The Eucharist is the most special sacrament, in which Christ himself is contained, offered and received, and by which the Church constantly lives and grows. The Eucharistic sacrifice, the memorial of the death and resurrection of the Lord, in which the sacrifice of the cross is perpetuated over the centuries, is the summit and source of all Christian life and worship; it signifies and affects the unity of the people of God and achieves the building up of the Body of Christ.

As children reach the age of reason, generally around age seven, the Church extends to them an invitation to celebrate the sacrament of Eucharist. The initiation into the Christian community that took place at baptism is further extended by inviting children to enter fully into the heart of Christian faith through participation in the Eucharist.

The Eucharist is the sacrament by which Catholics receive the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ. For Catholics, this is the most treasured gift given to the Church by the Lord at the Last Supper. In receiving the Eucharist, we are nourished by the Lord. The bread and wine used in the Mass are transformed in all but appearance into the Body and Blood of Christ.

An Introduction to Holy Communion, Celiac Disease and Alcohol Intolerance

What is Celiac disease?

Celiac disease is an immune reaction to eating gluten, a protein found in wheat, barley and rye. For those with the disease, eating gluten triggers an immune response in the small intestine. Over time, this immune reaction damages the small intestine’s lining and hinders absorption of some nutrients. The intestinal damage often causes stomach pain, diarrhea, and weight loss, and can lead to serious complications. A Mayo Clinic-led analysis published in 2012 estimates that roughly 1.8 million Americans have the disease, but around 1.4 million of them are unaware that they have it.

How does this affect those who go to Holy Communion?

Celiac disease is a particular challenge to Catholics, who believe that the celebration of the Holy Eucharist and the reception of Holy Communion are the very source and summit of Christian life. At St. Joseph Parish, we work to be sensitive and compassionate to anyone afflicted with this disease, but especially to the parents of children with a gluten intolerance at the time of their first Holy Communion.

Can Catholics use “gluten-free” hosts?

In order for bread to be valid matter for the Eucharist, it must be made of wheat. The amount of gluten necessary for validity in such bread is not determined by minimum percentage or weight. “Gluten-free” hosts are considered invalid matter for Mass if they are made out of anything other than wheat and water. For example, hosts made out of potato starch or rice flour are considered invalid matter for the celebration of the Eucharist.

The Church believes that it is impossible to consecrate anything except wheat bread and grape wine. From the time that the Lord Jesus took bread and wine and told his disciples “Do this in memory of me,” the Roman Catholic Church has tried faithfully to fulfill Christ’s command by taking unleavened bread made from water and wheat flour, and wine made from grapes for use at the celebration of the Eucharist.

Can “low-gluten” hosts be used at Mass?

Yes. Due to advances in technology and science, a number of different religious congregations and church supply companies have successfully produced a variety of low-gluten hosts, which have been approved by the Vatican and favorably reviewed by one publication, Gluten-Free Living, as “perfectly safe” for sufferers of Celiac disease.

What if a person cannot consume low gluten hosts?

Such communicants may still receive the Precious Blood. Catholics believe that whoever receives Holy Communion only under the form of bread or only under the form of wine still receives the whole Christ, in his Body and Blood, soul and divinity.

What about people who cannot receive low gluten hosts and cannot receive even a small amount of consecrated wine?

For people who cannot receive low gluten hosts or consecrated wine we offer Mustum. Mustum is defined as grape juice in which fermentation has begun, but has been suspended with the result that its alcohol content (usually less than 1.0%) does not reach the levels found in most table wines.