Native North American Wheat for Eucharist

I wonder if anyone knows if there is any kind grass native to North America which falls within the Church’s definition of “wheat”–something in the Elymus genus, maybe, which falls within the Triticeae tribe.

I ask because if the answer is “no”, there would have been no way to evangelize North America without introducing Old World-style agriculture, which had parallels in only a few regions of the New World. Alternatively, wild wheats could have been introduced. This former is, of course, what happened. Since this was only made possible by the appropriation of American Indian lands, and the destruction–which we rightly recall with deep remorse–of their indigenous manners of living. The uncomfortable implications of this make wonder if God’s providence deigned to supply North America with native valid matter for the Eucharist. If so, is the plant known?

I don’t believe there are any plants that would qualify. Barley is a cousin to wheat in the broader sense (whatever the next order is in the organization of life) and it is not valid for consecration.

The use of wheat in consecrating the host should not have any uncomfortable implications to regions where it isn’t native.

Two things suggest themselves, then. (1) We might introduce wild wheats from the Near East in those places where they can take root, or (2) we might make a new wheat cultivar from which is entirely self-propagating. Otherwise, we leave North America unequipped to supply valid matter for the Eucharist in the event of a world-wide collapse of agriculture. Consider, e.g., what might happen once Yellowstone’s future eruption makes the western half of the North American continent uninhabitable. Farming may or may not be sustainable then, and having something forage-able would be a Godsend.

Any of your industrialized wheats are going to continue to grow with or without human caretakers, as long as the climate is right. Wheat didn’t automatically spread to the American continents simply because the seeds couldn’t traverse that kind of distance before expiring, not because the climate wasn’t suitable. Corn and potatoes are likewise perfectly capable of growing in most places in the world, not just the Americas.

A priest is able to feed five thousand people with a single loaf. Supplying enough valid matter for the Eucharist is not strenuous. Even in a catastrophic event, the Church will be enabled the means to administer the sacraments to those who desire it. The cloud from a Yellowstone eruption would shut down agriculture in the entire world, not just the W. hemisphere, but it would be temporary.

I was under the impression that the hulls of cultivated wheat were too hard for them to release their spikelets without human-aided threshing. If false, I’d be most heartened if someone who knows better than I would disabuse me of that impression. :slight_smile:

You might be right. I’m making assumptions. At any rate, I can’t fathom that every wheat in the country is going to be that way, and like I said, you’re only going to need a very tiny sum of wheat to feed even a massive population of Catholics. Even with wheats that need to be artificially shelled to normally survive you’re going to have animals & bugs break them open, especially with no protection from pesticides, etc. The overwhelming majority of the fields might be overtaken with other plants, but those next generations of wheat are going to eventually become more-or-less wild wheat again.

DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit