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Gluten Free Travel Blog
There is often confusion among Christians, and Catholics in particular, about how to fully participate in communion while keeping themselves safely free of the gluten contained in communion wafers/hosts.
Certainly, one option is to only take the consecrated wine from the chalice, if that is an option in your parish. The other option — finding a safe communion wafer — had always been more of a challenge. That’s because the Catholic Church in particular is rooted in Scripture and Tradition and believes that Jesus used wheaten bread at the Last Supper. Therefore, they require that breads used for communion be made with wheat and contain gluten.
Fortunately, thanks to the research of the Benedictine Sisters of Perpetual Adoration, a company was found that produces wheat starch, which is wheat that has had most of its gluten removed.
Miraculously, after much trial-and-error, the Benedictine Sisters were able to make low-gluten bread out of this special wheat starch and water. These wafers meet both the strongest requirements of the Catholic Church as well as the requirements of the gluten-free community, as confirmed by data from the Center for Celiac Research.
These wafers contain less than .001% or 10 parts per million of gluten.
You can learn more about the wafers — and order 30 wafers for $5.50, plus shipping and handling, by calling 800-223-2772 or by visiting their website.
I published a more detailed Blog post on this same subject years ago. You can read it here.
Taking Christian Holy Communion If You Have A Wheat Allergy Or Celiac Disease
Taking Christian Holy Communion if you have a wheat allergy depends in part on your denomination and in part on your church’s willingness to work with you. Most Protestant denominations view Communion as a symbolic part of worship. Individual churches vary, but no mainstream Protestant denomination demands the use of wheat in communion wafers as a matter of doctrine or dogma.
As such, individuals with wheat allergies have come up with solutions ranging from choosing to avoid wheat-containing pieces of bread and taking wine only to bringing an appropriate wheat-free substitute for Communion.
In churches where small cups of juice or wine are offered, it may also be possible to take Communion without taking bread. Talk to your minister for guidance on what is considered most respectful in your congregation.
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“That was always kind of stressful because sometimes the priest would understand what I was talking about and sometimes not. And they didn’t always have a second chalice handy,” De Groot told CNA.
“So sometimes I’d just receive anyway from the cup with and sometimes I’d make a spiritual communion instead,” she said. A spiritual communion is a uniting of oneself to the Sacrifice of the Mass through prayer, and can be made whether one is able to receive Communion or not.
Then, De Groot found out about the low-gluten altar breads made by the Benedictine Sisters. After doing her research, she decided to try these hosts, since they are approved as celiac-safe.
“I’ve never had any symptoms,” she said. De Groot says she also travels with her own supply of low-gluten hosts and a pyx that allow her to receive Communion at parishes that may otherwise be unprepared.
She said while her celiac diagnosis was an emotional one for her at first, it has allowed her to establish relationships with priests and Eucharistic ministers at her parish and other churches she frequents.
“At my home , it’s even not the end of the world if i’m running a few minutes late because they know me and my needs – whereas when I was first diagnosed, I had to get to church 15 minutes ahead to give time for the awkward explanations,” she said.
“If anything, celiac has been good for me in terms of my relationship to my parishes – I’m not an isolated stranger there, I’m known!”
What Other Churches Do
The Catholic church is not alone in grappling with what to do about communion for those who have celiac disease. Rev. Marek Zabriskie, rector of St. Thomas Episcopal Church in Fort Washington, PA, says his church has been offering a gluten-free wafer for several years. Many other Episcopal churches do the same.
Rev. Zabriskie, whose daughter has celiac disease, describes the church as progressive, sensitive and accommodating of the need of many diverse people.
Michael Smith, minister of music at St. Thomas, says one of the reasons many Episcopal churches have no problem offering a gluten-free alternative is the realization that bread used in 1st century Palestine was a very different type. Wheat then is not wheat now, he explains. Many, including St. Thomas, keep the gluten-free host on a separate paten, or plate, to avoid cross-contact.
Smith notes that in countries and regions where bread is not the daily staple of nourishment, questions have been raised about whether the host should be in a different medium. Many churches in Asia are asking if rice wafers would be a more powerful symbol than bread, Smith says.
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How Much Gluten Is In A Low
Nancy Patin Falini, MA, RD, LDN notes that the amount of gluten in a low gluten communion wafer is approximately 100 parts per million, clearly over the level to qualify for a gluten-free claim. However, the total amount of gluten in one low-gluten host is 37 micrograms, the equivalent of .0000075 of a teaspoon. Thats 267% less that the threshold declared by researchers to be safe. But some people may still get sick. Whats more, there is nothing in all of the existing math and science that addresses the toll taken by the worry of how much is too much for someone who has celiac disease and for whom religious observance is important.
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Moving To Actual Bread
Protestant churches in general rejected the Catholic interpretation of the meaning of the Eucharist. Some denied the real presence of Christ in the Eucharistic bread and wine, and discarded the Catholic definition of valid matter.
Over the next few centuries, numerous Protestant denominations were formed, many using the ordinary bread consumed at daily meals in their Eucharistic services.
In response, the Catholic Church condemned Protestant practices and stressed the traditional requirements for these elements even more forcefully. Until the Second Vatican Council , specially produced altar breads were exclusively used as hosts.
As part of its program for Church reform, Vatican II called for a revision of the Catholic liturgy, including the Mass. The post-Vatican II Roman Missal , the liturgical book used for the celebration of Mass, contained the new directive that, if possible, the bread used at Mass look more like actual bread. The ingredients were still limited to wheat flour and water. These ordinary gluten altar breads could still be baked at home by lay members of the community.
