Is the Body of Christ Gluten Free?

[Photo of my family on the day of my First Communion, circa 1981. I’m pouting and my brother is giving one of our houseplants the side-eye. I would totally wear my mom’s dress in this day and age, and my dad is looking pretty Studio 54. They both look young and amazing, not a gray hair in sight.]

 

The question I asked

the first time I went to Catholic mass

after being diagnosed with a wheat allergy.

The first time I had been to church

since my mother died.

 

My dad and I stood up

to ritually file in a single line

down the middle of the church,

to hold up our hands and say “Amen”

after the priest says “the body of Christ”

and carefully places the wafer in the palm of your left hand

supported underneath by your right hand.

A ritual I had done every Sunday since I was six years old

until I started high school.

 

My dad and I stood up,

and I started walking to the end of the pew.

But then I stopped my mechanistic ritual.

I turned to my dad and asked,

“Do you think the host is gluten free?”

He shook his head and said he didn’t know.

 

How could we know?

It’s not like the church newsletter tells parishioners

“Now serving gluten-free communion.”

(And if the church is run like a restaurant,

Each gluten free host would cost you an additional $2 surcharge.)

 

I didn’t want to risk

the body of Christ

giving me hives

so I sat back down,

and watched my father and the others eat and drink

the body and blood of Christ,

their spiritual souls nourished.

As my spiritual soul continues to be adrift

on a sea of contradictions.

 

Believe me,

as a lapsed Catholic turned borderline atheist,

the symbolic recognition that consuming the sacrament

could literally make me sick

is not lost on me.

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