Q & A: Gluten-Free Holy Communion & Spiritual Communion
by Rita Davidson
Since my daughter went on her gluten free diet, her doctor (who is also Catholic and gluten free) has been talking to her about receiving Holy Communion. This doctor wants to talk with their priest about getting some type of gluten free wafers, which she says still have a tiny bit of wheat to make them valid. I’ve never heard of this. I know you and your family are gluten free. What do you do about receiving?
I got this question on my Facebook page this week and it reminded me that someone had asked this before our fire, and I never answered this so I better answer it now! Whoops!
Now when our boys went gluten free 4 years ago, it was quite the upheaval. Most of our boys were under the age of Holy communion so it wasn’t a concern, at first. (I didn’t go gluten-free until a year or two later.)
Let’s back up a little, lets review, what is a ‘host’ ?
We as Catholics, we all believe the host is the body of Christ, AFTER Consecration.
So, if we believe Transubstantiation takes place, then are we okay to have Holy Communion if we have gluten issues?
No, we have to realize the change in the Host is the essence, not the physical characteristics. While the Host has become the Body of Christ, it is “Under the appearances” of bread. That means the bread itself, even under a microscope, will not show any signs of Christ. It is a sacramental change, something that is part of our faith, to BELIEVE.
Blessed are those that believe without seeing!
The Church has given certain rules for the Sacraments that cannot be changed. They are the gold standard by which the Sacraments remain valid and do not become invalid.
Hosts, must contain gluten (wheat) to be valid.
Father Edward McNamara, professor of liturgy at the Regina Apostolorum Pontifical University tells us, “What is clear is that with no gluten the substance is simply no longer bread and is incapable of becoming Christ’s Body.” 1.
Than again, “Reciting the words of consecration over such a substance would be at best a farce and at worst blasphemy and idolatry.” 1.
This leaves us in quite a quandary, since ‘gluten’ is required to make a Host a valid sacrament and we cannot have wheat!
This says it better than if I could say it myself, that is, “If the Church cannot be sure of the validity of her sacraments, her whole structure would be fatally weakened.”1.
This brings us to another troubling topic, what is happening to our society with so many of the faithful, coming up with gluten intolerance to the True Presence this world needs? Perhaps that is for another blog post…
So what can we do? After talking to some traditional priests, here is a summary:
1. We have to be concerned about non-wheat hosts, as they can interfere with the substance of the host and could be invalid. So for us being gluten intolerant, (not celiac) a small crumb of a real host, will not do us too much harm. Remember, you don’t need an entire host, but just a particle of it. During Holy Communion the priest just breaks off a very small piece (which we all know contains the whole and entire body of Christ). This way we do not need any special gluten-free hosts that might not contain the right substance to be valid. It is also easier for the priest during Holy Communion time as well. And helps us not feel like we are getting special treatment or standing out.
2. Another option for those very sensitive, for a true Celiac, is to ask the priest, if he can simply offer wine (which contains the entire body and blood of our Lord) instead of the Host. Again, all you need is a drop of this to receive the blood of Christ. This is what we do sometimes too.
3. Lastly, if you are in a parish that is difficult, or perhaps a priest that doesn’t understand, your last option would be to simply abstain.
Now I can here everyone getting upset! But hold on a minute. Yes, we need the sacramental grace that comes from Holy Communion, but what about all the Saints that had to go without Holy Communion at times?
The Japanese Catholics who went for many years without Catholic priests but kept their faith is one reminder. Do we not realize the many persecuted Christians around the world today are living without the Sacraments?
Spiritual Communions return
Abstaining doesn’t mean you simply never have Communion. It means you offer up your not being able to have Holy Communion as a sacrifice, and rely instead on Spiritual Communion. As Catholics who truly believe in the True Presence, while we might find this hard to ‘trust’, we must believe that Jesus comes to us in Spiritual Communion when we sincerely desire this from Him.
