Monday, October 13, 2008

Celiac Disease and Communion

Receiving the Eucharist wasn't a big deal for Sparky when it came time to make his First Holy Communion. He simply took the cup and received Jesus' Precious Blood. No big deal.

Then we moved. At our new parish, a small, historic, country church, things work a little differently from our old parish.

When I went to communion one Sunday, I saw a piece of the Host floating in the cup. As I'm sure you've seen, the priest breaks a piece of the Host and puts it into his chalice. At our old parish and parishes we've visited, the priest always consumed the Blood and Body from that chalice. At the new parish, the pastor takes that chalice, along with another, out to the congregation.

This is a problem for the celiac sufferer as the wine is contaminated with gluten from the bread and it should not be consumed. From week to week we never knew which aisle the contaminated cup would be taken. We'd sit on the right side of the church and the contaminated cup would end up on that side. The next week we would try the left side and sure enough the cup in question would end up on that side.

Finally, I approached the pastor before Mass and explained the situation to him. I asked if the contaminated cup could always be taken to the same side each week. His answer was simple. "No." He told me to just have Sparky watch which side the safe cup ended up and then cut into that line if need be.

This sounds easier than it is. You see, Sparky also has Asperger syndrome which a high-functioning form of autism. Cutting into another line was a little stressful to him. Add to that the fact that our church is very small and bursting at the seams. It is difficult at best to find your way back to a pew on the other side without climbing over people and causing a bit of a disruption.

I would go with Sparky and of course Super Boy would have to follow. Now we were really causing a disruption. ("Hey, what's the new lady doing?!") So, back to the pastor we went.

We talked it out this weekend and we've decided to go with the new low-gluten host approved by the Catholic Church. I'd prefer not to do this as it still has a trace of gluten. But the doctor insists it is safe and when Gregory tried one recently he didn't get a stomach ache.

There is of course the concern of contamination. The priest cannot touch the low-gluten host as he has touched the regular hosts and Sparky's host would then be contaminated. So, every week, Rob and I will take a low-gluten host from our freezer (we'll order them and stock them ourselves to save our parish the hassle) and put it in a pyx. We'll then take the pyx to church and place it on the altar before Mass. The pastor will open it before the consecration. At communion he'll close the pyx and put it in the palm of his hand below the ciborium. When Sparky comes up to communion, the priest will then give Sparky the pyx and Sparky will take out the consecrated host himself.

It's all so complicated but I'm glad we found a solution. Sparky is actually excited and happy about it. I'll let you know how it works out in reality after a week or two.


Little Princess said...


My 7 year old daughter has celiac disease as well, and we've been using the VLGH since June with her. We do it the same way that you have described and it works out beautifully. We just have to make sure we end up in the same line the priest is in. When we are visiting a new parish we bring our pyx and host and arrive early to speak with the priest.

Some people only consume 1/2 or 1/4 of a host per week just in case :-)

Thanks for your blog and your new book. I have enjoyed both.

Anonymous said...

Maureen, I am praying for a resolution for your son so he can go to Mass without worry!!! A close friend of mine, her mom has celiac disease and her dad is a recovering alcoholic. Their faith is such that are not receiving bread and wine, but rather the Body and Blood of Christ. I marvel at their tremendous faith, yet I really wonder if I could have such supernatural trust--it is easy to think about being in the situation but far different when walking in those shoes, especially when making decisions for my child.

I was thinking about size of the low-gluten wafer. Might he be getting less gluten in a sip from a chalice with a small piece of regular host compared to consuming the whole portion of the low gluten wafer?

Celiac really is highly underdiagnosed because the symptoms are so vague. Every time I see another child diagnosed I wonder about my oldest ADHDish (not formally diagnosed) son who is also on the small side with a few minor bowel issues.


Maureen said...

I wonder too which is worse -- the low-gluten host or the wine contaminated with bread. I think we're better off with the low-gluten host. It's only 0.1% gluten. We'll see how it goes and have a blood test done a few months down the road to see if it's having any kind of detrimental affect.

Before the low-gluten host, I met a woman who took a very small amount of a regular host. She too trusted and had faith that Jesus' Precious Body could not harm her.

Maureen said...

And thank you for your prayers!!!!!

Renee said...

At our parish in FL, there was a young girl with celiacs disease. Her family always sat in the front row on the same side each week. They would put the pyx with host on the altar as you described.. but the priest would actually give her Communion as he did everyone else - only difference is she was first... then her family would retrieve the pyx after Mass

Ambrose said...

I'm glad you touched on the link between Celiac and Autism-spectrum disorders. My best friend's son was diagnosed with a probable Austism spectrum BEFORE gluten intolerance. Not that one necessarily leads to the other, but it isn't unusual to hear that someone has both. At the age of two he wanted to live on Saltines. In fact, a box of Saltines had to be in his reach at any time of day so he could have them any time he wanted, otherwise he would throw a non-verbal fit. Sound familiar? Until he went gluten-free, their dealings with therapists and early education interventionists were fruitless.
After only a few weeks of the gluten-free diet he was speaking full, clear sentences for the first time in his life. His celiac disease wasn't so severe to cause major health problems by the time he was two and a half, but really manifested itself in aggravating his autism. Now at the age of 12, he still has some struggles with autism, but as long as he remains gluten free, he can attend regular classes at school.

Maureen said...

Sparky has a variety of medical issues. Not only celiac and Aspergers but hypopituitarianism (his pituitary gland doesn't make enough hormones) and a chiari (malformation of the cerebellum). His pediatric endochronologist thinks there is a link between the celiac, aspergers, and pituitary problems. She sees a lot of kids with a combination of two or three.

Maureen said...

I have a homeschool friend whose child has full blown autism. She has him on a casein free and gluten free diet. She says it helps and I've heard this elsewhere too. I can't help but wonder if the GF diet is a part of the reason that Sparky has made such large improvements with his Asperger's.

Anonymous said...

Hi Maureen, I spoke with you via email a couple of years ago... I wanted to share that there is a diet called "Specific Carbohydrate Diet/or SCD" by Elaine Gotschall. This diet is most especially for celiac suffers, ibs, autism, etc. Here is the web site ...

If you have already seen this information sorry for the copy, I just came across your blog... I have been trying to go gluetin free for my M.S. complecations, it does make a tramendous difference.

Happy Summer!!!

M.O.D.G. HomeSchooler