Low-gluten hosts: the bread of life for those who can’t eat bread

An issue that is often overlooked in many parishes is now getting renewed attention — thanks, in part, to a deacon candidate from Chicago:

After Stuart Heyes was diagnosed with celiac disease last year, he learned that a gluten-free diet would prevent the pain he experienced after meals, which he described as “like the food is having a battle in your gut.”

But his diagnosis threatened to create a battle in his soul: The hosts used for Holy Communion at most churches are made with wheat, which contains gluten.

Now, however, when the 62-year-old Burr Ridge man and other gluten-intolerant parishioners step up for Communion at St. Cletus Catholic Church in La Grange, they can receive special hosts with very small amounts of gluten.

The low-gluten hosts and gluten-free hosts served at some Christian churches are a blessing for those with celiac disease. In the past, they have had to stay in their seats while their peers received the sacrament, or perhaps they skipped the host and took only the wine.

According to the University of Chicago Celiac Disease Center, the autoimmune condition affects 1 in 100 Americans and can strike at any stage of life. When these people eat foods containing gluten, which is found in wheat and many other grains, it creates a toxic reaction in their bodies, damaging their small intestine and preventing proper absorption of food.

In many cases, individual worshipers are buying Communion hosts, which are consecrated during services and then served to them during Communion. Fifty percent of those making purchases online from Gluten-free Hosts are individuals, says co-owner Lucy DeLaat, whose business sells zero-gluten and low-gluten hosts.

But Chicagoland churches have been getting up to speed. And Roman Catholic parishes, which adhere to the Vatican’s guidelines requiring the presence of wheat in Communion hosts, are being prompted to address the issue.

“Over the last number of years, there has been a rise in awareness of people with gluten intolerance and a subsequent rise in parishes asking us about low-gluten hosts and the guidelines for their use,” says Todd Williamson, director for the Office for Divine Worship with the Archdiocese of Chicago

…”The problem is alienating Catholics who want to participate in Communion,” said DeLaat, who sells low-gluten hosts that adhere to Vatican policy about wheat to Roman Catholic parishes and potato-based, zero-gluten hosts to churches of some other Christian denominations that also serve Communion. “This is about churches preventing alienation.”

Heyes receives the special hosts when he attends services three times a week, and as a deacon-in-training, he assists the priests at St. Cletus and personally prepares the hosts before Mass.

“It’s easy for me because I’m assisting the process,” he says.

For the past year, he has ensured that the low-gluten wafers are handled separately from the more traditional hosts, lest they be cross-contaminated. Under Heyes’ watch, they are placed in a pyx — a metallic, ceremonial chamber — that is placed alongside the regular hosts that the priest consecrates during the Mass.

Read the rest, and learn where to buy the hosts.

Comments

  1. Deacon Greg- I was a first approached about “low-gluten” hosts about 16 years ago when I was a newly ordained priest — I had no idea about them but I learned. Over the years, there have been many people in the congregations I have served who have needed the low-gluten option. In one large parish, we had about a dozen people with celiac disease so we actually had a Communion station where they could receive the low-gluten hosts after everyone else had gone to Communion – it worked out very well. It is always a blessing when we can provide the Sacraments to God’s people! Thanks for bringing this topic to light.

  2. Or one could simply be communed with the Precious Blood.

  3. There appears to be a catechetical problem here. Those who receive Eucharist under either form receive the whole Christ. There is no spiritual impoverishment because a communicant receives under only one species.
    I am not unsympathetic to those who have celiac disease, and support those methods that allow them to receive the host. Still, there appears to be a disconnect between their emotional experience of Communion and Catholic teaching on the Eucharist.

  4. Deacon Greg Kandra says:

    D’Arcy…

    You are correct, of course. But in many places, reception under both kinds is infrequent. And some people prefer not to receive the Precious Blood, for one reason or another. Having special hosts available is often simpler and less problematic.

    In my parish, there are a few people who need this provision, and it works fine.

    Dcn. G.

