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Chewing gum prior to holy Communion

Q. I often witness adults chewing gum during Sunday Mass and then going right up to receive holy Communion. Am I wrong in thinking that chewing gum breaks the one-hour fast that Catholics are required to observe before receiving the precious body and blood? (Galloway, N.J.)

A. The governing canon (No. 919 in the church's Code of Canon Law) says that "one who is to receive the most holy Eucharist is to abstain from any food or drink, with the exception only of water and medicine, for at least the period of one hour before holy Communion."

I don't think you'll find any official rule book that details what is food and what is not. So we should simply use our heads as God and the church expect us to do in a lot of things.

I have heard one opinion that if gum is sugar-free, it does not break the fast since it has no nutritional value.

To me, such reasoning is silly and artificial, the height of casuistry.

Let's look at the reason for the rule and then seek to apply it.

The Eucharist is special food, nourishing not our bodies for a day but our souls for eternity. To remind us of just how special this gift is, the church requires that no other food enter our mouths for an hour before receiving it, so as not to mix the profane with the sacred.

Gum, whether you chew it or swallow it, whether it has sugar or not, profanes the mouth and makes it less worthy as a receptor for the body of Christ.

So yes, gum is food, and people should not chew it during the hour before they receive Communion.

Questions may be sent to Father Kenneth Doyle at askfatherdoyle@gmail.com and 40 Hopewell St., Albany, N.Y. 12208.

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2012