What to do if – when – there are no hosts for Mass?

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Did you see this?

I want you to get your heads into a mental place where, in an economic collapse or some other kind of catastrophic situation, wheat flour and wine are scarce.

Sometimes when I write in a dystopian way about SHTF situations I mention that it would not be a bad idea to stockpile hosts and wine.

Remember: Things always happen to someone else, until they happen to you.

From CNA:

Shortages in Venezuela mean priests are running out of Hosts

Caracas, Venezuela, Aug 15, 2015 / 03:33 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Venezuela’s ongoing economic crisis has hit the Church in a unique way: the production of Hosts fell 60 percent during the past month, affecting three states in the South American country.

Giovanni Luisio Mass, prior of the Order of Poor Knights of Christ of the Temple of Jerusalem, explained to local media that the shortage of unleavened wheat flour needed to make Hosts has been acute for a month now.

According to Caracol TV, the monthly production of Hosts has dropped from 80,000 to 30,000. This drop, Mass indicated, has affected every parish in three Venezuelan states. He added that they can only send 1,500 Hosts to the parishes in the north of the country, because there is no longer enough flour to make the 8,000 they have always needed.

Several parishes, along with the local communities, have organized to search for the wheat flour needed for the Hosts.

Venezuela is dealing with shortages including food, toilet paper, medicines, auto parts, chocolate, oil, and clothes irons. [If the democrats make any more gains for their agenda, this will be our future.] According to the Central Bank of Venezuela, food prices went up 92 percent last year, and during the last ten years inflation has risen 1,250 percent.

According to the Colombian newspaper El Tiempo, since 2003 the Venezuelan government has imposed price controls on 165 products, including cooking oil, soap, milk, flour, cereals, toilet paper , cleaning products, detergent, diapers, toothpaste, and sugar. The local currency has plummeted in value.

As a result, price-controlled commodities are affordable, but disappear from shelves in no time, often to be resold on the black market at market rates. And the good that are not price-controlled, are unafforable because of the devalued currency.

The government has also instituted policies to control sales, such as distributing tickets for the purpose of taking turns at the supermarkets, and placing digital fingerprint readers in the stores to prevent people from exceeding the allotted amount of products they could buy. [Perhaps signs or implanted chips in the forehead or hand?]

According to the BBC, every day Venezuelans have to form long lines at the supermarkets, but often they do not find the products they need and have to get in another line.

On average, a Venezuelan spends five hours a week shopping. The BBC quoted the Venezuelan polling company Datanálisis that said that in 80 percent of the supermarkets there is a shortage of basic goods. Consequently the black market, where the price is four times higher, has grown, and 65 percent of the people in lines outside the supermarkets are people who will resell what they buy.

Will we be out on the edges of fields picking up the pe’ah?  Will we be gleaning just to make Mass hosts?

It would be worth it.

Not to be flippant, such a scenario could help us reduce the number of people who go to Holy Communion thoughtlessly or in the state of sin.

As I write, I have in my mind’s eye the painting of The Gleaners by Jean-François Millet at the Musée d’Orsay in Paris. It’s realistic details and the size of the painting drive home the plight of the poor workers, toiling to salvage what is left on the edge of the fields. In the background, you see abundance harvested. There is also the ominous figure of a foreman on horseback.

SO001003My home parish in St. Paul has maintained – to my knowledge – the practice of making their own hosts!  Ladies would gather in the rectory basement and fire up the host irons.  It was rather wonderful to use hosts made right there. I like to back communities of nuns who make hosts (like this one HERE), but this could be a good back up option:

  • a grinder for unmilled wheat,
  • sealed cans of flour
  • and host irons.

These parish made hosts tend to be affected quite a bit by ambient humidity and aridity.  You have to be careful with particles.  A ciborium will often have quite a few fragments at the bottom.  Father has to watch carefully while distributing and also keep an eye on the paten, which must be used with great attention.

But… in the face of hosts or no hosts….  easy decision.

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  1. Suburbanbanshee says:

    Re: host irons, “wafer” and “waffle” come from the same roots. Now you can see why. But of course these things existed as far back as the Middle Ages, when wafer irons were something you put in the fire to cook (and wafers were a common secular food, too). So it can be very low tech, if need be.