  5. One important take away from this story should be a clearer understanding of the difference for Roman Catholics between low-gluten hosts and none-gluten hosts. One is valid matter and the other is not. I know that in our parish we maintain and distribute both a low-gluten host – which has been approved in writing by the USCCB, and a none-gluten host that is made of potato, rice, palm oil and other things – which has not. In an attempt to prevent alienation (as the article states), we are actually playing a cruel trick on those receiving the none-gluten host, because it is incapable of ever becoming the Body of Christ. And, I pray for the priests, deacons and extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion who raise these potato/rice wafers and declare “The Body of Christ.”
    I am not unsympathetic to the families that are faced with celiac. But for the same reason that we are sympathetic to them (i.e., the centrality of the Eucharist to our faith), we should be very careful in deviating from what the Church teaches.

  6. Instructions from the USCCB website for obtaining approved low-gluten hosts.

    “Low gluten altar hosts are available from: the Congregation of Benedictine Sisters of Perpetual Adoration, Altar Breads Department, 31970 State Highway P, Clyde, Missouri 64432 (Phone:1-800-223-2772, e-mail: ).”

    Link: http://www.usccb.org/prayer-and-worship/resources-for-the-eucharist/distribution-of-communion/celiac-sprue-disease.cfm

  7. Well, as long as the host meets the requirements for a valid Sacrament I see no problem with it. If it doesn’t then, as Conchúr’s pointed out, the reception of the Precious Blood alone is a reasonable option.

  8. Have to admit that I’m always perplexed by the “valid matter” (perfect, essential ingredients list) component when we get into discussions of the contents of the bread that will be consecrated and transformed into the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist.

    For the record: I’m completely sympathetic to Catholics who wish to receive low-gluten OR no-gluten hosts due to celiac disease. A few of my friends are afflicted with this disorder, and I want them to be able to receive communion under both forms (if they wish).

    What I do NOT get is the church’s insistence that a particular recipe has to be followed PRECISELY in order for the hosts to undergo transubstantiation. Seems to me the rigidity of the requirement about the exact ingredients borders on superstition, rather than deep belief in the power of Christ to become present in the Eucharist and in our lives, in our bodies, in our souls. Can anyone explain that requirement in such a way that it takes it out of that superstitious/pharasaic/legalistic zone? Thanks.

  9. Every Sacrament has to have certain matter and form for validity. Can you imagine what would happen if people could use whatever they wanted to confect the Eucharist? Coke and Potato chips? Just as water is essential to Baptism, bread and wine are essential for the validity of the Eucharist. Nothing superstitious about it.

  10. Alright, this issue is causing me to have a theological query about Christ. So here we have Christ being the Word of God Made Flesh. He purposely makes gluten-containing wheat in the physical form of bread the only “food” substance valid for His consecration for all existence. You’d think that being God made flesh he’d have the foresight and knolwedge to know what Celiac disease is. So how could our Lord do this, knowing Celiac disease would be an issue then and now? You’d think he would have planned this better.

  11. “And, I pray for the priests, deacons and extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion who raise these potato/rice wafers and declare “The Body of Christ.”

    It sounds like they are simulating a Sacrament if non-gluten hosts are invalid matter and they knowingly distribute them as Communion. Serious issue indeed.

  12. I really don’t understand .. This is where I get confused.. I am wheat intolerant although not as bad as a person with Celiac, having said that, when the “bread and wine” are consecrated by the Priest they BECOME, the Body and Blood of our Living Lord , so if this is true which, I believe with my whole soul that it is, WHY would anyone have trouble receiving ?????? Something is wrong here.

  13. The “valid matter” issue for me is one example where we seem to presume to tell the Lord of the Universe where he can and cannot make his Presence.

    I very much want to think with the Church on this, and I see an enormous difference between a deviant priest with an agenda trying to consecrate Coke & potato chips, and a Mass with a few gluten-free hosts that is otherwise humbly and prayerfully offered to God.

    This hits close to home, as I have a friend who not only has celiac disease, but is also a recovering alcoholic. I don’t know the implications for him to receive low- vs. no-gluten, but is he otherwise just out of luck when it comes to sharing in the Eucharist?

  14. Deacon Greg Kandra says:

    Robyn…

    It becomes the Body and Blood of Christ, but it maintains the appearance and qualities of bread and wine. Which means that the human body can and does react to the chemical nature of the species being consumed.

    Read more here.

    Dcn. G.

  15. Thank you for the explanation but I thought the host is the true Body of Christ so why would it retain any food properties.. This doesn’t make sense to me.

