Another reason why we needed Summorum Pontificum

In the dark days of seminary, we were forced to use a "substantial" bread for the Eucharist that was notable not only for its vile taste but its amazing qualities of being entirely resistant to moisture and its indestructibility. 

I was like trying to get down a piece of a Michelin tire, only drier and less savory.

This stuff gave new meaning to the term "accident".

When even the liberals (the majority) among the students complained that it simply couldn’t be gagged down and still breathe, we were told that "the longer you chew the more of a sacrament it is!".

Yes, folks, …. major American seminary back in the day!

All this came to mind when reading a post on Ten Reasons:

From a reader in the post concerning the call for "Bread Bakers" at Xavier University’s Bellarmine Chapel:

Sister Paula’s / Bellarmine’s Altar Bread Recipe:

Mix together:
3 cups white flour
1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
3 teaspoons baking soda
2 teaspoons salt

Mix together:
1 1/2 cups water
1/4 cup orange juice
2 tablespoons oil (any vegetable oil – not olive oil)
2 tablespoons honey

Add this to the flour mixture. Stir well. You probably will have to add more water but do it a little at a time. It should be quite thick but able to be spread on a pizza pan or cookie sheet. Bake at 350 degrees for 18-20 minutes.

Archbishop Schnurr, you have your work cut out for you.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. Luke says:

    And he can handle the work too. He’s outstanding as a Bishop. He’s still missed in Duluth.

  2. MichaelD says:

    In all of the Eastern Churches where leavened bread is the tradition, nothing whatever may be used to make it except flour, water and yeast. Where do these people get the idea it is legitimate to add oil, fruit juice or anything else for that matter? Sheer and utter nonsense!

  3. I want to understand why “substantial”, we are talking about bread that will be Consecrated, apparently requires a visual cue to get us to understand the Mystery (I’m giving the proponents the benefit of MUCH theological doubt here), yet in many parishes you can’t see the Tabernacle?

  4. edwardo3 says:

    I know your pain father. The seminary I went to had this stuff that was a sort of greyish brown with a crust like a bagel and any time it was touched it crumbled to bits. Some friends and I spent a year trying to figure out the taste of the stuff, and finally we decided that dog nose was the closest anyone could come up with to describe the flavor. We were told not to worry about the crumbs because “if it hits the floor it’s not Jesus any more”. Makes my skin crawl just to think about it.

  5. DominiSumus says:

    I am so thankful to have never encountered “altar bread” like that.

    This may seem simplistic, but what is the point with messing with what has worked for nearly two thousand years?

  6. Emilio III says:

    Would attempting to consecrate these cookies be invalid, or merely illicit?

  7. Jason Keener says:

    Those who use this substantial bread for the Eucharist sometimes do so by pointing to #321 of the General Instruction of the Roman Missal: “The meaning of the sign demands that the material for the Eucharistic celebration truly have the appearance of food.”

  8. Henry Edwards says:

    Archbishop Schnurr, you have your work cut out for you.

    Why? What about this matter might be considered complicated or difficult to deal with? Can not it be handled with a stroke of the episcopal pen?

    Redemptionis Sacramentum
    [48.] The bread used in the celebration of the Most Holy Eucharistic Sacrifice must be unleavened, purely of wheat, and recently made so that there is no danger of decomposition. It follows therefore that bread made from another substance, even if it is grain, or if it is mixed with another substance different from wheat to such an extent that it would not commonly be considered wheat bread, does not constitute valid matter for confecting the Sacrifice and the Eucharistic Sacrament. It is a grave abuse to introduce other substances, such as fruit or sugar or honey, into the bread for confecting the Eucharist.

  9. CarpeNoctem says:

    Completely illicit; doubtfully valid.

    If there are foreign elements in materials such as altar bread… let’s say a bug (or a hair or whatever) fell in to the pot during baking and was not discovered until after a consecration (yuck, I know, but go with me on this) the foreign element is obviously not consecrated, but the bread surrounding it is. This would be a case for the famous, “burn what remains and pour the ashes down the sacrarium”. The complete sample of bread is not invalid matter because of a separable foreign body.

