Catholics and Communion

The following is reprinted with permission from the Catholic Spirit, newspaper for the Roman Catholic Diocese of Austin, TX. It appeared in the December 2003 issue. While this does not specifically address celiac disease, the information is applicable to celiacs.

Questions & Answers:

Most U.S. Parishes Offer Communion in both species.

Question: Why do we sometimes receive communion only with the bread and sometimes with bread and wine?

Answer: The liturgical reforms of the Second Vatican Council (1962-1965) provided the opportunity for the reception of holy Communion under the forms of both bread and wine. The Roman Missal states: “The sign of communion is more complete when given under both kinds, since in that form the sign of the eucharistic meal appears more clearly.” These reforms included the reception of Communion under both forms by the faithful on special occasions such as weddings, weekday Masses, Holy Thursday and other special Mass times. This did not include Sundays. The bishops of the United States requested and received permission for the reception of holy Communion under both forms on Sundays in 1985. This permission was granted, but it was up to the local parish to provide the teaching and to implement this practice.

Communion under both forms has been the practice in most parishes in the Diocese of Austin since the 1985 indult was received. The reception of Holy Communion under the form of bread and wine is the choice of the communicant, but we find that most parishes offer the chalice for the people.

The U.S. bishops state that the customary manner of receiving the Precious Blood is from the chalice. Before the reception of Communion in the hand was initiated, the practice of receiving the Blood by intinction (dipping the host into the Precious Blood) was introduced. This is an acceptable form of receiving Communion under both forms, however, it is not considered by the U.S. bishops to be a customary way of receiving. Intinction requires the minister to dip the host into the wine and place it on the tongue of the communicant. The communicant must never dip the host into the chalice and a moistened host is never to be placed in the communicant’s hand. When this manner of giving Communion is used, it eliminates the privileged choice of the communicant to receive either on the tongue or in the hand. Thus, this manner is discouraged as the usual way to provide Communion under both forms.

Historically, Communion under both forms was practiced in the early church. Fear of spilling the Precious Blood, the logistics of distribution and concerns about disease began to limit the practice. Today, care is taken to instruct the Communion ministers in the proper manner of preparing the chalices and of handing them to the communicant. People have been cautious about drinking from the chalice when they are suffering from a cold or other illness. There is no evidence to support the transmission of disease through sharing from the one chalice. However, people have every right to pass by the chalice when they have a cold or do not wish to partake.

The church continues to teach us that Christ is present in both of the elements of the bread and wine that become the Body and Blood of Christ. Thus receiving holy Communion under one or both forms does complete our participation in the sacrifice of the Mass. We are encouraged to participate in the fullest manner possible and this would include partaking of Communion under both forms.

In April 2002 the bishops of the United States reiterated their encouragement and support of the reception of holy Communion under both forms when they provided the “Norms for the Distribution and Reception of Holy Communion Under Both Kinds in the Dioceses of the United States.” This document is a guide for the preparation of the ministers of holy Communion and the manner of distribution and care of the Eucharist under both forms. They state that “It is by taking and sharing the eucharistic bread and chalice, ‘signs perceptible to the sense’ that we obey the Lord’s command and grow in likeness of the Lord whose Body and Blood they both signify and contain.”

My Comments
From Francie Kelley

I am not a liturgical scholar. I am a life long Catholic and did attend Catholic school for 16 years (through College). I think I have a better than average understanding of catholic issues but I am by no means an expert. Below is my interpretation of this article as it relates to celiac disease. It is not an official position of the church but I believe it is consistent with this article.

The relative portion of this article for celiacs is the beginning of the 5th paragraph “The church continues to teach us that Christ is present in both of the elements of the bread and wine that become the Body and Blood of Christ. Thus receiving holy Communion under one or both forms does complete our participation in the sacrifice of the Mass.”. The article goes on to say it is therefore acceptable to bypass the chalice. But, I think it is also valid to interpret this statement as it being acceptable to bypass the host.