Eucharist / First Communion is the final, repeatable, sacrament of initiation where one receives the Body and Blood of Christ in sacramental form, the bread and wine consecrated on the altar. This sacred meal is the means by which we participate in the once-for-all sacrifice of Jesus' passion, death and resurrection to glory.
At the Last Supper Christ instituted the Paschal Sacrifice and banquet, by which the Sacrifice of the Cross is continuously made present in the Church whenever the Priest, representing Christ the Lord, carries out what the Lord himself did and handed over to his disciples to be done in his memory.
In the Catholic Diocese of Cleveland, children who were baptized as infants are prepared to receive First Communion at the age of reason (usually considered to be around age seven, or in second grade). Children who have already celebrated their seventh birthday and are brought to the Catholic Church for Baptism will receive all three sacraments of initiation (Baptism, Confirmation, Eucharist / First Communion) in the same ceremony, after a suitable period of preparation and instruction.
Eucharist is the only sacrament of initiation which is repeatable, that is, which we receive multiple times. We are blessed to have this opportunity to receive the Body and Blood of our Lord frequently, strengthening us along life's journey. As Catholics, we fully participate in the celebration of Mass when we receive Holy Communion. We are encouraged to receive Communion devoutly and to do so being properly disposed, not aware of any grave sin, and after fasting for one hour.
Gluten Intolerance and the Reception of Holy Communion
The Catholic Church has a great concern for those who suffer from Celiac Disease or other medical issues concerning gluten intolerance. There have been many innovations in the last 10 years in order to address this specific need among God’s people. The Benedictine Sisters of Perpetual Adoration in Clyde, Missouri were pioneers in this regard, and created the first low-gluten host approved by the Vatican as valid matter for Eucharist. This low gluten content is still enough to obtain the confection of bread for the Eucharist. Many gluten-intolerant persons may be able to consume it, or some portion of it. Such persons, however, are strongly advised to consult in advance with their physicians.
Gluten-free hosts are invalid matter for the celebration of Mass.
As of this writing, there are four approved low-gluten host vendors in the United States. These four vendors were approved by both the United States Catholic Bishops and the Vatican. There is some unfortunate confusion, because one approved vendor, which calls themselves “glutenfreehosts.com”, is actually making low-gluten content hosts! The FDA regulations can also lead to some confusion, as quoted from Parish Crossroads FAQs page:
“The FDA considers gluten content of less than 20 PMM to be gluten free. … The “low-gluten” designation … avoids confusion with “gluten-free” wafers made of non-wheat products which are not approved for use in the Catholic Liturgy.”
Please note carefully that the FDA considers less than 20 parts-per-million of gluten content to be gluten-free. Each producer of low-gluten hosts has a different amount of gluten in their products, listed below:
The contact information for ordering from the four USCCB approved distributors of low-gluten hosts is as follows:
Benedictine Sisters of Perpetual Adoration
Altar Breads Department
31970 State Highway P
Clyde, MO 64432-8100
Phone: (800) 223-2772
Gluten Content: 0.01%
610 Putnam Pike
Greenville, RI 02828
Phone: (800) 635-0568
Gluten Content: 0.00042%
The common advice given to many Celiac and gluten-intolerant patients is to receive only the Precious Blood at Holy Communion. Additional concerns, however, can emerge when the Precious Blood has been “contaminated” with gluten at the commingling rite. The administration of the Precious Blood, whether under the form of wine or of mustum to persons with these conditions must carefully take into account the need to avoid any mixing of the sacred species at the altar or a communion station.
Low Gluten Hosts: Suggested Procedures
A person with gluten intolerance should keep a supply of low gluten hosts for use as needed. The parish could buy the hosts or the individual could buy hosts directly from one of the three approved suppliers listed above. (Recall that only hosts from the suppliers listed above are valid matter for the Eucharist. Low-gluten hosts from other suppliers or No-gluten/Gluten-free hosts are not valid matter for Eucharist.)
Alcohol Intolerance and the Reception of Holy Communion
Those who are unable to consume alcohol, whether lay faithful, deacons, or priests, may now substitute mustum for regular wine in the reception of Holy Communion, with appropriate permission. Mustum is grape juice which contains no additives, is not pasteurized, and has a very low alcohol content (less than 1.0%) due to the fact that the fermentation process has been arrested briefly after its start. Any pasteurized grape juice product, including pasteurized mustum, is invalid matter for Mass due to the fact that the high temperatures used in the pasteurization process evaporate all of the remaining alcohol in the juice.
For mustum approved for use at Mass by the USCCB Secretariat for the Liturgy, please contact:
DELEGATION OF FACULTY TO PERMIT THE USE OF MUSTUM AND LOW-GLUTEN HOSTS
In accord with the letter of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith issued on July 24, 2003 (Prot. 89/78-17498), with delegation granted by virtue of canon 137, §1 of the Code of Canon Law, pastors of the Diocese of Cleveland are granted the faculty to permit the use of mustum and low-gluten hosts by an individual deacon and an individual member of the lay Christian faithful.
Medical certification of a condition justifying the use of mustum or low-gluten hosts is not required.
Such permission, once granted, stands for as long as the condition persists which occasioned the request for the original permission.
The USCCB Secretariat for the Liturgy has approved for Mass in the United States the sources for low-gluten hosts and mustum given in the attached Appendix.
It is strictly forbidden for a pastor to implement in his parish a widespread use of mustum or low gluten hosts at Mass as a precautionary measure. It is forbidden for those who do not suffer from the medical condition of celiac disease or alcohol intolerance to receive low-gluten hosts or mustum.
The corresponding permission for priests to use mustum and/or low-gluten hosts remains under the competence of the local Ordinary.
The delegation of above referenced faculty to pastors is hereby granted at the Chancery of the Diocese of Cleveland this 25th day of March 2013.
+ Richard G. Lennon
Bishop of Cleveland
Sr. Therese Guerin Sullivan, SP
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