Monday, January 20, 2014

When the Bread of Life Can Make You Ill: A Celiac at Mass

As I continue to navigate the challenges of being a Catholic and being recently diagnosed with celiac disease, I have to admit I get a little catch in my gut as a reaction to anything referring to bread or wheat in songs or in the text of the Mass.  It's obviously psychological, like my latest tendency to pass longingly and nostalgically through the bakery section of the grocery store and glance at things I can never eat again.
 Wordle: bread of life
And yet this is important to who we are:
Jesus said to them, “Amen, amen, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you do not have life within you. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him on the last day. For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me and I in him. Just as the living Father sent me and I have life because of the Father, so also the one who feeds on me will have life because of me. This is the bread that came down from heaven. Unlike your ancestors who ate and still died, whoever eats this bread will live forever.”
(John 6:53-58)
So what do you do when the bread that is broken and shared as Jesus' flesh can hurt you? When your low-gluten host is brought and distributed separately and is no longer part of the bread of the community?

You pray a lot. You feel sad. You learn that you will never know what part of the Cross you will be called upon to bear next in this life.

I know it's still the Eucharist, but now it's just a lot more complicated.

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