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I took communion for the first time a little over a year ago. I was 22 years old and at the Easter Vigil, getting confirmed in the Catholic Church after many years of exploration and introspection. It was a beautiful experience, and I would get so excited every Sunday following that Easter when I got to take communion.
When I began GAPS Intro at the beginning of 2015, I stopped. I was 100% committed, and I couldn’t risk setbacks. Even if it was just the tiniest bit of wheat and wine, I needed to keep my body 100% clear of that for a time.
I had tried to reach out to others who were in a similar position, but apparently Catholics do not have health problems or need to cut out grains. Every suggestion I read was something that would not be possible in the Catholic Church…like bringing in my own beet kvass and carrot chips. What?
Taking communion while grain free is not so easy in the Church. We believe that the bread and wine become the body and blood of Christ, as it says in the Gospels: “This is my body, this is my blood.” It is not a symbol, and therefore the bread and wine must actually be made of wheat and wine. [Matthew 26.26-28, et. al.; Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2nd ed., 1412]
So, what options are available for a Catholic on a healing diet?
Taking Communion While Grain Free and Healing
You have four options when it comes to taking communion while grain free, gluten free, or on any sort of healing protocol.
The first option is simply to not take communion. The Church only asks that its members take communion once a year. [CCC, 1417] For the initial phases of your healing, feel free to abstain from communion when you need to be strictest about elimination. Either stay behind in the pews, or approach the priest with your arms crossed over your chest to receive a blessing.
Only take the wine. Christ is fully present in both the bread and the wine. [CCC, 1413] Most people take advantage of this by only taking the host, and skipping the wine. However, this works the other way, too. In fact, in the 1500’s, priests were the only people who took the wine. Only the bread was offered to the parishioners. Martin Luther spoke out against this, stating that Jesus said, “Drink from it, all of you” regarding the cup of wine, but did not include the “all of you” for the bread. [Matthew 26.27, emphasis mine] He argued that it was more important to have the wine available.
Is it weird for a Catholic to make an argument using Martin Luther? Probably. But I find it to be a good interpretation that helps bridge that cultural gap that makes taking just the wine feel weird.
A small piece of host is placed in the main chalice during consecration, so you will want to avoid this. At my church, they don’t even serve communion from the main chalice, so I never had to worry when I chose this option. I simply received a blessing from the priest rather than taking the host, then moved on to take the wine.
This is a good option if you are extremely sensitive to grains, wheat, or simply do not want to test them yet but feel safe with a sip of wine.
Take a low gluten host. In the Catholic Church, the host must be made of wheat. However, a group of nuns has developed low gluten hosts. These are not low enough in gluten to be considered gluten free, but it is low enough that some celiacs can safely take communion with these hosts. If you are ready to try grains and not gluten, this may be a good choice. If you have strong reactions to wheat or gluten, be careful and consider just taking the wine. Contact your church to find out if and how they provide low gluten hosts to their parishioners.
Take full communion. As of mid-June, five and a half months into my healing journey, this is the path I chose to take. Taking just the wine was a wonderful experience for me, but one day while sitting in Mass, I was overcome by the desire to take the host as well. I began to pray for healing from God. Healing of my mind, body, and spirit. I prayed that he would heal me through Holy Communion. I was filled with joy as I placed the host in my mouth for the first time since Christmas. I felt good for the rest of the day, and for the next few days. I have always noticed that I seem to tolerate gluten fairly well; it is other foods that cause an issue. I do better on fewer grains on account of my relationship with food, but my body generally does fine on that. I am able to continue to heal my body while taking communion once a week; it is okay. Each week I pray that God will heal my body through His Holy Communion, and He does. The healing power of the Mass is so beautiful.
The most important thing to remember is that communion involves very small amounts of wheat and wine. If you are extremely sensitive, you may need to avoid it. But for many, such a small amount of one of these options once a week will be okay. Watch your body as you try a new level of communion, and support healing with nutrient dense and healing foods the day of. Above all, remember that whatever you determine is the best path for you and your body, God will understand.
What do you do about taking communion while grain free? Let me know in the comments!
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