  2. Suburbanbanshee says:

    You can see pictures of low tech “wafering irons” over at Historic Food. The article explains that even charcoal braziers and chafing dishes could be used to heat small wafering irons, and that wafer cones and cornets for ice cream are pretty old. A versatile way to cook.

  3. Suburbanbanshee says:

    I’ve got one more: Medieval and Renaissance Wafer Irons. It is an extensive list of links to pictures of both sacred and secular ones.

    The thing I want to emphasize is that secular waffles and wafers were usually desserts or sometimes savory dishes (they made waffles including tiny bits of fish, which I guess is like a medieval tuna salad sandwich). Secular waffle and wafer batter was often made from crumbled wheat bread, and was strengthened by ingredients like sugar and eggs. Rosewater and ginger were common flavors. Wafers were supposed to be eaten quickly, since this was the time before preservatives and since they taste better fresh from the oven.

    Wafers for sacramental use were made out of wheat flour and water, just like today, and so the batter was obviously a lot thinner. In Middle English (as in Old French), there was even a different word for it: “oble” or “obley.” Here it is in U of Michigan’s Middle English dictionary. Make sure to expand the quotes!

  4. Scott W. says:

    As a result, price-controlled commodities are affordable, but disappear from shelves in no time, often to be resold on the black market at market rates.

    Interesting how reality reasserts itself, isn’t it?

  5. catholictrad says:

    This brought the Bernie Sanders campaign to mind. “Bringing the joys of Marxism-induced Poverty to the U.S.”

    In Venezuela, the government blames the government-induced poverty on the great bogeyman U.S.A. But here in the U.S.A only global warming can be blamed.

  6. Father, a story such as this makes me want to cry out to the Heavens for God’s divine punishment in the form of the Chastizement. A God given reset sounds to me like the only viable solution to the mess of the world. Bunkering will only stave off for a period of time, the inevitable.

  7. APX says:

    Hosts are made using a special type of flour that is substantially finer than the ordinary flour people use for making regular. Perhaps the hosts made by the ladies at the parish didn’t use the finely ground flour that nuns use, which is why they had crumbly bits.

  8. APX says:


    That should be regular bread.

  9. DeGaulle says:

    “Perhaps signs or implanted chips in the forehead or hand?”:

    The mark of the beast?

  10. Gerard Plourde says:

    I’ll pray that St.Pius X, the champion of frequent and daily reception of the Holy Eucharist (issuer of Sacra Tridentina), may intercede on the behalf of those affected.

    It’s ironic that the only peacetime action to impose wage and price controls in the Untied States was implemented by Richard Nixon in 1971 in an attempt to quell a combination of stagnant wages and accelerating price inflation that threatened the stability of the middle class. This was the beginning of the economic upheaval that defined the decade, toppled two Presidents (Gerald Ford and Jimmy Carter), and which had the energy crisis caused by the OPEC oil embargoes as an additional contributing factor.

  11. Christine says:

    Where can one go to find a recipe for communion wafers that is appropriate for Mass? Sounds like it might be a good idea to have it written down just in case.

  12. Titus says:

    Not to be dense, but why does one need a grain mill and cans of flour? Don’t you get the flour to put in the cans by using the grain mill? Shouldn’t that be “cans of wheat”?

  13. anilwang says:

    Not to be flippant, such a scenario could help us reduce the number of people who go to Holy Communion thoughtlessly or in the state of sin.

    This isn’t at all flippant, it’s likely an accurate prediction. When I returned to the Church (and didn’t know better) I was surprised that no-one shook hands at the passing of the peace and instead people bowed to each other. I learned later, that at the time of the SARS outbreak shaking hands was forbidden and this new practice was instituted. When the SARS crisis subsided, the practice of giving a respectful bowing still remained until this day and shows no sign of disappearing. I don’t mind bowing. It’s not an open invitation to wander the sanctuary or make small-talk.

    Sometimes it takes a crisis like SARS or a host shortage to bring us closer to Tradition.

  14. SKAY says:

    “[If the democrats make any more gains for their agenda, this will be our future.]”
    It has also become very clear that our Constitutional “guaranteed freedoms” of religion and speech are at stake along with a lot of other things.
    I remember how well Obama and Chavez got along. In fact, Chavez was very interested in normalizing relations between Cuba and the US. Apparently they had a lot in common.

