Furthering My Proposal to Extend the Fast for Holy Communion

The problem of unworthy Communions under the current one-hour fast rule arises thus: first, Catholics are gravely bound to attend Mass on Sunday and holy days of obligation, and second, the Church strongly encourages the faithful to receive Communion at all Masses they attend.

 

A few years ago, I proposed that the Communion fast, currently set at one hour before reception of the Sacrament (can. 919 § 1), be extended to three hours before the start of Mass. 1 I presented several reasons why extending the Communion fast, and redefining its completion point, would contribute to the good of the faithful, including: (1) considerably more than one hour without food and drink is necessary for the human body to reach even a minimally fasting state; (2) not just Communion, but the entire Mass, and especially the proclamation of the Word, is worth physically and spiritually preparing for; (3) the variable elements of the Mass such as hymns, homilies, and intercessions should not serve as distractions for those counting minutes to Communion; and (4) social pressure toward unworthy Communions would be reduced. Here, I would like to expand the analysis of that final reason, the one concerned with unworthy Communions, and then (having tried to live with my proposal for a time) offer a modification of it that achieves, I think, the spiritual goods of an extended Communion fast without unduly burdening those faithful who seek more frequent Communion.

The problem of unworthy Communions under the current one-hour fast rule arises thus: first, Catholics are gravely bound to attend Mass on Sunday and holy days of obligation, 2 and second, the Church strongly encourages the faithful to receive Communion at all Masses they attend. 3 Now, to decline such strong encouragement toward reception of Communion at Mass, a Catholic who strives to think with the Church needs, I think, a proportionately weighty reason. Among fully-initiated Catholics, however, only three reasons militate against one’s approaching the Eucharist at any given Mass.

The first of these three reasons rarely occurs: Catholics seldom participate in Mass two or three times in one day such that, at the second, and certainly by the third, of those Masses that day, they would need to refrain from reception of Communion per Canon 917. 4 The second restriction on reception of Communion, namely, the current one-hour fast per Canon 919, is hardly a check on reception of Communion for all of the reasons I set out in my original article, but chiefly, because few people eat so shortly before the beginning of Mass that the normal duration of the Sunday or holy day liturgy would not suffice to satisfy a one-hour fast.

Thus, only the third reason for refraining from going to Communion, namely, one’s consciousness of being in the state of grave sin, remains as a practical barrier to reception of the Eucharist per Canon 916 and CCC 1385 and 1388. But, therein lays the problem: if the only practical reason a Catholic has for not approaching Communion at Mass is a guilty or doubtful conscience, then, to remain in the pew while almost everyone else goes to Communion is tantamount to disclosing that one has, or thinks one has, serious sin on one’s conscience. A moment’s reflection suffices to show how alien such a de facto disclosure-of-conscience requirement is to the Catholic moral tradition. 5 Yet, by strongly encouraging Catholics to receive the Eucharist at Masses that they are required to attend, precisely this pressure toward disclosure of one’s conscience is affected.

It might be countered that Canon 916 allows for the reception of Communion even by one in grave sin upon making an “act of perfect contrition”. 6 But is Canon 916 a talismanic resolution to the problem of unworthy Communions? I think not.

First, Canon 916 supposes that the faithful know what an “act of perfect contrition” is and that they know how to make one. 7 My admittedly unscientific inquiries among the faithful over several years, however, suggest that very few Catholics have a correct understanding of the elements required for an act of “perfect contrition”. 8 Second, the tenor of Canon 916 suggests that it is meant to function in something like a spiritual “emergency,” and is not intended to become a facile practice that covers for the practical cessation of sacramental Confession among the faithful, and nothing at the universal level of Church teaching or law suggests any mitigation of the requirement to seek sacramental absolution of grave sin(s) prior to approaching Communion in all but the most extraordinary circumstances. 9

Third, the notion of “grave reason” to receive Communion—despite one’s being in mortal sin—is, I suggest, being invoked much too casually by pastors and faithful unaware of the unanimously acknowledged gravitas behind the canon. Fr. John Abbo and Bishop Jerome Hannan spoke for the majority of commentators when they observed that “examples of cases in which an act of perfect contrition suffices {for reception of holy Communion by one in mortal sin} are not many.” 10 The Sulpician priest, Fr. Henry Ayrinhac, took a similarly narrow view: “It may occur for the faithful also, although more rarely than for priests, that they would find it a real hardship to stay away from Holy Communion under certain circumstances.” 11 Nor does this narrow view seem to represent a purely American fastidiousness in regard to conscience. The German Capuchin, Fr. Heriberto Jone, wrote “The case will but rarely arise wherein necessity urges a lay person {in mortal sin} to approach the sacred Table.” 12 And the Spanish Dominican, Fr. A. Alonso Lobo, stated “No one conscious of grave sin, no matter how contrite he considers himself, can receive holy Communion without prior Confession; but in case of urgent necessity (e.g., when one cannot omit Communion without giving rise to grounds for suspicion of infamy, or when there is danger of death),” one may have resort to the perfect act of contrition.13 Clearly, none of these authors provides support for the casual invocation of “grave reason” for resort to “perfect contrition” by Catholics embarrassed to stay in the pew at Communion time. All of which brings us back to the original point: the faithful should not be put in the position of having to make a choice between, on the one hand, the reception of the Eucharist in a doubtful state and, on the other hand, a de facto disclosure of their conscience.

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.

Now, I could let the suggestion for a three-hour Communion fast rest there, and I would support seeing it adopted exactly as outlined above, but, having tried to live with my own suggestion for an extended Communion fast for some time now, I venture to offer one modification of my original proposal that, I think, still fosters worthy reception of the Eucharist but without excessively burdening those faithful who seek more frequent Communion: Apply the three-hour fast rule only on Sundays and holy days of obligation; on ferial days (any week day that is not a feast day), however, allow the current one-hour fast to suffice. 14 My reasoning is as follows.

While attendance at Mass on Sundays and holy days of obligation is mandatory and, as a result, is usually planned for, attendance at ferial Masses is not required and, in fact, is more likely to be undertaken in response to opportunities that arise with little notice amid other activities of the day. Reception of Communion at such Masses, which reception is always to be desired of course, should not be contingent upon one’s having observed a three-hour fast “just in case” the opportunity to receive holy Communion presents itself that day. Such an approach to one’s modern working day is unreasonable. Instead, on ferial days, the fact of having observed a simple one-hour fast (whether prior to reception of Communion or prior to the start of Mass, as the legislator sees fit) should suffice to prevent the trivialization of one’s liturgical activities while still making feasible the reception of Communion by those with the inclination and opportunity to approach the august Sacrament more frequently. Besides, the bottom line remains that, if one hesitates to attend a weekday Mass for fear of approaching Communion on a guilty conscience, one could simply decline to attend Mass on that ferial day without fear of violating Canon 1247, requiring attendance at Mass on Sundays and holy days of obligation. 15

 

