During Mass, we’ve been addressing some of your more complex questions about the Catholic faith in our message series, Faith Answering Questions. Here are a few less weighty but still interesting questions we received:
1. What is the Church’s rule on fasting before communion? How has it changed?
In 1983, Pope John Paul II laid down the law on fasting before communion: you must not eat or drink anything, except water or medicine, for at least one hour before receiving communion. (This does not mean at least one hour before Mass — if you were going to attend the 9:30 a.m. Mass, you could probably eat up until 9:15 a.m. or so, assuming that communion generally takes place at about 10:15 a.m. during that service.) Certain exceptions to this rule do apply — sick or elderly people and the people who care for them, such as nurses and doctors, do not have to fast before receiving the Blessed Sacrament.
Traditionally, the Catholic Church was very strict about the Eucharistic fast, requiring that anyone who wanted to receive communion could not eat or drink from the midnight before Mass until after they had received the sacrament. Water and medicine were included in “eating and drinking,” and there were no exceptions for children, the sick, the elderly, or even clergy. If a priest was going to say four Masses in one morning, he might not be able to eat or drink until past noon!
Catholics have fasted before taking the Eucharist for all time — in 240 A.D., the Christian writer Tertullian described the Eucharist as a bread which must be eaten before taking any other food. Likely, this tradition came from the Jewish culture, which gives extreme importance to fasts and includes them in several sacred celebrations. The rules for fasting have relaxed significantly since then, however, mostly for the sake of convenience, so they’re extremely easy to follow.
2. Does God love animals? How much does God love animals compared to human beings?
The short answer is yes, that God does love animals very much. We read in Genesis 1:20-25, “Let the earth bring forth every kind of living creature: tame animals, crawling things, and every kind of wild animal...God made every kind of wild animal, every kind of tame animal, and every kind of thing that crawls on the ground. God saw that it was good.” God created all the animals on this Earth, and He loves them all dearly. When He made humans, he did give us superiority over the animal kingdom, but with the stipulation that we would always be kind to other living things. Being cruel to animals defiles God’s creation, and is in direct contrast to anything God wants of us. Since human beings were created in God’s own image, we are responsible for showing the kindness and respect God shows to us, to all of creation.
Additionally, God takes many opportunities to remind us of the wisdom of animals. In Job 12, Job chides those who say that he [Job] will stop believing in God when his fortunes fail. He tells those non-believers that even the animals know that everything, good and bad and terrible, comes from God in heaven. “But now ask the beasts, and let them teach you; and the birds of the heavens, and let them tell you. Or speak to the earth, and let it teach you; And let the fish of the sea declare to you. Who among all these does not know that the hand of the Lord has done this, in whose hand is the life of every living thing, and the breath of all mankind?”
--Claire Kosewic, Staff Writer
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