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Catholicism and Celiac Disease- Part 2 - Sacramental Hope
Melissa Blanco

Melissa Blanco is a freelance writer and blogger who was diagnosed with celiac disease in 2007.  You can visit her website at www.melissablanco.com.

By Melissa Blanco
Published on 01/6/2010
A practicing Catholic with Celiac Disease finds Sacramental hope through the Benedictine Sisters of Perpetual Adoration.

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.

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