  1. See Edward Peters, “The Communion fast: a reconsideration”, Antiphon 11 (2007) 234-244, available on-line at http://www.liturgysociety.org/JOURNAL/Volume11/11_3/Peters11.3.pdf.
  2. See Canon 1247. Attendance at Mass on other days greatly contributes to the spiritual good for the faithful, of course, but is not binding in conscience. Catechism of the Catholic Church (1992/1997) 1326, 1332.
  3. Encouragement to the faithful to receive Communion at Mass long pre-dates the 20th century, of course, (see e.g. Council of Trent, Session 22, cap. 6), but over the last 100 years, this encouragement has become increasingly frequent and insistent. See e.g., S.C.C. decr. Sacra Tridentina (20 dec. 1905) passim; Canon 863 of the 1917 Code of Canon Law; Pius XII, enc. Mediator Dei (20 nov. 1947) nn. 115-122; Pius XII, ap. con. Christus Dominus (6 jan. 1953) passim; Vatican II, cons. Sacrosanctum concilium (4 dec. 1963) n. 55; Vatican II, con. Lumen gentium (21 nov. 1964) n. 11; Paul VI, enc. Mysterium fidei (3 sep. 1965) n. 66; Canon 898 of the 1983 Code of Canon Law; John Paul II, lit. Dominicae cenae (24 feb. 1980) n. 11; Canon 699 § 3 of the 1990 Code of Canons of the Eastern Churches; CCC 1388-1389; John Paul II, enc. Ecclesia de Eucharistia (17 apr. 2003) passim; and Benedict XVI, enc. Deus caritas est (25 dec. 2005) n. 14.
  4. Canon 917 was the subject of an “authentic interpretation” (see Acta Apostolicae Sedis 76 {1984} at 746) to the effect that a second reception of holy Communion on a given day was dependent upon one’s “participation in a liturgy”, and a third reception on the same day was, for practical purposes, not permitted.
  5. See, e.g., 1983 CIC 220, and various commentators thereon, e.g., D. Cenalmor in Exegetical Commentary II/1 (2004) 131-132; V. Tiziano in Codice Commentato (2009) 236-237; and A. McGrath in GB&I Commentary (1995) 124.
  6. 1983 CIC 916. A person who is conscious of grave sin is not to celebrate Mass or receive the body of the Lord without previous sacramental confession unless there is a grave reason and there is no opportunity to confess; in this case the person is to remember the obligation to make an act of perfect contrition which includes the resolution of confessing as soon as possible.
  7. For that matter, Canon 916 assumes that a member of the faithful with a guilty conscience wishes to make an act of perfect contrition in the first place. But surely, while repentance from grave sin should always be sought, it is possible that an individual can know that a state of contrition has not been achieved (at least, not one adequate to permit one to approach holy Communion without Confession), and yet that same person have desire neither to receive the Eucharist on a guilty conscience, nor to endanger one’s reputation by not receiving.
  8. See generally CCC 1452-1453. Even without expecting them to use technically accurate terminology, few Catholics can correctly distinguish, for example, between the “attrition” that suffices for sacramental Confession (CCC 1453), and the “contrition” described in CCC 1452, and required under Canon 916; nor are they typically aware of the differing motives that animate attrition in distinction from contrition, nor do they usually know what the concept of “perfect” entails, or does not entail, in this context, and so on.
  9. See, e.g., Canon 856 of the 1917 Code of Canon Law; SCDF, priv. reply to Cardinal Urbani (11 iul. 1968), reported in Canon Law Digest VII at 664; John Paul II, enc. Dives in misericordia (30 nov. 1980) n. 13; and John Paul II, alloc. Sono particolarmente (30 ian. 1981), Acta Apostolicae Sedis 73 (1981) at 203.
  10. Fr. John Abbo (Italian priest, 1911-1994) and Bishop Jerome Hannan (American bishop, 1896-1965), The Sacred Canons: A Concise Presentation of the Current Disciplinary Norms of the Church, in 2 vols. (Herder, 1952) I: 856.
  11. Fr. Henry Ayrinhac (American Sulpician, 1867-1931), Legislation on the Sacraments in the New Code of Canon Law (Longmans/Green, 1928) 170-171. Ayrinhac, at 171, added “Some accept as a sufficient excuse the necessity of fulfilling the precept of paschal Communion, but they do not admit as valid such reasons as the embarrassment of a daily communicant who would have to abstain on a day when all the other members of the community approach the Holy Table” (emphasis added).
  12. Fr. Heriberto Jone (German Capuchin, 1885-1967), Commentarium in Codicem Iuris Canonici, in 3 vols., (Officina Libraria F. Schönigh, 1950-1955), II at 10, wherein “Raro eveniet casus, in quo urget necessitas, ut laicus {in mortali} ad sacram Mensam accedat.”
  13. See Fr. A. Alonso Lobo in A. Alonso Lobo et al., eds., Comentarios al Código de Derecho Canónico con el texto legal latino y castellano, in 4 vols., (Biblioteca de Autores Cristianos, 1963-1964) II at 256, wherein “(N)adie que tenga conciencia de pecado grave, por muy contrito que se juzgue, puede recibir la sagrada communión sin confesarse antes; mas, en caso de necesidad urgente (v. gr., cuando no se puede omitir la communión, so pena de dar lugar a sospechas infamantes, o porque hay peligro de muerte)…”
  14. The authority of the Holy See to establish different periods of fast observance for the reception Communion is unquestionable, of course, per Canons 838 and 841; as a practical matter, that there could be different periods of fasting required for reception of holy Communion on different days seems no more remarkable than that there are different requirements for Mass attendance itself on different days.
  15. In the case of, say, religious or seminarians who are bound by particular law or formation policy to participate in Mass daily,  a three-hour Communion fast should be established to protect them against being required to place themselves in a situation wherein, as a practical matter, they must disclose their conscience by receiving or not receiving the Eucharist.
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avatar About Dr. Edward N. Peters

Dr. Edward Peters holds the Edmund Cardinal Szoka Chair at Sacred Heart Major Seminary in Detroit. His articles and reviews have appeared in numerous journals of canon law around the world, and he serves as a canonical consultant to a number of ecclesiastical persons and institutions. In 2010 Pope Benedict XVI appointed Dr. Peters to a five-year term as Referendary of the Apostolic Signatura.
Dr. Peters and his wife Angela have six children, several godchildren, and, through PIME Missionaries of Detroit, sponsor three children overseas.
Herein, Dr. Peters expresses his own views.

Comments

  1. avatar Matt says:

    Dr. Peters: Both the three-hour fast and your proposed workaround seem unworkable. If we were to re-impose the three hour fast it would upend the entire Mass schedule of every parish since more people will want to go to Mass as early in the day as possible so they can have breakfast afterwards. How about a third option: Lengthen the fast to one hour prior to the start of the Mass at which you plan to receive Communion. This would make the requirement clearer and easier to follow, while introducing the idea that the whole Mass is something worth preparing for.

    • avatar bonniebede says:

      I think it would be a great idea to reintroduce this fast, and also that those of us who think so, might, like Ed Peters, practice it voluntarily as a way of praying for this. I don’t think it is a good idea that it should only apply to Sundays. First, people might be confused as to the importance of the fast if it it not always applied, and second, I foresee various difficulties around the widespread use of the anticipated Mass on Saturday to fulfil the Sunday obligation – would these people fast for one hour or three? If the answer is one hour, then it further drives the move to making this Mass more popular, which I think is regrettable. Already too many families have become totally used to Mass-less Sundays because of this practice.

      An alternate suggestion to cope with the dilemma of the unexpected opportunity to go to Mass during the week: allow people to fast after receiving communion (maybe for four hours?) as an allowable exception in case of necessity. In other words make fasting as preparation the norm, but fasting as thanksgiving an allowable alternative where it could not be reasonably foreseen that one would be attending Mass.

      • avatar Darnell Cuevas says:

        Dear Peter, I think we live in a society of individuals that operate under the problem of “oppositional defiant disorder “…. this means that whatever the rule I will find a way to make it not apply to me. “No one tells me what to do since I really don’t believe in God’s authority.” I believe that many attribute all that they accomplish to themselves and “never” to God. Be it three hours or one … the results will be the same. I am sure that God feels much frustration with how little his words are followed.

    • It takes roughly 2 hrs for food to leave the stomach. This is more reasonable than 3hrs.

    • avatar Laura says:

      That only makes a difference of about 15-30 minutes, which is hardly a sacrifice. I agree with the three hour rule. It brings home the gravity of the sacrament we are about to receive. Another way of addressing unworthy Communions is to extend the hours that confession is offered. In our parish of 7,000, we only have one scheduled hour for Reconciliation. If there are more than 7 or 8 people in line ahead of you, you are likely to be turned away by an usher as the time for the next Mass approaches. (The hour is sandwiched in between the two Saturday evening Masses.) The sacrament of Reconciliation must be emphasized from the pulpit. Nobody thinks anything is a sin anymore, hence they don’t think they need to go to confession or abstain from receiving the Eucharist.

      • avatar Patricia says:

        I agree that this is not a solution to the problem of unworthy Communions. It used to be that confession was offered before every Mass. Not any more. Confession at my parish is at 11am on Saturday mornings. We go regularly but it can really make things difficult plus I work every other Saturday which is a problem if I really need to go – I have to wait 2 weeks.

    • avatar Ken says:

      I agree with Matt that a one-hour fast prior to the start of mass is a good solution. It shows a consciousness of the importance of the mass as well as some sacrificial preparation. It’s unlikely Pope Francis would encourage stronger restrictions, based on recent comments. Also, Catholics are allowed to receive the Holy Eucharist twice in one day, provided that the second occurence is at mass.

