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Soda and Cookie Mass?

A thought-experiment.

(Images: Denise Johnson and Francesco Ungaro |

Suppose a pastor announces at the end of Mass one Sunday that starting in the new year, his parish will feature a Soda and Chocolate-chip Cookie Mass for youth, at 6:00 p.m. on Sundays. The pastor explains that after consultation with theologians and prayerful discernment of the parish liturgy committee, and following conversations with certain lay leaders in the parish, he and the pastoral team decided soda and chocolate-chip cookies were valid and otherwise appropriate matter for the Eucharist. He insists  these items help inculturate the Eucharist for young people and will increase full, active, and conscious participation in the liturgy.

I know you don’t really have a pastor who would do such a thing. But for the purposes of this thought experiment, suppose your pastor had been replaced by someone else last year. And the replacement, perhaps after having had a loose tile from the church roof fall on his head, is the one who has decided to proceed as described above.

What do you think the likely response in your parish would be?

(A) Everyone or almost everyone would reject the idea as unCatholic

(B) Everyone or almost everyone would embrace the idea as Catholic

(C) Half would reject it as unCatholic and half would embrace it as Catholic

(D) A substantial majority would reject it as unCatholic, with only a minority embracing it as Catholic

(E) A substantial majority would affirm it as Catholic, with only a minority rejecting it as unCatholic

(F) You are uncertain and therefore cannot say

(G) Most people would object but on nutritional grounds

Now be fair and charitable but also be honest about what you think would likely happen. Keep in mind that your opinion or guess about what would happen isn’t necessarily what would in fact happen.

How do you think your opinion on the matter relates to the Pew Research findings of only a third of US Catholics believe in the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist?

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About Mark Brumley 64 Articles
Mark Brumley is president and CEO of Ignatius Press.


  1. Don’t Laugh : Shortly after Vatican II an anonymous priest actually planned to perform mass on a coffee table with pretzels and soda. His rationale was that if Christ were alive today He might just do the Last Supper in that manner.

    • Back in the 1970’s I attended a Mass at St. Thomas Aquinas on the UVA campus & at Communion the Blessed Sacrament was passed around through the congregation like a bowl of chips. Or pretzels
      I swore I’d never go back there again but I did earlier this year at my son’s suggestion & he was right. Things had greatly improved at Mass.

      • …and, as I recall when I attended UVa in the early 80’s, St. Thomas Aquinas had a strange statue out front that was made out of welded car bumpers. We called it the “Bumper Buddha”. I have absolutely no idea what it had to do with the Catholic Church.

  2. I actually attended a mass once offered during a retreat for sisters (I was a worker in the kitchen…not one of the sisters). Some kind of a sweet cake was used in lieu of hosts. A crumbly cake half of which ended up on the floor of the chapel of the retreat house.

  3. I hope my parish would reject it out of hand, and I believe most of our parishioners would be horrified at the thought. Un-Catholic, and just plain silly.

  4. Well, blessedly, I attend a relatively orthodox parish (with a great priest, BTW) so I suspect the reaction in my parish would be to seek help for the pastor with his head injury from said roof tile.

    However, it’s not hard for me to imagine how this might work in some parishes.

    Upon announcing the change to cookies and soda, about 15% of the parish –fairly well-catechized- would react in horror. Another 20% would be against it, but wouldn’t be able to tell you why, God love ‘em.

    Meanwhile, on the other side, roughly 25% would strongly support the proposal since they haven’t even begun to explain to their kids just why they should go to Mass in the first place and, indeed, have spent much of their children’s faith formation trying to prove how cool they are to their kids by openly dissenting from the Faith whenever possible –especially regarding those ‘sins below the belt.’ So, for them, cookies and sodas sound great since it might just might make it easier for them to get their kids to Mass.

    The final 40% probably wouldn’t have an opinion one way or another since at least the pastor didn’t announce a new ‘capital campaign.’

    But this would only be the initial reaction.

    Upon learning there are parishioners opposed to his proposal, the pastor would become incensed, ascending the ambo at the next Sunday masses with a two-fold purpose. First, to denounce those who oppose his proposal as ‘rigid’ and ‘doctors of the law.’ And, second, to argue that what is now needed is ‘dialogue’ –a dialogue seeking ‘to discern the movement of the Spirit’; a dialogue which would initiate a ‘new process’ which would ‘open new pathways to conversion.’

