Four years ago, when I first started eating gluten free, I needed information and advice. Some things were evident. Bread made out of wheat and beer made out of barley were now out of my diet. But there were also all kinds of things that weren’t so evident. Who knew that soy sauce almost always contains wheat? Or that barley malt was used in Rice Krispies? Two more things to scratch off the list.
For a number of reasons – I’m old and not cutting edge; I’m suspicious and want information vetted; I find it easier to read on paper than on a screen – I prefer to get my information from books rather than from the internet. This is why I came home one day with The Gluten-Free Bible: The Thoroughly Indispensable Guide to Negotiating Life without Wheat by Jax Peters Lowell.
I started at the beginning and kept reading, extremely pleased to be let in on all the secrets and work-arounds for a gluten free life. That is I read until I came to her section on Communion. After finishing that chapter, I stopped reading and tossed the whole book into the trash.
I wish now I hadn’t so that I could dissect here all that was wrong with her advice. However, I do remember that she made no distinction between the Protestant understanding of communion and the Catholic understanding of the Eucharist. It was all the same, and in her opinion, it was a shame that some priests wouldn’t bend and allow rice hosts. She also advised gluten free Catholics, when attending Mass and in order not to be left out, to go up and take Communion, but keep the host in your hand and then later, after Mass, break it up outside and feed it to the birds. She was quite cheerful in saying that it was something she often did.
My first reaction to this was horror, plain and simple. My second was horror that she obviously had no understanding of what Catholics believe and what the Eucharist is. And that nobody in the editing process picked up on this. A Catholic does not feed the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Jesus to the birds. My third reaction was annoyance in that I had spent money on a book, purported to be by an expert, and who was, in fact, so obviously not an expert in the one area I knew something about, that it made me wonder what else she didn’t understand, but which I wasn’t yet in a position to pick up on.
This led me to my fourth reaction, which was to toss the whole book in the trash as being unreliable at best and dangerous at worst.
I thought of this again today in anticipation of the great Solemnity of Corpus Christi. I also thought of the five-year old Theologian in the U.K. who loves to go see the Sisters of the Visitation with me when she comes to stay because “the Sisters have Jesus in their house, don’t they Grandma? I don’t think anyone who has Jesus in their house could be sad, do you?”
Once a week I bring Holy Communion to a local nursing home. I thought of the elderly gentleman there whose eyes fill with tears every time he receives the Host on his tongue.
A little girl. An old man in a wheel chair. They wouldn’t be considered experts by anyone. Yet, they know. They know.