  2. avatar Fr. Basil says:

    FWIW, the Orthodox fasting rule is from midnight, at least. Where evening Divine Liturgies are permitted, the fast is generally from noon.

    Obviously, this is applied pastorally, The fast does not apply to small children or infants, who are admitted to Communion from their baptisms, those with serious medical conditions, expectant or nursing mothers, and the like. Sometimes those who drive 50 miles or so to attend Divine LIturgy are allowed to eat toast and a small amount of liquid or such before they begin their trip.

  3. avatar RJS says:

    The one hour fast is a joke. You can go through the McDonald’s drive through on the way to Church, and still not violate the “fast”.

    • avatar Ph.D says:

      Yes, I, also, never ever eat during Mass.

    • avatar Terik Ororke says:

      Give me a break! Are you people crazy, or closet traditionalists, urging what amounts to idolatry? The fasting has nothing to do with worthily receiving Holy Communion…..recall that during the Last Supper,Jesus and the disciples were in fact doing what? Eating! Traditions of men usually stink –isn’t that what Jesus also thought? But of course, holiness comes in absurd rules and practices.

    • avatar florin says:

      Aug. 4th..RJS…others have given thoughtful, respectful responses to a well thought out, well written article and all you can say is that it’s a ‘joke’…why bother to write anything at all if that’s all you can come up with? Really…

    • avatar Imrahil says:

      However little a sacrifice the one-hour fast is, it is not true that it is entirely negligible for those who know it and follow it.

      If you do not live on the country, but in a larger city, and you have a bike, then it might take some 5 min to your own parish and some 10 min to the Church where there’s actually a Mass at the time you prefer. Not to mention that if you go by bus, streetcar or the like, you still could eat on the way. A ferial Mass may only take 20 min from beginning to Holy Communion. So… and I’ll say it again that it is not much of a sacrifice… but you still have to not overlook it.

      There actually have been times when I did not Communicate solely for reason of the Eucharistic fast, whether fast or no. Do not take that as a complaint. I only mention it because the statement “one hour is negligible anyway” seems wrong to me.

      I do admit that there were other times when I did Communicate after taking a look at my watch and seeing that I just passed the requirement. After all, we are heavily and officially encouraged to Communicate whenever possible.

      • avatar Imrahil says:

        “whether fast or no” means: “whether we now call it a fast or only hold it to be some rule the Church set up for reasons unknown to us”.

  4. avatar Thomas A. Szyszkiewicz says:

    While I certainly appreciate your zeal for protecting the sacredness of the Sacrament and for protecting the consciences of those who want to refrain from Communion because of some grave sin but are afraid to do so because they will stand out, I wonder if the three-hour fast will really do anything to that end. How often do I see people coming to Mass with cups of coffee in hand? It’s not hard to think that, for instance, some at a 10:30 Sunday Mass have slept in, gotten up at 10, showered quickly and wolfed down a donut and coffee on their way out the door thinking, “Hey, 45 minutes, an hour, what’s the big deal?” In other words, to the vast majority of people, the one hour fast is trivial and easily dispensed with in their own minds. I doubt that increasing that time will have much serious effect on them.

    • avatar Craig says:

      And thus, we see the pastoral issue of being “pastoral” when it pertains to a lessening of the Faith versus upholding and speaking out in terms of upholding the Faith and sacred Tradition. While multiple factors contribute to this problem, the problem is still there.

      The 3 hour fast is very doable-even for this 35 year old man. It gives more purpose and a true connection to the Sacrifice and with a little needed catechesis, can help with the aforementioned abuse.

    • avatar John Germain says:

      Just the point ! One hour means little, but a required three hours makes it much harder to turn it into forty five minutes. And even if it don’t help everyone do better it will have an effect on some to realize that the Host is TRULY God. We certainly won’t be so casual at our moment of death and judgement.

  5. avatar Patt says:

    Oh YES!! I agree with you. It makes so much sense!! We could forgo the use of “extraordinary ministers” and be able to rely more on our good priests. As a child I grew up with fasting from midnight until receiving. It can be done even by young children. It is a great discipline and would make one more aware of how IMPORTANT Our Lord is and the MIRACLE of His giving Himself for us!!!!

    • avatar Klara says:

      Yes, I would agree to the three hour fasting before the start of the Mass. It would discipline more people to think of Our Lord, prepare yourself to receive His Body and Blood in to your clean body, that means without sins. Our Lord gave His Life so we can be forgiven of our sins and enter eternal life. You should prepare yourself before Mass anyway with prays before leaving home and dont just fall in the door of the church.Your fasting should be part of your preparation for the special moment to receive the Body of our Lord.

  6. avatar Carl says:

    When I was an alter boy fifty seven years ago, my friend and I voluntarily served at the 12:15 PM Mass every Sunday for several years. That was when you had to fast from midnight, and we both grew up to be healthy men.

    • avatar Maria says:

      I am 79 years old and I grew up with the total fast from midnight. The hardest part was not drinking any water; not eating was no hardship on us children. Also we were encouraged to go to confession the Saturday before Sunday Mass. I would prefer the midnight fast but allowing water as necessary.

  7. avatar Patt says:

    Let me also add–that it would let those off the hook that were not in the state of grace as you mentioned. I had an acquaintance who when she visited her mother would receive Communion–although she was living with a boyfriend, and had not been to Confession in years. She did it to fool her mother since she did not want her mother to “get on her case”. Sacrilege over a parent’s scolding.

  8. What a relief this proposal would be for me. There is only one other person in my parish (attended since 2008) that has ever refrained from receiving communion; (and only one time). So, when I have refrained from receiving several times, I know I stick out like a sore thumb. While my sins are sins of thought rather than deed, the one time I violated the standard to refrain, I was left in spiritual misery until able to attend confession. Sadly, our priest teaches in opposition to your suggestion by informing the congregation that in the ancient church people may have only gone to confession once in their life, so he advises them to not refrain from communion.

    • avatar Imrahil says:

      Around here, while the majority does receive in any given Mass, there’s those who don’t too, especially on Sunday.

      And I have never ever heard that treated in gossip or someone spoken to personally why,he did not Receive. It may not be the seal of the Confessional, but still…

      Maybe as simple a measure as to abolish orderly American line-wise Communion and go for disorderly European all-running-to-the-front might do the trick.

  9. avatar Robin Handy says:

    Dear Dr. Peters,

    No qualms with the fast argument you present so well. I truly believe an effort to stop communion in the hand far more productive. Proper fasting would result with a restoration of proper respect and handling of the Eucharist.

    May God bless you for your fine work.

    • I agree: communion in the hand, removal of extraordinary ministers –more DEACONS ARE THE ANSWER, the priest leading the congregation from the Offertory on; no altar girls, these are really essential in order to significantly manifest the Presence of the Heavenly Liturgy at the celebration of the Eucharist. Though I think it likely in the near future that there will be a reunion of all Apostolic Churches, which will likely occur through a new Council for that purpose, and Vat II will be history, since the pastoral situation will be enormously changed by then. But regarding the fasting, it is a question of RESPECT FOR OUR LORD, because on an empty stomach one can sense that A SPECIAL ROOM HAS BEEN MADE FOR HIS SACRAMENTAL PRESENCE; that requires a minimum of 2 hrs. of abstinence from food.

  10. avatar Peter says:

    Our 2 Deacons regularly get out of their cars to assist at 7:30 Sunday Mass at 7:20 with cups of Starbuck’s coffee. I fear your concept of a 45 minute, let alone 3 hour, fast would be lost on such gentlemen. .

  11. avatar RJH says:

    Let’s not have any more of this, here, there, sometimes, maybe, it suffices when it is a Tuesday and there is a full moon, but not after 1PM and only if in dire need… We all know where this ends up. 3 hours would be a very good thing for all of the above mentioned reasons and a few others that weren’t mentioned, like, increasing one’s awareness of the sacredness of what they are about to undertake. However, no hard and fast, complicated rules that everyone will ignore. 3 hours or one hour, or 15 minutes or whatever…but stick to one obligation, for all, that is clear to everyone, in all places and at all times.

    On a side note, I am in the middle of a novena to Fr Felix Cappello and making spiritual communions daily for your son. May his recovery be quick, full, and miraculous.

    Pax Chrisiti!

  12. avatar Scooter Smith says:

    I do believe that people with certain types of medical conditions should be allowed to take communion even if they did not follow the Communion fast rules.