  15. jasoncpetty says:

    Another possible benefit is not seeing as many of those basketball-sized hosts lifted oh-so-meaningfully out of a Frisbee-sized terra cotta paten.

  16. Mary Jane says:

    “stockpile hosts and wine” – definitely not a bad idea.

  17. Fr. Z, do you know where one could obtain an altar bread iron just as the one you pictured, or a non-electric one? I am grateful for the instruction of seminary where one professor of sacramental theology spoke of how to offer Mass in emergency situations, such as a concentration camp. I also feel blessed to have known a wonderful priest who had part of his tongue cut off by the Nazi’s because they caught him hearing confessions in a FEMA, no a repurposed Walmart, – no, excuse me – I mean concentration camp. Anyway, it would be nice to have one available if it comes to needing one. Lets pray for our nation as it seems to be sleep walking to destruction.

  18. L. says:

    1. It’s good that, as I understand it, the recipe for the bread could not be simpler- wheat flour and water, nothing else allowed (in the Latin Rite, anyway).

    2. I did not understand the story when I first saw it: “A shortage of unleavened wheat flour.” Does that mean that flour with the leavening added (i.e. baking mix) is available? Using flour with leavening for making hosts would be illicit, usually, but would not invalidate, I think. Is this an alternative?

  19. APX says:


    All one needs to make unleavened bread that is valid matter is wheat flour and water. If you’re set up to make actual hosts, the consistancy is a thicker liquid, similar to that of crepe batter. Other than that, it like making regular dough. Hosts would be ideal, but the other works in an emergency. They just can’t be reserved (go mouldy too quickly), and would make a lot of crumbs.

  20. defreitas says:

    I remember hearing about some Old Believer Russian Orthodox, after their separation from the Moscow Church, who had guarded the consecrated species for hundreds of years. When their old Priest knew he was about to die he would consecrate a table load of bead and left it to the parish to hold until they received a new priest (which almost never happened). The now Priest-less community would administer the sacrament only to the newly baptized and to the dying, using only a small crumb. One would assume they then waited till the second coming for a resupply.

  21. Charles E Flynn says:

    You can find some altar bread irons by searching at Google for:

    1 ostia 10 particole

  22. fionam says:

    “would not be a bad idea to stockpile hosts and wine”

    Hmmm. Our parish priest has something of a neurosis about having a large supply of hosts due to the fact that he feels the hosts are prone to the growth of mold if kept for too long. I’m not sure why, as Mass is celebrated every day and twice on Saturdays and Sundays,so it isn’t as if there isn’t a constant demand. There’s not much of a chance for them to go ‘off’. I suspect he might have had a bad experience in this regard previously. Is this a genuine cause for concern? How long should hosts that are kept in a sealed bag or container be kept? How long can/should consecrated hosts be reserved in the tabernacle?

  23. jacobi says:

    If I may Father,

    This really does sum up the extent that the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, the
    re-enactment of the Sacrifice of Christ on the Cross for the Salvation of Mankind has been turned into a protestant communion service. Receiving the Host, whether the attendees believe in the Real Presence or not, ( that now appears to be irrelevant ), is now what all so-called Catholics think about.

    We are required to attend Mass circa 56 times a year, and receive Holy Communion once!

  24. Massachusetts Catholic says:

    You can purchase hosts at Amazon by searching for altar bread, and also at a website autom.com under church supplies.I wonder if you could take the commercially available hosts and vacuum pack them for freshness.
    This could be a good excuse for creating a wine cellar as well.

  25. KAS says:

    The idea that the local parish ought to have the ability to make hosts seems good to me. My orthodox friends bake loaves and use a wood mold to create a pattern on top while it rises, and then bake it.

    If it were a SHTF, how would it be handled? The irons for hosts seem heavy and difficult to carry, where-as the wood mold for the rising bread used by the Orthodox seems much easier to conceal and to carry with you.

    I think sometimes we ought to look at the practices of those groups who have been persecuted often enough to have traditions designed to survive persecution. Here we have been at peace so long that our practices seem rather vulnerable to being cut off.

    How can you make hosts if you don’t have the heavy metal host making device? Are there how-to instructions? What can you use instead? The problem as I see it, is that whatever you use for making hosts needs to be dedicated to that purpose and not do double duty in a regular cooking manner. Because of this, there is again a weight and space issue.

