Communion Fast - Eating by mistake

That is also why we as Catholics can ONLY receive Holy Communion twice in one day and the second time MUST be at Mass. If people could go to Mass all day long (which they can) and at every Mass in a day receive Holy Communion (more than twice) can get to be very sacriligous. (?) And become a “contest” to the more Holy Communions I receive the better Catholic I am. Which is absolutely NOT true. If I could make Mass but had to eat less than an hour before because I hadn’t eaten for a while then I would make Mass and just skip receiving Our Lord for that particular Mass.

I used to do this, kind of ashamed I no longer do.

Or we could just refrain from thinking at all about the reasons someone is not receiving Communion.


While, strictly speaking, it’s correct to say that we’re only required to receive once a year, at the same time frequent (even daily) reception of communion has been strongly encouraged since at least Pius X (in the early Church the faithful received communion as often as the Eucharist was celebrated).

This is of course subject to being properly disposed, including having fasted for an hour beforehand. There’s a risk though of becoming too legalistic about this. Before anyone jumps on me, I’m not dismissing the importance of the Eucharistic Fast or saying that it’s optional, what I am saying is that the sabbath was made of man and not man for the sabbath.

In other words while it’s important that we observe this discipline it’s also important to keep in mind it’s purpose - to prepare us to receive the Eucharist, something which far surpasses ordinary food and drink. So a single sip of liquid, taken accidentally, is hardly going to detract from this - any more than missing mass on Sunday because of tiredness (something which I’ve heard in the confessional before) is going to detract from the significance of Sunday as the Lord’s day. Mistakes happen, the Lord understands this because he knows us better than we know ourselves; be at peace.


I know you are a priest, InThePew, and so I wanted to thank you most sincerely for taking time out of your busy day to respond to the topic.

I came to a new understanding of the fast when I found I was near a church one day when Mass was about to start, and found myself checking my watch and thinking, ‘Good, it was half an hour ago that I ate something, so I’ll be able to receive by the time it’s Holy Communion’. In other words, it was keeping the rule without understanding the purpose, that of being aware of what I was going to do and preparing for it, as I hadn’t given it a thought during the ‘fast’ because receiving Communion hadn’t been part of my plan for the day.

The fast is for our benefit, not for God’s - this sounds blindingly obvious to me now, but at the time it was a revelation. So if we miscalculate the length of the homily or whether there will be hymns or whatever, the Almighty doesn’t want us to hold back from Holy Communion anxiously checking our watches so we can feel safe to join the very end of the queue. He yearns for us, and wants us to be aware of what we are about to do to help US, so we are asked to fast before Communion to remind US - it’s nothing to do with being ‘clean’ or ‘hungering’.


I disagree, I believe that the Communion fast is to introduce an element of physical “hunger and thirst for the Lord” in preparation for our meeting the Lord. In scripture, for example Moses fasted for 40 days on Mt Sinai when he was with the Lord.

In your understanding…how long should you observe your fast for prior to receiving Communion? How many minutes, hours etc?

The rule is one hour.

The point is not to be “legalistic.” The point is not to discourage people from going to Mass, either. There are lots of exceptions for the sick or those with various conditions that make fasting difficult, or remove the ability to choose timely Masses.

The point is that, if we are going to do something intimate and holy with our God and brother, our High Priest and Sacrificial Victim, we need to be prepared at least a little. If we are not prepared and in a good state of mind and body, or if we are not in a state of grace, and if we are not covered by an exception, then we hold back and just attend Mass, until we are ready.

We offer it up and make a spiritual Communion, and thus we avoid eating and drinking the Lord unworthily. But we still spend time with Him, and He helps us.

Now, obviously it is up to your own ordinary prudence as to whether you are “properly disposed.” But it should be pretty easy to tell if you have committed mortal sin, or if you have not fasted.

We no longer have to fast from food or drink from midnight, in the Roman Rite. Not do married couples have to abstain from sex before receiving Communion, in our Rite, as one did until the Early Modern period. It is pretty darned easy already, so there is no need to get weirded out by a few tiny disciplines.

Of course Jesus longs for His Church in Communion, like a bridegroom for His Bride. But a bride doesn’t show up for the marriage night while filthy, stinky, bored, nasty, in a bad temper, or so on. She wants to be sweet and lovely for the Groom. If she is not ready, the Groom is still happy to spend time with her until she is ready.

To fast before Communion is a little sacrifice of sorrow and deprivation, responding to Jesus’ great sacrifice for our sins, His death in the Cross. Like the Apostles at Gethsemane, we are only asked to.spend one hour waiting with Him.

It is also a sign that we desire His heavenly food and drink, His Body and Blood, more than we desire any earthly food that only gives temporary life.

I always was annoyed by my family and by my parish whenever something happened that required me to skip communion.

Yes, I have my arms crossed, no I’m not going to discuss it in church. Focus on yourself.

Oh, forgot something important!

In most Eastern Rites, crossing your arms means that you do wish to receive Communion!! So be careful!!

(Yup, there was some serious misunderstanding going on, when the gesture first showed up in Roman Rite churches, thirty or forty years ago, as a “borrowing from the East.” I swear, Byzantine Catholics, etc., could probably spend all their time every day correcting misunderstandings of their customs, and still not get it done.)

I would think that most people could go without food and drink for the 40 minutes or so maximum before Mass starts without feeling any hunger or thirst whatsoever. Water is exempt, anyway.

It is a symbolic fast. It keeps mindful of who we are going to meet in the Eucharist, I think, it’s a small token of mortification.

And I need to correct an error in my previous post; Moses was with the Lord on Mt Sinai when he when without food or drink for 40 days.

I struggle to see that going without food for 40 minutes is mortification of any kind whatsoever.

It serves as a reminder to reflect on what we are planning to do i.e. receive Our Lord in Holy Communion, so we need to identify and repent any sins, yes.

But causing actual physical hunger? Surely not.

I’ve had this answered already. Sorry!

I did that two days in a row this week. I was 3 and 5 minutes shy of an hour and sat it out. If you know you’ve broken the fast you can’t have communion.

My priest approves it. What’s led to all the confusion with the crossing of arms to request a blessing instead of the Host, is first of all my own personal experience in our parish, but also I’ve watched the Mass celebrated at Notre Dame in Indiana on Catholic TV, and some people there cross their arms for a blessing. So I just (it turns out wrongly) thought, based on my priest approving it, and seeing those at Notre Dame approve it, that the practice must be universal, but I’ve now been instructed that it is not.

(Notre Dame is a completely different diocese than my own.)

It is a bit tricky when people, in good faith, present themselves to an EMHC with their arms crossed. The EMHC can’t turn them away, so they can, I believe say something like, “May God bless you”, which isn’t the same as the EMHC blessing them.

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Blessings in Lieu of Communion Authored By: Father Edward McNamara, LC ROME, 20 December 2016 (ZENIT) - he does mention this was also covered in previous posts in 2009 and twice in 2004.


That was worth a read by anybody itt who’s weighed in on the matter. It’s far from ‘cut and dried.’

A lesson is that, even if you see it in your own parish, and in another diocese’s parish, it does not mean that it’s universal or normative, nor that it’s a settled matter.

Thank you.

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You’re welcome. But Communion is for those who are in the state of grace etc. So I personally, don’t go if I’m not well, not sure if I’m in a state of grace, etc. My own personal view is that we all (as the body of Christ) receive a blessing at the appropriate time at the end of Mass.

But as it’s permitted in various places around the world, and not in others, I don’t judge others who do - and I would hope others don’t judge me for not.

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