Dr. Edward Peters 

To work for the proper implementation of canon law is to play an extraordinarily

constructive role in continuing the redemptive mission of Christ. Pope John Paul II







1983 Code



1917 Code


 Liber Extra



 Eastern Code


1152 x 864


28 aug 2013

Extending the Communion fast


The Communion fast should be extended from the present nugatory one hour before reception of the Sacrament to three hours before the start of Mass at which the sacrament will be received. This longer fast should be required, if not for all receptions of the Sacrament, then at least for receptions at liturgies that one is required by canon law to attend.


The Law

1983 CIC 919. 1. Sanctissimam Eucharistiam recepturus per spatium saltem unius horae ante sacram communionem abstineat a quocumque cibo et potu, excepta tantummodo aqua atque medicina. Eng. trans. 1983 CIC 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.


My thesis is set out

in two short articles:

First, Edward Peters, "The Communion fast: a reconsideration", Antiphon 11 (2007) 234-244, on-line PDF here, making especially the following points:

  • A one hour "fast" is physically insufficient to bring the human body into a fasting state, meaning that the spiritual benefits long associated with corporal preparation for Communion are lost;

  • Making reception of Communion relevant to calculating the fast leads to distracting cogitations about the liturgy itself (e.g., worrying about whether the length of the homily or sung responses or angling to the end of the Communion line might allow one to complete the fast in time);

  • Calculating the fast from reception of Communion reinforces the assumption of many that "going to Communion" is the only important thing about Mass (rather than helping them see, e.g., the Sunday obligation as a liturgical one fundamentally oriented to worship);

  • A fast oriented only to reception of Communion diminishes the faithful's appreciation for the Liturgy of the Word as an encounter with Christ worthy of preparation in its own right (see Mk VI: 34-42 on Jesus' example of teaching hungry people before He fed them);

  • The brevity of the current fast means that Catholics with guilty or doubtful consciences have no discrete way to refrain from going up to Communion without attracting attention, resulting in pressure on them to approach the Eucharist under conditions that risk profanation.

Second, Edward Peters, "Furthering my proposal to extend the fast for holy Communion", Homiletic and Pastoral Review On-Line, posted 18 July 2013, here, stresses the conflict of conscience imposed by, on the one hand, strongly encouraging reception of holy Communion at Masses that one is required to attend, yet, on the other hand, leaving the faithful without a practical way to avoid reception at such Masses on a guilty or doubtful conscience. I do suggest, however, the possibility that the one-hour fast could be retained for reception at Masses that one attends for reasons of devotion.