  16. naturgesetz says:

    Stephen P and Young Canadian RC Male —

    It seems to me that this is not a question of our telling the Lord of the Universe what he can do, but of our letting the Lord of the Universe tell us what to do, rather than trying to force him to do what we find convenient.

    The questions of women priests and and same sex “marriage” strike me as analogous. One can ask,”Couldn’t the Lord of the Universe make a woman a priest?” One can ask, “Why would our heavenly father deny his homosexual children the joy of married love?” But these questions do not automatically answer themselves, “Go ahead and do what you wish.” We obey what the Lord of the universe established when he created us male and female, when he called only men to be his apostles, when he used wheaten bread and grape wine to become his Body and Blood. If this means that some people cannot receive the sacrament of matrimony, some cannot receive the sacraament of priestly ordination, and some cannot receive the sacrament of Holy Communion, we obey, even when we do not understand God’s reasons. We also remember that none of those affected are deprived of God’s love.

  17. naturgesetz says:

    Deacon Greg, I skimmed the excerpt of the Catechesim which you linked, and I don’t find anything which explicitly makes the point you stated to Robyn, namely that the Sacred Species react physically according to the “appearances” which they retain — indeed, that’s what it means when we say “under the appearances of bread and wine” — and that is is spiritually that they operate as the Body and Blood of Christ.

  18. I truly believe that it is ignorance. I have tried to discuss the matter with our pastor and have been told that so long as the parents are acquiring the non-gluten hosts and the bishop hasn’t told him not to use them, then he sees no problem with using the rice/potato wafers.

    As this is such a sensitive and emotional subject for all involved, I do not know what else to do – except pray.

  19. The most common answer to the question is that the Sacrament was given to us directly by Christ in the form of bread and wine and, therefore, the Church has no authority to change it. At first blush the Church’s stance on this can appear extreme or, as was mentioned above, even superstitious. If, however, the Church has the authority to modify the elements of the Sacraments given to us by Christ, then don’t they become more like disciplines of the Church and less like Sacraments?

    For example, the Church believes that only men can receive the Sacrament of Holy orders. The Church does not believe that those men have to be unmarried for the Sacrament to be valid – the celibate priesthood being a discipline of the Church not a Sacrament in and of itself.

  20. Wade–This is indeed very, very serious. It is not permissible to simulate a sacrament, let alone the Eucharist. TELL THE BISHOP!!!!!!!!!!!!! He is responsible for the sacraments in his diocese. This is scandal.

  21. Thanks Wade. The sisters are in the US. The site in the article is in the UK.
    The sisters had to get permission from the Vatican for their breads. I don’t know about the site in the UK

    Here is the website for the sisters: http://www.altarbreadsbspa.com/lowgluten.php
    And, for the order form: http://www.altarbreadsbspa.com/orderbread.php

  22. Wheat is necessary for the bread because Scripture (both the Old Testament and the New Testament) is replete with reference to it and because it is what Christ consecrated at the Last Supper before he died. Anything else is not proper matter.

  23. Robyn:
    Maybe this will help. In our day, there are many things that aren’t what they would appear. Take, for instance, gummy vitamins for children! They look and taste like candy. Yet, they are indeed vitamins that are sold with a child resistance cap to keep kids from eating them/overdosing on them like candy. Are they candy? No. Are they vitamins? Yes. Do they taste and feel and smell like candy? Yes. They still retain the properties of candy but are not. Likewise, anti-cough strips are sold that don’t look/taste/feel anything like medicine…and yet they are.
    So, if human beings/pharmaceutical companies are able to create such things that aren’t what they seem, that “masquerade” as other things but are medicinal in nature, how much more can God, for whom nothing is impossible, do? Thus, the bread and wine, when consecrated, retain their original properties and are yet God…the best medicine in the world!

  24. Or, make a spiritual communion!

  25. “I have tried to discuss the matter with our pastor and have been told that so long as the parents are acquiring the non-gluten hosts and the bishop hasn’t told him not to use them, then he sees no problem with using the rice/potato wafers.”

    This “pastor” needs to go back to the Seminary. How can the Bishop tell him not to use them when he probably doesn’t even know he does?
    That he sees “no problem” is very serious.

  26. “Redemptionis Sacramentum” 25 March 2004 by the Vatican Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacrament would be one of the pertinent documents that refer to the seriousness of what is going on in, Wade.

