Evening Mass ?
SIR,—May I congratulate Fr. Martindale for broaching the subject of the fast required before Holy Communion? And may I thank him for having taken at least one step towards the spreading of a movement which many of us hope will eventually result in a reform as far-reaching in its effects as were the reforms of Pius X regarding Daily Communion and Children's Communions.
The subject is vast and Fr. Martindale did but touch the fringe. I should like to add two more considerations to those he gave. The first regards the laity. It is no exaggeration to say that at the present time daily Communion is a physical impossibility for eighty per cent. of Catholics of most countries. Those most affected are the working classes. Now, we are face to face with a life and death struggle for our Faith. All the indications point to its becoming worse as time goes on; within a generation martyrdom may be required of us as it has been required of our brethren in Spain. The people who have to face this fight daily are our Catholic working men and women. But as the law stands at present they must fight their battles without the Bread of Life, or at best they can partake of that strengthening food but once a week. What a difference it would make if they could flock to the church night after night, rest from their toil while the Holy Sacrifice is offered, and receive the Body and Blood of the Incarnate Son of God to cure their wounds and be their strength.
The second is a consideration regarding priests. In busy parishes the morning work is overwhelming; the rest of the day is relatively quiet, because the duties can be taken in turn by each priest. But one may say that the greatest part of the work is done before the priests break their fast. We are seeing the consequences daily. Priests are collapsing under the strain, and, other things being equal, it is the most zealous priest who will succumb first. The present writer knows of several cases where a priest has had to retire because he was not very strong in the mornings. By the evening they can do an average amount of work, but as the old women say, " They are no use until they get a cup of tea." Such men could be doing great work for souls if they were allowed to say Mass in the evening, after a fast of a few hours.
Now to pass to the practical side. Fr. Martindale points out that reforms come usually because of petitions from the Hierarchy. But their Lordships cannot be expected to take up this matter, that to many seems so revolutionary, unless they know that there is a great demand for a change. May I suggest then that all those who are interested in this matter should let their wishes be known? If your paper and Fr. Martindale succeed in inaugurating a movement that will lead to the re-establishment of evening Mass and evening Holy Communion, it will have done much towards the reign on earth of the Eucharistic Lord, and of the same Christ the Workingman.
[The writer of the above letter is a priest —EDri OR. ]
Fasting for Hospital Nurses
SIR,—I think many will be grateful for Fr. Martindale's bold remarks on the relaxation of fasting Communion for those whose work must inevitably suffer by the strict obedience entailed.
No ordinary Catholic, accustomed to the daily or weekly fasting Communion would like to be exempt, but in the case of many night workers—most especially hospital nurses—it either means great exhaustion towards morning, when, as every nurse will agree, the hardest work is done. Not " obnoxious " work—I must beg to differ from that word—no work for a patient is obnoxious to a real nurse, however exhausting or constant.
Having had no food after midnight, and after working till 9 a.m., one is not in the best frame of mind to make a good Communion.
I have in mind a girl, accustomed to her daily Communion, during the last war taking up V.A.D. work in a large hospital, her hours being 6 to 12 a.m. She was told that during that three months, until her hours were changed, she must go without Communion.
This has always seemed to me wrong, and certainly not what Our Blessed Lord would have wished. In another case in my hospital, a nurse in poor health would fast from 12 o'clock, with the result that the last two hours of the night in a large children's ward, her work was badly done and the children suffered. I hope some solution may be found.
G. M. Denmark Hill, S.E.5.
SIR,—On the subject of Fr. Martindale's question on fasting before Communion (November 25), while most of us can probably agree that the unnatural routine of a night worker's duties renders fasting from midnight until after Mass-time a real hardship, surely to advocate anything else for the rest (who form the vast majority, of course) is a step towards degeneracy?
In point of fact, morning fasting is beneficial, especially for invalids. If the physiology of the process were not obscured from most people's minds by ignorant selfregard and medical omission, the unnatural habit of breakfasting would not be prevalent and the problem under discussion would be non-existent, to the benefit of all. But maybe such a suggestion will not be accepted very eagerly, in which case I would leave your readers with the question: What application has the Pope's encyclical insistence upon contemporary Christians' need for more of the works of penance (they include Fasting) found in their individual cases? If none, a further question can be put : Do they consider he is advocating something detrimental for us?
B. J. BROWN. Tunbridge Wells.