Page 5, 25th November 1938

25th November 1938
Page 5
Page 5, 25th November 1938 — MIGHT THE LAW OF FASTING BE MITIGATED?

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Organisations: army
Locations: London


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evening Mass, at any rate mitigation of the law of fasting before Communion. Take hospital nurses on night duty. However late they have supper, they may have to wait till 8.30 before Communion; meanwhile, they may have been put through the most exhausting work, as well as the most distasteful, and to my mind they definitely ought to have tea, soup, etc., some time during those hours.

I am too conscious of the exactions which all too often I have demanded from my hospital nurses during the night, to be in any doubt about not only the propriety but the desirability of their having some nourishment during those long hours, especially about 3 o'clock; and especially as their long task ends with the job of lifting a helpless man, washing him, making his bed, etc.

Now here are often quite young girls doing heavy, maybe tedious, obnoxious work of the most Christian sort, and it seems a contradiction in terms that because, N.B., because they are doing it, they should be unable to receive that Communion which in their circumstances they supremely need.

Hotel Staffs A different situation is that of tens of thousands of members of the staffs of, e.g., clubs or hotels, who—even page boys— may well be kept up to II or midnight. They have to get up early, and the work of the place must be done in the morning.

I have enquired from several club secretaries about facilities for their staffs getting to Mass or the Sacraments. All have been most willing to provide time, but that time was inevitably in the evening.

My only chance has been to get leave to say Mass in such clubs themselves on the Spot, and to get the Catholics to rise half an hour earlier, which really is very hard luck on them; especially on boys. Basing myself on the statistics of three clubs, I concluded that in the clubs of two London streets only, there must be a minimum population of 300 Catholics—much more probably 600—in the physical impossibility of ever getting to Mass. Clearly, if a boy of 14, however well disposed, the moment he starts work cannot get to Mass or Communion, he will develop the habit of Dever going.

Night Workers I cannot enter into details about the numbers and situation of, e.g., night-watchmen or policemen on night duty, but I would ask what is the situation of very many members of the Press, whose day is our night? They again have heavy work, and even if that work ends tolerably early it may be hard to get through the night without a drink; Mass will not be said so early as a rule; their homes may be in distant suburbs, and after getting there and cleaning up, they are being asked for an act of heroism if they are to trudge out again, still fasting, to a maybe distant church and so make their Communion.


To revert to seamen, we will not repeat what we have said so often about the extreme probability that no priest will be in their ship; even if he is, everyone knows that it is hard enough to arrange an hour for Mass, even for stewards; they begin their work, which passengers don't see, like scrubbing stairs and alleyways, very early.

No priest will mind getting up early himself for their sake, but again it is very difficult for them to get up half an hour earlier than they must, You will also remember that a large part of the crew Eves by four-hour watches—midnight to 4, and 4 to 8—without special leave one cannot habitually say Mass at midnight; 8 is much too late.

My own experience has been that the best time is a quarter to four, confessions having been heard overnight; but, as for shore, I think it is definitely the exception that a member of the crew will get there until the afternoon; he cannot then go to Mass, and is apt to think if he cannot get to Communion what is the good of his going to confession! This may not be good logic, but it is understandable.

Semi-Invalids I will not do more than allude to the army of those who are sufficiently unwell to find it very difficult to walk any distance, fasting, to Communion, yet who do not feel themselves justified in applying for dispensation. Their Communion days, therefore, are handicapped by a great initial fatigue and they may have housework, etc., to do which becomes illegitimately heavy because of that fatigue; and there are many others who simply cannot afford the time to go to Communion, return home, breakfast, and then start back to their work; they could manage it if they had even a cup of coffee first and took with them a couple of sandwiches to eat in their bus or train.

It is obvious that wholesale permission for non-fasting Communion could not be granted, or to just any Catholic who might feel that he or she would like it; it would be much misused. Nor am I so much as suggesting what legislation the Holy See, by way of the Congregation of the Sacraments, might decide on.

I have heard many propositions suggested: putting then? together, I find they amount to an elastic fast of from half an hour to six hours. according to the circumstances.

Nor do I fail to see how controversial this topic may be, but I think the CATHOLIC HERALD recommends the freest discussion which does not suggest, as this one does not, any kind of insubordination or grumbling.

My personal preference, for what it is worth, is overwhelmingly on the side of Mass so soon as reasonable after I get up (not but what I have always found that there is an appreciable number of days in the year when I cannot say Mass, but could, if I had a cup of tea or even hot water first); however, when our committee, during Eucharistic Congresses, has leave to say Mass always at midnight there is a special sense of devotion in closing a very the laity will! • hard-worked day by the Holy Sacrifice— as well as a most mundane but substantial satisfaction in knowing that you needn't get up at any particular time next day, and can have your cup of tea in bed before plunging once more into the hurly-burly.

Origin of Fasting Speaking then, with all due submission, I may say that I feel that fasting Communion (quite probably originating in St. Paul's abolition of the public " agape" just before Mass, which continued, however, for safety's sake to be offered during the night so that Communion could not but be received fasting) began owing to circumstances which no longer exist: I hardly suppose that the argument would any more be used that it is irreverent in itself to receive material food before the Divine Food—after all, on Christmas Eve you can (though you shouldn't) eat what you please right up to midnight: that argument was really of the sentimental order: and since a wholly new set of circumstances—a new world—have come into existence, we do not feel it wrong to plead for so many who not only cannot receive Communion frequently, as Pius X urged us to do, but for long stretches of their life cannot receive it at all.

Mass Duplicating

To crown my indiscretions (if there have been any), I should like, in view of the shortage of priests and the inability of so many of the laity to get to Mass at all, that all priests should be allowed (as in parts of France) to say three Masses whenever desirable; and be ordered to take liquid sustenance between each. I knew of an Australian priest who said two Masses each Sunday—the second in a different station each Sunday of the month; the first Sunday, his second Mass was 35 miles distant; the second Sunday 42, the third and fourth Sundays. 50 and 60 miles, " plus "; when there was a fifth Sunday he had to go 98 miles. over roads that were no roads, shaking himself to pieces. No wonder that I was told that the average death-age of Australian priests was (I don't know what it is now) 50. But priests will not get such privileges nearly so soon as

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