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Should I refrain from communion if I don’t remember when I last ate?

June 3, 2011 by  
Filed under Scrupulosity, Trent Beattie

 refrain from communionDear Trent, we’re supposed to refrain from eating for an hour before Holy Communion, but I can never tell if it’s actually been an hour or not. A few times I’ve stayed in my pew because I wasn’t sure if it had been an hour since I last ate. What should I do?

None of us, not even the priest offering the Mass himself, knows the exact moment when he will be receiving Holy Communion. If someone uses the hour of fast as a directive that he must eat something right up until an hour before he will receive Holy Communion, problems can ensue.

A good way to get avoid this distraction is to refrain from eating food an hour before the Mass starts. This way, you’ll be certain at every Mass you attend that the fast has been satisfied and will be able to receive Our Lord as He wants you to do.

Trent Beattie lives in Seattle, Washington. He is the author of the newly-released book on scrupulosity, Scruples and Sainthood: Accepting and Overcoming Scrupulosity With the Help of the Saints, and he selected the daily meditations for Saint Alphonsus Liguori for Every Day.

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About Trent Beattie

In addition to assembling "Finding True Happiness", Trent Beattie is the author of "Scruples and Sainthood" and the editor for "Saint Alphonsus Liguori for Every Day". He lives in Seattle, Washington.

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  • LA Pelican

    Trent, thanks for this answer. I think yours is a very good suggestion.

    Can you tell us what to do if it’s too late for your recommended prudence? What if I get busy at the office and Noon Mass sneaks up on me, and I can’t remember if I finished my granola bar at 10:30, or if I had one bite left at 11:30?

    What I’m asking is, is it REQUIRED that we fast for this hour, or is it a greater good for us to attend Mass and receive the Eucharist even if we’re not sure we’ve fasted for an hour?

    • faithful123

      It’s required we fast for an hour before receiving our Lord; except in circumstances where health is concerned.

      If one doesn’t know…err on the side of respect to who you are to receive.

      Go to the Mass; and take Him in a spiritual communion….

      He will be as happy that you are conscientiously trying to be obedient.

  • Cmittermeier

    It was only in the last year that I found out it was to be an hour before communion and not an hour before mass. The only question that has ever bugged me has been when I get tickle in my throat during mass and use a cough drop. I have always presumed it does not break the fast, am I correct?

    • faithful123

      Second question down when you click this link or paste in browser
      answers question.

      but I’ll put the answer here —
      Church law recognizes that illness, age and physical weakness may prevent
      individuals from observing the Eucharist fast (since 1964, the Church has
      prescribed a fast of one hour). In such cases, “Those who are advanced in age or
      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” (Canon 919.3).
      This rule broadens the Church’s law, so we may interpret it broadly. Cough
      drops (even if we enjoy their taste!) are not considered food, but medicine. The
      commentary on the legal text states that medicine “need not be prescribed by a
      physician,” so cough drops do not break one’s fast.The church would also understand if one is diabetic and cannot go one hour without some food in stomach, to keep blood sugar stable. This is also in keeping with Christ who was not ‘against the law’ but came to ‘fullfill’ the law WITH LOVE… ie: healing on the Sabbath if such person needed healing, or those who ate grain in the fields on the Sabbath;because they were HUNGRY… Jesus was more about MERCY to individuals and their situation then strict adherance to laws. So is HIS Church…

      • Guest

        And he strongly declared: “What My Father demands is Mercy, not Sacrifice.” And Mercy is His Message to St. Faustina, the Eucharistic Apostle of the Divine Mercy. Mercy in action, Mercy in emphathizing with those in need, Mercy in praying for the sick, the sinners, the dying and the Holy Souls in Purgatory.

  • Guest

    This should not be a confusing precept of Mother Church. As Faithful 123 explains from the Canon Law, the Catechism of the Catholic Church has also explained this Fasting before Holy Communion adequately. Oh, how wonderful it is these days!!!!! I remember in my younger days ( in the “50’s) when fasting was from Midnight on Saturday. The young ones and teenagers were not allowed to attend the early Mass – that was for the parents. Ours was the one which began at 9.30 a.m. ending a few minutes before noon. By that time, little Mary at age 8 was so hungry, my father made sure he had bought a bunch of bananas beforehand, which I immediately started munching after praying my quick Pray to Jesus, after receiving Holy Communion!!!! Thank you Mother Church for making it easier for the young ones of to-day to concentrate on the Holy Mass and pray, addressing Jesus personally united with them in His Body, Blood Soul and Divinity, after Holy Communion- which is the apex of the Eucharistic Sacrifice. But, hey, good people, we never complained!!!!!!! It was OK

  • LRF

    Is this catechism class or spiritual direction? SD should not involve teaching in such a directive manner. If this is the case, then the relationship is between you and them, not them and God. A good SD would not concentrate on the book answer for such a question but look out for what is happening inside the directee concerned with such a question. What spirits are moving them to this question? What does it mean to their relationship with God if it were only 50 min. and not an hour since they ate? What graces are bestowed upon them when fasting?  In other words, how does this rule improve their union with God. What are the signs that tell them this?

    • Dear Friend – I don’t know if you are referring to this post or to a comment on the post. If it is the post, this site cannot be seen as an alternative to spiritual direction that occurs between two people. As well, the idea of a purely non-directive approach to spiritual direction is a new one and primarily influenced by secular psychology. That influence is not always in keeping with Church teaching and the wisdom of the Saints and Doctors of the Church. To read more on this, check out the series here:

  • I have a habit of not eating or drinking anything except water two or three hours before mass. I go to confession before Mass so I know its more than an hour between Mass and Confession. Sometimes in the morning I do not have anything until I get back from daily Mass. hope this helps!!

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