    An example would be a person with diabetes eating something to get their sugar level back up before church. If there blood levels get to low, it can cause major problems so people with diabetes should try their best to follow the rule, but it if are force to break the rule, it is not really their fault.

  13. avatar Bob N. says:

    Dr. Peters,

    I think the 3 hour fast should apply for ferial days as well. Some of us in religious life are required to go to Mass every day, and in community, it is very difficult to refrain from receiving Holy Communion when we slip and fall into grave sin.

  14. avatar Liam Ronan says:

    Perfectly well reasoned proposition. Alas for me, however, I have a diabetic condition which I struggle with daily and if I do not have something to eat for a period of an hour or so I can unexpectedly go into a severe state of hypoglycaemia.
    A 1 hour fast is tough enough for my condition. If it were 3 hours I’d have a real problem.
    Incidentally I go to Mass with a few pieces of candy in my suit pockets just in case I ‘crash’.

  15. avatar JackB says:

    Before the fasting rule was changed by Pius XII we fasted from midnight Sunday until morning mass. As children this instilled a profound respect for the Blessed Sacrament.

  16. avatar Joe K says:

    While I like the premise behind the idea, I think the biggest barrier to a 3 hour fast would be Sunday morning masses. If the main mass at your parish is 10AM then to have breakfast over by 7AM is a little challenging for many, especially those that suffer a case of “hangryness” (i.e. get really angry when they haven’t eaten and are hungry). It’s also challenging for the spouses of those prone to “hangryness”.

  17. avatar Sara Viginia Lambert says:

    I certainly respect and have enjoyed Dr. Peters illustrious writing and teaching over the years, and I am a devout, orthodox Catholic, but really??? Has he been listening at all to Pope Benedict XVI, Pope Francis and others on the new evangelization recently? Is extending the amount of time before receiving communion really the best and most pressing thing to be thinking and quibbling about at this time in the Church’s life and struggle Really??? Is this the best you can come up with to focus on with your fine intellect and leadership position, as a person who can wield inflence over young catholics and those seeking faith? How about encouraging them to go and bring the Church and the faith to the peripheries of physical and spiritual need? How about showing some joy and charity to those who need it desperately? I guess I should not be suprised – the “conservative” and traditional Catholics among whose number I have counted myself have not distinguished themselves in the months since the Holy Spirit sent us the newest successor of Peter. As much as I am averse to the progressive nonsense we have all put up with over the past decades, the orthodox bunch is just a bad in a different way. We risk becoming, in the words of Pope Francis. ‘Christians who stare at their feet”.

    • avatar Cassandra says:

      Sara,
      The Liturgy, esp. the Mass, is the “source and summit ” of the life of the Church. The Mass itself, when properly and reverently said, pours forth graces into the world. All reform in the Church must start there.

      This “New Evangelization” must have some object. What good does it do to “evangelize” someone only to bring them to an abused and disgraceful liturgy? They’ll just leave in disgust.

    • avatar Dorothy says:

      Sara, I’m not sure how a 3 hour fast would prevent us from doing the works of charity that you suggest. In fact, as far as extending the faith to others in the world, it would do more to enhance our efforts, because the more those around us perceive the effort we go to in order to practice our faith, the more likely it is that they will take notice.

  18. avatar Glenn says:

    I agree with the proposal, but for entirely different reasons.

    If I read this correctly, the core of your argument is that people left in the pews are too easily presumed to be in a state of mortal sin, which makes them uncomfortable, so they’re faced with the difficult decision of dealing with the discomfort or committing sacrilege. Is this right?

    If so, here’s what I (some random internet-surfing Catholic) think:

    1 – we’re facing a decimation of the faith all over the world. I submit that we need to counter this primarily through symbology that emphasizes the holiness of God. A longer fasting period helps here, as do more traditional liturgical practices. So, it’s a good thing.

    2 – Since I have (as just about any Catholic at one time or another) found myself faced with the outlined dilemma. I have responded in the following ways
    - Realizing that my sins are between God, myself, and anyone I’ve harmed. Anyone presuming to judge or contemplate my disposition with regard to my state of Grace has just added another thing for themselves to confess. That’s not my primary concern.
    - Go get a blessing instead of receiving communion. Certainly not perfect, but much less conspicuous. Any of the faithful noticing this and making judgements, aside from my prior point, are likely not giving this holiest of sacraments the proper due anyway.

    So, again, I agree with your proposal but only because it’s a way to lead people toward the Majesty of God, not as a way to provide a comfortable place to hide their sinfulness. My two cents… :)

    • avatar Peg says:

      Thanks for your comments. My thoughts, too.

    • avatar Imrahil says:

      I had the same dilemma as an altar boy only. There is, of course, the will to receive Holy Communion whatever the sins, and other suchlike sinful thinking; but I had never hesitated to remain in the pews for fear of others’ talk.

  19. avatar Peggy says:

    I teach RCIA and have become aware of the “felt need” to go up for Communion, even by those who are not Catholic. They only get a blessing, perhaps that is why receiving blessings has become such a thing. I was amazed that they felt this deep need to get in the line, it was too embarrassing to stay seated. But it is real, too many have talked to me about it. I agree with your very well thought out suggestion; how much more is that need (though their reasons are different) felt by regular Catholics!

  20. avatar Ed Peters says:

    A few replies: Bad catechesis is endemic, but one starts somewhere. Folks concerned about medical issues, such fast exemptions are assumed by all discussants of fasting, so I did not need not to repeat them. Folks concerned about pressure on religious to receive should read footnote 15. Folks who don’t want to distinguish between Sunday and ferial days, well, fine by me, but if some flexibility were called for, that’s where it would fit. And yes, there would be side benefits in regard to a range of liturgical issues as suggested by some posts above. Thanks to all for the prayers for my son, too. Best, edp.

    • avatar Cassandra says:

      While I have no objections in principle to your suggestion, how about a reality check?
      The 3 hour fast makes for a nice academic discussion.
      However, you, of all people, know how the bishops refuse to enforce 915. If they care so little about actual profanation of the Eucharist, what possible grounds do you have for hoping any of them are concerned about whether *anyone* is actually properly disposed and in the state of grace?

  21. As many as 3/4 of nominal Catholics aren’t in church for Mass on any given Sunday. Let’s get them back in the pews first.

    • avatar Craig says:

      Why? With all due respect, a loss of Tradition has sent Catholics away. While various other reasons and influences abound, this loss of true sacredness is the main issue. If a Catholic sees less and less of Tradition, then he sees Protestantism. This leads him to an organization down the street. But with the Church, he may end up in atheism since he is his sole judge.

      We need sacred Tradition; we need the smells and bells. We need Catholicism!

      • avatar Craig says:

        (Without the Church.)

      • avatar Patt says:

        I agree Craig, Many Catholics left due to the laxity in the church, loss of tradition and Protestant influence–it was a “why bother?” attitude.

    • avatar Charlie says:

      Could not but agree more. Christ had things to say about those who put extra onus on people.Let the priests make it known about the one hour rule for starters.Back on the farm we had the first Sunday as Communion Sunday. Farmers were up at 5;30 to milk and feed animals but could not have so much as a glass of water before the 10am Mass…which..usually ended after 11:30!!Many could not do that and no one told them of ‘sick’ provisions.

    • avatar Brian says:

      But isn’t the point of them being in the pews, the culmination of the mass, supposed to be the reverent reception of the Blessed Sacrament? I’m all for the fallen away to return to Mass but I’m also for them being there for the solemn commemoration of the Lord’s Passion, rather than for being seen receiving. For it’s this concern with being seen that must give ground to this nonsense about being stigmatized by being seen not receiving. I was raised to not receive if I hadn’t been to confession (weekly ten) so, if I can’t even manage to go to confession during Lent, I do not receive again until I do. Like Joan of Arc, I do not presume being in a state of grace (nor necessarily of mortal sin) so I err on the side of caution – as I was taught to do. I have no idea if anyone notices me in the pew during Communion. That is none of my concern and it’s certainly not why I’m at Mass.

  22. avatar Howard Kainz says:

    I took the same position as you in an earlier article at http://www.thecatholicthing.org/columns/2010/frequent-communion-pros-and-cons.html. The fact that everyone goes to communion pew by pew can actually, because of social pressure and human respect, keep e.g. contraceptors from going to church at all. Increasing the fast may actually increase Mass attendance.

