake up until the time they receive Holy Communion. Leave the law as it is to avoid scrupulosity on the part of people who, for one reason or another, feel incapable of fasting.

    Every time the law of the Eucharistic Fast has been mitigated (by Pius XII and Paul VI), the popes have praised the previous practice and encouraged people to continue it, but this has been ignored by the people (and the clergy), who immediately adopt the new, minimalist guidelines because “that’s all that’s required under pain of mortal sin”.

  123. robtbrown says:

    Supertradmum says:

    robtbrown, you missed my spiritual point. Obedience in the orders is a short cut to holiness, as one is constantly laying down one’s own will and doing the will of God through the superior. I am not getting into sticky example of dubious requests of obedience but the rules themselves.

    No, I didn’t miss it. I disagreed with it. The dying to self takes place in subjecting oneself to the rule of life, not to a superior. Now a part of that subjection can be obedience to a superior, but it is not an everyday affair–for most it consists of obeying to move to a different assignment.

    For example, the Dominican vow of obedience is to the Constitutions. When Pius XII was pope, he wanted the OP’s to be highly centralized, like the Jesuits. The OP Master General told the pope that he would do what he wanted, but it would require every Dominican in the world to re-take vows because it would meant the Constitutions had been essentially changed. Pius XII said to forget it.

    I do agree that in the religious life the means to sanctity are (or should be) always provided. That is why the life is referred to as the state of perfection–not that someone is perfect, but that the means (and obligation) are there to become perfect.

  124. acardnal says:

    I am pleased to observe that at this point 72 percent believe that the Eucharistic fast should be lengthened. Yay!

    On Fr. Z’s previous poll, the large majority (84 percent) also believe that the bishops should return to mandatory abstinence from meat on ALL Fridays, too. Good! Lord knows we need to do acts of reparation and penance.

    Now if the bishops and His Holiness would just read Fr. Z’s blog. . . .

  125. mattwcu says:

    A lot of folks want stricter rules. But changing them now has consequences. Consider all of the folks who go to Mass each Sunday (or Saturday evening) who receive communion weekly. Many may just brush off the new law as unnecessary. The Church doesn’t seem to like to make sinners of its sheep. Before a change were to happen, I think adequate catechesis would need to take place.

    The fast from midnight is a non-starter, given that there are so many Masses (including the TLM) in the evenings.

  126. Marion Ancilla Mariae says:

    I have no problem with stricter rules for adults who are in good health. Not for children and teens.

    I have no problem with parents carefully training children in the way that they should go, including training them to die to self, as the saintly Louis and Zelie Martin taught their daughters, of whom one became the Doctor of the Church, Saint Therese of Lisieux. But not that they should die to self for the sake of hardening themselves in and of itself, and not to expect those not yet grown up to die to self to the point of loss of consciousness. No. No. No. No. and No. Monstrousness.

  127. JacobWall says:

    I say midnight. Especially with the pretty broad exceptions already made, there’s no reason that everyone else couldn’t do it.

    If there were absolutely no exceptions, I would say 3 hours. I don’t not know a single person who does not go at least 3 hours without eating every day of their life. There is this theoretical elderly person that everyone keeps talking about who must eat more often than every hour, and I’m sure that person exists somewhere. I hope to meet him some day and reassure him that I have nothing against him.

    But since the fact is that there are exemptions, and that they are very gracious, broad and easy exemptions, I see no reason for saying anything short of midnight; this is what the Church has done for ages.

  128. dmreed says:

    If I were Pope for a day, I would extend the fast for solid food to three hours and would keep it to one hour for liquid beverages.

  129. acardnal says:

    No pain, no gain. This applies not only to our physical life but to our spiritual life, too. Sacrifice, penance, mortification will produce more saints. And only saints reach heaven.

  130. Imrahil says:

    Dear @Marion Ancilla Mariae,

    And have a good . . . oh, sorry, I mean, a painful, day.

    With your allowance, I take this as the sarcasm as which it was meant, and not as the curse it literally seems to be.

    Once again, I did not even vote or opine for an extension of the fast – and remember it is still about Holy Communion we are talking, which makes it fairly possible to take some dextrose with oneself to take in if needed.

