Bread and Wine for Communion


Some recent Instructions from Rome have included reminders about the type of bread that may be used for Holy Communion. I was recently taken to task by some readers for suggesting that, where the situation makes it feasible, home baked bread might be used at Mass. It is perfectly possible, and common practice, to make bread at home that meets the requirements for valid matter in the celebration of Eucharist.
What are these requirements?

The bread for celebrating the Eucharist must be made only from wheat, must be recently baked, and, according to the ancient tradition of the Latin Church, must be unleavened. (General Instruction of the Roman Missal 2000 #320)

The bread must be wheaten only, and recently made, so that there is no danger of corruption. (Code of Canon Law 1983 #924.2)

The bread used in the celebration of the Most Holy Eucharistic Sacrifice must be unleavened, purely of wheat, and recently made so that there is no danger of decomposition. It follows therefore that bread made from another substance, even if it is grain, or if it is mixed with another substance different from wheat to such an extent that it would not commonly be considered wheat bread, does not constitute valid matter for confecting the sacrifice and the Eucharistic Sacrament. (Redemptionis Sacramentum: On certain matters to be observed or to be avoided regarding the Most Holy Eucharist 2004 #48)

It is clear from all these statements that bread for communion must be made from wheat. This poses a problem for those people who suffer from coeliac disease (intolerance to wheat gluten). So that they may still receive communion under the form of bread, low-gluten hosts are available. The manufacture of these hosts involves a process of bleaching wheaten flour until as much gluten as possible has been removed. The majority of coeliac sufferers are able to eat this low gluten bread.
The only option for those people who are highly gluten intolerant and cannot consume even this very small amount is to receive communion under the form of wine alone. Perhaps this is good reason for all parishes to ensure that communion is always offered under both kinds, and to eliminate the practice where communicants dip the host in the consecrated wine (intinction), which not only contravenes Church law (‘The communicant must not be permitted to instinct the host himself, nor to receive the intincted host in the hand’, Redemptionis Sacramentum #104) but also introduces gluten into the wine.
I am sometimes asked if white wine may be use for Holy Communion. The General Instruction of the Roman Missal, the Code of Canon Law and Redemptionis Sacramentum all set out the same requirements for communion wine: it must be from the fruit of the grape, pure and natural, and not mixed with any other substances. There is no stipulation as to the colour of the wine. Any wine made from grapes is acceptable, as long as it has not been fortified with non-grape spirits.


Elizabeth Harrington