Church of the Visitation
The recent Vatican news regarding Communion hosts.
Recently Pope Francis
sent a letter
through the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments on the bread and wine for the Eucharist. In it, he reminded all bishops and pastors that "the bread and wine, consecrated in the course of Eucharistic Celebrations, must be authentically of wheat and grapes, without mixture and elaborated correctly."
Expounding further on this point, the letter indicated that "[t]he choice of unleavened bread has always been the choice of the Western, Latin Church. If one of these elements is lacking – bread of wheat and wine of the vine – the Eucharist we celebrate is not the Eucharist.” In concluding the letter, the Holy Father stressed that this is a strong element for the sacrament; in fact, one that affects its validity (that in fact the sacrament does take place) and must be preserved to do what Jesus intended through the Church.
As allergies to various foods seem to be more prevalent, it has been suggested that alternate flours (rice or corn, for example) be used. This would eliminate
, a substance which causes a sometimes-serious reaction in individuals who suffer from
. The letter, issued in response to queries from bishops' conferences requesting clarification on this as well as many local customs and drawing wide attention from media outlets around the world, reinforces the 2000-year tradition of using unleavened wheat bread.
Regarding this subject, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops said that, "Given the serious health risk for those suffering gluten intolerance, it is important for pastors and other Church leaders not only to be aware of the reality, but prepared to address the situation of Catholics with celiac disease who come to parishes and seek to receive Holy Communion in a safe, sensitive, and compassionate manner"
(for more information, please see the USCCB web page at
Here at Visitation we take this issue very seriously and do everything possible to help those suffering from allergy conditions while still respecting the teaching of the Church. For several months we have offered a low gluten (<0.01%) host; although the complete exclusion of wheat gluten would invalidate the use of the bread as valid matter, research has shown that use of the trace amount minimizes the possibility of reaction while still retaining the necessary substance. The hosts are provided through the
Benedictine Sisters of the Perpetual Adoration
and are approved for use by the Church.
To receive one of these hosts, simply do to the line at which the priest celebrant is distributing Communion. You will notice that there is a smaller cup-like
attached to the larger one he uses to hold the hosts - when you come forward to receive, simply indicate that you wish to receive a low-gluten host (a hand movement is sufficient). The priest will say "Body of Christ", you respond "Amen" and take one of the hosts from the small ciborium (the priest will not touch it in order to prevent cross-contamination of gluten from the other hosts). In addition, if a person is unable to receive even a low-gluten host, it is still permissible to receive from the chalice - a person who receives only the Precious Blood (the consecrated wine) still receives the complete Sacrament through the theological understanding of concomitance (for further information see the
General Instruction of the Roman Missal
, paragraph 282
Catechism of the Catholic Church,
). Since a fragment of the host which the priest must place into the Precious Blood (the consecrated wine) is only in the main chalice and is not used in distribution to the congregation, there is no danger of contamination in that way.
As the Bishops' Conference states, "Any baptized person not prohibited by law can and must be admitted to Holy Communion" (
Code of Canon Law
). It is important for pastors to make every effort to accommodate and normalize the experience of Communion for the faithful, including those suffering from celiac disease. This can certainly be done within the norms of Church teaching and we continue to pray for and work with those who require these aids for continued reception of the Sacrament.
The essential signs of the Eucharistic sacrament are wheat bread and grape wine, on which the blessing of the Holy Spirit is invoked and the priest pronounces the words of consecration spoken by Jesus during the Last Supper: "This is my body which will be given up for you... This is the cup of my blood..."
Catechism of the Catholic Church 1412
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Sent by Fr. Ed Blanchett on Friday, July 14 at 3:00PM