We continue our examination of the Eucharist in the US bishops’ Guidelines for the Celebration of the Sacraments with Persons with Disabilities, turning to three serious human difficulties: feeding tubes (paragraph 24), gluten intolerance (25), and dementia (26).
First case, you know. A person can receive under one form or the other. What you might not know is that the Church does not permit Communion through a feeding tube. This document also urges consultation “with physicians, family members, and other experts on a case-by-case basis.” Good advice, as always. Clergy and Communion ministers don’t have to go it alone.
Many people have varying levels of gluten intolerance. Few who don’t suffer from this know the impact in life–consuming nourishment, from meals to the spiritual life. The latter is the concern of the Church.
The Church is also concerned with the integrity of the elements that are used to confect the Eucharist. We all know it: wheat bread and grape wine with no extras. Also nothing completely taken out, like gluten. Liturgists and clergy have to take care about contamination in the preparation for Mass. Some awareness of the needs of communicants is important:
As people may feel self-conscious at the prospect of needing special arrangements for the reception of Holy Communion, pastoral sensitivity in this area is particularly important. (GCSPD 25)
Last in this section on the Eucharist involve the concerns of the elderly. For Alzheimer’s and similar conditions, there is “a presumption in favor of the individual’s ability to distinguish between Holy Communion and regular food.” As with persons with feeding tubes, consultation is advised with the individual, his or her family, doctors, and clergy.
Being clear in communication, asking questions, and listening–all good approaches so maximum information and the fullest possible wisdom is achieved by the community involved.