How Do Jesus Crackers Get Made?

There’s something about this article on the process of making communion wafers that makes me take Catholic doctrine even less seriously than before:

The [Cavanagh Altar Bread] company sells its wafers to religious supply retail stores and convents, which are ramping up Christmas orders. Sister Mary Michael of the Corpus Christi Monastery in the Bronx, N.Y., said her monastery, like many, used to bake altar bread for sale to surrounding churches as a source of income.

But demand outstripped what their antiquated equipment could produce, and for decades the nuns have bought wafers wholesale from Cavanagh, to sell at a markup. “It’s one of our means of support – it helps,” she said.

Sister Mary Veronica of the Franciscan Monastery of St. Clare in Jamaica Plain said the monastery has sold Cavanagh bread since well before she joined her order 18 years ago.

“It’s a good product,” she said. “Better than a number of places that make hosts.”

The current generation of Cavanagh family members have an awesome sense of humor about what they do — it’s almost as if they know they’re making crackers that others take waaaay too seriously:

The company employs 36 full-time people making altar bread. The family is Roman Catholic, “but you certainly don’t have to be Catholic to work here,” said Brian. “It’s a manufacturing company. There’s no fake reverence for the product.” Until the wafers are used by a priest in the celebration of the Eucharist, “it’s just bread,” he said.

My favorite part has to be what happens to the discarded Jesus wafers:

Next comes the die cutter. Sheets of bread automatically drop between two rollers, which cut 112 standard Communion wafers from each sheet in about one second, while simultaneously indenting a cross or a lamb shape into each wafer.

The wafers and the chaff left over from the cut are spun are in perforated tubes, which shake the chaff into waste barrels. A local pig farmer feeds the waste to his hogs.

“Holy pigs, we call them,” said Luke.

The same family makes separate wafers for other faiths:

The Cavanagh Co. also provides wafers for other denominations, such as Lutheran and Episcopal churches, the family said. They bake an entirely different style of altar bread for Southern Baptist churches. Those breads are small white squares. “They probably would double as a great soup cracker,” said Andy.

So if you don’t buy the whole Jesus thing, just use the crackers in your soup. No difference.

Just a reminder: Catholics make up one-sixth of the world’s population. You figure most of them actually believe they are eating Jesus…

  • eth

    Where does the “one sixth” stat come from? Seems… high.

  • Jeff Satterley

    You figure most of them actually believe they are eating Jesus…

    To be honest, I don’t think most Catholics really know about or don’t understand transubstantiation. At least that’s been my experience. Most of the outrage at incidents like Webster Cook’s in Florida (outside of the Catholic League followers) was about disrespecting the religious ritual, not about the actual body of Jesus.

    (Of course, most Americans seem to be ignorant of many of their own church’s beliefs, but perhaps in other parts of the world this is more well known by Catholics.)

  • http://thebitchreport.blogspot.com/ Milena

    Well, to be fair, I don’t think the wafer is considered the body of Christ until it is blessed by a priest. It’s the same for wine and for holy water — it’s just wine/water until the holy part is put into it by the priest. That doesn’t make it logical, of course, but I think you make the false assumption here that the wafer is considered sacret from the onset of production.

  • Tarrkid

    Wait… If they are doing 850 million wafers a year… And each one of those is the body of Jesus…

    Is this Homeopathic Catholicism???

  • http://imaginggeek@blogspot.com Bryan

    “Where does the “one sixth” stat come from? Seems… high.”

    There is approx 1 billion catholics world wide (i.e. ~50% of the 2 billion christians). 6 billion total, meaning about 1 in every 6 are nominally catholic.

    Bryan

  • http://noodleguy.wordpress.com noodleguy

    The music made me laugh so hard I was nearly crying.
    Also:

    It’s a baked good…y’know…not a very good tasting one…

    SO TRUE. They taste fricking disgusting, in my experience. Who knew Jesus was so awful tasting?
    Also…

    there was a spike after 9/11 and in a bad economy more people go to church

    Doesn’t that really say something about religion and faith that it is so often inspired purely by fear?

  • Larry Huffman

    Shameful! openly discussing the sale of human remains like this. All of these people should be locked up for the illegal transport and sale of human remains.

    Or do they get a special license to handle cadavers?

  • sam

    the taste is the best part of it..

    Shameful! openly discussing the sale of human remains like this. All of these people should be locked up for the illegal transport and sale of human remains.

    It isn’t human remains yet… didn’t you listen to the video.

  • http://omega-geek.blogspot.com Spook

    Just a reminder: Catholics make up one-sixth of the world’s population. You figure most of them actually believe they are eating Jesus…

    Also creating many many tons of Jesus Poo ™.

    How many crackers do you have to eat before you’ve consumed an entire Jesus?

  • http://blargen.com/blog/ postsimian

    Spook — that was the funniest thing I’ve read all day.

    Perhaps if we eliminated communion, we could work on putting that water and flour to use in ending world hunger.

  • 5ive

    100lbs of flour every 20 minutes seems like a lot of wasted whole wheat flour when some kids do not even get proper nutrition in the US.
    Yuck.

