Dispensation from the Eucharistic Fast

Hi All,

Urgent question, I’m planning a retreat and it’s to end with a Mass (on a sunday) at the Chapel at the retreat center. Our pastor who will be speaking at the retreat has to give the Homily at Sunday Mass that day at our Parish (the other pastor will be the presider). They switch off and on each week, with both present but only one of them giving the Homily. The Parish Mass that he must be at is at 10:30, the Mass for our retreat was originally planned for 10. He suggested we move it to 9AM so he could be present at the parish Mass (which is about 20min away). The problem is, the breakfast at the retreat center is at 8am, and I wanted time for the participants to observe the Eucharistic Fast. My pastor says that he has the power to dispense people from the Eucharistic fast. Can someone point me to a resource on this, as I’ve been unable to find much information. I feel funny about not allowing time for a Eucharistic fast, and I want to make sure I’m doing everything correctly.

Can a priest dispense people from the Eucharistic fast? Or can only the Bishop?

Thanks in advance!

Get input from the Bishop on this one.

Canon Law says:

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.

§2. 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.

§3. 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.

The Bishop, as the ultimate authority in the diocese, is the one who should be able to determine what exceptions or dispensations are allowed.

Also, of course, remember the requirement for the fast is one hour before communion, not one hour before Mass.

There are a number of valid reasons why a Catholic would be given dispensation from the Eucharistic Fast. Most though that I am aware of have to do with people in the congregation with medical conditions either being terminally or seriously ill with certain diseases and require normal food nourishment to sustain their health condition that would otherwise cause them to faint or black out and require immediate medical care. Diabetics requiring insulin are just one group of people that have automatic dispensation from the Eucharistic Fast. Of course it’s up to the diabetic to the best of their ability to keep a balanced diet to avoid blood sugars from going too low which is not always their fault.
The elderly also after a certain age also have dispensation as are also Catholics who are hospitalized.

The People in the above scenario do not need a dispensation. Canon law provides for the necessity of food for them.


If your saying that Canon Law (“naturally”) provides the necessity of (“Eucharistic”) food (“and dispensation”) for the sick. Your correct.

However; I made my point about the necessity of human food consumption for human health reasons which are below (“spiritual supernatural health reasons”)

Not every Catholic is well read or catechized, nor do they presuppose such dispensation laws.


short answer yes the priest has the authority to dispense his congregation or some members at a specific time and place from the Eucharistic fast. No he does not have authority to make a blanket exemption as in, “from now on, in this parish, the fast is not mandatory”.



With Regard to the Sick, concerning Priests or the Faithful; I’m not sure if Vatican II
changed any specifics under the Encyclical on The Apostolic Constitution “Christus Dominus,”

It would be best to move breakfast along with the Mass time 7-8 or 7:30-8:30 for breakfast. Or suggest people grab a quick Muffin and coffee before Mass at 8 (close down the food by 8:30) and have breakfast / brunch after Mass at 10.

Where does the priest get this ability to dispense? I couldn’t find any reference indicating that. Thanks.

That would work if the retreat center is willing to accomodate that schedule.

First, only the bishop of the diocese can dispense from the Eucharistic fast–no one else can do this. The pastor can’t do it. Other priests can’t do it. Dispensing from the fast is not an authority that belongs to the office of pastor.

However, the bishop also has the authority to delegate his own authority to the priests of his diocese. For the most part, a Vicar General, by virtue of his office as representative of the bishop can also grant such a dispensation unless the bishop whom he represents has withheld that authority (unlikely). That’s exactly what a Vicar General does–he represents (vicar) the bishop in almost everything (general).

Every individual bishop has decided how much authority to grant to local pastors (and other priests who aren’t necessarily pastors like vicars parochial or retired priests, etc) to make decisions like this in the name of the bishop. This is done in a few different ways. The first way is through particular law–that is, the statutes of the diocese. The other way is through a document called a “pagella of faculties.” These 2 usually say the same thing. Every pastor receives a pagella of faculties when he takes office. Most priest who are not pastors also receive a pagella of faculties. These are usually form letters–every pastor receives the same letter, but it simply has his name at the top, so they are usually the same for every pastor of a given diocese. Keep in mind though, they they will vary from one diocese to another.

In most dioceses of the US, the bishops have granted to pastors the authority to dispense from the Eucharistic fast. Remember the pastor has this authority not by virtue of his office of pastor, but because the bishop has granted him that authority to act in the bishop’s name–it’s an essential distinction.

Sometimes, the pastor can dispense only within his own parish territory, and sometimes he can dispense his own parishioners even outside of his parish territory. It depends upon how the letter of faculties is phrased. Sometimes these letters are phrased to say that the pastor can dispense from the Sunday obligation itself (always for a legitimate reason, of course). In that case the pastor still has the authority to dispense from the fast, even though it might not be specifically mentioned in the letter because anyone who has legal authority to dispense from “the whole” (the entire Mass) can likewise dispense from “the part” (the fast).

Since most dioceses have this policy, it is very likely that your own diocese also has such a policy. That means that if the pastor says he can do it, then most likely he can grant such a dispensation. It is very unlikely that a priest would not have this faculty but would claim to have it-- because it’s usually granted anyway.

So, to recap: no, pastors do not have the authority to dispense from the Eucharistic fast, but it is very likely that the bishop has extended that authority to your pastor.

Why not hold off on breakfast altogether until after Mass? This is a retreat, so perhaps a little exercise in subduing the passions would be right in order.

It would seem to be a non-issue. If breakfast is at 8:00, then unless you dwadle, you should be done by 8:30. The fast is not to the beginning of Mass; it is to Communion time. Most Sunday Masses, unless they are hurried, will not start Communion until about a half hour after start, so 9:30; which is an hour. If there is concern, eat a bit faster.

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