    Maybe you can accept that I have before my mind rather these sort of sicknesses which do happen and which do not involve loss of consciousness. Nevertheless even if that does happen – 911? really? I cannot help to find that somewhat over-anxious. Try to wake the person up, make her sit comfortably, give her a glass of water and (yes) something to eat. Of course if waking up would not work, then we’d have to call 911 with utmost anxiety, but I – seriously! – did not expect anything of that sort to occur as a result of the fast. Nor can I possibly think of a position where a person who sits in the pews and faints would fall in a way leading to bodily injures… and I did not either, hence, think of that.

    All in all, it makes for a nice change to be once on the “right” (in the political sense) of the combox. And all this for not even giving an opinion, but merely relativizing one argument! Joke aside… I do not think I deserve your reprimand.

    And if you disagree with me, which is your right, then the disagreement is to the following sentence: “Even though fasting must never lead to bodily harm and must never be aimed to produce sicknesses, still where the latter (not the former) is concerned, there is a point where it is not a commandment to lax a rule just because it would still reduce the occurrences of them.” That I do uphold.

    In addition, I think it must be brought to mind: Feelable fasting, if followed at large, whether for Communion, Good Friday, or any other cause, will produce some sicknesses. That’s just the case. No, that is not a plus-point. It is a minus-point. It does not follow from this alone, however, that there should never be any fasting – which is what I was saying.

  131. JacobWall says:

    As noted by acardnal, the support for extending is very encouraging! Yet, reading the comments, I see a lot of rationalization of whehter it should be 3 hours or longer. Anyone can give this reason or that. But we should not base such decissions on this kind of reasoning.

    Only one question is really important:

    What does our tradition teach us? From midnight. The question is answered.

  132. Imrahil says:

    Dear @JacobWall,

    I disagree. The decision, whatever it be in the end, emphatically should be based on reasoning. We do not live under an Old-Testament-style unchangeable ceremonial law given from Above.

    It’s just a feeling – again;-) – but do I perhaps detect in your comment traces of that myth that faith and reason be opponents?

  133. Marion Ancilla Mariae says:

    Nothing for children under the age of 18 that puts them at medical risk for syncope (fainting), vomiting, head injury, bleeding, bruising, bone fracture, soft tissue injury or any other medically significant condition.

    And anyone who thinks it is OK to command, require, or promote anything that will put children at risk for a medically significant episode is someone who ought to be thoroughly ashamed of themselves. Well and truly.

    Adults are different. Most adults can handle lengthier fasting.

  134. Marion Ancilla Mariae says:

    Children and young people can be taught discipline with briefer fasts of a couple of hours for younger children, up to three hours or so for older ones, at all kinds of various times. They can be asked to abstain from butter, from desserts, from snack foods such as chips, soft drinks, meat and be served yougurts, fresh fruits, crackers and veggies, chilled water, and non-meat proteins such as beans and rice, instead.

    Children and young people in Catholic families often have siblings who need help with things and who need minding. Responsibilities and chores assisting and watching the young ones can be a real cross when someone would rather be off with one’s friends at the mall.

    Parental limits on the hours one may use phones, TV, music playing, games and videos, internet can be a serious fast for young people. Having just one big TV in the house and having to work out a schedule with one’s sibs can be a huge fast.

    Being required to keep one’s bedroom and clothes in tip-top shape can be a huge cross. Taking turns keeping bathrooms and kitchens clean. Trash and yard work requirements – frequent and fairly exacting.

    Limits on play and sports.

    There are hundreds of legitimate, humane, and Christian ways to train children and young people to self-discipline and to doing without.

    To deprive them of sleep, or of proper nutrition, or of warm clothing and protection from the elements, of proper daily exercise, or of love and affection are not acceptable ways.

  135. Imrahil says:

    Dear @Marion Ancilla Mariae,

    I may be wrong, but I am not ashamed of myself, and that’s a fact.

    Of course I did not promote anything… and I did not excuse putting them at risk – directly. I did excuse tolerating residual risks for some other good, counting them as minus points and not as plus points, along the lines that a riskless life is impossible anyway. I do not consider it a crime that I quoted the german proverb “what does not kill me serves to harden me up” in something different from outright contradiction (I said “there may be a point to it” and did not give an entire approval).

