Gluten and Communion

It is estimated that one percent of the world’s population, like myself, has Celiac disease. As with any type of sickness people can have varying degrees of gluten sensitivity. For some people, a trace amount of gluten can adversely affect their health, while others may be okay if they ingest a tiny amount. However, people with Celiac disease must continue to be diligent to read food labels and be aware of presumably “safe” foods that are cooked, prepared, or processed in the same facilities or on the same surfaces as foods which contain gluten.

I went to church last Sunday and experienced an intersection of my faith and Celiac disease. I didn’t have an existential crisis or question God’s reasoning for my having this disease, but it was over communion.

Communion is a sacrament in both the Protestant and Catholic Churches which serves as a reminder of Jesus’ sacrifice for us. The bread (or wafer), represents the broken body of Christ on the cross. The wine (or grape juice) represents the blood shed for our sins. There is no guideline as to when the church should have communion, as I have been to churches where communion was on the first Sunday of the month, every Sunday, or when the church felt the need for it.

This was not the first time I’ve had communion since my diagnosis, but it gave me pause before I partook of that tiny wafer smaller than an oyster cracker. I said my prayer before eating the wafer and didn’t experience any ill effects, but you see where this poses a problem for a lot of believers?

I am not demanding that churches go gluten-free or change two thousand years of tradition, I just want to raise awareness for those believers who have Celiac disease. Prior to writing this post, I learned that there are gluten-free communion wafers that can be purchased. The simple fix would be to bring my own wafer as the church partakes of communion, as I do when I bring my gluten-free alternatives to family gatherings.

I’m Protestant, but for those of the Catholic faith, the issue is slightly more complicated, as Vatican directives state that communion wafers must contain wheat. (A simple Google search will lead to numerous secular and religious news site concerning the Vatican directive). I would also like hear back from any readers who have encountered this struggle or how you deal with Celiac disease in general. Thanks and God bless.