The concern: Celiac disease affects as many as one out of every 133 people. Those suffering from this condition cannot ingest any gluten, a protein found in wheat. Eating gluten causes intestinal damage and can lead to many secondary illnesses. Celiacs have to maintain strict gluten free diets to protect their health. Hence, the concern among Catholic celiac sufferers was how they could continue to receive the Body of Christ at Eucharist when it is made with wheat. Since the mid 1980s, we have received calls from faithful Catholics who hoped that we could find a way to provide an altar bread that would fit their special needs. We decided we would give it our best effort.
The answer: Throughout the years of our research and development we stayed in touch with the Office of the Secretariat for the Liturgy of the U.S. Council of Catholic Bishops. Through their help we discovered a company that produced wheat starch, which is wheat that has had most of the gluten removed. We began experimenting with this new product. There were many failed attempts and much frustration: the resulting breads were either too thin, too hard, or inedible. Then one evening, as our sisters were working, Divine Providence intervened. When mixing the ingredients, the result was a sticky, messy batter that seemed hopeless. They plopped some of it onto the baking plate and then decided to throw out the rest and start over. When they opened the baker they discovered a round, crisp, light wafer that tasted delicious. God had blessed our efforts with success.
The facts:Our low gluten bread is made with wheat starch and water. The gluten content is less than 0.01%. It is made, stored, and shipped in a designated area free from all other wheat products.
The Church's response to us:The Office of the Secretariat received our samples and test results and issued the following statement.
Having reviewed the laboratory reports you sent, which set the amount of gluten in these altar breads at less than 0.01%, I am pleased to state that these special hosts are indeed made according to the requirements of both the Code of Canon Law (c.924) and the special considerations set out by Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, Prefect for the Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith, in his July 24, 2003 letter to the Presidents of Episcopal Conferences (Prot. N. 89/78-17498) and may be validly used at Mass in the diocese of the United States with appropriate permission.
The Celiac community's response to us: Since we began selling these breads we have served over 2000 celiac sufferers. Our low gluten altar breads were featured in an article in the magazine Gluten-Free Living. The editorial and accompanying write-up cited data from the Center for Celiac Research that showed that the less than 0.01% gluten content of our breads would be perfectly safe for most celiacs. The article states
PRACTICALITIES FOR USING LOW GLUTEN HOSTS
Because persons with Celiac disease are highly sensitve to wheat, low gluten hosts must be stored, handled, and distributed completely separate from typical wheat hosts.
Have a conversation between priest, parishioner, and Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion to determine particulars of distribution and reception of the Eucharist.
Freezer storage in an airtight container away from wheat products (lasts at least 6 months).
Maintain a pyx exclusively for the use of low gluten hosts.
A consecrated host may be reserved in a pyx in the tabernacle for later use when taken to someone who is ill.
Before handling typical hosts, count out as many low gluten hosts as are needed at a single Eucharistic celebration.
Place hosts in designated pyx and close.
(If pyx belongs to parishioner, or if hosts are provided by parishoner, see that pyx/host is given to sacristan well in advance of Mass to ensure time for preparation.)
Place pyx on corporal separate from ciborium or paten containing typical wheat hosts.
See that no wheat particles get into pyx during fraction rite.
Only break the presider host over the chalice for the priest and/or deacon, so that wheat particles do not get in all the
chalices (preventing some from receiving the Precious Blood).
Designate one point of distribution for a chalice which does not contain any particles of wheat.
Determine when the communicant will come for Communion. Options include:
Communicant sits where they can be near the front of the Communion line to receive the Precious Blood before wheat particles from other communicants get into the chalice.
A specific Extaordinary Minister distributes separately to the individual during the regular Communion time.
Parishioner comes first or last to the priest or deacon who retrieves the pyx from the altar and gives the Body of Christ.
Priest, deacon, or Extraordinary Minister opens pyx for the communicant to take Communion. (If pyx belongs to parishioner, it may be taken after the reception of the Sacred Host. If crumbs remain in pyx, wipe with finger and consume.)
Hosts may be ordered by the parish or the parishioner.
If ordered by parishioner, arrange with parish for billing/ shipping (who/where).
Benedictine Sisters of Perpetual Adoration
31970 State Highway P / Clyde, MO 64432-8100