Tonight, I went to Mass and received the Eucharist. Just moments before it began, I asked the priest for a dispensation from the hour fast because I had thoughtlessly took a sip of tea which I came to realize would likely break the 1 hour rule (probably between 5 and 10 minutes). He readily gave me the dispensation. So, I believe that I am safe from a moral standpoint.
However, was my priest acting within his power to do this? I’ve heard that bishops can only dispense persons from this rule and that pastors can dispense in so much as the bishop has delegated his power to the pastor. Is this correct? Is “accidental consumption” a legitimate reason for dispensation? In my case, I greatly wanted to receive the Eucharist.
Okay bear with me because I tend to be a bit rigid and quite likely others would disagree with me, but the priest, as far as I know cannot grant dispensation in this event because canon law stipulates that dispensation is only for the ill/infirm and those who care for them, and of course for the various circumstances of priests.
I reckon your mistake was quite accidental, breaking your fast, and would likely be venial; however, the fast was nonetheless broken, so the Eucharist should not have been consumed. It would have been better to have confessed to the priest in the circumstance. Still, you consuming Our Lord was in good faith, so you are obviously have not done anything wrong because you were guided this way by your priest, but it would probably be a good idea to confess this at your next confession.
Canon 919 is pretty clear on the exceptions to fasting:
One who is to receive the Most Holy Eucharist is to abstain from any food or drink, with the exception only of water and medicine, for at least the period of one hour before Holy Communion.
A priest who celebrates the Most Holy Eucharist two or three times on the same day may take something before the second or third celebration even if the period of one hour does not intervene.
Those who are advanced in age or who suffer from any infirmity, as well as those who take care of them, can receive the Most Holy Eucharist even if they have taken something during the previous hour.
I think this little blurb from EWTN makes it even clearer
The Eucharistic fast is before Holy Communion, not the Mass. It is a fast from food and drink, water is alright, as is medicine. The moral theology tradition teaches that to be food it must be a) edible, b) taken by mouth, and c) swallowed. In addition to breakfast, lunch and dinner, candies, breath mints, lozanges and anything that is put into the mouth to be dissolved or chewed meets these conditions once the dissolved contents are swallowed. Chewing gum does not break the fast, but it is disrespectful of the Sacred Liturgy and once the juice is swallowed the fast is broken. The tradition also teaches that the fast is strict - one hour, that is, 60 minutes. Given that until recently the fast was from midnight, this seems very little to ask of Catholics.
Those exceptions described in Canon Law are not dispensations but exceptions of the law. Dispensations are permissions from competent authority. If you have documentation about the competent authority to dispense the fast then furnish it, but you have not done so.
My pastor has, in the past, dispensed me from the Eucharistic fast and from meat abstinence, so it seems he believes himself competent, and he is known to be a faithful and scrupulous priest.
A priest can grant dispensation from meat abstinence and fasting in accordance with guidance as pertain to bishops’ conference. There are exceptions to penitential practices, which have to with labor and infirmity and the substitution in some diocese of other penitential practices in lieu of fasting and abstinence; this however does not pertain to the Eucharistic fast. This would have to be within those guidelines stipulated in canon law as far as I know.
In addition to CIC 919, the priest must also have expressed permission from the local ordinary to grant dispensation from the Eucharistic fast, CIC 89, so it may also be said that not all priests have the authority to dispense from the Eucharistic fast.
I generally follow the old rules and go from midnight the night before but I thought it was changed to 3 hours? They might as well get rid of it alltogether if it’s only an hour now since Mass basically is an hour by the time you get to communion. It’s not as if anyone’s going to be eating a sandwich in the pews.
Since you asked the priest and relied on his answer, you did nothing wrong in this instance. However, now that you have had doubts and questioned further, I think that you see this waiver given by the priest was done in error.
