Finding Ourselves, Even Devoid of Some Gluten.


The Holy Father, Pope Francis, recently walked into it again. He decided to err on the side of gluten; well, at least some gluten!

A recent church directive emphatically states that the wafer known as the host must contain gluten. Catholics cannot use gluten-free versions of communion wafers to participate in Holy Communion. Pope Francis said, in a letter issued this past weekend, that only unleavened wheat bread can be used. Hosts that are completely gluten-free are invalid matter for the celebration of the Eucharist. The bread must be “purely of wheat.”

The issue that comes to us, of course, are those folks who are affected by Celiac disease, or suffer other gluten allergies. Not to worry! We are permitted low-gluten substitutes! If there is enough gluten to make it still actual “wheat bread,” a requirement for the sacrament, than all is well. At Saint Miriam, our low-gluten option, rare as it is requested, is valid matter.

Why is this important? Well because we, as Catholics, believe Communion is the actual body of Christ and is the center point of our liturgy: us being able to receive Jesus. The Eucharist, which we celebrate, transforms us little by little into the body of Christ and spiritual food for our brothers and sisters; it is what allows us to serve, and to be generous, and to ‘move and have our being.’ 

I recall the heated debate in the Synod of Bishops, back in late 2015, regarding the possibility of divorced or remarried Catholics receiving Holy Communion. This was an important discussion, especially because it brought to the forefront the relationship between mercy and justice; between charity and truth. After all, how can these seemingly opposing principles be lived out by the Church in the real world if we first do not understand why we live to begin with, let alone how we should serve?

For myself, especially myself as a priest and pastor, all my strength is derived from the Eucharist and my belief in the transforming love of Christ. It is how I survived my mistakes, my sin-filled life, my hurts, my griefs, my wounds, my betrayals, my jail cell, and my desire to be covetous of so much and of so many. It is through Holy Communion, and Jesus willingly coming into this broken vessel I call my body, that I am altered – I become a better human being, a stronger Christian, an improved Catholic – and I know others will be, too. 

A few weeks ago, I penned a blog right here entitled,Jesus Stuck Between Hymn 809 and 810.  It told of how I found a consecrated wafer actually stuck within the pages of a hymnal. It was a turning point for me. How could anyone walk away from a priest, having received communion, holding the very Essence of God in his/her hands and then stick it to a book so callously? That moment began an educational quest for me on a ‘right understanding’ of who we are and what we believe. It continues now, and we will embrace the directive of Pope Francis to help guide us into fuller communion, literally.

The Eucharist, and the liturgy that surrounds the Sacrament, is so vital to us that we have spent many months re-shaping our masses and revitalizing our music. Our Liturgy Committee and Ministry Team have worked tirelessly to bring to us a new missal and increase our respect for the Eucharist that we believe contains the living Presence of the One we worship. Jesus is found at Mass, true, but also at Adoration and the way we serve. We must renew our respect of the Giver of Life so that we can offer the gift freely to others. We know that what we do at the Altar is without meaning if we meet others with resistance, resentment, or callousness at our doors. 

We find this belief respected and taught in our greater Church history. St Ambrose once wrote, “If, whenever Christ’s blood is shed, it is shed for the forgiveness of sins, I who sin often, should receive it often: I need a frequent remedy.”  So, this is how Jesus was; always compassionate, always thinking of others – it must be with us, too. The determination of the people, who are afraid of being left alone and abandoned, is striking, and it is through Communion with the Lord, as Francis, once said, too, that leads us to solidarity with others.

We believe that living in communion with our Christ, and respecting the Holy Eucharist, puts us in relationship with others. It allows us to offer all who come to us a concrete sign of the mercy and attention of Jesus. Our compassion and love, as human beings, is frail and flawed, but with Christ in us, we have the ability to forgive more quickly, to friend more concretely, and to love more deeply.

Perhaps, then, the Eucharist is not a gold star on the forehead of “good” Christians, but rather a true and undeserved gift – much akin to Grace – that strengthens us as pilgrims as we stumble along through life, but firmly and intentionally fix our gaze on heaven itself.

In 2015, Pope Francis regained his insight on the power of the Eucharist and being more open to Jesus coming to everyone, when, on Corpus Christi he said, “We will be His eyes that go in search of Zacchaeus and of the Magdalene; we will be His hand who helps the sick in body and spirit; we will be His heart that loves those in need of reconciliation and understanding. … In this way, we understand that the Eucharist is not a reward for the good, but rather strength for the weak, for sinners. It is forgiveness, the viaticum that helps us on our way”.

We, as a Christian community, are born and continuously reborn from the true effects of our Eucharistic Communion and our desire to realize God in us. And, we who receive and believe in the Eucharistic bread, are urged by Jesus to bring this love to others, with the same compassion. This is the path we must follow; anything less would be less than Catholic, less than Christian.

So, I invite you to join us, beginning this September, when Saint Miriam introduces the Mass of St. Francis of Assisi at its 10:30am Morning Mass with Choir! We are grateful to composer Paul Taylor for working with our Director of Music, Charles Masters and making this possible!

This fall, the Mass takes on an entirely new spirit! This fall, others will know us by our fruit! 


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