    Seems to me the host making device is lovely but would be fairly easy to confiscate.

  26. THREEHEARTS says:

    I wonder if the Church is going green… If the wheat in the Host is now GMO and therefore by scientific standards too full of gluten much higher levels than God created it. Woe is me what shall we do. Will the large food manufacturers who have no awareness of widows and orphans defend their manufactured product

  27. How long should hosts that are kept in a sealed bag or container be kept? How long can/should consecrated hosts be reserved in the tabernacle?

    As an unreconstructed ossified manualist, I suggest your pastor might not just be concerned with the actual “going off” of the hosts, but also the instruction and custom that they be “recently made”:

    The hosts must be recently made (Rit. Rom., tit. iv, cap. i, n. 7). The rubrics do not specify the term recentes in speaking of the hosts. In Rome, the bakers of altar-breads are obliged to make solemn affidavit that they will not sell breads older than fifteen days, and St. Charles, by a statute of the Fourth Synod of Milan, prescribed that hosts older than twenty days must not be used in the celebration of Mass. In practice, therefore, those older than three weeks ought not to be used.

  28. The “recently made” rule is repeated in the 1983 Code of Canon Law at Canon 924 §2.

    Regarding the 2nd question about how often the hosts are to be renewed in the tabernacle, Canon 939 says “frequently” and Canon 934 §2. says that in “places where the Most Holy Eucharist is reserved, … insofar as possible, a priest is to celebrate Mass there at least twice a month,” suggesting to me that they should be renewed at least that often (though the Eastern Church has a different practice).

  29. frjim4321 says:

    Oddly, if hosts are in limited supply the could be frozen and stored to be used by the presider and the assembly could receive from the cup.

    This post reminds me of the scary stories of priests in concentration camps scavenging microscopic amounts of bread and wine for mass and using the palm of the hand as a cup … times like this could come again, if that have not already!

  30. andia says:

    Does anyone have a source for a host iron? Seems to me that we should be finding and hoarding those in case the SHTF.

  31. Moro says:

    While leavened bread is not licit in the roman rite, couldn’t such a case as this warrant the use of leavened bread, provided it is made of wheat. It would seem to me it is best to do this than have no mass at all.

  32. Imrahil says:


    It’s a peculiarity of the rite and merely positive law. So, it also is a peculiarity of the Roman Rite (and I think the other ones) that we either have holy Communion under the species of bread alone, or (Roman Rite traditionally: by way of exception) sub utraque specie, but not chalice alone.

    The necessity imposed by the condition of celiacy, however, allows ignoring this. So also the necessity of not having unleavened bread (and no flour either, etc.) warrants the use of leavened bread.

  33. iamlucky13 says:

    @ jacobi

    ” the re-enactment of the Sacrifice of Christ on the Cross for the Salvation of Mankind”

    I hope this doesn’t come off as a mere grammar nitpick because I think the meaning it reveals is worth knowing: theologians typically use the term “re-presentation” (not to be confused with representation). The sacrificial action is not carried out again (re-enacted), but rather, in the miracle of the Transubstantiation, the actual, original sacrifice become present to us again (re-present), even though under the appearances of bread and wine.

    “If it were a SHTF, how would it be handled? The irons for hosts seem heavy and difficult to carry”

    Is an iron necessary in order to be licit? While dedicated tools certainly seem better whenever possible, can the unleavened bread simply be pressed by hand and cooked in an oven or fried if necessary? Neither Canon Law nor Redemptionis Sacramentum seem to prescribe how the host is made, other than the latter says the person making them “should obviously” be distinguished by integrity and skill and have the proper tools. This is followed by a footnote referencing Dominus Salvator Noster, which there does not seem to be an easy to find electronic copy of.

    I was also wondering, is there anywhere an explicit allowance if sufficient necessity exists (certainly in the known examples in concentration camps) to use leavened bread if somehow unleavened bread is not reasonably available? With the control of the necessities of life in Venezuela by the government, is leavened bread more readily available to the non-privileged than flour?

  34. Dear Father:

    What about sending hosts to parishes in Venezuela? I don’t expect you to organize it, but — there may be someone reading who could. And there might be someone from Venezuela who is reading this as well.

