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Joan Voltmer wrote:


My prayer group came upon a puzzling question and I hope you can help.

As Catholics, we believe in transubstantiation. A woman in our group has a niece who is allergic to gluten and therefore cannot receive the host.

  • If during the consecration, the host literally turns into the Body of Christ, why isn't this child able to receive the consecrated host without an allergic reaction?

If it truly is the Body of Christ:

  • Wouldn't He spare her from an allergic reaction, or
  • Is it just the symbol of Christ's transformation which we are taught not to believe.

I hope you can help,


  { Why isn't this child able receive the Blessed Sacrament without an allergic reaction? }

Mary Ann replied:

Dear Joan,

The physical properties of the consecrated host remain. It is the substance that is changed.

Substance does not mean what it means in common English parlance, which is stuff. Substance means a being's individual whatness.

Just as the consecrated host tastes like bread, it also has other physical properties that are like bread, including its chemical reactivity.

Nevertheless, the biochemistry and physics of the consecrated host are now signs of a different reality than the reality of bread. They are now signs of the reality that is Christ.

Mary Ann

Mike replied:

Hi Joan,

Along the lines of what my colleague has said, I wanted to share with you one of the first postings we had on this issue.

I hope it helps,


Eric replied:

Hi, Joan —

Just to clarify what my colleagues have said, from a perspective of chemistry and physics, that is, of anything material, visible, measurable, and so forth, the characteristics of bread and wine after consecration remain just that — the characteristics of bread and wine.

Just as you can get drunk on consecrated wine, so you can have an allergic reaction to the gluten in consecrated hosts, because what changes is not the material properties but the unseen philosophical reality.

This is hard for a 21st century person, in a first world country, to understand because we tend to only think in terms of material properties.


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