“Ask a Priest: How Can I Explain the Hour Fast to My Son?”

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Q: I just had a “discussion” with my visiting 28-year-old son about needing to fast one hour before receiving Holy Communion. He is asking, “Who made that rule up?” and “Where in the Bible is that?” If stomach-emptying is one of the goals, then conversely, why shouldn’t a person wait an hour after receiving Communion before eating? – so goes his argument. Thanks for your help! – D.

Answered by Fr. Edward McIlmail, LC

A: The tone of your son’s question makes one wonder whether he might be struggling with other issues. So this might not really be about the fast but about bigger matters such as faith and Church authority. No matter …

The hour fast is a discipline prescribed by the Church to help us prepare spiritually for Communion. It helps to underline the deep distinction between normal food and the Body and Blood of Christ that nourishes us supernaturally.

In the old days the fast was from midnight, so an hour fast is hardly an onerous obligation.

Many of the rules of the Church are not found explicitly in the Bible. Rather, Christ gives the Church to make disciplinary rules.

So if your son insists on some kind of biblical basis for the rule on fasting, you could cite Matthew 18:18 (“Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven”) and Luke 10:16 (“Whoever listens to you listens to me. Whoever rejects you rejects me”).

The idea here is that Jesus gives the Church real authority on earth, including authority over the administration of the sacraments.

The Church has no prescribed rules on eating after Communion, though it does say we should dedicate some time to a proper thanksgiving (which is often done in the period of silence before the final blessing).

I hope some of this helps. By the way, you might want to intensify your prayers for your son.

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