Sunday, December 27, 2009


My youngest boy was diagnosed coeliac just before Christmas and makes his First Holy Communion (God, Monsignor and the Curate willing) in May. He's fine but this will present problems with Communion.

Anyone have any pointers? Contributions from priests with experience or Catholic coeliacs (or parents of) most gratefully received


Blogger PatterNoster said...

In my parish there is a caeliac (sp?), and he takes a different Square host which is concecrated on a separate paten. He just lets the sacristan know when he's at Mass and she puts it out. Hope this helps.

2:34 PM  
Blogger Rita said...

I remember when I was living in Liverpool and Abp Warlock was there, he too was coeliac and asked for special dispensation for gluten free hosts. The dispensation was not granted. Admittedly this was many years ago now.

The problem is most gluten free flours are not made from wheat (they use rice and potato flour), and the host must be made of wheat for the consecration to be valid, so unless the technology has changed and gluten free wheat can be made, there may be problems. I'm assuming the gluten free hosts available in the States are wheat based or contain some wheat otherwise their validity is questionable. Like using grape juice rather than wine....

3:51 PM  
Blogger The Raven said...

I'm sorry to hear that your son has ceoliac disease, it can make a lot of life a complete nuisance.
My wife has a similar problem and becomes very unwell if she consumes anything with gluten in it. She was able to buy altar breads that have been approved for use by the bishops of E&W made by (I think) Farris, which she keeps a supply of in her handbag; these are square, are made from wheat starch and certified to be safe for ceoliacs.
That said, most clergy seem to be au fait with the problem and usually have a supply in the sacristy. The gluten- free altar breads are then kept in a pix in the paten during the consecration.

On a completely practical point, Tesco has stated to sell a new gluten free bread under the brand name "Genius", which, in contrast to most other alternatives out there actually tastes like bread (as opposed to plaster- board). You'll also be amazed to the point of screaming vacation as to how many foods have wheat flour in them (today's example was a planet of "rice" noodles).

4:03 PM  
Blogger The Raven said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

4:05 PM  
Blogger The Raven said...

Not quite sure how the word "vacation" got into my last comment, or how "packet" became "planet"!

4:07 PM  
Blogger The Raven said...

Sorry for the further supplementary, but it was also pointed out to my wife that if, for whatever reason, they don't have the gluten free altar breads available, she can make a. Valid and good communion by just receiving from the chalice (not ideal, but a good second best unless you are at a TLM or the chalice is not being offered).

4:17 PM  
Anonymous Paul said...

Dear Paulinus,

I'm a Catholic coeliac and with a little bit of thought the two are easily reconciled. Coeliac disease is very common in Ireland and the Coeliac Society of Ireland approves communion hosts from a number of sources.

A previous commentator mentioned the issue of hosts made from rice flour or similar starchy substances (clearly invalid matter for communion). However, as far as I know, approved hosts are actually made from wheat flour with essentially all the gluten removed (this type of flour is easily available and products made therefrom are tolerated by all but the most sensitive coeliacs). Hence, it is more accurate to say such hosts are exteremely low gluten rather than gluten-free.

On a practical note, as the incidence of the condition here is high, most churches, including mine, keep a little pyx available in the tabernacle with a supply of consecrated hosts. The usual plan is to have a word first with the priest (or indeed one of the ministers of the eucharist) and go up at the end of the queue for communion.

Some priests can be very good at this, keeping the coeliac pyx next to the normal ciborium so then I don't stand out at all from the crowd. With a kid, I'd advise talking to the padre with a view to minimising him standing out from the crowd. Even at 41 it is a bit daunting being left standing alone in front of the altar waiting for someone to come...

Best wishes,


5:35 PM  
Blogger Ttony said...

I've found some links here, here and here which may be good pointers.

Prayers for all of you.

5:35 PM  
Anonymous Bob said...

It is important to be sure about the source of hosts in Scotland. Hayes and Finch, the typical supplier here, sell hosts for coeliacs but they are truly gluten free and so are not valid matter (although they are used by various priests - hopefully because they know no better). There are convents that produce valid low gluten hosts (

7:32 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hosts for coeliacs that meet the requirements of canon law are obtainable. They are (very) low gluten rather than gluten free and form valid matter. We use them here. Our supplier is Charles Farris Ltd. of Quarry Fields, Mere, Wilts. (google it). Their "gluten free" wafers contain 200 parts per million of gluten, are approved by the coelic society and are valid matter (made from wheat starch and water).

Oh by the way, do not assume it is safe for your boy to go to the chalice. One of the chalices will have had the fermentum placed in it which is, of course, part of an ordinary wheaten host.
Fr Steven Fisher
Parish Priest, Ramsgate & Minster, UK

9:50 PM  
Blogger Kate said...

Our eldest son has never been able to receive the Sacred Host for reasons associated with his multiple disabilities, but he is able to receive from the chalice by means of a silver teaspoon.
Even during the swine flu regs, priests were very helpful, providing a separate chalice for him.
Please God, everything will be resolved by the time of your youngest son's First Holy Communion, in May, and...
Merry Christmas to you all

10:43 PM  
Blogger Jackie Parkes MJ said...

One lady in our parish is brought the chalice..I don't know if it's because she has this condition.

5:53 AM  
Blogger Paulinus said...


We have kindly sacristans at church - I'm sure they'll be fine.

I think they've now got wheat hosts where the guten is removed so that shouldn't be a problem. i do believe that there is advice that coeliacs are not able to freely partake of the species of Communion and that might preclude any priestly vocation the boy might have :-(

He has a wee friend who has coeliac in the family. On the whole it's not a great problem for them in that the range of gluten-free products is now quite wide. I'm just looking forward to him not having tummy discomfort, being anaemic and growing a bit. That said, he's pretty athletic - won school bronze in the swimming having been put into the year above's competition - and a fierce tackler on the rugby field.

I think I'll invest in a pyx

We're of Paddy stock so no surprise about the coeliac disease. My sister now tells me of a host of distant coeliac cousins. Thanks sis.

Thanks for the links - v helpful. Thanks more for the prayers.

Fr Steven
Many thanks for the hints - that's so helpful. I'll get onto them.

That might be helpful. Of course the boy won't be able to drink beer in later life so we gave him a taste of cider last night (literally a smear across the tongue - in case any social workers or the chief medical officer are here). He likes it! I'll try him with a desert wine next weekend - maybe the silver spoon might help. Merry Christmas to you, too

I suspect that is the case. My sister is wheat intolerant (rather than coeliac - but maybe it should have been a clue) and only takes from the chalice.

To you all - many thanks. This is so useful. Enjoy the rest of the holy season.

11:05 AM  
Blogger Miss Ellen E. said...

A bit late to comment, but I've only just come across your blog!

We have a few coeliacs in our parish and we also use the square very-low-gluten hosts as approved by Catholic Church and Coeliac Society. We get ours from the Gluten-Free Altar Bread Co. (Does what it says on the tin! :))

Our PP uses a separate small paten to avoid contamination with the usual hosts.

Great blog, by the way.

4:41 PM  

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