    Under Chapter VIII it says:
    “6. Complaints Regarding Abuses in Liturgical Matters

    [183.] In an altogether particular manner, let everyone do all that is in their power to ensure that the Most Holy Sacrament of the Eucharist will be protected from any and every irreverence or distortion and that all abuses be thoroughly corrected. This is a most serious duty incumbent upon each and every one, and all are bound to carry it out without any favouritism.

    [184.] Any Catholic, whether Priest or Deacon or lay member of Christ’s faithful, has the right to lodge a complaint regarding a liturgical abuse to the diocesan Bishop or the competent Ordinary equivalent to him in law, or to the Apostolic See on account of the primacy of the Roman Pontiff.[290] It is fitting, however, insofar as possible, that the report or complaint be submitted first to the diocesan Bishop. This is naturally to be done in truth and charity.”

  27. Notgiven:

    Although there are many references to wheat in New Testament, especially in the parables, there do not seem to be any references to its use in bread. In those days, according to McKenzie cited below, wheat was usually eaten raw, parched (dried) or roasted. Wheat bread was a luxury; the common bread in Old and New Testament times was made from barley flour. See John 6: Multiplication of Loaves (five barley loaves) and Fish.

    So, how can we be sure that the bread at the Last Supper was made of wheat? (I tremble. What will happen with the hymn, “Gift of Finest Wheat” composed for the Eucharistic Congress in Philadelphia in 1976?)

    (My source is “Dictionary of the Bible” by McKenzie, S.J.)

  28. Deacon Steve says:

    It is important to remember that when Jesus instituted the Eucharist it was done in the context of the passover meal. So when Jesus took bread, it wasn’t wonder bread it was unleavened bread as used in the passover meal. When he took wine it was wine (which by definition is fermented), not simple grape juice also because it was in the context of the passover meal. If these things were not important I believe that he would have then instituted the Eucharist at some other regular meal. The elements were important because of the context of the meal being eaten, and because of the future action of Christ’s death and resurrection. I don’t think the Church is being too pharisaic by requiring that there be some gluten in the host so as to retain the proper element. To be truly pharisaic about it then no compromise on the amount of gluten would be made. Just as there are allowances for use of mustum (sp?) for alcoholic priests. The Church has set the lowest limit they believe possible to keep the elements correct, and be pastoral. If the low gluten host is too much, then the person could take the tiniest fragment and still receive the fullness of the Eucharist if the option of only receiving the Precious Blood isn’t available.

  29. Deacon Greg Kandra says:

    HMS…

    You’re not trying to turn this into another “I Hate Any Music Written After 1970″ thread, are you? ;-)

    Dcn. G.

  30. Alleluia Ch-Ch-Ch! :)

  31. Of course not. What would ever make you think that?

  32. I was diagnosed with Celiac ten years ago. I really wish people would lay off all the speculative hand wringing and setting of their hair on fire and pointing of accusations of incompetence at God and whatnot because of Celiac. All of that is “invalid matter.”

    Celiac caused me to wake up and pay attention to the realities of the Holy Eucharist and in that sense is a blessing. 

    Because of the Celiac, Holy Mother Church makes provision to offer me the privilege of receiving the whole and complete Christ in Holy Communion through the species of Christ’s blood, precisely as she does for Viaticum if a patient is unable to swallow. Priests of any age don’t get their vestments into a knot over this: only laypeople do.

    I can also receive a low-gluten host containing a tiny amount of wheat bread. 

    In the food industry there is gluten-free and there is gluten-free. Published guidelines establish a threshold of 2-3% gluten as qualifying for “gluten free” labeling. Unless there is some special qualification of “wheat free” on the packaging there could be that much gluten in the product. 

    Gluten-containing ingredients are often added for texture or “mouth feel” because there is nothing quite like that “bread-like” texture from wheat. 

    I suspect that by weight these low gluten hosts (which FSSP priests tend to keep handy in the sacristy, BTW) are well below 1%. This probably goes unnoticed by the toxic immune malfunction that they think causes Celiac. 

    All the above means I have to arrive to Mass early enough to explain the situation to a priest in the sacristy if I’m visiting a parish. Like I said, a blessing. 

