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Catholicism and Celiac Disease- Part 2 - Sacramental Hope

Celiac.com 01/06/2010 - I’ve always loved the season of Advent—the beauty of a new beginning—of celebrating the birth of Jesus.  Each Sunday of December, as I watch another candle burning within the Advent wreath, I am reminded of those early years in my youth when I anticipated Christmas by observing the candles on the wreath; two purples, a pink, and lastly, another purple.  As children, we always knew, when the final purple candle was lit, Christmas would soon arrive.

As I sat in my Church pew this Christmas Eve, I marveled at the large trees lit by white lights, amid a backdrop of fresh poinsettias, along with the smell of incense accompanying our Parish Priest to the altar.  I joined the Children’s Choir in singing the beautiful Christmas Carols I still remember brilliantly from my Catholic School days—“Silent Night,” “Away in a Manger,” and “We Three Kings.”  I found my eyes filling with tears thinking of family members who live far away, loved ones who have gone before us, and those of our military who are celebrating the holidays away from their spouses and children.  I smiled watching youth from the Faith Formation program convene on the Altar dressed as Mary and Joseph, angels, shepherds, and the three wise men, one of which had a very impressive beard attached to his innocent face.

After publishing my article titled, Catholicism and Celiac Disease, I was amazed and humbled by the number of responses received from celiac sufferers and their family members.  I realized that my first article was just that—a first article—because a second one became necessary in order to pass on information which so many other Catholic celiacs deserve the opportunity to hear.  What began as a very personal and profound journey for me has become a chance to help others who are finding peace amid a life altering diagnosis.

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The Benedictine Sisters of Perpetual Adoration, in an effort to help Catholics with celiac disease, have developed a low gluten communion host which still satisfies the Code of Cannon Law stating that Eucharist hosts must be made of water and wheat.  Their website states, “Our low gluten bread is made with wheat starch and water.  The gluten content is 0.01%.  It is made, stored, and shipped in a dedicated gluten-free environment.”  The Benedictine Sisters have served over 2,000 Catholics with gluten intolerance, and because of the extremely low gluten content, it appears to be perfectly safe for most celiacs.  Their website contains a link to their low gluten host order form.

Many Priests, Parishes, and Diocese are now accepting the substitution of traditional Eucharist with these low gluten hosts, developed by the Benedictine Sisters.  I advise anyone desiring to receive Eucharist through both the Body and Blood of Christ to speak with your Pastor, and share your diagnosis to find if this option is possible in your Parish.  What an amazing opportunity for Catholic Celiacs.  I thank those who commented on my first article—noting that their bodies tolerated the low gluten host, and their Priests were open to offering this special host at Holy Communion.

If the low gluten host is not an option for your weekly sacrament, please remember some other important advice I was given, Jesus knows your body and what is in your heart.  Partaking of Communion through the Blood of Christ is still a full participation of the Holy Sacrament.

This spring I will proudly stand behind my son as he receives his First Holy Communion.  I am once again reminded of that day long ago when I received the Sacrament for the first time.  I pray that he will always find the comfort I have in the love surrounding him each week when he attends Mass.

Helpful websites for Catholics with Celiac Disease:
Benedictine Sisters of Perpetual Adoration : www.benedictinesisters.org
Catholic Celiac Society: www.catholicceliacs.org

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7 Responses:

Cathy Cremmins
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said this on
11 Jan 2010 7:10:22 AM PDT
My local church provides a special host for those of us that are Celiacs.

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said this on
11 Jan 2010 7:12:29 AM PDT
That's great news. Many members of my family have left the church because we were excluded from receiving communion using alternative unleavened breads, and we felt like pariahs, turned away. Of course, I think the rigidity of canon law in this regard is uncharitable, to say the least, especially since there's no specification in sacred scripture that the communion bread has to be made of wheat. Bravo to the Benedictine sisters for finding a solution that may be workable!

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said this on
11 Jan 2010 9:06:21 AM PDT
While this may be fine for some Celiacs who don't follow a strict avoidance, I found that myself and others had adverse reactions to the "gluten free" host.

