Thursday, 16 August 2012

Restore the three hour Eucharistic fast?

The International traditionalist organization Una Voce has put out another of its interesting 'position papers' on the liturgy, this time on the Eucharistic fast.

You can download it in full here or read the short version on Rorate Caeli.

Pius XII's provisions

The bottom line is that the paper recommends a restoration of the three hour Eucharistic fast that came into force in 1957 (but was abolished in 1964 in favour of one hour).

The argument for a longer fast before reception of the sacrament goes firstly to the long tradition on this, and secondly to the desire to promote a greater reverence for the sacrament, and a sense that it should be prepared for.

The argument for a three hour fast - rather than the stricter older fasts that previously applied - is purely pragmatic, given the prevalence of afternoon and evening masses these days.

I totally agree. 

We need (to emulate the Eastern Churches in adopting!) these symbolic practices to help us recover a Catholic culture.

Let's hope the FIUV campaign gets some traction.

And in the meantime, maybe our bishops could consider at least going as far as the English bishops have done, and restore Friday abstinence?


Matthias said...

let us remember that this could be considered within the realm of pharisees-those laws which bound men up and which Christ condemned

Kate Edwards said...

How is that Matthias? Do you mean any lawa at all are automaticaly pharisical? Or is one hour not but three hours is?

Please explain...

GOR said...

I understand the intention, but am doubtful that it would achieve the desired results.

When the whole congregation rises up and automatically goes to Holy Communion each Sunday - despite few having been to Confession in ages - one wonders whether everyone is always in the state of grace or even aware of the requirement.

If some see no problem with this, I suspect they will see little problem in not observing a three-hour fast – which is a lot less serious than “eating and drinking damnation…” as St. Paul put it.

Commenting on the disconnection between the numbers at Communion and those at Confession, a celebrant recently remarked wryly: “I am in the Communion of Saints…!”

That said, a longer time of fasting might cause some people to reflect – and that couldn’t hurt.

Anonymous said...

three- hour fast? I don't that at all is necessary for Eucharistic veneration. Veneration must start at highest level and flourish in the parish to gain real momentum.

I concur with Mathias,

TOB said...

Friday abstinence never went away - just the general observance of it did.

"On the Fridays outside of Lent the U.S. bishops conference obtained the permission of the Holy See for Catholics in the US to substitute a penitential, or even a charitable, practice of their own choosing. They must do some penitential/charitable practice on these Fridays. For most people the easiest practice to consistently fulfill will be the traditional one, to abstain from meat on all Fridays of the year. During Lent abstinence from meat on Fridays is obligatory in the United States as elsewhere."

Margaret said...

NO!!!!!Please God this will never happen. What you are talking about is Holy Communion only on Sunday again. Many working people will not be able go to Mass and Holy Communion if a three hour fast is brought back. One hour is actually hard enough and gets the point across very well.

Anonymous said...

Any thing that prepares our hearts better to appreciate the great gift of our Lord's true presence is a holy thing and should be considered, especially in the times we live in.

Anonymous said...

Life is difficult enough. One hour fast is sufficient; three hour fast adds am undue burden and stress. For those of you who want a three hour fast, then do it and leave the rest of us alone.

tiredoftheBull said...

Life is difficult enough. One hour fast is sufficient; three hour fast adds an undue burden and stress. For those of you who want a three hour fast, then do it and leave the rest of us alone.

jac said...

Instead of labelling pharisaical, one may wonder why the Eucharistic fast reduced from 3 hrs to only one, why the communion in the hand was authorized, why receiving it while standing instead of kneeling etc...
This had no sense and seriously confused the faithfuls with the sad outcomes everybody may notice now: Doubts about the True Presence and lacks of reverence sometimes bordering to sacrileges.

Kate Edwards said...

Assorted anons - Please give yourself an identifier, I will reject unnamed posts in future.

As for Friday abstinence, it is true that some kind of penance is still notioanlly required but not generally observed. I'd suggest a return to the stricter rule, as has has occurred in England, would help reinvigorate the requirement by making us all do the same thing, thus providing a community of mutual support.

I'm a tad surprised at the strength or reaction from those who have come to this blog I assume mostly from Spirit Daily (from whom my stats are showing a huge surge, so thank you for reading) objecting to a three hour fast - a case of the spirit is willing but the flesh is week?!

The Catholic tradition is surely that these small sacrifices strengthen us and help elevate our souls.

Would a three hour fast really restict weekday reception of the sacrament? Surely most of us go between meals for at least three hours and could manage the same in relation to the Eucharist.

Aharon (Athol / Brother Gilbert) said...

