Thursday, 26 June 2008

Fasting Before Communion

The inimitable Fr. Z has a post on extending the fast before Communion. At the moment, the Church requires communicants to fast from food and drink (other than water) for an hour before Communion. Canon lawyer Dr. Edward Peters suggests calculating the fast from the start of Mass and extending the requirement to three hours before Mass.

I have to say that I believe the argument for calculating the fast from the beginning of Mass overwhelming. Sunday Mass generally lasts about 45 minutes (well, the Novus Ordo ones I've attended last that long, unless they're special events like Confirmation Masses - in which case they're even longer.) If you're calculating the fast from the time of receiving Communion, you are basically starting the fast about 20 minutes before Mass. Unless you scoot in just before the Entrance Procession, that means that you just have to refrain from eating or drinking as you make your way to church. Effectively, this isn't a fast undertaken as deliberate preparation for the reception of Our Lord's Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity.

Re-introducing the obligation of a three-hour fast strikes me as a very good idea. People would have to consider carefully whether they wished to communicate at the Mass, and would have to plan (and prepare) accordingly. I think it would help to interrupt the assumption that reception of the Blessed Sacrament is automatic just because a person was present at Mass.

Three hours is not an overly taxing period to go without food. If Mass was very early, say 8:30am, then a person could just skip breakfast, and have a leisurely brunch after Mass. This is hardly an impossible task: many people have a very lengthy lie-in on Sunday mornings, surfacing some time around 11am wanting to be fed... it's the explanation many give for preferring to attend evening Mass!

Alternatively, if the Mass attended was later, say 10:30am, then, should breakfast be considered absolutely essential, a person could arrange to get up early and have breakfast before 7:30am...

Of course, fasting from midnight is even more salutary...

5 comments:

Jay3GSM said...

Do you really think that making the change from one hour to three hours would have an effect on Joe Catholic though? I'm sure for those of us who do care about such details we would indeed welcome this change being made, but if I were to guess I would suggest that most people who attend Mass give little thought to the one hour fast as it is. I would doubt they would even be aware of the change, in fact I truly doubt many Catholics know about the one hour fast.

I don't want to come across as overly cynical, or lacking faith in my fellow Catholics, but seeing how most people take communion at every Mass they attend yet there is *never* a queue for confession, I wouldn't think they consider any fast beforehand as relevant, if they know about it at all.

Mac McLernon said...

But that is exactly my point! A one hour fast before Communion effectively means just not eating at Mass (and very few of us do that!) so no-one bothers to mention it (because it seems obvious)

As a result, fewer and fewer people know about it... and now you see teenagers chewing gum in church, because no-one has told them about the fast.

If it was a three hour fast, people would be forced to THINK about it.

CLARE said...

I have a wonderful Victorian book about what happens if something (air/spit/snuff(yes there is a section on snuff)/cigarettes) touches your lips before communion. This was only written 100 years ago when it was completely forbidden to eat or drink anything at any point during that day before you had communion. Not very long ago in Christendom terms really.

Hilary Jane Margaret White said...

Yep, I've always thought that a rule that is impossible to break isn't really a rule. A discipline that requires no discipline to observe is not a discipline.

I used to imagine what it would take to break Paul VI's "fast" "rule". I mean, what? Bring a packet of crisps to Mass and eat them in the pew?

Anonymous said...

I agree, it is quite befitting to have a longer fast before receiving Our Blessed lord.

I would go one further though and propose some kind of fast, even if it is just 30 mins, after communion to encourage a propper thanksgiving. St Alphonsus encouraged the faithful to make up to an hour thanksgiving yet in today's Catholicism half of the Church is empty 30 seconds after mass.

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