    A few guidelines I would suggest for anyone dealing with a new CD diagnosis: this person can sit in a convenient location to quite unobtrusively go to the sanctuary just before the Agnus Dei. I’ve been told by the Cathedral rector that creates the least disruption to the flow of the liturgy. 

    At the beginning the CD person feels awkward about doing this, but believe me, in the social melee that typically substitutes for the sign of peace, where everyone is busily reinforcing for each other the Protestant notion that the sign of our unity somehow lies in high five-ing each other rather than in Christ fully present on the altar of sacrifice, nobody notices you walk up. 

    After communicating himself, the priest simply brings you the chalice, as just one more among the typical flock of “Eucharistic ministers” (qv). 

    If there is a separate chalice prepared in advance of Mass, the priest simply prepares the gifts to include that separate chalice. Even if there is no separate chalice, the priest can slightly manipulate the chalice so that the commingled fragment of the host adheres to the inside wall of the chalice, protecting the patient from accidentally ingesting it. If that isn’t done I just consume what I can. Normally I consume all the Blood, but if there is a fragment present I do the best I can. Technically I am among the sick, so I do what I can. 

    I make a thanksgiving and then return to my place in the pew and kneel until all have received holy communion, as Rome recommends. Or of course, until they have received the lay laying on of unconsecrated lay hands and heard a pointless, ineffectual, and scandalously counterfeit “blessing of Christ” from a lay “Eucharistic minister,” and possibly the tracing of a cross on their forehead or head by said layperson, in direct opposition to the explicit instruction Redemptionis Sacramentum, but I digress and light my own hair on fire….

    If for any reason I was unable to consume all the sacred species, (usually because the commingled fragment remained) then before returning to the pew, in recent years I’ve taken to explaining to a nearby altar server, (who in our parish all inexplicably kneel during Communion rather than holding a paten to protect the body of Christ from falling) something like the following:

    “I have to receive holy communion from the chalice because of a medical condition. I was unable to consume all of it. Jesus in the Eucharist is never to be left unattended, so you be present with Him now because he is still there on the Altar. Make sure he isn’t alone. ”

    Does that put pressure on some poor little kid to adore Christ in the Eucharist? I can hope. 

    I’ve handled all this in small chapel Masses and in the Cathedral. It’s not a big deal. You just have a brief word with the priest in the sacristy a few minutes before Mass. People want to run around waving a ‘Celiac disease’ biohazard banner in the air. It’s nonsense. The Church offers plenty of options–use the best one available. 

    In the worst case you ask the priest to give you a tiny fragment of the host, which would be the equivalent of what’s in one of those gluten free hosts. 

    The answer to “why” is in the nature of Celiac disease. They’ve never seen the onset but the best theory includes that there is a toleration threshold. Problem is you don’t know what it is. So you are taking a chance. Mother Rosalind Moss (another Celiac sufferer) and I will prayerfully take that chance. That threshold is the theory behind the low-gluten hosts which are actually a kind of non-gluten carrier made of rice starch containing a tiny fragment of plain wheat bread. 

    As to other impudent accusations against Holy Mother Church like “how come there is a racket set up by the bishops requiring a specific recipe from a specific religious order?” and other thinly-veiled attempts at entrapment, the reasons are simple: reliability. 

    The “recipe” for valid matter hosts is this: plain wheat flour, water, heat. The modification or “recipe” for low-gluten hosts is to enclose a tiny quantity of this mixture in some kind of rice-cracker type carrier. The principle is the same as a priest using an eye dropper to give a single drop of Christ’s blood to a dying person. It’s just that the instrument to deliver the accidents of the sacrament happen to be digestible and gluten free. Everybody let your blood pressure go back to normal. 

    The USCCB are recommending one source because if you order from them, they will never accidentally send you invalid matter because they are religious sisters (or possibly nuns, I don’t know if their order is cloistered), and they specifically know what they are doing. Take advantage, already !

    I would guess not needing any special steps is the real issue people get into a snit over. There seems to be an entitlement presumption that “I shouldn’t have to do anything unusual.” Nonsense. You have a condition, this is  part of how you deal with it. 