    Your list confirms me in my opinion. You actually included bleeding! And, for pity’s sake (pity with good old joyous childhood that is), what about playing hide-and-seek in bushy terrain with some climbable trees? You do not even need to be naughty (scuffle etc.) to get a bleeding wound there.

    Of course also, I do not claim to know anything about girls, but one can allow boys at the age of 13 or at any rate 16 to take some risks upon themselves if they freely want to. They’d consider it an insult if you’d still watch over them as if they were children*. I am not sure what meaning the legal age of maturity has for that. [*Note: In German law, a person of 14-17 is referred to as a youth. I do not know if they are called children elsewhere.]

  136. Marion Ancilla Mariae says:

    Scuffling and tree-climbing (usually in the case of boys) are required activities; I say “required” because if deprived of them entirely, many boys will suffer from either ADHD or effiminate qualities or other neurotic qualites, and girls, too, may develop neurotic qualities if too absolutely swaddled. There is no substitute for romping, climbing, clambering and rough play, during which injuries may occur. These activities are required, and the injuries sustained, while foreseeable, are regretable.

    It is not required that children and young people fast to such an extent that they are at risk for faint. There are substitutes to teach them reverence for the Holy Eucharist. These substitutes would include fasts of shorter duration, extra prayers and devotions at home before Mass, and some of the other activities I enumerated previously.

    And, if you have ever nicked yourself shaving, Imhahil, you learned that even slight injuries to the head and neck tend to bleed copiously. The head and neck have an especially profuse blood supply, because the brain requires so much oxygen and nutrition. Any person standing in a pew, who faints, tends to pitch forward, and is liable to knock themselves on the rear of the pew in front of where they had been standing. That knock is likely to happen on the forehead, temple, cheek, or jaw. Profuse bleeding and/or bruising is likely to ensue.

    Since it is not necessary to require young people to fast more than a few hours, it is not necessary to have them run the risk of fainting, getting a knock on the head, and bleeding.

    However, it is necessary to permit and encourage girls and boys to play freely, to climb, and clamber, so that they can grow up normally.

  137. Imrahil says:

    Dear @Marion Ancilla Mariae,

    thank you for your kind answer (I mean that!).

    If you have ever nicked yourself shaving, Imhahil, you learned that even slight injuries to the head and neck tend to bleed copiously.

    Indeed they do; the blood can soil an entire shirt plus pants, if you don’t stuff the wound with some kleenex or if you scratch the crust off…

    I don’t think we’ll agree on something in this point… though I do agree that one may never ever deprive the children of love and affection, and that dangers must not be sought for their own sake, that they are minus points and not plus points in the consideration.

    Our difference is on the taking into account (not promoting) of risks which are (according to me) still risks of transient pain with no real danger of harm, and which, according to yourself, are not higher, only additional, to other risks which the “general risk of life” (to quote Constitutional Court). In my view, an obligation to minimize these sort of risks in any circumstances if only a little more security is still able to deliver a little reduction of danger, such an obligation is too restricting on the freedom of both parents and children. (Where do we draw the line? Even on outdoor playing: you say that some of it is necessary for the development of the child. But would not the child be in danger also if that amount is surpassed a slight bit?)

    Also I think that the Church law should pose risks just as little on adults as on children – where obligation, of course not where voluntary devotion is concerned.

    With your leave, I stop my own part of the discussion here. I hope I have convinced you that I am not a shameless child-hater. I do admit that you have a point.

  138. mightyduk says:

    Marion Ancilla Mariae,

    Since it is not necessary to require young people to fast more than a few hours, it is not necessary to have them run the risk of fainting, getting a knock on the head, and bleeding.

    I think you’re trying to attack a straw-man, did anyone here really suggest that young children should fast at at all? Or that anyone young or old should fast beyond the limits of their stamina? Good grief, I think you’re being a little over dramatic.

  139. JordanH says:

    I think Ed Peters makes a really good point on his page that The Egyptian highlighted above.

