Why do we do that? Catholic Life Explained
January 20, 2021
Do Catholics always need to receive communion in wafer form, or can it be different kinds of bread?
Answer: In the Roman Rite of the Catholic Church, the most common form for the eucharistic bread is the small white communion “wafer” that is a ubiquitous part of the Catholic Mass. The instructions of the Church have been very specific regarding the make-up of the bread used in the Mass: “The bread used in the celebration of the Most Holy Eucharistic Sacrifice must be unleavened, purely of wheat, and recently made … 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” (see Redemptionis Sacramentum by the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, no. 48).
The Church’s tradition of using a wheat-based bread is based on the bread that Jesus would have used at the Last Supper and is considered to be an essential part of the “matter” of the Sacrament of the Eucharist.
As we consider the question of whether a “wafer” — which is properly called a “host” — should be used, we also must keep in mind that in the Eastern Rites of the Catholic Church, leavened (i.e. “raised”) bread is more often used. And so, while the thin, white “wafer” is most commonly used in the Roman Rite of the Church, the full expression of the Catholic tradition does allow for a more substantial form of bread to be used, but the tradition of using a simple wheat bread with no other additions or additives is considered essential.