Second Rose Window: The Twelve Apostles and the Holy Spirit
Information Station on the New Church Project

Gluten Sensitivity and Holy Communion

I was reminded by a recent journal article about the methods for screening and confirming the diagnosis of gluten sensitivity, a condition only recognized as a diagnostic category in 2008. The existence of non-tropical sprue, or gluten intolerance with its characteristic autoimmune features, diagnostic small bowel biopsy and response to gluten-free diet has been recognized, if not always quickly diagnosed, for many years. 

The full spectrum of gluten sensitivity is not yet fully appreciated, nor are its causes well understood. Nevertheless, for those individuals who have a medically supervised need to limit or eliminate gluten from their diets, there are gluten-free hosts available at all our masses, as long as you notify the sacristan before the mass begins. 

A separate pyx contains the unconsecrated gluten-free host(s) which are brought up to the altar with the gifts of regular bread and wine. The priest will consecrate this host along with the others at the consecration, although it is always kept in its separate pyx (container). Before the priest handles the hosts for distribution, the pyx containing the gluten free host is closed and eventually handed to the sacristan for distribution to the communicant. This procedure ensures that no one touches the gluten free host after touching the regular bread, since even this small amount of gluten may contaminate the host for those extremely sensitive to the wheat protein.

We purchase our gluten free hosts from a community of religious women which bakes them and is approved by the US bishops. We store them separately from the regular whole wheat hosts. We cannot consecrate hosts brought from home, as we would have no way of knowing how these hosts are baked, or with what ingredients they are made.

We have several parishioners who avail themselves of the gluten-free hosts at our Sunday masses. Just let our sacristan know beforehand, so we always have a host on-hand and are able to keep it apart from the whole wheat hosts during the mass. We do not keep a supply of consecrated gluten-free hosts in the tabernacle on-demand, because they would likely become contaminated with gluten at some point.