Image result for influenzaMy boss asked me to craft an announcement for the beginning of Mass. It tags to the welcome of newcomers and visitors and the stand-and-greet we encourage before the first song. It goes something like this:

We are aware of the concern many have for spreading possible contagion. A reminder that any of us has the option, now or at the sign of peace, to simply offer a kind word, make eye contact, smile, and/or bow to your neighbor. With that in mind, let us stand and greet those nearby.

I noticed this feature at the NCReg on diocesan directives. Aware that reporters don’t always get the details right, a few comments on the various practices:

  • It is not licit to omit the Rite of Peace. One need not make physical contact, but the person-to-person exchange cannot be lawfully suspended by leaders. Individuals can certainly choose to keep arms folded, refrain from eye contact and such, but that is not in keeping with the spirit of the Catholic liturgy.
  • I noticed that Ms Roberts reported that one diocese has directed cleansing and frequent refilling of holy water dishes. No mention anywhere of the need for clean door handles and push bars. Preferably, ushers would be opening most every door for parishioners.
  • Some places are suggesting a wave. Really? That’s about the most superficial possible alternative. Bowing with preliminary eye contact seems better. Gesturing with one or both hands without touching–not bad.
  • I can imagine if athletic events included disclaimers for fans to refrain from high-fives, hugs, or including saliva in their yells of support or displeasure. Does that say something about the predominance of the religion of American sport? Maybe not. Maybe just priorities.
  • Aren’t Catholic adults mature enough to determine for themselves what practices they will embrace and what they will omit? Do we have some room to grow up on this?



About catholicsensibility

Todd lives in the Pacific Northwest, serving a Catholic parish as a lay minister.
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One Response to Germs

  1. Liam says:

    The wave has been standard in the cluster of parishes near where I’ve lived since the last major influenza season (2009/10?), and has never been dislodged. It’s year-round. I’ve never gotten used to it, because it’s just, well, wrong. At least a mild bow of the head and verbal expression seem more, well, liturgical.

    While omitting the rite of peace is not licit, omitting the invitation to share it is licit. Whether and what the PIPs do in the absence of the invitation is their business.

    The offering of the chalice has been withdrawn at the ordinary’s direction for now. The last major influenza season, that was also the case, and many local parishes never resumed offering it. I don’t think there’s likely to be much more attrition now, as I think that earlier season was likely where the major sorting occurred in that regard. (I would add that, a generation ago, there was considerable sensitivity in communities with a significant number of congregants with suppressed immune systems (not just HIV but also chemo/radiation or other treatments – more likely in places in or near hospitals) that the issues of chalices and door handles and such were carefully consider to reduce risks. This seems like ancient history now.) My late parents were liberal users of hand sanitizer before, during and after Mass after they turned 80 (but most people don’t realize that alcohol-based sanitizers are useless against noroviruses – need to use a lipid-based sanitizer and considerable friction et cet.)

    While the parish where I normally worship does have a greeting moment (from the pastor, if he’s presiding; otherwise omitted), it’s not usual in these parts.

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