How To Handle Holy Communion With A Wheat Allergy
Heather Mercer is native to Northwest Ohio and graduated from Loma Linda University with two doctorate degrees . She is currently a professor at Owens Community College, as well as a fact-checker for Verywell Health. She has gained experience in a variety of settings, ranging from corporate wellness and preventive medicine, to mental health, chronic disease, and end-of-life care.
Receiving Holy Communion is an important part of Christianity, as it is meant as a remembrance of Jesus Christ. However, the communion wafers used as the Holy Sacrament contain wheat, which can pose a problem for individuals who have a wheat allergy or Celiac disease.
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Are Communion Wafers Gluten Free
Today, were going to be answering the question: are communion wafers gluten free? And taking a look at whether those with celiac or gluten intolerance can take communion. Communion may be something thats important to you if you follow the teachings of Christ. And at your Communion, youll drink from the Cup of Life and eat the Bread of Life . But is the wafer gluten-free? Lets take a closer look.
Why Do Catholic Churches Not Allow Gluten Free Communion Wafers
The Catholic Church states that the Communion wafers you consume must, contain a sufficient amount of gluten to obtain the confection of bread. While Communion wafers are known to symbolize the Bread of Life, it goes deeper than that. The wafers are the consumption of Christs flesh and this can only be achieved by using wheat within the wafers.
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What Are Gluten Free Communion Wafers Made Of
It depends on your church. Some churches will be happy for you to use entirely gluten free Communion wafers, which will be made from ingredients such as potato starch, and other naturally gluten free ingredients. Low gluten wafers will contain wheat, but it will be below the recommended safe amount for celiacs of 20ppm.
Why The Vatican Says No To Gluten
Ingesting a communion wafer is an important part of celebrating Catholic Mass, but what if the ingredients make your body sick no matter how small the amount?
This is the issue faced by Catholics who have celiac disease and other types of gluten intolerance. Gluten is a naturally occurring protein in wheat flour used to make communion wafers. While some people request gluten-free options, the Vatican recently made it clear that communion wafers must contain at least some gluten. But why?
In a letter sent to Catholic bishops from the Vatican in June, the church reiterated rules that communion wafers must be made purely of wheat flour. Wafers made from other types of flour such as rice, potato or tapioca, which may not cause issues for people with gluten allergies and intolerances are banned. The communion wafers, which are generally made from wheat flour, oil and salt, do not contain a leavening agent, like yeast, that would cause the dough to rise.
So what’s a Celiac or gluten-sensitive Catholic to do? A 2003 policy issued by the Vatican does allow for low-gluten wafers as long as they “contain a sufficient amount of gluten to obtain the confection of bread” and there are special bakeries who offer these options to Catholic churches.
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How Do Churches Handle Gluten
Most churches will offer gluten free/low gluten options. The gluten free Communion wafers will often be individually wrapped to avoid any cross contact. And also, if a communal cup is used , you may need to use a separate cup too, to avoid cross contact. Many gluten free Communion wafer suppliers also offer cups to purchase, with juice inside for gluten free Communions.
Can You Still Take Communion If You Have Celiac Disease Since Gluten
Gluten-free communion wafers? Who knew?
Apparently, Pope Francis knew. The gluten-free craze, which has seen the rise of not only gluten-free pizza and croissants but also gluten-free beer and snickerdoodles, to name just a few, had spread even to communion wafers. At the request of Pope Francis, the Vatican recently sent a letter to clergy reminding them that communion wafers must contain wheat. Gluten-free communion wafers, many brands of which are sold online, are made of a bunch of different ingredients–garbanzo beans, tapioca, potato starch and rice flour, among others–but not wheat.
This is not a new policy. In a 2003 letter to clergy, then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, who in 2005 became Pope Benedict XVI, wrote that completely gluten-free wafers cannot be used for the celebration of the Eucharist, which commemorates the Last Supper, the last meal of Jesus before the crucifixion. According to Catholic doctrine, consecrated bread and wine become the literal body and blood of Christ. And bread is made out of wheat, not garbanzo beans.
A priest presents a communion wafer to a faithful in this 2013 file photo.
But what if you are Catholic and you have celiac disease, or maybe NCGS? Do you have to risk your health to take communion?
Of course not. The aforementioned 2003 letter noted that certain low-gluten, or partially gluten-free, communion wafers are permitted.
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Cooking For God: Gluten
In my third, and final installment of Cooking for God Im going back to my roots. My Protestant with some Catholic relatives and summer camps thrown in and a little bit agnostic, roots. Which is why it wasnt my first thought when I was diagnosed with celiac, but eventually I got around to, What the heck do people who need to consume the body of Christ do in times like this? Coming from the Bible Belt I just assumed you suffered on a weekly basis. You know, for your sins. But it turns out there are celiacs who pray to more than the porcelain bowl, and Ive heard rumors about these people making their own host. They take it to their local parish, and voila, theyre back in the game. So I gave it a try.
Its actually an incredibly simple recipe that only requires that you own something that can really whisk up olive oil and water. I suggest my favorite latte tool. Or milk frother, or whatever you want to call a battery operated mini-whisk. Singing, Oh, Holy Night as you froth is totally optional, but recommended.
After you loosely mix in the gluten-free flour, youre going to want to lay that dough out on a cookie sheet. I find the best way to flatten gluten-free dough is either with a well-oiled spatula, or a sheet of parchment paper pressed lightly into the dough. Either way, its not totally easy so you might want to say a prayer before you try to get a nice thin layer of dough on the cookie sheet.
Heres how you make your own communion wafers.