    • avatar Patt says:

      Is it social pressure or the –follow the herd instinct? It seems almost robotic the way all head for the communion rail. Such a sinful world we love in and satan busy around the clock, but you could never tell at Communion time. Over the years I have been made aware by many catholics of the sinful situations in their lives (taking contraceptives, co-habitation, etc.) yet they do not hesitate to receive even after it is pointed out to them (as in ” instruct the ignorant”). Being in the state of grace is a requirement that is totally– ignored.

  23. avatar Taylor Slow says:

    Dr. Peters,
    Although I find your suggestion interesting, I am not sure what you intend to accomplish by giving the suggestion to a group consisting primarily of non-bishops who have no authority in the matter. Isn’t this the kind if thing you should be taking up with your ordinary or the USCCB? It seems counterproductive to encourage lay faithful to act as hypothetical bishops by asking them to adjudicate hypothetically a suggestion when their opinion is not particularly relavent, except inasmuch as they evidence that the current situation is untenable.
    Taylor

  24. avatar Elizabeth says:

    Wow– I really hate to believe that any fellow Catholic would judge me rashly for remaining seated at the few masses each year I must do so. It has nothing to do with “grave sin” or the fact that I didn’t keep the fast, either.
    I’m a celiac, and on occasion I find that I have to leave town for the weekend. I always inquire about the availability of low-gluten hosts, and there are STILL very few parishes that keep them around. As it is, I am the only celiac in my home parish, and my pastor had to order some specifically for me. When I travel, I often have no choice but to abstain, or else face the surety of sickness. Moreover, it doesn’t help that most priests regard the request for this special accommodation as an annoyance (even if I call a week in advance!)
    That said, I understand about the social pressure to receive. Sometimes people cast penetrating stares in my direction, as I kneel down while everyone else goes to receive. The situation can be exceedingly disheartening, because as a Catholic in good standing, I would LIKE to receive Communion at every mass I attend; furthermore, the sadness is compounded by the belief that I am the object of everyone else’s idle curiosity, as they say to themselves, “She must have done something really bad!”
    I realize that this may seem like a long-winded digression, but my point is simply that there could be MYRIAD reasons for a Catholic not going up to receive Communion– they definitely don’t just boil down to three.

  25. avatar Julia says:

    Amen. I sing in my church choir and it’s nearly impossible to refuse communion brought up by one of the extraordinary ministers. From time to time, I turn it down on the principle of the thing. I have a hunch that the “no fast” situation making Communion nearly universal has made people comfortable with receiving Communion unworthily and then sliding into skipping confession. I think the two are connected.

  26. avatar Erin Manning says:

    While I appreciate and respect the amount of thought that has gone into this, I have a few concerns:

    1. The Church appears to wish people to receive communion frequently. Extending the fast would have the effect of discouraging many people from receiving communion frequently. I know people have mentioned the midnight-on fast they grew up with, but many people who remember those days also remember “planning ahead” on the Sundays when they were going to receive, which was infrequent enough (except for those serving on the altar) to make it memorable. I think three sizable groups of people would simply stop receiving more than a few times a year: the elderly (who might not be medically exempt but still suffer physical symptoms from extended fasting), children and young teens (whose ability to wait three hours before eating will depend greatly upon the time of day and their level of activity), and those who are too scrupulous to ask their pastors for exemptions despite having some just reasons to do so (e.g., those who must travel an hour or more to get to Mass, those who become ill or faint from fasting but don’t have an actual medical condition, those in missionary countries who are lucky to get Mass once every six months and then only if they walk great distances, etc.).

    2. Historically speaking, when the Church has lessened various ecclesiastical rules she has not often seemed to revert to a stricter rule. Perhaps there are some examples of this, though, and if there are I think it might be helpful to consider how they were implemented, whether they applied to all the faithful or only certain groups of them, and so on.

    3. Requiring an increased Eucharistic fast before undoing the damage of a 40-year nightmare of catechesis is, I think, putting the cart before the horse. Let people be brought to a greater understanding of Who the Eucharist is and how we ought to receive Him–change that dismal statistic that shows such confusion over the Real Presence and that other one that says fewer than 24% of the Catholics in America even bother to show up for Sunday Mass first. I realize that some think that requiring stricter rules will be educative, but I have never seen that play out in parish life; stricter rules, on the ground, tends to translate into higher levels of disengagement.

    4. Placing the burden of extended fasting with the expressed purpose of making it easier for those conscious of grave sin to avoid communion without being judged ignores two serious aspects of this problem: one, that it’s basic Catechism 101 that nobody should judge anybody for not receiving and that we are in fact obligated to presume the best in charity (the person isn’t Catholic, the person is returning to the faith, the person is feeling ill, the person is piously refraining for some personal reason, and so on), and two, that the reason we have this problem of Catholics presenting themselves despite awareness of grave sin is caused by one of two things–ignorance of the law requiring confession of all mortal sins before reception of holy communion or the lack of availability of sacramental confession. Those who would be inclined to judge others for not receiving need charitable correction. Those unaware that the law requires the confession of mortal sins in kind and number before reception of communion need to be informed of this. And priests who schedule a single half-hour of weekly confession time at parishes with a thousand or more registered families need to be reminded of their serious duty to make sure that all the people in those families who have reached the age of reason should have a reasonable, if not generous, access to this most necessary sacrament. Expanding the Eucharistic fast will do none of these things; it will only increase the burden on those who take the law seriously without impacting anyone else, which seems less than optimal.

    (Praying daily for Thomas.)

  27. avatar j. danabal says:

    Sir,
    I understand from your article that you are more interested in making the communion fast for 3 hours and argues that it will make a person worthy of receiving communion, well, I am a migraine sufferer and three hour fast would surely trigger my migraine which would then last for three days. There should not be any qualm about ones sate of sinfulness by abstaining from communion in the mass, the whole world knows that every one is sinful and nobody should blame other by observing their abstaining from communion in a mass, if somebody do, then it is sheer hypocrisy. All should receive the sacred body and blood of Christ by 3 hours fast and just by having a deep remorse in the heart instead of a proper confession would make the communion as like any other ordinary wedding feast where everybody whether they like the bride or groom come and eat to their hearts content. I strongly disagree your recommendation and pray that 3 hour fast should never be promulgated rather Our mother church could make available the facility of confession before each mass and could ask the Catholics to make use of the confession very often to receive the holy body and blood of Christ with a pure heart where God could reside..

    • avatar Scott W. says:

      First off, serious migraines should exempt you from the discipline. Secondly as I mention below, it doesn’t matter if people are judging people not going up for communion or not. The guilty conscience perceives judgement no matter what and thus, tempts him to receive sacrilegiously.

  28. avatar pauline says:

    I help to prepare children for Confirmation, and the classes are given in our parish hall. We are supposed to have Catholic schools in Canada, but 60% of these children do not know that they should fast for 1 hour before receiving Holy Communion. They also do not know that Christ is really, truly present, Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity, in the Host. No one ever told them!

    Not only do the children know nothing, but their parents know nothing. Parents miss Mass because they don’t feel like it this week, or they go to soccer practice……. Many of these children have not been to Confession since their First Holly Communion! Hard to believe, isn’t it?

    So, in 6 short weeks, I have to teach them their Catholic Faith. The only children who know the faith, are the children of good, well-instructed Catholic parents. In a class of 25 children, that would be about 4 children.

  29. avatar Richard M says:

    I have long thought that it was a mistake to replace the three hour fast with a one hour fast – a fast almost impossible to violate unless you’re snacking in the pews.

    One concern I have with your proposal, however:

    “Such an approach to one’s modern working day is unreasonable. Instead, on ferial days, the fact of having observed a simple one-hour fast …”

    My fear is that this is too complicated. A fast that varies on weekdays will be hard for many of the faithful to keep straight. I think simplicity demands one consistent rule that always applies. The solution needs, I think, to be the same for Sundays: A lot of catechesis is needed to change the mindset of Catholics toward how and when Communion is to be received.

  30. avatar Lee Gilbert says:

    In principle I am with you, but . . .

