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Celiacs, Sacraments, and High Holy Days?


This is probably an odd question, but how do true celiac sufferers deal with Catholic communion? Do you get a dispensation? Same question with Seder meals? I was raised Catholic, but have fallen out of the habit (hurr hurr) and for some reason this question occurred to me today. I assume (with absolutely no knowledge) that one can participate in a Seder meal without eating the bread, but it's kind of important in the Catholic mass. Weird question. Anybody know?

  1. Last resort, a "spiritual communion"...learn something new everyday 'round here.

    1. You mean transubstantiation doesn't get rid of the gluten? Well shoot, that'll test your faith. ;)

      3 Replies
      1. re: babette feasts

        Transubstantiation only works on calories.

        1. re: babette feasts

          OMG, I almost choked while snorting my martini:) Too hilarious funny. Well, for those of us who truly understand it.

        2. I'll be following this discussion to see if it takes off, but I'll be thrown off of CH if I comment - !

          1. My cousin, who is a daily Communicant and has celiac disease, takes a sip of the consecrated wine that is kept aside from the wheat wafer; the priest sweeps the Host crumbs into the chalice after Communion only. My understanding is that just as one can receive communion union without sipping wine, one can also do so without eating the host.

            3 Replies
            1. re: pinehurst

              The same as a teetotaller or diabetic, then?

              1. re: Kris in Beijing

                Certainly the same as anyone in recovery, yes, Kris, for sure...or for kids. It can be either form (bread or wine) or both.

                1. re: Kris in Beijing

                  Or the same as was the norm prior to Vatican II in the western church.

              2. In Jewish practice one considers one's health.

                Passover is not a High Holy Day.

                1 Reply
                1. re: magiesmom

                  Nope. I was completely wrong on that.

                2. For Catholics, there is no such thing as a valid (technical term) communion bread wafer that is not made from wheat; it has to be made from wheat, nothing else (if it's made from something else, nothing the priest does with it will confect (another technical term) the sacrament). Very very low gluten wheaten bread wafers *are* permitted.* Catholics can also arrange to receive only from a chalice that has not had a bit of the bread wafer broken into it during the fraction (another technical term); the Catholic teaching for many centuries is that the fullness of the sacramental presence is contained under each species (another technical term) of bread and wine, so one can receive one or the other or both (for centuries, though, due to theological polemical controversies, the chalice was reserved to clergy).

                  A Catholic most certainly can attend Catholic Mass without receiving Communion. There is a canonical obligation to receive Communion at least once a year at Eastertide.

                  * E.g., http://altarbreadsbspa.com/altarbread...

                  1. Our church offers special gf communion wafers. They are wrapped individually, blessed beside the regulars, and the priest reminds everyone as people are about to go to Communion to let him know if anyone needs them. So, someone is manufacturing them.

                    But, I do recall years ago when there were far fewer items for people with dietary restrictions that a member of our church used to just use a cracker. He gave it to the priest before Mass, and that was blessed.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: CanadaGirl

                      My dad's wife is celiac (well, according to her...she's self diagnosed and insane in so many ways, but whatever...) and they are super Catholic. The church does have gluten free wafers that they administer to her.

                    2. No one who participates in a seder eats bread. Matzah, yes -- in fact, it's obligatory to eat matzah on the first night of Passover. But bread, no. We've had gluten-free matzah at our recent seders, in addition to the more traditional kind.

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: CindyJ

                        Well, yes - I meant the unleavened bread.

                      2. nonnie...............

                        The Bs have a niece who has celiac disease. For Passover we buy and serve her Oat and/or Spelt matzo that is manufactured kosher for Passover under strict kosher supervision.

                        We also can get spelt matzo meal enabling us to make matzo balls for her.

                        Due to the low demand, the cost is very high, but no one said religious observance is cheap.

                        1. Substitute Oreos.

                          1. If you are a regular communicant at a parish you can ask your priest to get some gluten free hosts for you; they are available.

                            Some hard core believers take the position that these hosts do not meet the standard for communion. So, you can always speak to your priest and only sip the wine. The wine alone contains the body, blood, and divinity of Christ. You only need a tiny sip.

                            22 Replies
                            1. re: jpc8015

                              "The wine alone contains the body, blood, and divinity of Christ."

                              Really? I always thought that tasteless wafer was "the body". Why not throw it all together and make it a smoothie? GF, of course.