    It is also important to understand that with adult diagnosis Celiac disease, it has been causing them a wide spectrum of health troubles all their lives. The diagnosis process can be quite humbling. Google it. You suddenly can never again eat not only bread (trust me, appreciate ordinary bread – there is no equivalent substitute), but anything made with wheat, rye, barley, triticale, or oats (if they have been exposed to wheat). Or anything made from those, like partially hydrolyzed plant protein (who knew?) You and your family suddenly have to become experts in food ingredients labeling, and since they change the ingredients of products all the time without notice, you have to read all the labels of everything, every time you buy it. You have to set up something like a split kosher kitchen. It’s a drag. So the next time you hear of such a person, realize there is a lot going on there. Since its a matter of formerly welcomed food being suddenly and forever forbidden there can be irrational feelings of persecution. Turns out we are all very emotional about food. 

    Personally I would rather people who are under-informed would at least read up before commenting, but how could it be teh intersweb otherwise?

    May God bless us all. 

  33. “I am the Bread of Life, whoever eats this bread will live forever”

  34. Well, if I’m stuck in those circumstances, and I read “Jesus said to them, ‘Amen, Amen, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you do not have life within you.’” (Jn. 6:53), then I suppose I would be pretty concerned. Matrimony & Holy Orders, on the other hand, are not held up as Sacraments that are so essential to the life of faith.

    Now, I suppose one could say that it is Baptism only that is necessary for salvation.

    So should I just settle for longing for & adoration of Jesus in the Eucharist? Or do I just have to suffer the deprivation of receiving the Blessed Sacrament (in violation of the precepts of the Church)?

    I don’t think I see the matter & form issue here as analagous to Matrimony & Holy Orders.

  35. Deacon Greg Kandra says:

    Thank you, Kevin, for your witness, your insight and your candor.

    Dcn. G.

  36. HMS–I checked the source and your answer doesn’t convey the spirit of what McKenzie wrote:
    “Wheat. Wheat was cultivated in Palestine in the Bronze Age and has always been the principal cereal product of the country. It can be grown in almost every part of the country, with particular success…The wheat is planted after the autumn rains have softened the ground sufficiently for plowing and is harvested in the spring…[McKenzie's sources omitted here for brevity]. The grain was also eaten raw, prepared by rubbing it in the hands…It could be made more palatable by parching…or roasting…; parched grain was easily provided in an emergency… ‘The fat of the wheat’ (Dt 32:14; Ps 81:17) is the best and finest of the grain. The grain of wheat is used by Jesus as a figure of His own death from which life come…and by Paul of the body…, which cannot be transformed into the new life of the resurrection unless, like the grain, it first dies. Both these figures use popular speech, for the grain which is sown does not die; but it is buried, and this permits the figure.”

    In his McKenzie’s cite for Bread, he does say that “common bread was made of barley flour; wheat bread was a luxury.” With all the OT cites for wheat, it is probable that, it being Passover, wheat bread was used. Certainly, the use of wheat for the Eucharist comes from apostolic traditions. We see it already reflected in a letter of St. Ignatius of Antioch (successor of the apostle Peter as Bishop of Antioch), “I am God’s wheat and shall be ground by their [wild beasts] teeth so that I may become Christ’s pure bread.” The inference here is, of course, to the pure bread of the Eucharist. And, St. Irenaeus of Lyons (around 180 AD) wrote, “The stem of the vine takes root in the earth and eventually bears fruit, and ‘the grain of wheat falls into the earth’ (Jn. 12:24), dissolves, rises again, multiplied by the all-containing Spirit of God, and finally after skilled processing, is put to human use. These two then receive the Word of God and become the Eucharist, which is the Body and Blood of Christ.” [Five Books on the Unmasking and Refutation of the Falsely Named Gnosis". Book 5:2, 2-3].

  37. I agree that it is a very emotional subject, but I’m afraid that the ignorance cuts both ways: low-gluten hosts are not physically safe for many who have Celiac Disease, or even for those with life-threatening allergies to wheat. People with this condition do not all react to the same level of gluten, and many cannot tolerate the level that remains in low-gluten hosts without serious, life-threatening damage to their bodies.

    And taking the Blood of Christ from the same cup as those who have had the regular hosts is also not safe for anyone with Celiac Disease. They need a separate chalice as much as the hosts need a separate plate.

  38. Kevin–that was great. My sister-in-law was diagnosed with celiac later in life. We read the labels for everything! You are so right! What a wonderful primer you have written for all those who have no exposure or limited experience with this.

