The body of Christ comes in health conscious, low-gluten options at this monastery in Clyde, Missouri.
The gluten-free trend is alive and well in our culture right now. From entire aisles dedicated to gluten-free, to restaurant menus handy symbols, everyone is on board to be more conscious of those looking for gluten-free food, celiac disease or simply looking for a healthier option. In the wake of the growing need for these gluten-free options, the Vatican has reminded Catholics to be cautious of alternatives for altar bread.
In July, Pope Francis sent out a letter, reminding Catholics around the world that the bread they use for mass should contain wheat and water only. Bad news for those weary of gluten.
BUT, this letter wasn’t news for the sisters of Benedictine Sisters of Perpetual Adoration in Clyde, Missouri. The monastery has been producing Vatican-approved low-gluten altar bread since 2004 — the first to do this in the world.
The nuns make about 1.5 million low-gluten alter breads a MONTH — along with the nine million regular wheat and white alter breads the monastery has been baking up since 1910. Interest in the project to create low-gluten alter bread sprung into the sisters’ minds in the 1990s. The sisters saw a need to create an altar bread to accommodate those with gluten intolerances, namely celiac disease.
It took about 10 years for the sisters to create a perfect recipe that uses a specific wheat starch that has most of the gluten taken out of it. In 2003, the low-gluten alter bread was perfected, and approved by the Vatican. Coincidentally, the same year, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger sent out a letter clarifying the rules for valid communion — which stated altar bread must contain enough wheat to hold together.
Considering Jesus ate bread and wine during the Last Supper, the Church wants to maintain tradition as much as possible, and traditionally, the bread that Jesus had eaten was primarily made of wheat and water. Therefore, the Catholic Church is strongly dedicated to utilizing wheat for its holy host.
That is why the low-gluten alter bread created at the Benedictine Sisters of Perpetual Adoration, is a shining example of inclusionary faith and prayer life. The sisters began selling their altar bread to the public in 2004, even leading the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops lists the monastery as a seller of low-gluten hosts. The Center for Celiac Research and Treatment also approved the hosts. According to the monastery’s website, someone with a gluten intolerance would have to snack on about 270 pieces to get sick.
The sisters sell their alter bread to individuals and parishes all over the world. Currently, there are 50 sisters living in the monastery and the order has about 66 total members. Their altar bread baking has grown to such a level that the monastery has started hiring people in the community to help with production — so JOBS!
Overall, the nuns at the Benedictine Sisters of Perpetual Adoration have an amazing operation going on that not only allows those with health issues still participate in the Host, but are creating jobs in the community!
What do you think about low-gluten altar bread and the sisters at the Benedictine Sisters of Perpetual Adoration? We’d love to hear your thoughts!