    In the seminary I was at, it was the opinion of learned theologians that when a foreign element could be separated out… a sesame seed or raisin (!)… then probably the rest of the matter would be consecrated, but obviously not the foreign body. Any priest who allows this knowingly would do so under pain of sin- perhaps mortal sin under the normal circumstances.
    But when the materials are so mixed as one is unable to separate or discern the constitutive elements (‘orange juice’, any one?) then my opinion that there could be no hope of having a valid consecration. I don’t have the texts handy to point to this reasoning, but there have been much smarter people working on this question for a much longer time than I have. The key to the question is what is meant by the standard being by “common estimation” bread while still maintaining the requirements of the Church that it be flour and water.

    My answer is believed to be a well-formed opinion, but should be treated as such. If I am wrong, I submit to correction by a more knowledgeable authority on this matter.

  10. FrCharles says:

    When I was in studies we had these troubles. At our friary we used licit bread, but mustum instead of wine, which everyone was supposed to receive. At the theological school we attended, they used real wine, but bread made something like the recipe cited above. One of my confreres once remarked, “You can’t get a whole meal anywhere!”

  11. Tim Ferguson says:

    Henry, it certainly could be handled with the stroke of an episcopal pen, but that, unfortunately, would not be the end of it. First you would have the protests and letters in the press talking about what a cold, unfeeling person the Archbishop is, how he’s trying to steal “my church” away from meeeeee. Then you have the other priests, some of whom will defend the Archbishop, certainly, but many more will surreptitiously start a whispering campaign about how non-collaborative he is. They’ll harbor the “poor guy” who got the smackdown.

    Next step will be the copycats, who will take the Archbishop’s discipline of one parish as a chance to try and sneak something into their parish – using the same recipe, for example, but skipping the orange juice. The nuns will whine, Call to Action will stage a protest, SNAP will find some way of getting involved and find a way of using this to demonstrate how the Archbishop is really against doing anything to root out sex abusers. A little calumny here, a little soft libel there.

    Added to that will be the thundering hordes of long-suffering traditionalists who can sometimes be less-than-selective in the battles they chose to fight and expect the Archbishop to single handedly stamp out every abuse, quasi-abuse, and poor taste in liturgical vesture and, rather than rejoice in every victory and offer prayerful support to him for the difficult job he’s doing, will criticize and nitpick for not going far enough.

    Episcopal government by fiat is possible, but the patience-testing method of shepherding a flock unused to solid governance by merciful but insistent correction is generally more fruitful. One bishop once described it to me as trying to stomp out the cockroaches under a rug – while you’re stomping in one corner, the others are retreating to the other and when you go to that corner, they come back.

    Bishops facing stuff like this most certainly need our prayers. It’s a long row they have to hoe, requiring a lot grace, persistence and perseverance. God bless them!

  12. Fr. John Mary says:

    There is another issue with this kind of bread used at Mass, and that is the issue of Eucharistic reservation; in plain terms, this cannot be reserved for any length of time.
    From unfortunate personal experience many years ago (before I was a religious or priest) the parish I worked at brought in this practice in for First Communion. Let me tell you, days later the sacred species in the tabernacle were hard enough to break your teeth. I and the associate consumed what was left because little old ladies complained of cracking their dentures! And then there is the issue of mold growing on the sacred species composed of a lot of sugar and leavening when it is in a humid, dark place (the tabernacle). Oy!
    The wisdom of Holy Mother Church in making definite requirements for the breads used for Holy Mass became very well understood.

  13. Wise words, Mr. Ferguson. And given the extent of liturgical abuse in Cincinnati it will take patience and persistence to set things right. In terms of orthodoxy, Xavier is arguably the worst Catholic university in the United States. So what goes on at Bellarmine Chapel (see the related posts at the link below) is no surprise; heteropraxy generally follows heterodoxy.

  14. Henry Edwards says:

    Tim, I understand what you say. In particular, that the whole liturgical war, with so many diffuse and diverse issues, is not winnable by simple episcopal fiat. And hence that the road back certainly will be long and hard, especially for our most conscientious bishops.