    “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 it’s a broader issue than just those with guilty or doubtful consciences. There are those who are drawn to the Mass, but who may not be in full communion or in disagreement with certain doctrines but are willing to listen. There are those in RCIA. Mass is not a welcoming place for such people as long as _everyone_ is taking communion.

    I attended for Mass, including many daily Mass during my period of exploration and conversion a few years back. I can tell you that I was at many daily masses where I was sure that I was the only one not taking communion.

    My mother who is not Catholic, likes to attend Mass with me when she is in town. I’m sure she feels odd by being left out. I think the reason for closed communion are good ones, but they are difficult to explain. Fewer not taking communion would make the Mass a more welcoming experience.

    If there was just better catechesis, I suspect many who are taking communion would refrain. I know many Catholics who don’t know the gravity of willfully missing a day of obligation.

  140. MarkG says:

    I think we forgot about alcohol in the 3 hour fast, isn’t it:
    3 hours solids or alcohol
    1 hour liquids
    water and medicine ok
    59 no fasting required

    >>Not much would make me happier than to bring the midnight fast back and do away with Saturday evening vigil Masses!

    I think that would be ideal, and agree with the spirit of what you meant, but with secular job schedules, it’s really hard these days for a lot of people to make Sunday mornings if they have to work. Like if you work in IT, a lot of jobs go all day Sunday because it’s the off day when office workers and call centers are closed.
    For special Masses like TLMs, whose people generally prefer Sunday mornings, they have to settle for a weekend Mass sometimes, even Friday night, or Saturday morning, in addition to the Saturday night, Sunday morning and nights.

  141. Marion Ancilla Mariae says:

    I think you’re trying to attack a straw-man, did anyone here really suggest that young children should fast at at all? Or that anyone young or old should fast beyond the limits of their stamina? Good grief, I think you’re being a little over dramatic.

    Well, let’s see. Children begin to receive Our Lord in Holy Communion at around the age of seven. Most mothers will tell you that children of that age have only recently grown beyond babyhood. Ages seven through ten are still young children.

    And people here have been proposing a return to the fast from midnight the night before for all those planning to receive Holy Communion. Worst case, therefore, is that a young child is going without nutrition for eight, nine, ten hours, and being asked to sit in the church.

    Some may fare all right with that. But others will not do well and will go into hypoglycemia.

    If such a regulation is in effect, or if parents require this of their children, then some of these children may experience a medical emergency. This is no good.

    Also, older children, young girls who are becoming young women, may bring into the situation problems with periodic iron deficiency together with cramps, light-headedness, nausea, and fatigue, while they are still growing, and also have very little body fat to sustain them. To require of such young women that they go eight or ten hours without nourishment at these times is asking for a bad reaction.

    A three hour fast should be plenty for adults and doable by most children and young people. But no more than three hours.

    I think the Church was extremely wise and compassionate to relax the regulation.

  142. Marion Ancilla Mariae says:

    Thank you, Imrahil, and I have taken the points you have made, also.

    I don’t think you are “a child-hater.” The heart of a mother, which is most solicitous of every aspect of children’s welfare and which will fight fiercely on their behalf, nevertheless understands that the view of a man may be quite different.

    I enjoyed our correspondence and wish you a pleasant rest of the weekend. May God bless you.

  143. MarkG says:

    I’m actually type 1 diabetic, so I understand some of what you are coming from. the 1 hour fast was ok for me of course. The 3 hour was ok, because I would take some liquids 1 hour before like a shot of sugary drink.
    If they went back to midnight, which is unlikely anyway, I would probably have to ask for an exemption as even the 7am Mass wouldn’t work for me.

  144. I voted for 1 hour – I think that the most important thing is to acknowledge that preparation is needed. (And not eating for an hour before receiving is really just a small part of the preparation.) Many of you also speak about Sunday Mass – but what about those of us who are (or would like to be) daily communicants? As I live in the UK, on a good week I can get to Mass only 2-3 times during the working week: one of these is a 6.30 or 7.00 p.m. Mass, the other is a 7.00 pm one, the one I sometimes manage is a 5.30 Mass. I work all day, the alarm clock rings at 6.00 am. I would not be able to receive if the rule was from midnight.