                              1. re: linguafood

                                The "tasteless wafer" is also the complete body, blood, and divinity of Christ. You can receive the entire sacrament by only taking one or the other.

                                I have heard that in the Eastern Catholic churches they use yeast bread and put it in a bowl with the wine. The priest then spoons out a bit of wine soaked bread for you.

                                I've always wanted to go to a Byzantine Mass but have never had the opportunity.

                                1. re: jpc8015

                                  So it really is an either or thing, then? I guess the celiacs can stick to the crappy wine if it's a complete Jesus meal. No GF wafers necessary (?).

                                  1. re: linguafood

                                    I guess they have to consider the vegetarians too, who wouldn't want to eat the body. And the recovering alcoholics who shouldn't have the wine. Very complicated.

                                    1. re: NonnieMuss

                                      Yah, that's why I gave up on that BS decades ago '-D

                                      1. re: NonnieMuss

                                        I don't recall anybody at the Sermon on the Mount asking if the fish being provided was sustainably raised. I bet the gospel writers left that part out.

                                        1. re: jpc8015

                                          I doubt sustainability was an issue back then. Not that the gospel writers are a reliable source for anything, really.

                                          1. re: linguafood

                                            The gospels are the most reliable documents written to that point in history.

                                                  1. re: linguafood

                                                    Truly laugh out loud, lingua!!!

                                                      1. re: jpc8015

                                                        It's a common abbreviation for Christmas - is it possible that you've never heard it before? It's been around almost a thousand years.

                                                        Xmas: "Christmas," 1551, X'temmas, wherein the X is an abbreviation for Christ in Christmas, English letter X being identical in form (but not sound signification) to Greek chi, the first letter of Greek Christos "Christ" (see Christ). The earlier way to abbreviate the word in English was Xp- or Xr- (corresponding to the "Chr-" in Greek Χριστος), and the form Xres mæsse for "Christmas" appears in the "Anglo-Saxon Chronicle" (c.1100).

                                                1. re: jpc8015

                                                  As a history major books that feature talking animals and magic aren't really that reliable as far as history is concerned.

                                                  1. re: MVNYC

                                                    I am not aware of any talking animals in the New Testament.

                                          2. re: linguafood

                                            Most people take both and those who only take one typically take the wafer. If you are going to only take wine you should discuss that with the priest beforehand so that they understand what is happening.

                                            The bottom line though is that if you take the body or the blood you have received the whole sacrament.

                                      2. re: jpc8015

                                        Actually, the Catholic church has decreed that gluten-free hosts are invalid matter. Period. It's not limited to hardcore believers. Very very low gluten hosts are OK, though. But actual gluten free hosts are useless (actually worse - a priest who is discovered to be pretending to confect a sacrament with gluten free hosts can be subjected to severe canonical discipline).


                                        1. re: Karl S

                                          You're right. They must be made with wheat. But, there are wafers available that are so low in gluten that it doesn't matter...basically gluten free..

                                          1. re: jpc8015

                                            Yes...or as upthread, the communicant can opt to simply have the wine.

                                          2. re: Karl S

                                            You're talking about "THE CHURCH" rather than what actually goes on at the parish level where real people make sensible loving decisions. The kind that, if there's a god, the She-God would make.

                                            1. re: c oliver

                                              I know where you are coming from, but ever since the Donatist controversy some 1600 years ago, the approach to defining sacramental validity has had subjective good (or, more importantly, bad) intentions largely drained from consideration; and, actually, considering the terrible effects of what amounted to a civil war in the church of North Africa over issues of sacramental validity in that era, the approach is not entirely devoid of being sensible or loving; it just has a much larger perspective in mind. Real pastors who even with the kindest of intentions deliberately use wheat-free hosts are begging for canonical lightning, that's all.

                                              Anyway, this is going rather far afield of the topic even for Not About Food. Nevertheless, I hope the mods allow this digression to remain for the record, because it's actually the subject of recurring interest on the part of an important subgroup of folks about an unusual issue of concern about a foodstuff.

                                        2. I don't know about Catholics, but most churches I've been to have gluten-free communion wafers available.

                                          2 Replies
                                          1. re: Kajikit

                                            How can it be a church if it isn't Catholic? I'm confused.

                                          2. Folks, it seems like this is pretty much asked and answered and a lot of people are determined to bait each other about religion now, so we're locking it.