Substance Matters

This past week, at the urging of Pope Francis, the Vatican’s Congregation of Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, issued an important circular letter about the matter, the bread and wine, used for the Eucharist. This is important and essential information for all churches and chapels in all Roman Catholic dioceses in the world.

The Congregation, headed by African Cardinal Robert Sarah, assisted by British Archbishop Arthur Roche, reminded bishops and pastors around the world about their responsibility to ensure that the hosts used for Holy Mass are made from real bread. Concretely, this means that low gluten, but not gluten-free hosts, are valid matter.

Likewise, the wine used for Holy Mass, must be real wine, “natural and the fruit of the vine.” Thus, grape juice is not permitted, although the use of mustum, juice of the grape with its fermentation suspended, can be granted to a priest or a layperson by the local bishop either for a temporary time or as long as the condition causing its necessity remains. This, of course, is a recognition that many people do not or cannot drink alcohol, for various reasons.

In this letter, parishes are asked to avoid using matter purchased from supermarkets and other secular stores and encouraged to be vigilant about exactly who is making the hosts and wine and exactly what is going into it. It encouraged more religious communities to be involved in the making of the matter for the Eucharist. We are blessed in our Diocese with the Carmelite Monastery in Cypress Hills, Brooklyn, where quality products are made with care, reverence, and love.

Of course, there will be some among us who will claim that all these rules go against the spirit of tolerance as exemplified by the Lord Jesus and see this letter as Pharasaical. It is not. It’s designed for one reason: to give greater dignity to the Eucharist. Nothing is more important than the Eucharist and Him sacramentally present.

The Body and Blood of Christ is supernatural nourishment and as such, respect and dignity must be shown to how it is produced and how it is distributed. We have been well schooled in recent years on how to receive. This is a good time to remind us all that the appearances of bread and wine must be guaranteed to be what they are.