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Where Do Communion Wafers Come From?
If you are a member of a Christian church, then you are probably very familiar with the Holy Communion and how the communion wafer is used as a part of that ritual.
But do you know the whole story behind the communion wafer? Do you know who makes these wafers today? Do you even know what ingredients are in a communion wafer?
If you’re interested in the story behind the communion wafer that you may take as a regular part of your religious worship, then read on.
Ingredients Used in Making Communion Wafers
The communion wafer is (as anyone who has tasted it knows) a very bland food. It represents the body of Christ, so it has big meaning—but the food itself is very simple.
The communion wafer’s simplicity is part of what makes it such a great ritual food. It is not the taste of the communion wafer that you focus on (since it barely has one) but rather the ritual surrounding its consumption.
The most basic communion wafers are made out of only two ingredients: a combination of very pure wheat flour and water. Simple, isn’t it?
There are some communion wafers that may contain slightly more complex recipes and may include yeast and even some salt to give them the tiniest twinge of flavor (a flavor similar to human tears and perhaps representative of the human condition of suffering).
The most special ingredient that is sometimes, but only rarely, used in the making of communion wafers is holy water. In some situations, holy water may be sprinkled over the dough that is to be used to make communion wafers. The holy water is then kneaded into the dough and the wafers are made.
Who Manufactures Communion Wafers?
There once was a time when only very special people were allowed to make communion wafers. According to the known history of communion wafers, the situation used to be that each local church would select a single baker to be allowed the right to make them. A special oven specifically designed for this purpose would have to be used by this baker to preserve the ritual surrounding the making of the wafers.
The Cavanagh Company: The Shift to Industrialized Production
Over time, it became less and less specialized as to who was allowed to bake them though. This began with the expansion of the right to certain orders of nuns who began to make communion wafers as a way to gain some financial profit for the church.
As time went on and we moved into modern society, the task of making communion wafers began to fall on large industry manufacturers and moved out of the realm of sacred rituals that had existed previously with the independent bakers and the nuns.
Today, there are several different large manufacturers that produce communion wafers as a major or minor part of their businesses. However, it is reported that one single manufacturer produces the communion wafers for over 3/4 of the Roman Catholic, Episcopalian and Lutheran churches in the United States, Canada, England, and Australia. That manufacturer is The Cavanagh Company, which is a family business located in Rhode Island.
Making Communion Wafers Is a Hands-Off Business
What’s interesting about the manufacturing of the communion wafers, at least by this company, is that they pride themselves on the fact that the work of this business is done entirely by machines. They promote their product as “untouched by human hands,” which supposedly helps to preserve the sanctity of the product—despite the fact that manufacturing of communion wafers has shifted from being the work of nuns and bakers sanctioned by the church to being the work of a big business.
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And a big business it is: the company employs three dozen full-time staff members to help keep up with the demand for communion wafers that is coming in from all around the world.
Manufacturing Communion Wafers in the Declining Economy
There may be any number of reasons that The Cavanagh Company decided to get into the business of manufacturing communion wafers so many years ago, but certainly at least one of those reasons was to make a profit as a business. So how is this business doing now that the economy has shifted and many niche businesses are losing money? Well, it turns out that this is one business that it’s probably a good time to be a part of.
According to news reports, The Cavangh Company is one of very few businesses that is actually reporting an increase in sales as a result of the downturn in the economy. When times get tough, more and more people head to church. With the economy facing tough times in all areas of the globe where these wafers are served, there are more people at the church who are taking communion and that means a better bottom line for the communion wafer family business.
Some People Want a Return to the Past
Although most of the world’s communion wafers are supplied by this company, there are still convents and parishes that make their own communion wafers all throughout the world.
In fact, there are some people who are pushing for a return to this way of making communion wafers. Reasons for this push include a desire to financially assist the church and a belief that the product is more sacred when created by these people.
Although this push is unlikely to make a big change in the business of manufacturing communion wafers, it is certainly something that local people may consider doing. After all, we all want to put our money where our mouths are, right?
- What Are Communion Wafers Made Of? l Wisegeek
- Cavanagh Company Information
- Breaded bliss l Boston.com
- Sacramental bread l Wikipedia
- Catholic Forums on Communion Wafers
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
ron simon on February 26, 2014:
Which other companies produces communion wafer, will love to be a distributor in my country. .email@example.com
firstname.lastname@example.org on May 26, 2013:
Our community is planning to make "Communion Hosts." Please help us find where to get the machine. Thank you.
benjamin on February 16, 2013:
please i want to start my own communion wafer business in my country and where will i get the machine to buy . thanks
Loveness on January 17, 2013:
Am looking for a communion wafer making machine for our Church. Please assist its urgent.
abi on December 02, 2012:
i want to start my own communion business in my country, how will i pls go about it?
phil on July 15, 2011:
Where does one buy them, if possible?
Sunnstorms on January 08, 2011:
"Holy" wafers made by a machine? I recall God telling people that they were NOT to use tools when making anything for Him...
Quite a money making deal, this manufacturing of Jesus' "flesh". I think it's time for Jesus to overturn some tables.
Angela on February 06, 2010:
The whole point about wafers is that they shouldn't be wafers at all! For the Communion it should be bread - unleavened bread - of the Passover Meal,(that's why it's only flour and water) and now representing Jesus the perfect Passover Lamb. They didn't have wafers at the Last Supper!
Paul Yugusuk on December 29, 2009:
I 'm looking for a wafer machine to make holy communion wafer locally for our church.
Paul on December 14, 2009:
I am looking for simple machine that makes both wafer and juice for holy communion
Barbara C from Andalucia, Spain on October 31, 2009:
Fascinating subject - one that I'd never really thought about before, although I do recall hearing about nuns making them.
Do you know anything about the wine used for communion - is a special type or will any supermarket 'plonk' do?
blanc on March 21, 2009:
I was interested to know that wafers are made from pure wheat bread and water. To add yeast (leaven) would not properly represent the pure sinless body of Christ because leaven in the Bible represents sin. I have mixed wheat flour and water and I can't come up with a lightweight white wafer no matter how you make it. What is the secret to these manufactured wafers?
mike king from california on March 06, 2009:
The wafers are actually unleavened bread-no yeast. They are formed in the most economical way to serve large groups of worshipers. Original communion bread was made from the typical mid-eastern flat bread baked on an open hearth. the Catholic Church makes its own bread and wine through its network of monestaries.
The bread sold to the public is yeast made, with lots of grains and wheat flour. You can buy it at the Monestary of the Holy Trinity, Huntsville, Utah. You may also spend retreat time there by calling for a reservation. this monestary is widely known for its bread and honey. It is a working farm run by the Brothers of the Benedictine Order. It's a great place to renew the spirit and rest the mind from daily cares. The bread is served with meals there.
David from San Antonio, Texas on March 04, 2009:
Well done. Another business that's good to be in right now. Although, I'm curious to know when the first communion wafers were made?
Proud Mom from USA on March 04, 2009:
I thought it said "Communion WaTers". I kept trying to figure out why you were listing ingredients, and saying it represented the body of Christ. Then I realized my mistake, and it all made sense.
This is very interesting. Wheat flour and water. Maybe we should start making our own.....
Sheila from The Other Bangor on March 04, 2009:
Well, as you said: who knew? Great hub and an informative read.