Friday, 26 July 2013

Three Hour Communion Fast

Dr Edward Peters has a good article on the Homiletic and Pastoral Review site on why he thinks the Communion Fast should be increased to three hours.

'Restoring the three-hour Communion fast, as outlined above, would virtually eliminate the social pressure to make an unworthy, indeed sacrilegious, Communion, in that a sandwich, a cup of coffee, or a piece of candy, taken a few hours before Mass, would break the Communion fast. Under my proposal, one’s failure to take Communion at Mass would be attributable to nothing more sinister than a case of absent-minded munchies, and the problem of placing Catholics in a situation that requires of them a de facto disclosure of conscience—and the problems associated with Catholics making poor choices while under such pressure—would be virtually eliminated.'

Hear, hear!


pelerin said...

I am in two minds about this. Having looked up when the one hour fast came into being (1964) I realise that I have never had to observe the three-hour fast although I did do it voluntarily at first.

However on occasions in the past I have fainted at Mass a few times and if the three hour fast were introduced would probably do so again!

The one-hour fast is certainly not a hardship. (I have to leave home an hour before Mass starts anyway so short of eating on the bus the fast is scarcely noticeable.) But as the article says it does mean that people may feel awkward if they do not feel worthy to receive.

I remember on one occasion some years ago staying in the pew and the nun sitting next to me beckoned me to follow her. I whispered that I had had a cup of coffee just before Mass (I thought that this broke the fast) and she told me that was OK. Now if I had used the excuse of the coffee to hide something more serious I could have been in a dreadful dilemma.

Having googled the subject I now learn that those described as the 'elderly - ie over 60' are exempt so bringing in a 3 hour fast would not allow me personally to remain in my seat without others perhaps wondering what I had done!

How about a poll Fr Z style?

Nicolas Bellord said...

I am not sure this is very practical where for instance the only local mass on a Sunday is at 10a.m. I doubt if the elderly or the children could be expected to fast until perhaps 11.30a.m. or should we be getting up at 6a.m to eat breakfast?

The Bones said...

Nicholas. Apparently Mass was earlier in the morning in 'olden days' on account of the fast.

Nicolas Bellord said...

Yes at 7 or 8 a.m. and we then had the priest to breakfast. And I remember the fast as being from midnight not 3 hours.

Jonathan said...

I think that the Doctor is naive about this. Instead it would increase the number of unworthy and sacrilegious communions. The cafeteria catholics will just choose to ignore it.

Jacobi said...

I believe that the one hour fast been a major factor in the widespread abuse and even sacrilege associated with reception of the Eucharist.

I could finish my sausage bacon and eggs and toast etc., at 09.30 for reception of Holy Communion at the 10.00 Mass and not break the so-called fast. This is absurd.

In my church Holy Communion appears to be mandatory, but the confessional is rarely used, meaning we are either a Holy Elect, or there is widespread abuse of the Sacrament. I suspect the latter.

A right intention to receive is that it should be done “not out of routine, or vain glory, or human respect but for the purpose of pleasing God” (Quam Singulari).

Which is why I have taken recently to sometimes not going to Communion if I do not feel properly disposed – but it earns me some odd looks, particularly as they brush past me in the pews?

The quicker we get back to three hours the better.

Nicolas Bellord said...

Jacobi: I think one has to be careful about not becoming over-scrupulous. I seem to remember Mgr Ronald Knox saying that we are never completely disposed to receive communion but we become correctly disposed by receiving communion worthily.

I wonder what people think the purpose of the fast is. Is it a purely physical thing like not presenting oneself drunk or having just eaten substantially or is it a penance?

Celia said...

I remember as a child in the '50s and '60s having to observe the 3-hour fast, though in retrospect it may have been that young children were exempt and my mother just wasn't prepared to give us breakfast when she couldn't have it! On the other hand, it was a tougher age in the Church.

The point, I was always taught, is to show respect for the sacrament you are about to receive, and to emphasize that the Eucharist is unique and receiving it is not the equivalent of helping yourself to a biscuit. Unfortunately, that's often about all it is now, since many Catholics (I've seen surveys suggest anything from 40-70%) don't believe that the Eucharist is the Body of Christ.

Jacobi is right, 1 hour is quite inadequate, because it's easy. I'm trying to get myself up to 2 hours, which if I'm going to early Mass might actually mean a glass of water instead of my essential mug of tea first thing. Now that's really suffering for the Faith.

Jacobi said...


You are right about avoiding scrupulosity.

There was a movement, Jansenists?, who believed we were unworthy to receive Christ. Now that is a perfectly logical deduction. As the Protestant minister said?, Catholics should crawl into church on their bellies if they really believed in the Real Presence. But we have Christ’s instruction on this, “do this in memory of me”.

The answer as always lies somewhere in the middle. If crawling in is one extreme, the present normal 100% reception by congregations who, some of whom, objectively speaking I stress, must be in a state of mortal sin, is the other extreme.

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