  35. Papabile says:

    Dominus Salvator Noster can be found in this PDF: http://www.vatican.va/archive/aas/documents/AAS-21-1929-ocr.pdf

    Go to Page 631, it starts there.

  36. acardnal says:

    Fr. Fox wrote, “What about sending hosts to parishes in Venezuela?”

    The Holy See could send hosts to their embassy in Caracas via diplomatic pouch for distribution to the local church . . .assuming they still have relations with Venezuela.

  37. Skeinster says:

    In light of this, I did some experimentation a while back. Most recipes on the net are unusable, as they contain added ingredients.

    The ratio I used is 3 parts flour to 1-1.5 parts water. This will make a rather stiff dough that can be
    rolled very thin between two sheets of parchment paper or aluminum foil. I used a bottle top as a small host cutter, and a small biscuit cutter for a priest’s host. Bake at about 200 degrees until they are dry. Cool and store in an airtight container in the fridge or freezer. They will dry into hockey pucks otherwise.

    Not fancy, but serviceable. I second Father re: fragments.

    Have not tried baking any via parchment paper/foil and the family iron, which might also work.

    One of our priests passed out a list of readily available wines suitable for use for Mass several years ago. I stocked up with some Gallo.

  38. eulogos says:

    In the book Greenlanders, about the demise of the colony on Greenland, as the weather got colder and colder, Europe had the plague and stopped sending ships. The Greenlanders had no flour and no wine as the climate was too cold. They attempted a Eucharist with seaweed wafers and water. Their last bishop and their last priest died and no one came to replace them.
    It is an incredibly painful and poignant story.

  39. iamlucky13 says:

    “Dominus Salvator Noster can be found in this PDF: http://www.vatican.va/archive/aas/documents/AAS-21-1929-ocr.pdf

    Go to Page 631, it starts there.”

    Thank you, although I have to admit, the 2 years of high school Latin I took over 15 years ago leave me ill-equipped to comprehend more than short, isolated phrases. Were you able to get the gist of it?

  40. majuscule says:

    Our hosts are made at a local convent. We get a new bag of them once a month. (Well, two bags–one of regular sized hosts and one with larger priest hosts.) They are labelled “whole wheat” but they are white looking.

    I used to have an electric stone-grinder that could make very fine whole wheat flour. Alas, the motor burned up. But if things get Really Bad™, aka SHTF, I wouldn’t count on electricity anyway.

  41. APX says:


    There are various types of wheat flour for various baking needs, some of which have leavener in them. Not to the same degree as yeast, though.

  42. Suburbanbanshee says:

    Re: white whole wheat – possibly bleached, possibly a different variety.

    Re: hosts without irons, I understand that before wafering irons, the same sorts of batters were cooked in frying pans, etc. Very thin pancakes, essentially.

    Re: very big hosts, this isn’t just a modern thing. There were all sorts of elaborate schemes for fractioning large hosts or lining up multiple hosts on the altar in designs in some rites, like the Mozarabic one.

  43. Suburbanbanshee says:

    Re: heavy irons – My Girl Scout troop always packed “pie irons” the size of a slice of bread – (you buttered bread, put pie filling between two slices, and stuck them in the pie irons, then put the irons
    in the coals). A lot of the host irons are smaller than pie irons, and therefore lighter. But yeah, you could make little hosts on a pancake griddle or in a frying pan, pretty easily. Wouldn’t be as pretty and uniform, but they could be canon law-compliant.

  44. KateD says:

    I’d be interested in acquiring a host iron.

    What I most fear is not the loss of wheat and wine, (wine is easy to make, and God will provide), but the loss of the ability to regularly receive absolution. This is what I’m trying to “prep” for.

  45. SpesUnica says:

    Check out some of these images of historic wafer irons. Amazing! I wonder if they were really used for Mass (most of them seem to be rectangular, with designs on all parts, so maybe the hosts weren’t circular)?

    w ww.larsdatter.com/wafer-irons.htm

  46. Landless Laborer says:

    To ThreeHearts: Just wanted to straighten you out. There is no GMO wheat sold on the commercial market, only hybridized wheat, brought to us by Norman Borlaug, who saved most of the world from hunger, much to the chagrin of the eugenicists. If and when GMO wheat is brought to market, the issue will not gluten, the issue will be trace elements of glyphosphate (Roundup), the herbicide.

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