The One Hour Rule before Communion

Hello, I have a question.

I was told that it used to be the 24 hour rule before communion, and then was told only from 12midnight.

My question is this…why was it changed? and also, for whatever reason it was changed, how did they succesfully do so without offending or taking away the reverence of it to Our Lord Jesus?

Thanks in advance for your response

God bless
Stephen <3

First off… Let’s agree that we are talking about the Roman rite. The fasting rules in question really don’t apply to other rites.

If it used to be 24 hours then I don’t have knowledge of this. In my parents’ day (early 1900s) it was fasting from midnight on. Next came three hours. Not sure exactly when but I’m guessing late 1940s or sometime in the 1950s. My Catholic school teachers told us that it was usual for students to bring breakfast to school to eat at their desks after morning Mass. (Until later in the 1960s it was customary for Catholic school students to attend daily Mass as a class.) By the time I made my First Communion (spring of 1966) the fast was only an hour long.

I think a number of things were going on. One was that the Church wanted Communion to be more available to people, young children in particular. The other was that Masses after noon on Sundays and anticipatory Masses were becoming commonplace. The older fasting rules were more geared toward morning Masses.

I’m pretty old – was born in 1924 – and my husband and I married in May 1950 – at that time I definitely remember we had to fast from Midnight and we were married at the 10:00 A.M. Mass. I honestly don’t remember the fast except for from Midnight and then in the not too distant past, changing to one hour. The one hour fast is absolutely wonderful for me because I try to go to Mass each and every day to receive the Eucharist – what would I do without it!!!

When I was in 1st and 2nd grades, late 1940’s, Roman Catholics fasted from midnight Saturday night, until after Holy Communion on Sunday. We didn’t even brush our teeth until after breakfast. :eek: I’m pretty sure this was changed when Vatican ll convened, that was Pope John XXlll.

I don’t know of a 24-hour fast, but the “traditional” fast was from midnight. Pope Pius XII changed it in the 1950’s to a three-hour fast (see Christus Dominus). After Vatican II, this was reduced to a mere one-hour fast. This fast is an hour before receiving Communion, which on Sundays, essentially means you can’t eat anything on the way to Mass. A one-hour fast seems inconsequential, unnoticeable, vestigial, and a mere formality. I think a return to a longer fast would be a wise move for Catholics, privately if not corporally (no pun intended).

I have to agree, especially since it takes starches an hour or two to leave the stomach and 3 to 4 hours for meat to leave the stomach.

The fast has nothing to do with food being in the stomach, nor a feeling of hunger.

It has to do with preparation and awareness. It makes complete sense that one hour before receiving the Eucharist (about 15 min before Sunday mass start time, and maybe 30 minutes before daily mass start time) one should be aware of their actions, thinking about the mass they will attend, preparing themselves for it. It’s just a heightened awareness and giving your actions a 2nd thought.

How did the fast work for Vigil Masses when it was required to fast from midnight on?

Since Sunday Masses are now scheduled at all hours of the day (as opposed to mornings only) I am wondering what sort of increased fasting time would be most “practical”. I’ve personally thought that a fast beginning at Midnight was not all that big a deal for people planning on going to an early Mass. It might have been a bigger issue on weekdays when people went straight to work or school. But not on Sundays.

Was the Fast reduced to three hours because of evening Masses?

Not sure. Perhaps it was mitigated? The “anticipated” (i.e. Saturday-evening) Mass is a post-Vatican II initiative; I’m not sure how popular vigil Masses were before Vatican II…

No; Saturday evening anticipated (commonly, but incorrectly, called “vigil”) Masses were a post-Vatican II initiative.

I disagree, especially given the history of the fast being more than just an hour. The Eucharistic fast takes advantage of the physical effects of fasting to bring about a spiritual effect. This is related to the “preparation and awareness” which you mentioned.

Well, obviously, the purpose of the fast before Mass now is NOT for a feeling of hunger. Its logic.

I don’t agree that the physical effect of hunger is needed for a spiritual effect. It happens every time… when I have to sing a daily mass, I get a soda on the way to church, (which I go quite early), as I’m drinking it I’m thinking about when I need to stop.

Other times, when i go to eat something before mass, i take pause…how long until communion? Should I wait? and if I need to wait to eat, fine. If not, fine. Either outcome I have started thinking and preparing for mass.

I dont think we should be arguing whether or not the one hour rule is acceptable as Mother Church obviously permits it. the Initial idea of the thread was not to question the rule but to understand how it evolved through tradition to being one hour.

Thanks for all the replies, it really helped with my question with regards to the One hour rule.

Pax Christi

That may have been true for Easter but the Christmas Vigil was distinct from the three masses of Christmas: Mass during the night (usually at midnight), Mass at Dawn, and Mass during the Day.

Maybe it wasn’t common to have “public” Christmas Vigil masses. I don’t know what was usual for the vigils of the Ascension and Pentecost.

I think the Church has been wise in establishing low standards of abstinence and fasting for all the faithful, because it ensures that the widest number of people will accept and follow these rules. I assume that it was envisioned that the faithful would take it upon themselves to go further than these rules prescribe, each to his or her ability, and thus deepen their faith without the obligation of Canon Law.

By contrast we see complicated rules of fasting and abstinence in the Eastern churches which are frequently seen as more “noble” than those of the Latin Rite. But I imagine these rules are less accessible and harder to follow, and uncharacteristically legalistic for the Eastern tradition.

Right, unlike the Islamic rules for fasting during Ramadan (every day for a month from sunup to sundown), which practically no one follows. Wait, what’s that, they do? Hmmm…

Originally Posted by stuart12
Was the Fast reduced to three hours because of evening Masses?

Actually, the document that reduced the fast to three hours is the same document that allowed evening Masses. Before then all Masses had to be before noon.

Reading Christus Dominus reveals that in the same way that we’ve ignored the rule of abstinence for Fridays (if you don’t abstain you have to do penance or good works in other ways) we also ignored Rule 1. of C.D. – the fast from midnight was still in force.

CHRISTUS DOMINUS – Concerning The Discipline To Be Observed With Respect To The Eucharistic Fast
Rule I. The law of the Eucharistic fast from midnight continues in force for all of those who do not come under the special conditions which We are going to set forth in this Apostolic Letter. In the future it shall be a general and common principle for all, both priests and faithful, that natural water does not break the Eucharistic fast.

Rule VI. If the circumstance calls for it as necessary, We grant to the local Ordinaries the right to permit the celebration of Mass in the evening, as we said, but in such wise that the Mass shall not begin before four o’clock in the afternoon, on holy days of obligation still observed, on those which formerly were observed, on the first Friday of every month, and also on those days on which solemn celebrations are held with a large attendance, and also, in addition to these days, on one day a week; with the requirement that the priest observe a fast of three hours from solid food and alcoholic beverages, and of one hour from non-alcoholic beverages. At these Masses the faithful may approach the Holy Table, observing the same rule as regards the Eucharistic fast, the presumption of Canon 857 remaining in force.

I apologize; I misinterpreted the “evening Masses” phrase as referring to Saturday-evening Masses (for the coming Sunday), rather than simply “Mass celebrated in the evening rather than in the morning”.

Regarding the three-hour rule, this was soon made universal; see Sacram Communionem of Pius XII from 1957 (only 4 years after Christus Dominus).

Lastly, I just found Appetente Sacro of Pope Clement XIII (1759) on the spiritual advantages of fasting. It’s very short and worth a quick read.

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