  145. Marion Ancilla Mariae says:

    I also believe that the return to from-midnight requirement by the Church is unlikely. What I have had in mind as this conversation has unfolded, has been the possibility that some few zealous but misguided individual families might already have been considering proposing the from-midnight fast privately, to their own families . . . without appreciating how harmful and unnecessary such a lengthy fast might be to their youngsters.

  146. Marion Ancilla Mariae says:

    Jordan H.,

    I’m sorry that you have at times felt not welcomed in the church during the celebration of Holy Mass. You note that this has been due in part to feeling conspicuous while remaining in your pew during the distribution of Holy Communion

    Our priests invite those who are not receiving Holy Communion to join the procession to the altar, and when they arrive, to cross their arms over their chest as a signal that they have come forward not to receive Communion, but to receive a blessing from the priest, instead. I wonder if the pastor where you attend would be willing to consider doing this, also.

    Also, some celebrants give a little talk just before the homily in which they explicitly welcome visitors who may be non-Catholics or fallen-away Catholics, and explain to them what to do during Holy Communion. I think this is very helpful.

    You are truly most welcome, and we are fortunate to have you with us in the church!

  147. Precentrix says:

    Children are not currently required to fast even on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday, and young children are not even required to abstain from meat (though many families encourage this). I would assume that a similar dispensation from the new-improved-stricter Eucharistic Fast would also be permitted, just like those with medical conditions are currently exempt, in some cases, even from the one hour. I once knew a young lady who absolutely had to eat during Mass; she was sick, had pancreatic cancer or something, and the one day she tried to keep the hour’s fast she passed out smack bang in the middle of the church. There is such a thing as *dispensation.*

  148. Bea says:

    I voted 3 hours but was torn between 1 and 3.
    As a child and teenager we had no food after midnight.
    I would sometimes faint at church during Mass, so midnight was not an option, especially for the very young.

    It could be variable for different groups.
    Between 1 and 3,
    I believe 3 would be right for young adult age and/or healthy groups.
    These young adults are in their most sensitive times of their lives
    discerning vocations, attacked by temptations of the flesh, etc.
    If hale and hearty enough and under the advise of a spiritual advisor they could even do a from-midnight fast.

    The 1 hour fast could fall under the same category as the abstinence fast between (18 and 59?) and those with health issues or exempted completely by their confessor as needed.

  149. Susan says:

    I voted for one hour in deference to those hard-working families with young children. You can always, on your own, make the fast as long as you want. But, it can be extremely difficult for parents with young children (who want to sit in mass faithfully with their kids and not have a bunch of goodies in the pew), to make it to mass on time, let alone within the parameters of the fast. I remember taking my three young kids, 5 and under, to mass by myself on Sundays (My husband had not yet converted). It was a bit like running a marathon, sweat and all. Getting the kids fed, appropriately dressed and out the door. When the youngest was breast-feeding – goodness, many of you can not believe how difficult it was in terms of timing. To have had a 3-hour or longer fast on top of that?? Well – we might not have made it at all. So, fast longer if you like…and that’s awesome, but think about those around you who are making it there under greatly more difficult circumstances.

  150. Suburbanbanshee says:

    What we’re seeing here is the interplay between the Church’s desire that her children should have frequent Communion so that we can receive frequent nourishment, and the obligation that we receive Communion worthily lest it kill us spiritually instead of helping us. It’s only been this way for the last century or so, and so we shouldn’t be surprised that things aren’t totally, totally settled yet. The rules even for sick people used to be a good deal stricter, because Communion used to be something that people only received a few times a year after intense preparation. Now we’re back to receiving frequently like the early early Christians or like many of the luckier saints with Eucharistic devotion, and that’s a very good thing; but it’s still something relatively “new” on this side of two millennia.

  151. JacobWall says:


    Replying to what you replied to me several internet ages (i.e. “days”) ago. – “It’s just a feeling – again;-) – but do I perhaps detect in your comment traces of that myth that faith and reason be opponents?”