Here is one sample Spiritual Communion for you:
“Is it possible, O Amiable Jesus, that Thou comest with a vehement desire of uniting a wretched sinner to Thyself! O adorable body and precious blood of my Savior, come and be the nourishment of my soul. As the heart panteth after the fountains of water, so my soul panteth after Thee, the fountain of life. For Thou alone art my consolation, my treasure, my happiness, my life and my all. Come, dear Jesus, take up Thy abode in my heart, and dwell therein all the days of my life. My heart is ready; and were it not, one of Thy divine looks would be sufficient to prepare, soften and inflame it. Come, Lord Jesus, come.”
Then pause, to prepare spiritually. And pray;
“Oh Jesus, I truly believe you are in the Blessed Sacrament, true God and True Man. Please come to me now since I cannot receive you physically, that I may benefit from Thy presence Spiritually”
Then pause with great awe, as you meditate on how Jesus has accomplished this in your heart and soul.
Immediately, pray silently,
“I have found him, whom my soul loves: I hold him, and will not let him go. My beloved is mine, and I am His. Jesus, abides in me, and I in Him. How beautiful art though, O my beloved! – how good, and how lovely! – how loving, how generous, how merciful! O my only delight, my joy, my sole happiness, my God, and my all! Who shall be able now, to separate me from Thee? What have I in heaven, and besides thee, what can I desire upon earth! O the God of my heart, and my portion forever? O ! it is good for me to adhere closely to my God, and to put all my hopes in the Lord, God.”
There are many other ways to make a spiritual Communion. So I pray this will be only the start for you, even if you do not have gluten issues, to remain closer to Our Lords Sacred Heart where He desires you to be.
Rita Xo 🙂
©Copyright 2014 Rita Davidson All Rights Reserved.
1. ROME, 14 SEPT. 2004 (ZENIT)Answered by Father Edward McNamara, professor of liturgy at the Regina Apostolorum Pontifical University. https://www.ewtn.com/library/Liturgy/zlitur47.htm
2. Here is a video and interview from 2007 of a group of Benedictine nuns in Missouri baking Communion hosts without gluten. http://www.pbs.org/wnet/religionandethics/?p=289
3. Here is a company that provides GlutenFree hosts, though I would caution you, and investigate well. http://glutenfreehosts.com/gluten_free_hosts.html
Rita is a Catholic wife, and mother of seven, with three autistic boys. Currently a writer, & published author, she is a former hairdresser, professional make up artist with a degree in Natural Health. She is now a Young Living Distributor. After overcoming a stroke, disabilities, and more, they recently lost everything in a devastating house fire that made them homeless for six months. She is determined to lead souls back to Christ by carrying their crosses with Joy!
Thank you for writing about this! It is an insightful post, and reassures me of some doubt I had about our family receiving Holy Communion. We have been grain-free (gluten-free) for over four years, and now our children are at the age where they’ll start receiving Our Lord. The host doesn’t bother my husband and me, but one of my children reacts badly to wheat, no matter how small. Now I have some ideas of what to do in the future!
I am so thankful this has been helpful to you! It was really overdue for me to answer since someone asked last year, before our fire. But, yes, more and more are troubled with wheat now so this is very timely. God bless you,
I and my youngest son are gluten intolerant. He has had stomach problems since birth. When we removed gluten from his diet at age 8, he kept receiving the Eucharist for awhile. He started having bad stomach pains before Mass ended. He would turn pale, start to cry, and almost pass out. We spoke with our priest, who suggested he just receive a tiny piece of the Eucharist. He’s been receiving that way for over a year and doing much better. I don’t seem to be bothered as much and I receive as usual. The elements of the wheat remain, so it does have a negative health effect on some people. Jesus knows 🙂
Thank you for sharing Sharon! So many of us are on different paths with our health and I appreciate your insight and experience here!
God bless you,
You were wondering why so many are becoming sensitive to wheat. Well the wheat isn’t the same as during Jesus time. Grains are the most affected with GMO. Humans have messed with the genes in the wheat that it appears it begins to make us all sick. I understand where you are coming from. I can not eat any dairy. I mean if there is a tiny bit of cheese on something I get really sick. Just like people on here describe being sick on wheat. I wish us humans would realize God is best and stop messing with everything. I fear none of us will be able to eat anything before long.
Thank you for your insight Amy. Let us never fear that God is in control even when all seems lost!!
God bless you,