Why not focus on getting people to understand the benefits of the Mass and Adoration rather than focused on creating more and more rules and regulations to make a heavy burden on people who are already struggling. The first Mass was preceded by a whole ritual Passover Meal. Let's renew our Eucharistic Faith in its Jewish and Biblical roots not in some glory days of Roman Church Imperialism.

Kate Edwards said...

The point surely is that fasting will serve as a reminder that we should prepare more thoroughly for the sacrament: the graces available in the reception of the Eucharist are infinite, but the extent to which we obtain them depends on our dispostions at the time.

And is three hours truly a heavy burden?!

And did not the Jews fast?

Yet we are Christians who have our own traditionsand are not bound by those of the old covenant.

Anonymous said...

Beloved in the Lord: As a Lutheran, born and bred, who has served for 43 years in the Ministry of the Lutheran Church, I should probably keep silent and "mind my own business." However, this discussion made me reflect upon my days in Catechism when we studied Luther's explanation to the meaning of the Sacrament of the Altar.
The question is asked, "Who, then, receives this sacrament worthily?"
Answer: "Fasting and bodily preparation are in fact a fine external discipline, but a person who has faith in these words, 'given for you' and 'shed for you for the forgiveness of sins,' is really worthy and well prepared. However, a person who does not believe these words or doubts them is unworthy and unprepared, because the words 'for you' require truly believing hearts." In Xto per pedes Apostolorum, James Townsend, Lutheran minister, retired

GOR said...

I am also a little surprised that a three-hour fast is considered by some to be ‘extreme’ or burdensome. I grew up in a time when we had to fast from Midnight before receiving. It wasn’t considered a burden - just a necessary requirement if you really wanted to receive Our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament. Not everyone did, nor were any eyes raised if some people in the pew didn’t go up for Communion.

Of course back then (1950s Ireland…) there was less access to - or money to avail of - snacks or ‘convenience’ foods. You had Breakfast, Dinner (at noon, or thereabouts) and Tea at 6 pm. There was little in the way of anything to “eat between meals” – and yet, we all survived!

Anonymous said...

I know there is a lot of people who do not want to fast but in our times of today we need to fast not only for the eucharist but fast on wednesdays and fridays also. we all have to come together in unity an order to make life better, and to show god that we have not forgotton him.

Father James Farfaglia said...

I understand the intention, and it is a good one, but it is the wrong thing to do. We live in a very different world than when the fast was three hours. First, we need to re-capture the understanding of what Sunday really is - the Lord's Day and secondly, we need to educate our Catholic people on the true meaning of the Holy Eucharist. Personally, I would get rid of the fast altogether. It makes no sense to people. We should focus on the meaning of Sunday and the true meaning of the Eucharist. This education begins at home and in the parish.

Fr. James Farfaglia, Pastor
Our Lady of Guadalupe Catholic Church
Corpus Christi, TX

Kate Edwards said...

But Father, wouldn't an extended fast actually help teach what the Eucharist really is? Wouldn't it help remind people that when we consume what seems to the senses to be but bread and wine, we are actually consuming the body and blood of Christ, the sacrifice offered for us on the Cross?

Gail Ramplen said...

If the fast was extended to 3 hours then I wouldn't be able to have breakfast an hour before weekday Mass and then setting off on my business - which would de-motivate me from going at all.

A Canberra Observer said...

what a weak generation we have become !!
3 hours too onerous? Well it used to be from midnight!
The fast rules underline the very special nature of receiving Holy Communion - this Sacred banquet.

Matthias said...

. St Paul acknowledeges fasts and solemn assemblies- his Nazirite vow being an example ,but he makes the point that it is up to the individual,as long as it is not a stumbling block to fellow Christians. However as regards the Real Presence being received ,would it not be the Spirit of the Living God to provoke our conscience to be prepared spiritually and physically ,rather than a made made precept. I do not mean to offend and this might be hangover from Proddyism since I have crossed the Tiber.

Anonymous said...

I'm saddened by those against the fast.. It seems that they have forgotten that they are receiving GOD HIMSELF. I am in favor of it, communion by tongue and genuflection (if not kneeling). I pray that every believer would truly perceive God in the humble host. Let us stop the widespread sacrilege.

- Joseph Vincent Atanacio Layman from the Philippines

Felicia said...

I would support a 3-hour fast.

Looking at what actually happens in practice now, when I go to a noon-hour weekday Mass, my fast ends up being more like 5 or 6 hours *ANYWAY* given that I eat breakfast at about 6 or 7 AM.

The Orthodox right now have much more strict fasting requirements than the Catholics. We are such wimpy slackers!

A couple of observations:

1. Only those who have legitimate medical needs (diabetic, hypoglycemic) really *NEED* to eat at regular intervals anyway. Constant grazing for healthy people is actually bad for you.