    But I wondered this is not the kind of situation, involving not a hearsay or borderline quasi-abuse but a grave abuse admitted publicly in writing, indeed, that pearl of great price — a limited battle winnable with available resources — of the sort that I’d think either a general or a bishop might well be on the lookout for.

  15. Trevor says:

    Concerning additives in the species, if the use of an additive is a substantial part of the bread, then it is dubious matter for the Sacrament (and the faithful can not receive Sacraments of dubious validity).

    “Of the substance of this matter, the Code, in c. 815, ? 1, declares: “The bread must be pure wheat bread, and freshly made, so that there be no danger of corruption”; and ? 2 of the same canon declares: “The wine must be natural wine of the grape, and not corrupted.” It follows that bread made of any other substance, or to which has been added so great a quantity of any other substance than wheat that according to common estimation it cannot be said to be wheat bread, cannot be valid matter for the performance of the Sacrifice and the consecration of the Sacrament of the Eucharist.

    Similarly that wine, or rather liquor, cannot be regarded as valid matter, which is extracted from apples or other fruits, or which is made chemically, although it have the color of wine, and may be said in a way to contain its elements; nor wine to which water has been added in a greater or equal quantity.

    In fact, matter is to be regarded as dubious, and hence is not to be used, if a notable quantity of any other substance has been added to the wheat or to the wine, even though that other substance be not present in greater or equal quantity; for it is criminal to expose so great a Sacrament to the danger of nullity.”-Congregation for the Discipline of the Sacraments, Instruction, Dominus Salvator noster, 26 March 1929, n. 1: AAS 21 (1929) pp. 631-642

    Thus, if there is enough additive (such as honey) in that the matter wouldn’t be considered wheat bread, then it is invalid. If the additive isn’t in a substantial quantity, then its still valid, but gravely illicit. This is repeated in Redemptionis Sacramentum.

  16. thereseb says:

    On the licit use of mustum (and wheat content for coeliacs)is guidance here from the CDF

    Fr Charles’s seminary was therefore quite wrong to dole mustum out wholesale – it is only available to alcoholic priests, with permision (or in other cases of necessity).

    Cardinal Ratzinger (for I believe it was he in 1993 at the CDF?) does not tackle the question of pizza bases, and I dread to think what he would have said, if he had !

  17. Seraphic Spouse says:

    I’ve made communion bread, according to a recipe I was handed. I felt that this was a tremendous honour, and I wanted to do my very best and provide bread that would have the accident of tastiness. So I used, as the recipe said, honey, and later I was horrified to see that honey was nixed by name in Redemptionis Sacramentum. I didn’t know it was a grave abuse, and I was sorry. Although I was a fan of liturgical loaf bread (well, round loaves anyway), I am no longer. Let’s stick with the little wafers in the plastic bags.

  18. Papabile says:

    This is not DOUBTFUL matter.

    It is entirely corrupt matter.

    No proper matter, no Sacrament.

    It’s that simple.

    Really. It is.

  19. “Why? What about this matter might be considered complicated or difficult to deal with? Can not it be handled with a stroke of the episcopal pen?”

    Such action presumes the prospect of being taken seriously.

    Archbishop Schnurr will find out in a hurry, if he hasn’t already, that Cincinnati is not Duluth. It has been a dysfunctional archdiocese for nearly thirty years, going back to Bernardin, if not further. Many of its priests have long become accustomed to simply ignoring decrees that do not suit them. An entire generation of clergy must be completely horse-broken, or weeded out. It will take years to accomplish this, and frankly, the belly for a fight. It cannot be a stepping stone to a red hat elsewhere. Either he’s in it for the long haul, or he (and the weary faithful) can just forget it.

  20. PatrickV says:


    Brings back memories of going to Newman Center masses back in the ’70s at University of Buffalo. I remember something with raisins in it. I shucked the NC and went local after that.

    Although, I do think my ship’s bread, hard tack, or whatever you want to call it would give Sr. Paula a run for her money, an probably her teeth. Jack Aubrey would undoubtedly approve.

  21. idatom says:

    Fr. Z.