    Toward this latter end he would announce the formation of a “Committee of Five” for the purpose of studying his proposal to listen to the voice of the People of God and discern a way forward.

    The committee, when announced, would consist of one representative from the 35% opposed, one representative from the 40% who don’t care and three representatives from the 25% in favor of the proposal.

    And it is here, Mr. Brumley, that I see your “G” option –the idea that a majority might oppose the cookie and soda proposal, but for nutritional reasons- possibly coming into play.
    Though, in fairness, I don’t think it would be a strict majority. Instead, I could see one of the three ladies on the committee in favor of changing the Matter of the Sacrament favoring, instead, a switch to the dried kale/soy wafers she makes for her kids and beet juice. I mean, cookies and soda? Really? All that sugar and glutton and corn syrup and dyes? Ugh!

    Come the night of the committee meeting this woman announces her kale/soy wafer and beet juice combo as an alternative to the cookie/soda proposal. The other two ladies in favor of the change still secretly want the cookies and soda, but they’re afraid they may look like bad moms if they say so, or that the first woman might unfriend them on Facebook, or something, should they oppose her so they, too, voice support for the kale/soy-beet juice combo.

    The one representative opposed to the switch then rises with a discourse on the rich symbolism behind Our Lord’s choice of Bread and Wine as the Matter for the Eucharist, even throwing in a beautiful reference to Melchizedek and a few choice quotes from guys like St. Alphonsus di Ligouri and St. Francis de Sales.

    When finished, the others assembled would simply stare blankly at the poor creature for a few moments before returning to the more important issue of just which dry kale should be used in the preparation of the wafers.

    Seeing he already has a clear majority, but wanting to fully crush all opposition to his authority, the pastor concedes the point on the nutritional aspects of cookies and soda –he is, after all, a reasonable man seeking dialogue among the People of God- and then clinches the deal by darkly hinting that failure to accept the proposed switch might lead him to push for a new ‘capital campaign’ to update the electric guitars and drums used at the 6:00PM ‘teen Mass.’

    As intended, this stirs the one guy who represents the 40% of the parish who really don’t care one way or another and he quickly voices his support. The revised proposal passes 4-1. The one representative voting against returns home to pray and fast.

    After announcing the switch and denouncing anyone still opposed as a Pharisee, the entirely unpalatable kale/soy wafers and beet juice combo switch is implemented and the previous meager participation at the ‘teen Mass’ plummets even further leading the pastor to call for a new capital campaign for new guitars and drums and more burlap and felt banners to festoon the altar.

    Sorry if this all seems so cynical and perhaps violates your call, Mr. Brumley, to be “fair and charitable.” I do struggle with the virtue of hope, sometimes. But I could see this happening.

    Or, maybe not.

  5. How do you destroy the Sanctity of the Real Presence of Jesus in the Holy Eucharist? By first destroying SANITY, the twin brother and the very human side of the foundation of SANCTITY. Sanity is not about living in everyone’s world but about living in the REAL world that theology reveals. Sanity has been severely wounded everywhere and, in some people, destroyed by the Homosexual-Guilt-And-Shame-Mongering-Hypocrisy Movement. FALSE GUILT to confuse, distract and substitute for REAL guilt and responsibility is the biggest problem and most lethal weapon. False Guilt crushes not only our hearts and souls but also our minds, intellect and emotions, making us way stupider (all sin makes us stupid), blind and totally dull to the Absolute Reality of the Sacred.

    As a very highly recommended, powerful remedy against this and for you to promote everywhere, buy and share, is Frank Sheed’s masterpiece book: “Theology And Sanity”. Don’t be afraid, it is very readable, very enjoyable and very understandable even if you have to read it slowly to digest concepts that he communicates in very down-to-earth, flesh-and-blood, earth-shaking, life-changing Truth. You’ll see the very basic foundations of the Catholic Faith in a very new light that will shine in you and through you for the rest of your life, in every moment and detail, joy and tears, and make your reception and adoration of the Holy Eucharist the very center of your life as it should be!!

  6. I guess “C.” Despite their ignorance about the Real Presence, I have to think that at least half of self-identified Catholics would know there’s a problem with this idea.

  7. “(G) Most people would object but on nutritional grounds”

    Sadly, I think at least a few might first object for this reason. Food purists can make simple meal choices into complicated moral decisions.
    It always amazes me that some women who demand natural, non-GMO, organic, free range, locally sourced, etc, foods will routinely consume synthetic hormones to chemically suppress their own natural, healthy fertility.

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