2. One can always receive spiritually when one cannot receive physically because of not having fasted. Just because you can't go to communion is hardly a reason to skip Mass!!!

Lorenzo Cruz said...

eKate- my name is Lorenzo Cruz

I think that a three hour fast is not necessary for Eucharistic veneration. The parish must take on the challenge to promote adoration, the rosary, confession, and active prayer and parish life in order for the life of grace not only to live but flourish. God said " I desire mercy not sacrifice"

Kate Edwards said...

No problem Matthias, you don't seem to be alone in your view!

Still, seems to me the Church has rules about all sorts of things for good reasons, so having rules in themselves is not a bad thing.

One of those reasons is to help us learn to discipline ourselves and grow in virtue, which is what the fasting rules traditionally did.

It also helps us treasure what we receive.

Seems to me that the Church's decision to soften these rules has positively encouraged the defection of most catholics over the last few decades - because nothing is really demanded of us.

So now only around 15% of Australian catholics bother turning up at Sunday Mass, and in the US there are more ex-Catholics (many of whom who have defected to strict fundamentalist sects) than practising ones.

That said, this post has attracted an enormous number of hits - nearly 6,000, a record for this blog in such a short time - so it is clearly hitting a sore spot for many people...

Anonymous said...

Hi, I am also here from Spirit Daiy. Here is my two cents: Why don't those who want to fast longer, do so with the intention of helping those who cannot fast that long?

Personally I do like the fast. And, for those of us who are not Saints yet, the science community is talking now about how fasting is good for us.


Jo Anna said...

I think it's a great idea. So many of us in America don't know how to deny ourselves anything. I struggle with self-denial and appreciate the Church's mandates (e.g. Fridays during Lent; Ash Wed., Good Friday) to help me along. I am often dismayed at the lackadaisical way some people approach the faith, whether by dress, "optional" Mass attendance, behavior during Mass. Perhaps requirements such as this will up the ante: are you serious about your faith or not?

Anonymous said...

Is a spiritual Communion any less meritorious to the soul than actual physical reception?

Anonymous said...

I believe greater catechesis is more important than second-guessing our Church leaders (the Pope and his appointed bishops), who have been entrusted with determining the current policy. The Church isn't a democracy, not for thoses who want more relaxed observances, not for those who want things to be more strict.

Frequent Flyer said...

Reading all these comments reminds me of John 6:35 "I am the bread of life. No one who comes to me will ever go hungry. And no one who believes in me will ever be thirsty." Had Jesus said these words to us today everyone would raise their Starbucks and Egg McMuffins. Then they would collectively take a bite and sip a sip and cry, "Amen". G.K. Chesterton probably said it best, "The Christian ideal has not been found wanting. It has been found difficult; and left untried."

Anonymous said...

Making the three hour fast a desired goal is better than making it a sin if not done or ignored. Too many are not properly disposed to start with. With that in mind, more masses should have confession (reconciliation) accessible prior to mass, every mass and announce it. I only have one church in my area that does this and they have lines!

patti in florida said...

The 1-hour fast basically means the only place you can't eat before communion is the car.

TJ said...

I cannot believe some of these posts. Three hour fast is a burden?? Man , have we become soft!

Aharon (Athol / Brother Gilbert) said...

I think Father James from Corpus Christi Texas has said it best.

If you want to fast for three hours or more before communion, then do it-why put it on to everyone else. And do it secretly so that you will get your reward in Heaven rather than getting it here by parading your piety in front of others.

Many Catholics get so caught up in rules and regulations that they become quite scrupulous and forget the great love and mercy of God. The Eucharist is about divine intimacy with Jesus and receiving his mystical kiss of love.

Kate Edwards said...


I'm sure many of us do more than the minimum the Church asks of us.

But as St Ambrose says in the readings for Matins today (in the trad Benedictine Office), 'the Church is in a certain sense a pattern of justice, the common law for all: she prays in common, works in common, and is tied in common.'

It is therefore perfectly appropriate to ask if those common laws are at their optimum settings to help us grow as a community in grace and faith.

The Loon said...

Currently if Sunday Mass goes for one hour the fast is really only 15 minutes or so before Mass. Within that time one might be walking, driving, getting kids ready or sitting/kneeling in Church a little early to pray.

I'm all for the change to a three hour fast if it is applied to Sundays specifically as some may go to daily Mass throughout the week and should not need to miss breakfast or lunch if they attend mass every or most days.

A fast on Sundays might provoke some to ask why we need to fast and prompt them to learn that even in one fragment of the host Christ our great Lord and God is present.

Matt R said...

I would argue that there are many more athletes than in 1957, whose dietary needs have really changed. A three-hour fast would really affect an athlete, particularly when Mass is in the evening, following an afternoon practice or match.
I agree with Fr James.