I had a similar instance where the priest did a “hurry up” Mass due to inclement weather bearing down on our mountain town. He dispensed with the hymns altogether and gave a very brief homily (approx. 3 minutes as opposed to his usual 15 or 20). So, when it came time to receive. Christ in the Eucharist, I checked my watch and the hour fasting time had not passed. I stayed in my pew kneeling and asked for spiritual communion with the Lord. After church, I saw the priest and said he caught me by surprise and since the hour fast was not observed, I did not come to receive communion. He told me that I could have received the Eucharist anyway! I disagreed with him about that in my mind, but my expression must have given away my shock at his reply. He pressed on saying, “You don’t really have to observe the one hour fast because of your age” I am slightly over 65 but in excellent health and would never think of not observing the fast. This is a good priest who seems to adhere to all the church teachings to the letter. But I still would not receive Christ in the Eucharist without observing the fast, no matter that the priest told me differently. I wonder about that advice he gave me, though…
It’s not uncommon that the local ordinary, in his grant of faculties to his priests, would provide such ‘express permission’. If the OP’s pastor granted her a dispensation in this case, then you have two choices: either you presume he’s competent to know what his faculties are, or you presume that he’s clueless and carelessly granted a ‘dispensation’ that he has no right to grant. Which is it, then?
Canon 1245 allows a pastor to dispense from the obligations of observing a feast day. More narrowly, a pastor can dispense from the obligation to attend Sunday Mass (for a just cause, etc. etc.)
A pastor can dispense from the obligation to attend Mass.
Since he can dispense from the whole Mass, he can likewise dispense from any part-of-the-whole.
The Eucharistic fast is a part-of-the-whole of Mass.
Therefore he can dispense from the 1-hour fast.
Additionally, many bishops expressly delegate to pastors, or even to all priests, the specific faculties to dispense from the Eucharistic fast. While there’s no guarantee that every bishop does this, it is a rather common clause in the Pagella of Faculties given to priests by their bishops.
I notice that you’re in the Houston area.
The Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston is kind enough to make their policies for the Diaconate available online.
The Ordinary has given deacons the faculty to dispense from the Eucharistic fast.
While this is not a given, it does stand to reason that if he has given such faculties to deacons, it is very likely that he has also given such faculties to priests. I repeat: not a given, but very likely.
E. Dispensations: A deacon may dispense in individual cases and for a just
reason from days of precept and penance or commuting these obligations to
other pious works and dispensing from Eucharistic abstinence for parishioners
and those visiting within the boundaries of the parish to which he is assigned.
Page 33 gwdupont.com/Forms/DeaconHandbookFinalrevisedAugust2008v2.pdf
The tradition also teaches that the fast is strict - one hour, that is, 60 minutes.
I can appreciate the comments of all posters here but this seems like a tough call in some cases. I chew on a piece of gum, say at 10:30 am and the Mass starts at 11am. Now I have to hope the sermon is long enough so that communion can be received at no earlier than 11:30. But how many of us are wearing watches or see the clock? Or even remember what time we mistakenly swallowed the juice from that piece of gum? Is it better to take caution against sacrilege as opposed to obtaining the possible benefits from communion? I don’t know.
I solve these random time things by having my hour
start one hour prior to start of Mass. So if Mass is
at nine my hour starts at eight.
That way I don’t have to rack my brain over a minute
or two or priest starting late or early or etc. life is too
short people. Mass usually starts with a round number
so I’m not spending my time rounding up or down.
They didn’t have the Saturday vespere Mass then. But they changed the fast during the 50’s to 3 hours prior to the START of Mass. Didn’t have to check your watch at Mass for that. And if anyone asked why you didn’t go, then you could always use the “break the fast” reason, certainly less embarrassing than saying you were in the state of mortal sin.
I used to teach RCIA (as an assistant) and I remember cautioning the candidates about the one-hour rule prior to receiving. I told them that fasting one hour before the start of Mass was an extra sacrifice. It was practical, too, because once I attended a noon Mass and the celebrant, who was a visiting priest, seemed to me to be racing through the liturgy as though he had someplace else to go to.