    Presumably this regulation would have to be obeyed under pain of mortal sin, and there’s the rub. There would be no way to assess this statistically, of course, but I doubt very much that this new regulation would lessen the number of sacrilegious communions and it may well increase them. While at one time we were a well-disciplined and sacrificial people keeping long communion fasts (no food or water from midnight on), meatless Fridays and hard Lents, that is no longer the case. We are a self-indulgent people now for whom a three hour fast is a quasi-eternity, especially on Sunday mornings. Of course, we may yet repent as a people (presumably after the judgments of God rain down on us for a while), and ask our bishops to demand more of us, but having this come down from on high from an episcopate in disgrace with many people just won’t fly. I would expect it to be broadly disobeyed or to precipitate more defections.

    • avatar Gail Ramplen says:

      One doesn’t have to wait for the Bishops to make such a rule. If one wants this type of fast then there is nothing to stop one from exercising it oneself. What is it to you that others exercise their own form of piety according to the exigencies of their own daily lives? The Lord judges the heart and wishes us to receive Him with a pure heart in love and humility. Is it love and humility to be imposing one’s pious ideas on others? This borders on hypocrisy in my view.

  31. avatar Joyce Stolberg says:

    Are you old enough to remember the years before Vatican II? I went to daily Mass and couldn’t receive Communion because Mother insisted that I have breakfast before school (no luxury school breakfasts in those days!) Some of us kids fainted in Church on Sunday from no food or water. Then Pius XII gave us a break in the 50s, updated to the current rules by Pope Paul VI in, I think it was 1964. Look at what us lay folks have accomplished since that time frame! We are the “surprise” of Vatican II. Now we receive Communion before work, during lunch periods, and after work. All the best fruits of lay participation can be attributed to the greatly enhanced participation in Holy Communion. No, No, No, DO NOT GO BACK! We are living Pope Pius Xii’s dream!

    • avatar Cassandra says:

      I think it would be more accurate to say the Church is currently living Pius XII’s *nightmare*, esp considering his vision during an address to his Curia.

  32. avatar Erin Manning says:

    Lee’s comment, above, brings up something I’ve been thinking about that I touched on in my first comment: has the Church ever made a purely ecclesiastical rule stricter rather than looser such that people who, say, received communion one Sunday with an hour fast were fine, but the very next Sunday the new rule placed them in a state of mortal sin for not fasting for three hours? I honestly can’t think of a historical parallel where something that wasn’t sinful one week could put you in jeopardy of eternal death the next. Granted that the Church has this power over ecclesiastical rules (moral matters are a separate question entirely as the Church has no power to make a moral evil into a moral good), has she ever used it? Any Church historians out there who can answer this?

    • avatar Cassandra says:

      Well, for one on a related topic, the early Church allowed communion in the hand before coming to a deepened understanding of the Real Presence and requiring communion on the tongue/kneeling–which by the way is still the universal law of the Church. Paul VI allowed dispensations from that. There was also the move away from distribution of the Precious Blood.

  33. avatar JIM W says:

    I really don’t think God is too worried about our fasting. The state of mind and our soul is more important. Don’t we eat right after Mass. Maybe we should fast then too???

    • avatar Scott W. says:

      It is not a question of God being worried, but what is salutary, right and just for us worshipping Him to do. The state of our mind and soul is important, but we also worship with our bodies, and how we worship with our bodies is indicative of how we worship with our mind and souls. To dichotomize the body from the soul is to cozy too close to gnosticism.

      What the solution to the fast is not clear to me, but Dr. Peters is right on one point: the current one-hour fast is so slight it is non-existent as a discipline. It’s such an empty gesture that it presents two choices: eliminate any fasting altogether since we are not really doing it anyway, or make it substantial.

  34. avatar VFR says:

    A Greek Orthodox friend told me that they must confess before EACH communion,. Not a bad idea.

  35. avatar Scott W. says:

    Yes, we know that no one is supposed to judge anyone for not going up for communion, but that misses the point. It doesn’t matter if no one is judging, because if you know anything about serious sin, you know that the guilty conscience perceives that he is being judged by everyone around him whether they are or not.

  36. avatar Ernie says:

    A little self-imposed discipline is not a bad thing, a three hour period (minimum) of fasting cannot be difficult for the average person, even if it might be a trifle inconvenient.

    Years ago, as has been pointed out, we fasted from the previous midnight – with no bad effects. Bring back this rule – for ALL Masses, please Holy Father.

    As for being in a state of Grace “For he that eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh judgment to himself, not discerning the body of the Lord.” Never mind what “other Catholics” think about you, they do not have that right and they sin to judge others like this. To receive Holy Communion for fear of being thought a sinner by others is classically muddled thinking as well as sacrilege. In any case, get to Confession.

    Don’t make it easier for lapsed Catholics to return to the fold, stick to the rules. These rules were well-chosen by the Fathers, they knew what they were doing.

    The Muslims complete the whole day without food or drink during Ramadan, but then, they do seem to take their religion much more seriously than the average Catholic, at least to me.

    • avatar Patt says:

      Ernie you are absolutely right. Let’s quit making things easier—it leads to abuse. Make it a challenge we can rise to.
      Concerns about the fast and poor health? Use common sense–those folks would be exempt.

  37. avatar Charles E Flynn says:

    When I was a child, I assumed that the concept of “fasting” was associated with at least some degree of the awareness of hunger, a state unlikely to be caused by an hour without food. With no formal qualifications whatsoever, I think you “nailed it” with your proposal.

  38. avatar Tom McGuire says:

    What if we called people to make their own way to fast before receiving Eucharist? Would that be a change in the Catholic Church, to treat people as adults able to comprehend spiritual reality and make decisions on how to respond. Why do Catholics think that law is the way to go, that uniformity is better than unity?

  39. avatar jim says:

    I have felt, for some time, that Vatican II reforms ruined the Mystery of the Mass. The three hour fast before receiving the Eucharist is the LEAST that could be done.

  40. avatar Gail Ramplen says:

    I really enjoy being able to go to two Masses in short succession and receive Communion at each Mass, since I am unable to travel the distance more often due to petrol and time constraints. Not being able to receive at the second Mass would deter me from going to it. Let us not impose our sense of piety on others and stand in the Lord’s way. Keep up these rules yourself, by all means. God bless.

  41. avatar TomK says:

    All I see is all of this 1 hr vs 2 hrs vs 3 hrs, etc. is probable other splinter groups forming over all this.

    All you uppity ups and doctorates, etc. are just making things more complicated (as usual) for the common person and, again, this will lead to more just dropping away from Church all together…

    Jesus did not make things this hard and, I would bet dollars to donuts, he wouldn’t care whether it was 1 hr / 4hrs / 30 minutes – all these time issues are man made and take away from who everyone should be concentrated on, and that is Jesus himself – 24/7

  42. avatar pauline says:

    I conduct a series of 6 classes (which are in addition to the preparation for the sacrament in the so-called, Catholic school system), for the sacrament of Confirmation, and I have to tell you that in a class of 25, only 2 or 3 children know that there is an obligation to fast, let alone the time for that fast!

    Only 25-30% of those same children, know that there is an obligation to attend Mass on Sundays and holy days of obligation; that they must confess their sins at least once a year; what constitutes a mortal sin; none of them can recite the 10 commandments, and that includes the children who come from practicing catholic homes! Even if they know what a mortal sin is, they do not know that that sin must be forgiven in sacramental confession, before receiving Holy Communion.

    . THE SAME HIGH PERCENTAGE DON’T BELIEVE IN THE REAL PRESENCE; no one ever told them! They think the Host is a piece of bread; they think it is just the same thing as what those “other denominations do. Hard to believe, isn’t it? When I first started conducting these classes, I could not believe it.

    They don’t know and most of their parents don’t know, and if those parents do know, they don’t seem to care.

    On many occasions, when I have not been able to fast for one hour, I remain in the seat, and when I see someone else do the same, I think one of two things; that they do not belong to the catholic church, or that, lke me, they have not fasted sufficiently long.

    Most of the congregation does not even know what a mortal sin is, they think , “all that changed after the Vatican II Council,” so the last thing they would be thinking is that those people remaining in the pews are in mortal sin!! They are all full of the, “warm fuzzies”, Jesus is our brother, our pal, It is simply mind-boggling how ignorant of the faith, the fast majority of catholics are.

    It is my belief, that if the altar-rail were restored, so that everyone had to kneel for the sacrament and thus we had to receive on the tongue, combined with much-needed catechisis, true worthy reception of Holy Communion would follow quite naturally.

