Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Hoc Est Corpus Meum

You want to know where your Communion / Eucharist wafers come from? Well, if you are in the U.S., it probably comes from one place, a single bakery in Rhode Island that services 80% of Catholic, Lutheran, Episcopal, and Southern Baptist churches--interesting combination. This bakery has been owned and operated by the Cavanagh family for well over 60 years.

The family-owned company makes about 80 percent of the communion bread used by the Catholic, Episcopal, Lutheran and Southern Baptist churches in the United States. It has a similar market share in Australia, Canada and Britain, and is now looking to expand to West Africa.

“We feel as though we’re a bakery, and all we’re making is bread,” said Andy Cavanagh, the company’s general manager, and part of the fourth generation of Cavanaghs to work here. “It’s not that we don’t have respect for what happens to it, but that transformation is out of our hands and takes place in a church. The best thing we can do is make sure the bread is perfect in every way possible.”

It seems kind of strange to me to speak of "market share" with regard to the body of Christ (if that's your belief). It is not just "eating Jesus" (which is how I refer to the Eucharist) but "selling Jesus." While Jesus has been commercialized with fun things like Bobble-head doll Jesus or Jesus action figures (you can get all the major deities), this is a market that at least is necessary for the regular operations of the churches. Although, I do admit that I like the Jesus kitsch. The Cavanagh family evidently does its job well, particulary not making their Jesus too crumbly:

It doesn’t crumb, and I don’t like fragments of our Lord scattering all over the floor,” said the Rev. Bob Dietel, an Episcopal priest.

Mr. Dietel uses Cavanagh altar bread at his parish, St. Aidan’s, in Camano Island, Wash. He likes that the large wafer, which he holds up and breaks during Mass, cracks cleanly.

A few years ago, the congregation switched to the wheat wafer the Cavanaghs make from the white.

“There’s a nice clean bread flavor, as opposed to the paste flavor you have with some other breads,” Mr. Dietel said.

Indeed, I bet if Jesus is all over the floor in crumbs, it would be quite a problem. I don't guess you could just vacuum him up?

I wonder, does transubstantion differ between wheat bread and white bread?

Perhaps part of the draw is the variety; you can order your Jesus Crackers in many ways:

There are plenty of varieties. The company sells both white and wheat flour wafers, in sizes ranging from one and one-eighth inches wide to nine inches wide. Some are double-thick, and all except the large ones can be embossed with designs including a cross or a lamb.

I wonder if you could request other designs? If you could emboss any design into a Communion wafer, what would it be?

Anyway, find the full article from the NYTimes here. Mmm....all this talk about eating Jesus is making me hungry.

No comments: