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Jon Alfaro wrote:

Hi, guys —

  • In the history of Catholicism, has anyone ever fasted or sacrificed by not receiving the Eucharist?
  • If so, is it anyone notable, and
  • What is the Church's stance on this?


  { In the history of Catholicism, has anyone ever fasted or sacrificed by not receiving the Eucharist? }

Bob replied:

Dear Jon,

Yes, the practice of fasting from reception of Communion was common; for centuries many people only received once a year or less, hence reception of Communion became part of the Easter Duty. (See the third precept below.)

II. The Precepts Of The Church

2041 The precepts of the Church are set in the context of a moral life bound to and nourished by liturgical life. The obligatory character of these positive laws decreed by the pastoral authorities is meant to guarantee to the faithful the very necessary minimum in the spirit of prayer and moral effort, in the growth in love of God and neighbor:

2042 The first precept (You shall attend Mass on Sundays and holy days of obligation and rest from servile labor) requires the faithful to sanctify the day commemorating the Resurrection of the Lord as well as the principal liturgical feasts honoring the mysteries of the Lord, the Blessed Virgin Mary, and the saints; in the first place, by participating in the Eucharistic celebration, in which the Christian community is gathered, and by resting from those works and activities which could impede such a sanctification of these days. (cf. Code of Canon Law, canons 1246-1248; Corpus Canonum Ecclesiarum Orientalium, canons 881 § 1, § 2, § 4)

The second precept (You shall confess your sins at least once a year) ensures preparation for the Eucharist by the reception of the sacrament of reconciliation, which continues Baptism's work of conversion and forgiveness. (cf. Code of Canon Law, canon 989; Corpus Canonum Ecclesiarum Orientalium, canon 719)

The third precept (You shall receive the sacrament of the Eucharist at least during the Easter season) guarantees as a minimum the reception of the Lord's Body and Blood in connection with the Paschal feasts, the origin and center of the Christian liturgy. (cf. Code of Canon Law, canon 920; Corpus Canonum Ecclesiarum Orientalium, canons 708; 881 § 3)

2043 The fourth precept (You shall observe the days of fasting and abstinence established by the Church) ensures the times of ascesis and penance which prepare us for the liturgical feasts and help us acquire mastery over our instincts and freedom of heart. (cf. Code of Canon Law, canons 1249-1251; Corpus Canonum Ecclesiarum Orientalium, canon 882)

The fifth precept (You shall help to provide for the needs of the Church) means that the faithful are obliged to assist with the material needs of the Church, each according to his own ability. (cf. Code of Canon Law, canon 222; Corpus Canonum Ecclesiarum Orientalium canon 25; Furthermore, episcopal conferences can establish other ecclesiastical precepts for their own territories (cf. Code of Canon Law, canon 455))

The faithful also have the duty of providing for the material needs of the Church, each according to his own abilities. (cf. Code of Canon Law, canon 222)

The idea was that they were not worthy to receive, and so rather than incur sin or treat the Eucharist profanely, fasting took place. Some may have desired to receive more often but likely the sacrifice of foregoing reception was considered more appropriate.

Today you could make the argument that it's been going the other way: people take receiving Communion too lightly and rarely do any introspection or examination of conscience to determine the appropriateness of receiving the Blessed Sacrament.

A happy medium is always best:

  • careful self examination
  • refraining, if necessary
  • but grateful reception whenever possible.


Bob Kirby

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