    The BIshops are the shepherds. “The good shepherd lays down his life for his sheep.”

    • avatar Lisa says:

      I couldn’t agree with you more. I am a product of poor catechesis in the 70s and 80s. No one ever told me during all those years of CCD what the Real Presence is. Thank God, I had a strong re-version to my faith, and had the chance to learn what my faith is. Just the one change of kneeling at the altar rail, and receiving on the tongue, would promote so much education — because those that don’t know would ask WHY we are doing it.

  43. avatar John Lillis says:

    I know, why don’t we push the fast back to Midnight on the night before Mass and make it a mortal sin again to even brush your teeth after midnight and receive communion…. I’m sure returning to this standard should fix the problem.

  44. avatar Richard says:

    The way to avoid unworthy communions is for the priest to more freely discuss what sin is, and why some may wish to refrain from going to communion. Let’s not pass the buck, Dr. Peters. Round about means to a good end are generally not “efficacious.”

  45. avatar Pam says:

    I have been converted and evangelized by the wonderful lay movement that has occurred in our beautiful Church. We have great lay evangelists and apologists in our Church today and I believe it is because of our increased access to the Sacraments, especially Holy Communion! I hope we will not do anything that would deter people from receiving communion as often as possible.

    To have one fast for Sundays and a different one for weekdays is not logical. To go to a 3 hour fast would only serve to decrease communions. I think your own experiment with the 3 hour fast showed the problems with your idea. Also many good and faithful Catholics would struggle with the longer fast because our health today may not be as robust as in the past. Many struggle with blood sugar problems, anxiety, stomach issues, etc. Isn’t our Heavenly Father so good to make it easier for us to receive Him in our time with all our weaknesses?

    I think you are really wanting people to love and reverence the Real Presence of Jesus in the Holy Eucharist. How can we do this without discouraging more frequent communion? Prayer, evangelization, and ADORATION!!

    Lastly, we must be careful not to judge the state of another’s soul. We can trust that God is with His Church, leading us all to holiness!! God has His own timing in leading us to deeper conversion, that is why prayer for conversion is the most important thing we can do for ourselves and others. I am eternally grateful for those of you who prayed for my conversion!! There was a time when I am sure I was not making the most “worthy” communions but the Lord met me there and continues to draw me closer to Himself and deeper conversion. Pray and trust God to work.

  46. avatar Paul says:

    Dr. Peters:

    Our Catholic written laws and the guilt to follow them are rivaled only by the Pharisees and Sadducees in the years of our Lord Jesus Christ. In addition, the word “Bible” is not found in your article but I found the word “Canon” 30 times. Neither did I find Love or Forgive,

    We live by the spirit of the law, not the letter of the law. We are saved by our faith and what we declare. We cannot obtain righteousness through our acts.

    I think we agree that we can get MUCH more from Mass, prayer, and the Eucharist when we fast, although the bible contradicts fasting before the communion in at least 2 places. (1) It states that we shall not fast on the Sabbath, which we changed to Sunday and the spirit of the law is the same. (2) We should not come to fill up on Holy bread so we should fill up at home first. Nonetheless, fasting is absolutely recommended, but should not be a written rule. We live by the spirit and faith, not by acts.

    With Respect,
    Paul

  47. avatar Mike says:

    Since the length of Mass can vary greatly from priest to priest, setting the target at the beginning of the Mass may be a good idea. I’ve been guilty of finger pointing myself. It can be a distraction, but not an obsession that takes away from the Mass. Nor is it even an issue for most Masses I attend.

    The point you make about those influenced by “social pressure towards unworthy communion” needs to be balanced against the truly worthy communicant who absent-mindedly takes a sip of coffee 2 1/2 hours before Mass. Does the Church really want to block someone like that from receiving the Eucharist? Increasing the length of the fast time makes this much more likely..

    Recently, a Gallup poll showed serious misunderstanding among Catholics about the Eucharist.
    • Only 30 percent of those surveyed believe they are actually receiving the Body and Blood, soul and and divinity of the Lord Jesus Christ under the appearance of bread and wine.
    • 29 percent think they are receiving bread and wine which symbolize the spirit and teachings of Jesus and, in so doing, are expressing their attachment to His person and words.
    • 10 percent understand their action to be receiving bread and wine in which Jesus is present.
    • and 23 percent hold that they are receiving what has become the Body and Blood of Christ because of their personal belief.

    Before the post-Vatican II changes in the Mass, 75% of all Catholics attended Mass every Sunday.Today it’s 25%. With it, reverence for the Eucharist, both during, and outside the Mass, has slowly eroded. I attend Mass every day and concur with the problems you highlight. However, increasing barriers to the Eucharist doesn’t address the root of the problem. The issues of Faith needs to be dealt with first, and directly. Otherwise, increasing the length of the fast time could distance Catholics further away from the Eucharist.

  48. avatar Vickie L. Jackson says:

    I agree that there are egregious abuses, like here in Los Angeles where people frequently leave during Consecration, run to McDonald’s and return with junk to eat even in the Communion line, or buy nachos & cheese at vendors in the churchyard and go back inside with their food during Mass. On the other hand, what about early Masses like at 8 AM, where people would need to finish breakfast around 5 AM?

  49. avatar Rob L says:

    It may help this discussion more to look at the time spent immediately after receiving communion.

    Since we spend 90 % of the Mass preparing to receive the Lord of the Universe, perhaps we need to set up more time to be with Him than the 2-3 minutes we usually give Him, instead of preparing to race for our cars. Somehow, we have the whole Mass backwards in the first place. Or maybe we just have to give the reception of the Lord more time for thanksgiving. That, along with receiving Him on the tongue, might give the Eucharist its real priority.

  50. avatar Joseph Louis says:

    Fasting from midnight onward would be even better than just a 3 hours fast. Catholics would have the opportunity to attend Holy Mass earlier in the morning. Those who do so even now, usually have breakfast after Mass and, especially,at Latin Masses where people often provide a nice breakfast free-of-charge after Sunday Mass. Many people stay and have something to eat then.

  51. avatar christopher says:

    Here’s my view. First, our parish priest here in France mentions on a regular basis that we should not go to communion if we have not been to confession within the past year, if we have not attended our obligations for Mass on holy days and, finally, if we have not attended Mass each Sunday. Secondly, I was not able to receive communion or confession for about 1 year because I was living with my girlfriend, but during this time I went to each Mass. I’m overjoyed that, first, our priest made it clear from the beginning of my return to the faith, that I should in no way be offended or concerned of what other people would think of me because I wasn’t going up for communion. This experience made me reflect and respect what Holy Communion truly is. With regard to your suggestion of fasting for three hours before reception, it is a good idea, but to me, the biggest problem facing us today in the church is that, through relevatism entering peoples’ lives, most people do not accept or admit to sin anymore. People no longer genuflect, people no longer kneel after the Sanctus, and, I often think to myself, do people really believe?

  52. avatar Joseph Louis says:

    Fasting from after mid-night would be even better than just a 3 hours fast. Catholics would have the opportunity to attend Holy Mass earlier in the morning. Those who do so even now, usually have breakfast after Mass and especially Latin Mass groups who often provide a nice breakfast free of charge after Sunday Mass. Many people stay and have something to eat then.

  53. avatar Marie says:

    A 3-hour fast is unworkable for most people, unless Mass is at noon. And there would have to be exceptions allowed, for example, a pregnant women and diabetics should not go that long without food.
    I don’t believe the intent of the fasting rule is to put the person in a fasting state; rather, the intent is that the stomach be empty so that the Body of Christ is not profaned by coming into contact with the remnants of donuts, coffee, or whatever one picked up from McDonald’s. Matt’s suggestion about increasing the length of time to an hour before Mass seems like a good compromise, although I really hope this whole notion doesn’t gain any traction, since I am one those get-up-at the-last-minute-and-swig-some-coffee derelicts.