Rating: ratingfullratingfullratingemptyratingemptyratingempty Unrated
said this on
11 Jan 2010 10:18:23 AM PDT
At the risk of sounding like Bill Mahar in the film "Religulous", why in the world would anyone who wants to go totally gluten free give in and say "okay, for the sake of the Sacrament...well .01% is good enough for me--hit me with that level of gluten and hopefully the priestly blessing will bypass my innate immunity not to mention the zonulin over-release and lead me closer to the Sacrament of Extreme Unction as a result."
I mean come on, all this Nunsense of low gluten wafers is a lot like Mother Mary Encroacher hitting you with a pointer or smacking your fingers with a giant metal ring--the ultimate effect is the same. They entice you with the phrase "low gluten" but they know in their hearts they're out to hurt you. No MALE who ever went through Parochial School could or would ever write this article, because it is a bunch of bunk and every Catholic male knows it!!

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said this on
12 Jan 2010 3:18:57 PM PDT
"Partaking of Communion through the Blood of Christ is still a full participation of the Holy Sacrament"...what about the fact that (in most cases) many people (people that have gluten on their lips) have already put their mouth to the cup...not to mention backwash...it seems to me that there is potentially even more gluten in the cup than there is in a low-gluten host.

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said this on
20 Jan 2010 9:50:23 AM PDT
I was raised Catholic, now I want none of it, and this whole issue and article reinforces my choices and shows what a bunch of BS all this ritualistic crap really is. Go on and kill yourself faster in the name of Christ then, if you have no faith in modern medicine.

Jeff Kelly
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said this on
24 Jan 2010 8:22:23 AM PDT
I observe the low ratings given the comments by males to this, who suffered the most as a gender in Roman Catholicism, and thus this is not only unsurprising but predictable.
I also observe that the esteemed Dr. Fasano somehow takes the "politically correct position on this"--as a Catholic from the seat of Catholicism, Italy. His science is over the top and ASTONISHING--but I find his willingness to compromise his scientific principles---which he knows to be a scientifically unacceptable compromise---to be frustrating.
Yes--the analogy would be for a Nun to tell a boy in her class:"I'm just going to rap your fingers with this pointer once--as opposed to five hundred times." They truly have convinced themselves this is a whole lot better, since they have to live under Canon Law and have no other choice in the matter because Canon Law has no compromise on the wheat content nor does the church compromise on the fact the wheat MUST contain gluten.
That women are so adoring of this idea merely reflects women supporting women--in this case within Catholicism, which has always been taken to extremes.
"Low gluten hosts." George Carlin would say "They should call themselves the "Sisters of Perpetual Compromise"!!"You can'
t beat the game!!" Good God Almighty!!!

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Wish I could give you a hug. Unfortunately I know how that feels with Neurologists, Internists, Endocrinologists, Rheumatologists, GIs..... I got so tired of crying my drive home after refusing yet another script for Prozac. I do hope your GI can give you some answers even if it is just to rule out other possible issues. Keep on the gluten and we are here for you.

It is too bad that so often a full panel isn't done. Glad your appointment got moved up and hopefully you will get a clearer answer from the GI. Do keep eating gluten until the celiac testing is done. Once the testing is done do give the diet a good strict try. Hang in there.

That makes sense...I cried with relief when I got my diagnosis just because there was finally an answer. Please know that you are not weak or crazy. Keep pushing for testing. It could still be celiac, it could be Crohns. Push your Dr's to figure this out. Best wishes.

Thank you all very much. I actually cried when I got the answer. I wanted an explanation that I could "fix." Now I'm back to thinking I'm just weak and possibly crazy. I know I'm not crazy, but you know.

From what I have read online there is about a 1-3% chance of getting a false positive for celiac disease from a blood test. Was it a blood test that you got done? It may be worth your while to get a biopsy or more testing just to confirm it. I know being gluten free is a pain but it is better than getting cancer or other auto immune disorders.