  • http://starseyer.blogspot.com Mikayla

    I wonder how they did it before the industrial age?

  • Shane

    “Where does the “one sixth” stat come from? Seems… high.”

    And they’re probably still counting ex-Catholics like me. I was “nominally” confirmed in high school–I honestly remember virtually nothing about the whole ritual and only vaguely remember the catechism “classes” I was forced to go to (I think by the age of 9 or 10 I had pretty conclusively written the whole church thing off as silly and I never remember even remotely buying into the whole magic Jesus cracker thing). It mildly irritates me that I’m probably on some list somewhere.

    I generally spent mass fantasizing about the opposite sex and counting in my head to 60 when we were supposed to be praying (is that long enough if I get up now–or should I do another 15 seconds? Oh, she’s looking cute today… 1… 2… 3…).

  • http://www.nullifidian.net/ nullifidian

    Yes, but are they as Jesustastylicious as foam crackers?

  • VB

    This was great!!! More posts like this! Fun, Informative. Also shows how religion is manufactured.

  • Eliza

    What a great line of work – they make a product they know tastes awful, & their sales go up when the economy tanks or anything else bad happens. Fabulous!

  • Tao Jones

    This was great!!! More posts like this! Fun, Informative. Also shows how religion is manufactured.

    Actually this post was neither fun nor informative. It, as well as a number of these comments, merely shows an ignorance of what Catholics do believe.

    The Eucharist-as-body-of-Jesus comes from the Last Supper which signified a new covenant where the sacrifice of the flesh was Jesus, rather than the animal sacrifices of the old covenant. During the Last Supper, Jesus did not make the bread magically appear (see: loaves and fishes,) instead he took regular plain old unleavened bread and blessed it allowing for transubstantiation. Only then did the bread become the body of Jesus. Likewise, when a priest is performing the Eucharistic prayer, he is asking God to transform the regular bread into the body of Jesus so the covenant can be renewed.

    The manufacturing process of the bread is completely and utterly irrelevant. Any Catholic reading this would surely say, “well duh, where do you think the bread comes from?” IT IS JUST BREAD until the Eucharistic Prayer. How else is this bread supposed to be made?

    This has about as much newsworthiness as if you said that sour cream and onion potato chips are manufactured without flavouring which is only added later on.

    “Well duh”‘s all around.

    Didn’t “wafergate” teach anyone anything?

  • Indigo

    I wonder how they did it before the industrial age?

    I assume they just took a regular loaf of bread and blessed it, which some churches still do. As Tao Jones points out, there’s nothing particularly special about the communion wafers until the priest gets his hands on them.

  • Oli

    there’s nothing particularly special about the communion wafers until the priest gets his hands on them.

    Or indeed after the priest gets his hands on them.

    I’d like to see a life size jesus statue made of blessed communion wafers, but i suspect i’d be very disappointed when it didn’t lurch into life like some demented holy zombie.

  • Lynn

    Most Catholics don’t believe in transubstantiation, although they do indeed understand the theory. They just don’t buy it and tend to fall into the consubstantiation camp in which the bread is still the bread and Christ is spiritually present.

    I do so grow weary of a certain type of Catholic who insists that any Catholic who doesn’t swallow whole each and every single teaching of the Catholic church is ignorant and/or uninformed of church teaching. Most Catholics and ex-Catholics and lukewarm Catholics give a lot more thought to these issues than they’re given credit for by the High Holy Pharisees of the Catholic Church, actually.

    Anyways, yeah, this is business as usual — create a product, define your target market, and sell it to them. They’ve got middlemen (middle nuns, actually, which is pretty funny) and markups and everything.

  • Tao Jones

    I’d like to see a life size jesus statue made of blessed communion wafers, but i suspect i’d be very disappointed when it didn’t lurch into life like some demented holy zombie.

    You’d be disappointed? Planning on starting a new sect of Christianity? Because NO ONE believes this is what would happen.

  • JJGorndt

    It might just be that I work in a food processing plant, but that place didn’t look very hygienic at all. No hairnets, no gloves, people wearing jewelry… I guess they’re trusting God to keep their food safe, and not Good Manufacturing Processes.

  • http://blargen.com/blog/ postsimian

    Tao Jones: your name suggests you had a sense of humor at one point.

  • Lynn

    To me, the greatest proof that transubstantiation is a crock is that these people claim to absolutely belive they are ingesting Jesus Christ, their god, and that this god, this deity, this wellspring of all goodness, is now physically present in their own bodies, is becoming physically one with themselves, and yet they can walk out the church door minutes later and be complete bastards to other human beings. They can ingest their Lord and Savior, the god they worship and fear, etc., and fifteen minutes later trash their neighbor, or make racist comments, or go home and cheat someone out of money, or beat their kids, or whatever.

    To me, that’s just proof that this whole god thing is utter nonsense and that the Catholic notion of transubstantiation and the bread and wine is merely a PR move on their part.

  • Tao Jones

    postsimian: There is nothing funny about ignorance. We’re supposed to be the smart ones, no?


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