I shouldn’t be allowed in church at all (an allergic Advent story)

Despite recent events, I generally consider myself a responsible human being and pretty good at things like functioning in society.

When it comes to my kids, that is.

As for me? Apparently I have all of the self-preservation of a blindfolded lemming.

The other morning, we took the kids to church. At 7:45am. (It was the only early English-speaking mass and it’s literally less than a block north of our home, so it’s more doable than it seems on paper.)

I was SO PROUD of us. Even though my feelings towards Catholicism and religion in general have been…tricky…in the past few years, I had really wanted to make an attempt to attend all of the Advent services this year. Proving- I don’t know what, exactly. But if they were giving bonus points out for showing up, then I was going to show the heck up. (p.s. Anyone remember when my child made me flash the congregation at this very same church? Can I get some extra points for even attempting to exist in this building after that day?)


We made it on time. The kids were great. The homily was excellent. Then, it came time for communion. We dutifully marched to the front of the church and I looked over my shoulder, full of joy about my offspring and their pious little hands crossed over their pious little chests. And as I received the communion wafer in my hand and placed it in my mouth, I had two thoughts:

“Sometimes, I’m a good mother.”


“I’m allergic to gluten. WHAT THE HELL AM I DOING.”

Now, stick with me here. I’ve known about this allergy for almost a year. I’ve known that communion wafers contain wheat for- oh, let’s just go ahead and say decades. I’m well aware that gluten-free wafers can be made available. My spiritual/dietary habits are rarely on the forefront of my brain and, unfortunately, I’ve probably only attended church services twice in the past year.

I’ve been operating on very little sleep for 8 times that long.

Back to communion.

I managed to bless myself. The deacon made the sign of the cross on Jasper’s forehead and smiled at me. I smiled back, looking for all the world like a dog with a pill in its mouth that he was not going to eat, nothankyou.

We made our way back to our pew.

“Are you okay?” P.J. gave me a look and I’m sure the one I gave back to him was a mix of “the call is coming from inside the house” and my East Coast upbringing’s “do not make a scene” face.

We knelt and prayed. I bowed my head and, fumbling for a tissue in my bag, spit the wafer into it.

(You ever do something and, oh I don’t know, feel a tiny bit damned?)

I put the chewed-up wafer tissue in my pocket because I am a lady.

Jasper laugh

“Oh Mom. Get it together.”

By the time we walked home, my ribs and spine felt arthritic, my fingers and wrists had swollen, my head had started to pound, and the fatigue threatened to make me take a cat nap on our stoop. I was mad. I was SO mad. I hadn’t even eaten the thing and I was going to be derailed for the day?

“What’re you going to do next week about communion?” P.J. asked me in that totally practical, super-missing-the-point kind of way which I always receive really well.

He quickly changed the subject.

And, fortunately, the reaction wasn’t the worst I’ve had and didn’t last nearly as long. This is probably due to the facts that a) I hadn’t ingested a whole lot of the wafer…

…and b) God appreciated my effort.

After all, I’m pretty sure the tissue wafer ball is still in my pocket right this very second and that has to count for something, right?

…Right? What, you’d throw away the body of Christ?

I’ve already taken enough chances with my soul this year.

And besides, Santa is watching.




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