    In 2001 when Xavier’s new president was named here I was hoping for many changes on X’s campus. I knew all was lost when Monday’s Enquirer had a front page photo showing him saying the Sunday evening Mass at Bellarmine Chapel. On the alter was a huge glass bowl full to the brim with what looked like cubes of bread, I saved the paper that day.

    Keep the Faith

    Tom Lanter

  22. There are some perfectly good, perfectly legit, suitable for Latin Rite, recipes for unleavened bread made of nothing but wheat flour and water. It’s a job finding them, but here’s a good one with pictures and detailed instructions:

    However, it would seem a lot less crumb-producing to make only one biggish piece of bread, and use up the rest of the dough in making tiny bite-sized individual loaves of bread.

    But of course, extremely thin wafers are the superior technology for crumb-free bread, and have been since medieval times. It’s very sad to see the comparatively thick and boringly brown wafers of today’s corporate bakers, when you think of the pretty white wafers of the past with their beautiful stamped designs.

    I miss having really thin wafers around. Especially the ones with the pretty designs stamped on.

  23. Margaret says:

    Re-reading this after seeing it at Rich Leonardi’s blog earlier, the one thing that jumped out at me time (now that the horror is not quite so raw and fresh) is– not olive oil? Why not, for Pete’s sake?

  24. gmarie says:

    There are true victims to this kind of liturgical abuse, and I don’t take the word victim lightly. In 1974, in the heyday of, to kindly put it, “liturgical experimentation”, I received my First Holy Communion, at…wait for it…a “home” Mass. The associate pastor at my parish was a good friend of the family and agreed to preside. In our home, “church” was set up. My parent’s dining table (covered with a cloth my mother made with shadow profile images of me and my brother with the words “Come as a child”) served as the altar. A music stand served as the ambo. My mother and I made the bread to be used at Mass, using a recipe very similar to the one printed above. I even had the opportunity to try the little breads beforehand so I wouldn’t be “surprised” by its taste when I received for the first time. We repeated the whole process the very next year when my younger brother received his First Holy Communion.

    The reason I used the word “victim” is because as a child, I was overwhelmed by the flurry of activity surrounding the event, and confused by the nature of what I was receiving. And, because of the illicit nature of the bread, it’s quite possible that my “first” Communion was not valid. My parents own lack of catechesis and therefore their mishandling of my formation on the Blessed Sacrament served only to muddy what little I did understand. Though I didn’t understand for many years, my soul was terribly hurt, dare I say, victimized by the spectacle. I spent the better part of the next 28 years being totally nonplussed by the Eucharist. It was only by the grace of God, and St. Margaret Mary Alacoque’s intercession (she, by sheer divine intervention, was my patron saint because my name means “Margaret Mary”) that I was ever even able to be drawn to Holy Communion and develop not only an understanding of it but a passion for it as well. My brother fared far worse as he left the Faith entirely.

    These kinds of abuses are not only bad in our seminaries, they are extremely harmful in our children’s religious educational systems.

  25. bookworm says:

    “When even the liberals (the majority) among the students complained that it simply couldn’t be gagged down and still breathe, we were told that “the longer you chew the more of a sacrament it is!”.”

    That last statement also indicates how non-traditional your seminary was — seems to me that most Catholics of a certain age were taught that chewing the Host was sacrilegious and to be avoided at all costs! :-)

    Now that approach, while well intentioned, was a bit over the top. There is nothing inherently sacreligious about the Host touching your teeth. The original Greek versions of John 6:54, in which Jesus says that “he who eats my flesh and drinks my blood will have life eternal”, use a Greek word that literally means “chews on” or “devours” in the fashion of an animal, not the ordinary word for “eats.” (Could this be where the instructor got the idea that it was “more of a sacrament” if you chewed it?)

    That being said, I do prefer a Host that easily dissolves in one’s mouth and does not have to be chewed, if for no other reason than to keep people from walking down the aisle blatantly chomping on it like a piece of gum… that DOES drive me nuts.

  26. bookworm: I hope you also got the real problem with their statement.

