March 2020-Traditionalism And Fasting

March 2020-Traditionalism And Fasting

The fast laws of the Church have varied over the centuries from the beginning of the Church. For instance, our Friday abstinence comes from the fact that early Christians fasted on Fridays in honor of the Crucifixion. In Traditionalism we have identified several time periods. Early Traditionalism from the time of Vatican II to the very early 1970's, when people realized that not only was the Faith being changed, but also the liturgy. The second period began when we began leaving the Vatican II Church in the very early 1970's until Traditionalists began to get church building and pews in the late 1970's.


         As we have noted in other articles, the first generation Traditionalists ignored the changes going on in the Mass, We also ignored the relaxations going on in the fast laws of the Church. We all knew that fast laws change, as they had over the century before Vatican II. In 1966, when Paul VI virtually eliminated fasting and abstinence in the Church, we all went along.


Let us look at the fast laws of the Church a moment. In his Summa Theologica, Saint Thomas Aquinas asks whether the ninth hour is the appropriate time for the faster's meal. In the thirteenth century, when Aquinas wrote, Christians ate one meal a day on fast days at three (the ninth hour) in the afternoon. This meal was meatless. Eggs and meat products were also forbidden as was wine and beer, which were staples in people's meals at the time. In fact in Germany, beer is called liquid bread. Over time the meal was moved to noon time. The office of None was also moved earlier on fast days, which is where noon got its current name. When the main meal was moved earlier, a collation was added in the evening to maintain strength.


Saint Alphonsus, who lived in the eighteenth century wrote in his Golden Book of the Commandments and Sacraments: "In the fast of the Church three things are commanded: First, to abstain from forbidden meats; secondly, to eat but one meal in the day; thirdly, not to eat the meal before the hour prescribed." In this same book, though, he notes: "The second obligation of the fast is to eat but one meal in the day, and a small collation in the evening. In ancient times, Christians ate barely once a day, in the evening; and except at that meal, they tasted nothing during the day. The Church afterwards permitted a collation."


In the late nineteenth century, the Baltimore Catechism states: "It is permitted on fast days, besides the one full meal, to take two other meatless meals, to maintain strength, according to each one's needs. But together these two meatless meals should not equal another full meal." Notice the words, to maintain strength. In the mid nineteenth century, Father Leonard Goffine observed that to desire no aggravation in fasting is not to fast at all.


Canon 1251 of the Code of Canon Law (1917) provides: "The law of fasting prescribes that only one full meal a day be taken, but does not forbid a small amount of food in the morning and in the evening. As to the kind of food and the amount that may be taken, the approved customs of the place are to be observed." Notice the attitude. The two small meals are not forbidden, which implies one meal a day is encouraged. The fast was further relaxed in the United States from the Code of Canon Law.


The Eucharistic Fast was originally from midnight, requiring nothing in the way of food or drink, including water, be taken prior to Holy Communion. Our grandmother noted her own First Communion about the turn of the nineteenth to twentieth century. She was taken by her father from their farm into Brookville, ten miles away, by wagon to stay with her aunt. Her aunt took the ladle out of the water barrel, so she would not get a drink of water in the middle of the night.


In 1953 at the request of the Diocesan Bishops, Pope Pius XII allowed a three hour fast prior to an evening Mass. The Eucharistic Fast was further relaxed in 1957 by the same Pope. Paul VI allowed a one hour fast prior to Holy Communion, which early day Traditionalists accepted in light of Pope Pius XII's changes.


When we began leaving the Novus Ordo Church, we realized all of these relaxations that had crept in. We got out whatever books we had access to, so we could return to Catholic practices in the area of fasting. We followed the principle Father James Dunphy had laid down in regard to acquiring books, which we had begun doing. He told us to reject any book after 1959. We have heard that Mother Angelica draws the line at 1962, although We cannot confirm this.


In the Eucharistic Fast, we fasted from midnight for a morning Mass and three hours for an evening Mass. We did permit water and other liquids as Pope Pius XII had permitted them. In the fasting for Lent, Vigils and Ember Days, we returned to the fast laws as they existed in 1958.


Link for Fast Laws on website:


Link for Golden Book of the Commandments and Sacraments