    No, not in the least. I believe that our teacher is faith, first through tradition, and then through reason which helps us to understand faith and tradition. I don’t think the proper use of reason is to change tradition but to understand it. So, in this case, I would say tradition teaches us that the fast is from midnight; that is our answer. After that, it is both good and necessary to use reason to understand why it’s from midnight. Now, if reasoning leads us to believe that the fast is negative or to overbearing, so we should eliminate it (which is essentially the case we have now with the one hour law,) then we have abused reason to destroy tradition rather than uphold it.

    Then there the idea that the role of reason is to “improve” tradition. However, this can also easily go wrong. Again, see what happened to liturgy in the past 4 decades. Now, this can work *sometimes,* but I believe it should be the exception rather than the rule. If it becomes the rule, then changes to tradition become so frequent and drastic, that tradition is tossed out. If reason is used to change tradition it should be by fairly strong necessity, not only by possibility. So, in this case, reason can teach us why we fast from midnight. But is there any dire reason to change this tradition? With the the huge and sweeping exemptions we have, I don’t think so.

    Now, you also throw in Myth which is a delight to talk about! I by no means see this as an enemy of either faith or reason. I love Tolkien’s ideas on this topic. If I remember correctly, he said something along the lines of the Crucifixion and Ressurection being the perfect and true Myth. Other myths are not the enemy of truth but only an imperfect reflection of it.

    Reason helps us to understand Faith (and Myth!) When used correctly, it upholds both. Yet, when abused it rejects or distorts both.

  152. Imrahil says:

    Dear @Jacob Wall,

    thank you for your very kind answer!

    On Myth, I stand corrected.

    Nevertheless, it still is so that under New Testament law, there is no binding rule on ceremony which the Church cannot change. The Eucharistic fast is was introduced to give some specific and fitting, but ante legem not in itself necessary, reverence to Holy Eucharist; and perhaps also to generally promote fasting.

    It certainly is the tradition of Faith that reverence to Holy Eucharist is due and that fasting is good.

    The rule as such is “merely” (and no less than) ecclesiastical tradition (with the word tradition understood in the colloquial sense, i. e. a custom). These sort of things have my personal respect, and it could be that we are even morally obliged to respect them; but… they do not bind the competent Church legislator when he judges to have sufficient cause to change the law. This the said legislator has, of course, done (it is quite Catholic to suppose that he had better not have done so); and we are now discussing whether that should not be reversed again.

    Reason does have a place here. We are not talking about faith in the strict sense at all.

  153. JacobWall says:

    @Imrahil – “Reason does have a place here. We are not talking about faith in the strict sense at all.” I agree. My preference is that we return to midnight, and I believe that we have good reason to do so (tradition, in the colloquial sense, certainly being an important part of it.)

    However, if the Latin Church were to change the law back to 3 hours, I would be happy; I would certainly use reason and say that 3 hours is better than none (our current one doesn’t count.) It would also be very reasonable to say that even those 3 hours would help many Catholics simply become aware that the fast even exists and is important; some, upon becoming aware of it, would surely choose to start the midnight fast by free will. I could also sympathize with a rational choice for a 3 hour law if that meant that exemptions would be fewer.

    Reason can actually be a proponent of the midnight fast rather than an obstacle to it; a Evangelical Protestant friend of mine whole-heartedly weighed in on the side of a midnight fast using purely logic; the length of the fast will emphasize the importance of the “meal” we are about to receive. 3 hour fast? I fast that much for supper every day. Midnight fast? Well, that’s reserved for something that much greater. (This was his reasoning, not mine. But it demonstrates that reason can in fact weigh in on the side of a longer fast.)

    Among the choices we have, tradition (as in customary action) should be given considerable weight, as I have said. However, were the fast re-established at 3 hours, I would not grumble, or complain or resent it. I would continue the midnight fast as is my current practice, and use reason to see the considerable good brought about by the re-establishment of the 3 hours.

  154. JacobWall says:

    @Imrahil – that’s probably less than the role of reason that you’re suggesting, but it’s what I’m willing to concede.

  155. JacobWall says:

    @Imrahil – BTW, Thank you as well for taking the time to come back to this older discussion and share your answer and insights!

  156. Imrahil says:

    Dear @Jacob Wall,

    that is exactly the sort of reason I was suggesting.

    Thank you and God bless you!

Comments are closed.