Dear Fr. Joe: What are the rules about eating before Communion?
Good question here – I get this one a lot. First, straight up: the rules.
Before the practice of daily Mass, people were encouraged to fast 24 hours before Mass. Pope Pius XII changed the rules to encourage daily Mass participation. Now, the rules are no food or drink (outside of water) for one hour before Mass.
There are, obviously, some exceptions: the most dramatic being in danger of imminent death, where you are allowed to receive Communion even if you haven’t fasted for an hour – let’s pray that one doesn’t happen.
Second, the sick and/or elderly are not required to fast, particularly if their doctors say they shouldn’t. The church defines the elderly as being older than 65; my mother defines it as much, much older than that.
Dear Fr. Joe: What is the appropriate dress for Mass?
I think, as a culture, we are losing our way on this one. Maybe this article will give us pause to think about it.
The Mass is to be a sacred celebration, and there are two words to consider here. The focus of this discussion, I think, needs to be on the word “sacred.” The word “sacred” is tied to the word “holy.” When we enter this sacred celebration, we want to be sure that our manner of dress is reflective of that.
In my mind, our dress at the liturgy sends three messages: one to ourselves, one to the congregation and one to God.
By dressing ourselves up, we are reminding ourselves of the importance of what we are doing. We are, in a sense, sending a message to our bodies and minds that something unique and special is about to happen. We also send a message to our brothers and sisters around us that we see this celebration as more than just another event; when the body of Christ gathers, we take it seriously (but in the most joyful way; how is that for irony?)
We also send a message to God by our dress. I understand that God accepts us as we are, but we must remember that God also challenges us to be even more. God deserves our best, not our leftovers. Overly suggestive or sloppy clothes are, in my mind, sending a message that we should not want to send.
Now, I know there is a crowd out there – and it is not a small one – who will challenge me on this, and I want to be clear about something: I would rather have you at Mass in jeans and a T-shirt than not at Mass, absolutely. My question is this: Why does it come down to that? What is so abhorrent about dressing up? Most people reading this wouldn’t go to the opera or to the prom dressed in jeans and a T-Shirt, so why can’t we give that same respect to our God?
Take a moment to pause and remember that the Mass is God’s gift to us and our full, active, conscious participation is our gift to God. Our dress is a big part of this, so let’s make sure that the way we dress reflects the honor and dignity that the liturgy requires.
Enjoy another day in God’s presence!