GIRM 319-324: The Bread and Wine for Celebrating the Eucharist

With today’s post, we commence a long look at Chapter VI of the GIRM, “The Requisites for the  Celebration of Mass.” This chapter covers GIRM 319-351 and in addition to today’s topic, will address furnishings, vessels, vestments, and a few other things intended for church use.

But that’s getting ahead. Let’s focus today’s discussion on bread and wine:

319. Following the example of Christ, the Church has always used bread and wine with water to celebrate the Lord’s Supper.

320. The bread for celebrating the Eucharist must be made only from wheat, must be recently made, and, according to the ancient tradition of the Latin Church, must be unleavened.

And this is all that is needed. GIRM 321 also “requires”–not suggests–that bread used for the Eucharist “truly have” the appearance of food. I have to say I laugh with you at the occasional old story about sugar wafers being passed out as “children’s communion.” Poor idea, but it tells you that our current widespread practice of mass-produced machine punched circles of altar bread really do not suffice.

321. By reason of the sign, it is required that the material for the Eucharistic Celebration truly have the appearance of food. Therefore, it is desirable that the Eucharistic Bread, even though unleavened and made in the traditional form, be fashioned in such a way that the Priest at Mass with the people is truly able to break it into parts and distribute these to at least some of the faithful. However, small hosts are not at all excluded when the large number of those receiving Holy Communion or other pastoral reasons call for them. Moreover, the gesture of the fraction or breaking of bread, which was quite simply the term by which the Eucharist was known in apostolic times, will bring out more clearly the force and importance of the sign of the unity of all in the one bread, and of the sign of charity by the fact that the one bread is distributed among the brothers and sisters.

Thay said, I’m unwilling to die on altar bread hill. I just point out the tension between what the Church teaches, what it allows, and what we practice. But I will point out that another concession in GIRM 321 is that “some of the faithful” receive consecrated bread broken from a larger piece. It would seem to suggest that “all of the faithful” receiving broken bread would be a value. I don’t hesitate asking any or every priest I know why they don’t do this.

Natural wine:

322. The wine for the celebration of the Eucharist must be from the fruit of the vine (cf. Lk 22:18), natural, and unadulterated, that is, without admixture of extraneous substances.

Quality control:

323. Diligent care should be taken to ensure that the bread and wine intended for the Eucharist are kept in a perfect state of conservation: that is, that the wine does not turn to vinegar nor the bread spoil or become too hard to be broken easily.


324. If after the Consecration or as he receives Communion, the Priest notices that not wine but only water was poured into the chalice, he pours the water into some container, pours wine with water into the chalice and consecrates it, saying the part of narrative relating to the Consecration of the chalice, without being obliged to consecrate the bread again.

These sections are largely unchanged from the 1975 edition of the GIRM. Questions or comments?


About catholicsensibility

Todd lives in the Pacific Northwest, serving a Catholic parish as a lay minister.
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3 Responses to GIRM 319-324: The Bread and Wine for Celebrating the Eucharist

  1. Liam says:

    The first 2 sentences of 321 were nullified in practical effect in advance – a century ago, with the revival of more frequent communion, particularly amplified after Vatican II.

    Pre-modern leavened breads were leavened with wild yeasts – sourdoughs. Sourdoughs do not crumb the way that leavened breads made with modern yeasts do, let alone the way unleavened breads do. And crumbing is an issue. While one can get overly rigorous about crumbs (the Catholic church has long had a practical pre-modern, if therefore not very scientific, visibility threshold, so one need not bring out the microscope or magnifying glass, Fr Z fans et al.), one by the same token should avoid being too blithe and bonny about it either.

    Frankly, if I have a choice between frequent and widespread communion versus more substantial bread, I take the former, hands down. The substantial bread hill is indeed simply not ground worth fighting over for the foreseeable future. (It may be further down the road, but well past the time we are all dead and gone.)

  2. Mark says:

    Regarding substantial bread for the celebration of the Eucharist, as a Roman Catholic and baker, I do not have a problem believing that the Consecrated Bread is the Body of Christ. I DO have a problem believing that those commercially prepared wafers are bread.

  3. Bill says:

    Well I do have a problem with substantial bread being used if the proper respect and reverence is not being maintained including proper practices regarding crumbs, which are still the body, blood, soul and divinity of Christ.

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