  39. I’m going to stir the pot with a hypothetical situation: Suppose a parish ordered low-gluten hosts, and the vendor sent them wheat-free ones by mistake. No one was aware of the error, and the priest consecrated them as usual. Would the communicants receive Jesus? Would Jesus have any choice in the matter? If we define and codify things to absurdity, do we leave any room for the free action and grace of God?
    My mother used to say that people didn’t give God any credit for common sense. The older I get the more I think she was right.

  40. “Suppose a parish ordered low-gluten hosts, and the vendor sent them wheat-free ones by mistake. No one was aware of the error, and the priest consecrated them as usual. Would the communicants receive Jesus?”

    In a few words, not in substance. See the following from Pope Benedict when he was still Cardinal Ratzinger. They could be making a spiritual Communion however.

    On July 24, 2003 (Prot.N. 98/78-17498), Cardinal Ratzinger again took up the topic of the use of mustum and low-gluten hosts at Mass in a second letter, also addressed to the presidents of Episcopal Conferences and included below for our readers. In it the Prefect restates essential Church teaching regarding valid matter for the Eucharist, and lays out new norms for the use of mustum and low-gluten hosts. Pastors and the faithful are reminded that for bread to be valid matter for the Eucharist, it must be made solely of wheat; contain enough gluten to effect the confection of bread; be free of foreign materials and unaffected by any preparation or baking methods which would alter its nature. The amount of gluten necessary for validity in such bread is not determined by minimum percentage or weight, though hosts which have no gluten are considered invalid matter for Mass. In the Roman Rite, the bread prepared for the Eucharist must also be unleavened.

  41. Notgiven:

    I am “not” ready to “give in” on whether the bread used when Jesus instituted the sacrament of Eucharist was made from wheat or barley. I would rather say we just don’t know. Interestingly, barley was also a staple cereal of ancient Egypt, where it was used to make bread and beer. So, the unleavened bread at the Exodus could just as easily have been barely. I don’t think that the Jews have a problem with gluten free matzos, which are sold for Passover.

    As to the mention of wheat and its Eucharistic allusionby the esteemed early Church writers, Ignatius of Antioch and Irenaeus of Lyon, well, I may concede your point, if the Greek word used by Ignatius and the Latin word used by Irenaeus was specifically referring to wheat. After all, the word, corn, was originally the English term for any cereal crop and was used in the King James version of the Bible and causes confusion today, since what we call corn was not known until the settlers in the English settlers in the New World introduced Indian corn to the Europeans.

    The reason I am belaboring the point is because, it seems to me, that the use of wheat in the Eucharist could reasonably have just evolved as part of our tradition. As such, exceptions for those with celiac disease could be legitimately made.

  42. Loved your pun! Wish I had thought of that!

    I understand all your points. I’m just saying that it’s probable that wheat was used because it was finer than the standard barley and because of the nature of the celebration. Also, a point could be made that the meal, which was celebrated in someone else’s upper room, may have had more sumptuous food (wheat) and accomodations because of that. In Mark 14:15, Jesus is quoted as saying, “Then he will show you a large upper room furnished and ready. Make the preparations there.” It seems that everything was ready for them there. All they had to do was set it up. Maybe all the master of the house had was wheat!

    Also, I want to thank you for the reference to corn. That has puzzled me every time I come across it in the psalms because I know corn was supposedly not known in the Old World until New World settlers introduced it to the Europeans. Yet, there is that word corn in the psalms. But, yes, corn in the bible can refer to cereal crops in general.

    Wish I had more time to do in depth research. Surely, it is there somewhere…or, is yet to be uncovered in some long lost archive or such! I doubt the Church would be so adamant about it without good reason.

    This is from the New Advent site: http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/05584a.htm
    “The necessity of wheaten bread is deduced immediately from the words of Institution: “The Lord took bread” (ton arton), in connection with which it may be remarked, that in Scripture bread (artos), without any qualifying addition, always signifies wheaten bread. No doubt, too, Christ adhered unconditionally to the Jewish custom of using only wheaten bread in the Passover Supper, and by the words, “Do this for a commemoration of me”, commanded its use for all succeeding times. In addition to this, uninterrupted tradition, whether it be the testimony of the Fathers or the practice of the Church, shows wheaten bread to have played such an essential part, that even Protestants would be loath to regard rye bread or barley bread as a proper element for the celebration of the Lord’s Supper. “

  43. It would seem to me that the Vatican with all its resources would have a much better handle on what is needed for a Valid Catholic Sacrament than anyone here. If the Vatican approves the use of this it should be OK to use. If not, it should not be used.

