The three hour fast before receiving Holy Communion was a difficult challenge for my brothers, sister and I. It was why we favoured the 8.30 a.m. Mass on Sundays, as opposed to the 10.30 a.m. Mass.
To have breakfast before heading off to the early mass meant eating before 6 a.m. which was hardly likely to happen. However, we could live with the reality of just getting up and going to mass and trying desperately to ignore our grumbling stomachs through the sermon. We would be very keen for Mum and Dad not to chat too long to friends after church so that we could get home expediently. In retrospect, that was probably pretty unfair on our parents as it was one of the few occasions when they could socially connect.
The late mass demanded that we eat before going otherwise we would faint with hunger and even less of the sermon would impact upon our brain cells. The white noise of hunger was high on the decibel scale after early mass, let alone waiting till 12 noon to eat for the first time in the day. So this meant we had to have eaten by 8 a.m.
Breakfast after church was a very welcome repast. I can smell the bacon sizzling now. Sometimes Dad would stop at the Caltex service station on the way home to buy The Sunday Mail and ice-creams which kept the beasts at bay for the half hour trip home.
One story which sticks, is of my elder brother’s First Holy Communion. Such an event was very significant in the life of a Catholic child and took place when you were 7 years old. It involved much catechism learning, rehearsals, a grey melange suit for the boys and white frocks and veils for the girls, a group photo and a celebratory breakfast afterwards. On the morning of his First Communion, he unintentionally broke his three hour fast and, thus, wasn’t permitted to receive the wafer. All of his Year 2 peers paraded up to the altar and with grace received the body of Christ from the chalice held by the priest. My brother was left to sit alone in the pew and simply watch. There was no excuses for a child acting on extinct and eating when he was hungry.