Managing parish community health during liturgical worship
It is important to remember that what we do in worship is purposeful. The sign of peace within the context of liturgy is an invitation to reconciliation, unity and communion between God and all people, especially those present in the assembly. This gesture helps us prepare to receive the body and blood of Christ, the Prince of Peace. Theologically and liturgically, the sign of peace and reception of the Precious Blood are integral parts of the liturgy.
Presently there is no epidemic of the coronavirus, as defined by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), within the Diocese of Gary, yet that does not mean we should not take precautions in regards to this health concern.
If you are unsure about the severity of an illness, either yours or a fellow worshiper’s, during the sign of peace you should courteously offer Christ’s peace by using the usual words “Peace be with you” with a slight bow of your head towards your fellow parishioner. If someone does not wish to offer you the sign of peace in the usual manner at this time please do not judge the person; they may simply not feel well or may be more susceptible to illness (e.g. people who are elderly or in a course of treatment that diminishes their immune system) than you are.
If you have a weak immune system or are compromised by age, you should refrain from receiving the Precious Blood. The reception of the chalice is optional. If you are ill with a cold, the flu, or other malady, you should refrain from receiving the Precious Blood. There are some faithful that avoid the Body of Christ because of gluten issues and rely on the reception of the Precious Blood during communion. The Centers for Disease Control has made it clear that alcohol combined with the metal of the chalice makes for a most inhospitable environment for germs.
Reception of the Sacred Host on the hand is the best way to reduce the spread of infectious germs. If you are not feeling well or are concerned about your health and usually receive on the tongue you are highly encouraged to receive communion in the hand.
To safeguard against spreading germs, healthcare professionals recommend washing hands regularly or using alcohol-based hand gels when washing hands is not immediately possible. Use the inside of your elbow to cover your mouth if you need to sneeze or cough. Throw away used tissue in the trash as soon as possible, seek medical attention as soon as you feel unwell and stay home from work and Sunday Mass if you are ill. These simple steps are the best way to safeguard the general health of the community.
If you remain at home due to illness and cannot participate in the Sunday Eucharist, you are dispensed from the obligation to attend and do not incur a mortal sin. At home you are encouraged to pray and reflect with the Sunday readings and if possible to view the Mass on television. Mass from Mercy Home in Chicago is broadcast at 9:30 a.m. (CST), on WGN each Sunday.
The USCCB continues to monitor the Centers for Disease Control for community health concerns. The Diocese of Gary will offer updated recommendations and policies regarding the coronavirus. In all of this, let us remember in our prayers heath care workers who are striving to control and eradicate this virus as well as those who have been affected by it.