  54. avatar Susy says:

    I read your article this morning before I went to my Traditional Catholic Mass, we have a normal fast of 3 hours, but most of us fast from midnight until Mass starts. I believe it’s a discipline also in preparing ourselves for Our Blessed Lord. I’ve read some of these posts. It seems a lot of you attend
    the main stream Church, also known as the Novus Ordo. I attend a Vatican I Church.. You won’t approach the Communion rail without first going to confession. We are a small Church. I read the post with 7000 members-there would never be enough time for all to go to Confession. I went to the Novus Ordo Mass about twenty years ago, didn’t like where it was going, so searched for a traditional Church. I have been there for twenty years, I guess. I love it though! You should all try the Traditional Church once again, it will take you back in time-remember GOD never changes so why should HIS Church. It shocks me to see people going into the mainstream church with the way they dress. There is no more respect for Our Lord and Blessed Mother, not to mention your rubrics. Thanks for letting me post. Oh search for a Traditional Church-I mean True Traditional Catholic, you might just fall in love with it!

  55. Dr. Peters gave good sound advice on fasting before Holy Communion. I would like to know if I can receive Holy Communion twice in one day, if I go to Mass twice in one day? Say, if I go to Mass at 9 AM in the morning and receive Holy Communion, and go to Mass again at 12:10 in the afternoon, would I be allowed to receive Holy Communion again? I did ask the Nuncio in Ottawa, Canada, and he said I can. What is Dr. Peters advice to me on this? Reply please.
    Sincerely in Jesus and Mary,
    Cassilda

  56. avatar Rosemarie kury says:

    A better solution would be that more Catholics are informed about this, and that Confessions should be heard an hour before Mass. The priest is there anyway, and busy as they are it would be a convenient time so all the congregation would be able to take advantage of this. Somehow an hour only on Saturday isn’t enough. St. John Vianney’s life should be an example all should follow.

  57. avatar Fr Ron Floyd says:

    Dr. Peters,

    Your proposal, which I have heard people make for some time, NEEDS to be implemented in the Church for all the reasons you suggest, but that begs the question… what can be done to further this change in Canon Law? Realizing the Church is not a democracy might a petition to his Holiness further this cause?

    I can’t believe that any Prelate whose eyes are open has not notice the general breakdown in all Eucharistic discipline, but perhaps it would benefit them to know that so many of the faithful are scandalized and hurt by those who receive our Lord haphazardly. I can’t tell you how many confessions I have heard of those who fell away from the Church’s sacramental life because of the absolute SCANDAL of how Catholics receive the Sacrament. I personally as a youngster thought of leaving the Church because I was certain because of the way Catholics behaved toward the Blessed Sacrament that they did not believe that this truly is HIS BODY.

    I would not however make an exception for daily Mass. Most people who attend daily Mass do so regularly OR as a result of a Wedding or Funeral, which of course would not be unforseen and so they could plan accordingly. Funerals are perhaps the most atrocious example of this problem, despite the fact that I remind the congregation at every funeral that only Catholics in a state of grace (and yes I do explain these terms) ought to receive almost all do even those who I suspect haven’t darkened the inside of a Church in ages. I would like to think it is social pressure, and not willful sacrilegious pride, at the root of this. Perhaps better than codifying exceptions, which in my humble opinion only breeds confusion, it would be better to extend the privilege to dispense from the fast, which the current law allows those, the Parish Priest or a Chaplain, who have been given the care of souls to do, to the celebrant of any Mass for those attending His Mass.

  58. avatar John Germain says:

    Fasting is a great spiritual exercise, and since we no longer do much fasting, abstaining from meat on Friday, or do much penance since Vatican II, it is probably a good idea to go back to the three hour fast. It was much longer (from midnight), then reduced to three hours, and then down to one hour. We keep making things easier and easier and are down to almost no sacrifices at all, even the mass itself is no longer a “sacrifice”. We seem to want to have a faith or religion that requires NO EFFORT. What good is that? How do we please God by making things so easy for ourselves? We can’t even be so inconvenienced as to put on our “Sunday best” to “worship” God. All we do is whine and moan about every little thing. Four hours without food won’t kill anyone !

  59. avatar Bill Sr. says:

    It is sad enough that we have restrictions on the reception of Holy Communion based on our meal habits.
    The simple habits of our society in the days when all men went to work in the morning five days a week while wives were home with children and stores were closed on Sunday were a good fit for the fast. We older folks fasted from midnight for Sunday Mass. We also went to Confession on Saturday afternoon or night. All that changed once we did away with the “Blue Laws” in 40′s and 50′s. The stop and go, take out, eat on the run meal mentality of today has all but replaced the family kitchen/dinner table meals we knew as kids. It’s hard enough to get the family together for Mass much less a morning or evening meal. So the most important meal we can have together is the Eucharist and clock watching for it is not something I believe Christ wanted us to be overly concerned with when making the decision to partake of it. Soul searching and proper reverence of course, but not time keeping.

  60. avatar Kathy Colaianni says:

    Dr. Peter: What about people with diabetes and other illnesses for whom it might be extremely difficult to keep a 3 hrs. fast?

  61. avatar Anita says:

    Truthfully, I know of people that goes through things of our faith ritualistically but without a real relationship with God. The most important thing is focussing on Jesus and what we are receiving, the rest becomes Pharisaical. if it is done strictly as a rule. When I was a child back in the late 1940′s, we had to wear a head covering at Mass. Most of us kids brought a clean handkerchief with a bobby pin to hold it in place on our heads, during Mass. One Sunday I was running late and forgot the handkerchief. When I got to church I was so in fear that I thought God would let the roof of the church come down on my head. What was more important? To be there at all or the covering on my head?

  62. avatar Stanley I says:

    I am of the age when I too fasted from before midnight. May I suggest that the world is a very different place now. What worked well then does not mean that it will work now. There were many priests then to hear confessions. We lack them now. We had altar boys from whom came priests. Now it ‘s mostly girls. Families were more cohesive then but not now. Liturgical music for me is a disaster. There is no catechisis on proper attire for mass. I would support doing away with communion in the hand and hence the three ring circus that occurs in the sanctuary. Put back the altar rails and kneeling for communion. With these kinds of things being done, a much more reverent milieu would be created and these in turn would help to bring back sacramental reverence. Read the concepts as expressed by Benedict XVI and you can get a good idea of what needs to be done. As an extraordinary minister of the Eucharist for the homebound and at hospitals, I don ‘t want tl even think about the associated problems that would arise by having to extend fast times today.

  63. avatar Mary says:

    Dr. Peters,

    My husband is Catholic and I am Greek Orthodox. I always wondered why the Catholics changed the fasting rules completely throughout the ages. We Orthodox fast 8 hours from everything before receiving Holy Communion. We also strict fast each Wed. & Friday if we are to partake of Communion each Sunday. Wed. to remind us of Jesus’s capture and Fridays to remind us of His death on the cross. Strict fast being no meat, dairy, oil, or wine. I commend your effort to bring back a longer fast and agree it should be there. I believe people forget the whole purpose of fasting in general. They think about themselves but forget we are to fast to be weaker in ourselves to rely on Him. If more put God first instead of how they feel, the world would be a better place today. God bless you.

  64. avatar Lillian says:

    Here we go again with more rules and regulations. Here’s a thought – when Jesus instituted the Holy Eucharist, did he look at his apostles and say to them “did you fast, did you go to confession? No, He simply said to them, take and eat, take and drink. Let’s not put more obstacles at mass so that those who need Jesus will come to Him to receive healing and grace.

  65. avatar paulineo says:

    For viewers of EWTN, I recommend that you watch, EWTN LIVE, the program which Fr. Mitch Pacwa introduces. It was aired on January 2, 2013, and you can watch it on EWTN’s Youtube. As Bishop Schneider says, “the Holy Father has shown the way,” it is now time for us to follow his example.

    Fr. Pacwa’s guest is, Associate Bishop Athananus Schneider of the Diocese of Acana, Kasakstan. Listening to this holy BIshop made me wish that I lived in his dioecese. He talks about worship, adoration, love and respect for the King of Kings, and the Lord of Lords.

  66. avatar paul pettie says:

    We should go back to fast from midnight prior to Sunday Mass…. but should be able to drink water.

  67. avatar Susan Tippitt says:

    When I was a kid, the fasting rule was to fast from mid-night until communion was received at whichever Mass was attended. Shortly after I made my first communion in 1965, the rule was changed to the three hour fast. I still usually fast at least three hours before receiving communion and it is often the mid-night on fast. I have never found this to be a hardship. I almost always attend the 11:00 AM Mass at my parish, so I am not rushing out to get to the first Mass so I can eat. I find a little sacrifice for the Lord to be appropriate since He sacrificed so much for me.

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