  27. bernadette says:

    Back in my dark days as a Catholic in the diocese of Richmond, Communion was squares of brown, sweet and very crumbly bread.

    gmarie- all of my children’s first Communions were in all probability invalid, and all the Communions they received in that particular diocese. None of them are Catholic now.

  28. Henry Edwards says:

    I wonder whether anyone would claim to see a liturgical abuse here:

    Seriously, can anyone explain why the chalice is so big?

  29. Mitchell NY says:

    “Theologians working on this question”…Why on earth not leave it alone..We have something that works, is licit, and approved. Why change it? As a lay person I must say I never even thought about it…Why be unhappy, or dissatisfied with what we have and try to introduce foreign matter into the bread and then find a theological reason for doing so? More change just for the sake of change. The Second Vatican Council stated that nothing is to be changed unless it is good for the people after intense study..How is this good for the people? I have never heard a lay person complain about the composition of the Host, Christ…In fact, when changed to “bagellike” or something, that is indeed when people complain…I wish this topic would be let go.

  30. Sid says:

    1. In a circumstance similar to what Fr. Z and edwardo3 had to suffer: In the academic year 1982-3 at a certain Midwestern seminary, the Host was a cross between a large dark IHOP pancake and a whole-grained base of a Sicilian pizza, over a foot in diameter, making the ostentation rite hardly possible, and obliging a prolonged fracture rite (one breeeeeeead, one BAHdeeeeeeeeee … ). It was very, very crumbly, and certainly necessitated prolonged chewing. The house LIPICOL (Liberal priest in charge of liturgy), who (in the manner of Cranmer) never did the ostentation rite himself, was persuaded to allow Benediction (he himself never attended), but only with the Sacred Waffle — no monstrance, just the pancake/pizza Host lying on a plate on the picnic table altar.

    2. manwithblackhat is quite correct about the situation in Cincy and the Herculean labor that the new Archbishop will have to perform in cleaning out the stables.

  31. DominiSumus says:

    The real problem with the “more of a Sacrament” statement is there are no levels of Sacraments. A Sacrament is a Sacrament. A person is not more Baptized if more water is used. Just as a person is not more absolved if the priest says the words of absolution louder.

  32. at3p says:

    Henry Edwards,

    Chalice is big probably for the same reason that the Bread is also so large. Undoubtedly because a very large number of communicants were expected. The Russian Orthodox have a thing about using a single loaf and a single chalice no matter how large the congregation. And that is because they are biblically minded (e.g. 1 Cor 10: 17 — “one loaf”).

  33. Sacristymaiden says:

    Henry Edwards, about that picture in the link–that’s a Byzantine or Orthodox church, right?

  34. Henry Edwards says:

    Sacristymaiden: Yes, I believe the celebrant in the previous picture is Kirill I, the new Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia. For comparison, here is an identified picture of Kirill taken at his enthronement last february:

  35. edwardo3 says:

    Sid, it sounds like we went to the same certain Midwestern seminary, only a decade apart. We were allowed expoition once during my time there where the monstrance was literally a Pyrex pie plate with a hanky over it and there was a chalice(a ratehr large clear glass gobblet) half filled with presumably the Precious Blood left on the picnic table Altar over night.

  36. ssoldie says:

    Hey, Luke, I don’t miss him and I am not alone on that, but will defintely keep an eye on situation there in Cinncinnati.

  37. Rob Cartusciello says:

    Oh, the miseries of Jesuit liturgical disintegration.

    We suffered through Jesuit novitiate with pita bread, which was the same stuff we used for our sandwiches.

    Sounds like the same recipe used at Loyola Chicago from 1994-1996. I can’t vouch before or after that time, because I shook the dust from my feet and was long gone.

    I recall a Jesuit community mass at a certain university where they were going to consecrate a piece of french bread. I asked whether we were using the Byzantine Rite. A host was added to the paten for me.

    Seeing all this just stirs up too many bad memories. Thank God for better times.

  38. Rob Cartusciello says:

    This recipe offends me as a cook as much as a theologian.

    Orange juice & honey are for Morning Glory muffins, not hosts.

  39. rwprof says:

    Fr. George has a site devoted to prosphora, including how to youtube videos:

    His recipe, with many pictures, is here:

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