Over the last 100 years, the Holy Communion fast has little by little been shortened until we have now come to the reality that most Catholics do not even know that there is a one hour fast. So what I am trying to show, is that as we lessen Church disciplines, it ends up being forgotten and in the end not practiced at all.
The fast for Holy Communion has been in the Church from the beginning of time. Now it no longer is followed. So I recommend that we traditional Catholics fast from food and water from midnight until morning Holy Mass.
From the 1917 Code of Canon Law we have the fasting rule of nothing, water, liquids or food from midnight until you receive Holy Communion. This was for the priests as well as the faithful. This law was for those from the age of 21 to 60 years old. The time was counted from midnight and is called “Terminus a quo“.
“Those who have not kept the natural fast from midnight are not allowed to receive, except in danger of death, or in case it should become necessary to consume the Blessed Sacrament to safeguard it against irreverence.”
As a result of this canon law most Catholics would get up early to attend Holy Mass on Sunday before breakfast. I am in agreement with this. It may have caused some people to not receive Holy Communion because they had broken the fast.
Holy Church wanted a fast before consuming Holy Communion so that people would appreciated who they were going to receive, God. When you had to fast from everything till Holy Communion, you really appreciated and knew who you were receiving.
Then on Jan. 6, 1953, Pope Pius XIII in his Apostolic Constitution “Christus Dominus” said that the midnight fast was still in force but for the sick and for priests there could be giving a dispensation from the fast. Here are the words from the Apostolic Constitution.
With Regard to the Sick, Either the Priests or the Faithful
(Rule II of the Constitution)
1. The faithful who are sick, even though not confined to bed, may take something in the form of beverage, though not an alcoholic beverage, if, by reason of their sickness they cannot, without real inconvenience, observe a complete fast up to the time they receive Holy Communion. They can also take something in the line of medicine, either liquid (but not alcoholic), or solid, as long as what they take is real medicine, prescribed by a physician or commonly esteemed as such. It must be noted that any solid taken as nourishment cannot be considered as medicine.
2. The conditions under which a person may be able to take advantage of this dispensation from the law of fasting for which no time limit preceding Holy Communion is prescribed must be judged very prudently by the confessor. Without his advice no one can use this dispensation. The confessor, however, can give his advice either when he is hearing confessions or privately apart from the confessional. He may also give this advice once so that the person to whom he gives it may always act upon it as long as the conditions of this same sickness last.
3. Sick priests, even though they are not confined to their beds, may use a like dispensation if they are going to say Mass or receive the Holy Eucharist.
With Regard to Priests Placed in Special Circumstances
(Constitution, Rules III and IV)
4. Priests who are not sick, but who are going to say Mass
a. at a late hour (that is, after nine o’clock),
b. after onerous work of the sacred ministry (for example, from early in the morning or for a long time), or
c. after a long journey (that is, at least about two kilometers walking or a proportionally longer trip in terms of the classes of vehicles used, the difficulties of the journey, and the condition of the person), may take something in the form of drink, but not any alcoholic beverage.
On March 25, 1957, Pope Pius XII had the Motu Proprio Sacram Communionem that allowed the fast time to start backwards from the actual time Holy Communion was received. It was shortened for all Catholics to a three hour fast from food and one hour for liquids and no fast from water or medicine. But in this Motu Proprio, the pope still highly recommended the fast law from midnight on of 1917.
“We strongly exhort priests and faithful who are able to do so to observe the old and venerable form of the Eucharistic fast before Mass and Holy Communion. All those who will make use of these concessions must compensate for the good received by becoming shining examples of a Christian life and principally with works of penance and charity.”
Then on Nov, 21 9164 Pope Paul VI changed the Holy Communion Fast to only I hour from when you actually will receive Holy Communion (Terminus ad quem). And in all honesty it should not be called a fast, it should be called abstaining from food and liquids for an hour, not including water and medicine.
Can. 919 §1. A person who is to receive the Most Holy Eucharist is to abstain for at least one hour before holy communion from any food and drink, except for only water and medicine.
Here are the present fasting conditions from this Canon Law:
- A person who is to receive the Most Holy Eucharist is to abstain for at least one hour before holy communion from any food and drink, except for only water and medicine.
- A priest who celebrates the Most Holy Eucharist two or three times on the same day can take something before the second or third celebration even if there is less than one hour between them.
- The elderly, the infirm, and those who care for them can receive the Most Holy Eucharist even if they have eaten something within the preceding hour (a 15 minute fast is asked for in Immensae Caritatis 1973 from the Congregation for the Discipline of the Sacraments).
Let us try to do everything we can to uphold what is tradition and do it within reason. The Church has allowed us to only fast for one hour, but at the same time she has recommended all along, for those who can to fast from midnight on. May God help us to have a spirit of sacrifice and a hunger to receive Jesus in Holy Communion.
The original author of this blog passed away in July of 2016. RIP Father Carota.