    In our parish, we have a few with this issue and for them there is a seperate line where they can drink from the cup and therefore have the full and complete Eucharist which is what the Catholic Church teach’s.

    What burns me up about this article is when they say this: “In the past, they have had to stay in their seats while their peers received the sacrament, or perhaps they skipped the host and took only the wine.” They are not skipping the sacrament if they choose to only receive the blood of Christ, but getting it completely and with everything everyone else receives. They are not taking the “wine”. It is not wine. I took one of the eucharistic ministers at another parish to task when I heard them asking for people to hand out the “bread” and “wine”. If thats what they see as Eucharistic ministers, their priest much not be doing his job.

    This article and some of the posts seem to have a very bad case of poor teaching or open dissent from what the Vatican teaches us about our faith.

  44. Not sure how many there are that are both alcoholics and are so sensitive to glutten that a small piece of host would provide a serious reaction. Where the numbers with celiac disease are certainly a growing number, those who react severly to the host are a minority of that number. To find those with violent reaction and who are alcoholics would seem a very low number indeed. But if that was me, I would still want to make sure that what I was taking as the body or blood of Christ in the Eucharist was indeed valid according to the teaching of the Catholic Church as taught by the Vatican. If not, what is the point of having something provided that is not really valid? Until I see a Vatican approval direct from someone in authority released, I would want to make sure I was indeed receiving the body and or blood of Christ.

  45. I would have more faith in Christ that if I had medical issues preventing me from receiving His Body and Blood, that this would not prevent one from entering paradise. In fact, it could be a cross we are given to bear with a lifelong inablity to recieve this in our lives. We tend to look at everything as our right to get it the same as the other guy. Jesus said we who follow must take up our cross. Why wouldn’t this be those folks cross?

  46. In looking around a little, I found this which I think lays it out well.

    http://www.catholicceliacs.org/Bishops.html

  47. naturgesetz says:

    Melody, of course there is room for the free action and grace of God in this just as there is with respect to the necessity of faith in Jesus, along with Baptism and Eucharist for salvation. Those are the ordinary things that put someone in the state of grace. But God is not limited. So he can save someone who has never heard of Jesus. Similarly, he can give grace to someone who is not actually receiving the Body and Blood of Christ, whether it is because the person is in a church that does not have a valid priesthood, or because the matter which was used is defective.

  48. “But God is not limited.” Exactly my point. Not only could He give grace to someone who is not actually receiving the Body and Blood of Christ, He could, because of that person’s faith, actually give them his Body and Blood. Do we know that this happens? No. But we don’t know that it doesn’t.

  49. Oregon Catholic says:

    The question I have is where did all this proscription and prescription for valid matter start beyond just bread and wine? Is this dogma or tradition? And are we indeed getting into the Pharisiacal realm on these issues. The Orthodox use leavened bread and yet I don’t believe the RCC claims their consecration to be invalid or not the true Body and Blood.

  50. Elizabeth M says:

    I’m staying out of the debate on the substance and valid matter — it’s covered well enough above!

    I’m sticking to the comment I first thought of when reading this post (before venturing into the comments)!

    Our parish has offered low-gluten hosts for a number of years. The announcement is always in the bulletin and anyone who needs one is simply asked to come to the sacristy 15 minutes before Mass begins to let the deacon or priest know. Not having experienced it myself, I don’t know the details of how they coordinate the actual distribution.

    I teach First Communion preparation and one year we had a little girl with Celiac receiving the sacrament for the first time. Her mom was well aware of the process, having Celiac herself and attending Mass regularly. We simply informed our pastor ahead of time and made sure she was the first to receive (so he knew which girl it was — all those white dresses and veils can make identification tough!). It went very smoothly and there was no fuss for anyone.

  51. You may wish to know that there is another alternative source for low-gluten altar breads … Parish Crossroads (www.parishcrossroads.com) in Indiana …traditional , round, white, long shelf life, less expensive and approved by the US Conference of Catholic Bishops

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