19 October 2009

Catholic quarantine

It's a good thing I flipped through the parish bulletin yesterday. Seems the Diocese of Superior has a plan for the upcoming plague. Better to be prepared than to react to a situation when you often times have your course of action dictated to you.

But still.

It takes me back to the Swine Flu scare that occurred in my childhood. The pandemic that never happened. Our entire school received the Swine Flu shot, except my brother and me.

As I quickly read through the bulletin, I noticed a small statement paraphrasing the bishop's plan, stating that communion on the tongue was to cease and desist. Blessings of my children were to stop (the priests/deacons at St. Agnes always bless you without touching you, but the priest in this parish likes to place his hand on the kids' heads). No drinking from the Chalice (which is fine by me because I never do this anyway.)

It just seems like the devil is in the details. Back in the days when I was influenced by a rad trad friend, I might've even entertained the thought that this was a conspiracy, since the pandemic fears are striking at the heart of our Faith and our expression of it.

I'd still prefer to receive Communion on the tongue. I'm old enough to remember when this was the only way things were done. Just like the next person, I don't want to get sick and I certainly don't want my family to get sick, but is Communion in the hand really part of the answer to stopping the Swine Flu? Why not just have Our Lord hermetically sealed in plastic, much like they do with fortune cookies?

Further, why the Sign of Peace is only addressed in Level B is kind of odd since you're allowed to spread all your pandemic germs with people before you go to Communion, where you are now required to receive Our Lord in your hand...your potentially plague-infested hand.

And, holding hands during the Lord's prayer, well it shouldn't require a plague to get rid of that.

However, just like my father chastised me when I attended a Byzantine Catholic parish but didn't want to observe all the Holy Days of Obligation and Feasts that they did because, well, I was a Roman Catholic just moonlighting in their congregation, my wise father told me if I was going to attend that parish, I needed to tow the line. If you're a Roman Catholic who's ever tried to fit into a Byzantine parish, you know how difficult it is.

Even though I just "visit" a parish in the Diocese of Superior when we are at our cabin, I remembered my father's admonishment and quickly decided I needed to be obedient to the Bishop's wishes even though I hadn't received Communion in the hand since I was a child.

And so it went. Awkward and self-conscious, but grateful that the pandemic hadn't reached Level D, when the sacraments might be suspended, I received Communion in the hand.

Level “A”
At this point, events suggest the increased risk for a pandemic, prompting the need to review plans and preparations for such an emergency and increase our level of caution.
• Parishes are to have bottles of alcohol-based hand sanitizer available for extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion. For example, these may be placed in the front pews (or other discreet but convenient place) and should then be used by these ministers both on their way to the sanctuary before communion and then again after ministering communion.
• All sick individuals, including clergy, are to stay home. Signs are posted on church, and parish/school doors instructing those with fever or other flu-like symptoms not to enter.
• Faith formation programs should be aware that camps, retreats, and other large youth gatherings may need to be postponed or cancelled, depending on local conditions. Youth ministers and catechists should keep up to date with the latest advice from public health authorities concerning such gatherings.
• Increase frequency of sanitizing door handles and other commonly touched solid surfaces.
• The vessels containing the bread and wine are to remain covered until placed on the altar.
• If a parish uses a large vessel at the entrance(s) of the church from which individual parishioners move hosts to the paten/ciborium, such a practice needs to stop at this point.
• Communion from the Cup is suspended. Only the priest and deacon if present are to commune from the Chalice—and then from opposite sides of the rim.
• In distributing communion, the Host shall be placed in the communicant’s hand without the minister touching the communicant.
• Communion on the tongue is discontinued.
• The practice of touching a non-communicant for a blessing is also to be discontinued.

Level “B”
In addition to the steps found in level “A”, the following steps (and modifications) are now to be added if necessary:
• Set up hand-washing stations in all buildings: tissues, trash receptacles, hand sanitizer, including instructions (signage).
• Sharing of the Sign of Peace by handshake or hug is suspended; rather, a simple bow/nod to one another will be used.
• Holding hands during Lord’s Prayer or any other part of the Mass is suspended.
• Ministers (incl. clergy and ministers of hospitality) are asked not to shake hands when they greet parishioners.
• Priests, deacons, readers, and servers—since they will be touching items in common—are to sanitize their hands before and after Mass, and during Mass if their hands become contaminated.
• On Good Friday, the Cross will be venerated by bow or genuflection, not by touch or kissing.
• In those places where it is the practice to venerate icons with a touch or kiss, that practice, too will be replaced with a bow.
• As far as pastoral visits to the sick are concerned, ministers should practice meticulous hand washing and—if the parishioner has symptoms of the flu virus—consideration should be given to wearing masks and gloves.
• Holy water fonts/stoops are emptied and refilled after each liturgical celebration and at least once daily.

Level “C”
In addition to the steps found in levels “A” and “B”, the following steps (and modifications) are now added if necessary:
• Staff or volunteers are to clean door handles and other hard surfaces (such as pews, water fountains, desks, tables, countertops washrooms) with a disinfectant. They should wear masks, gloves, and goggles when doing so and when emptying trash receptacles.
• Disinfecting should be done in parishes and chapels after each Liturgy (at least daily).
• Empty all baptismal and holy water fonts, including those that allow for full immersion; parishes should have pre-filled bottles of holy water available.
• Large group meetings should be postponed if at all possible. If not, participants should be seated with at least a 3’ distance between individuals.
• Home prayer booklets and other resources will be made available in case large group gatherings are suspended by Public Health authorities.
• The person preparing wine and hosts for Mass is also to wear a mask and non-latex gloves.
• Collection baskets are not to be passed person-to-person. It is preferred that a collection basket or locked poor box be placed at the entrance(s) of the church; alternatively, baskets with handles may be used (in which case ushers are to wear gloves and immediately wash their hands after the collection).
• Because the influenza virus can remain viable on surfaces for some time, the money collected is to be quarantined for 3 days before being counted. Those removing money from the collection baskets or boxes are to wear gloves and wash their hands afterwards.
• The collection is not carried in procession as part of the preparation of the gifts and altar.
• Due to their ability to transfer infection from hand-to-hand, common missalettes and song books should not be used.
• Worship aids, if used, should be printed for each occasion and then destroyed. Reprint permission pertaining to applicable copyright laws is to be followed.
• To the extent possible, the assembly will be seated in alternating rows, thereby increasing distance between individuals. In addition, it may become necessary to limit the number of individuals present for any one Mass.
• Non-essential gatherings—such as Children’s Liturgy of the Word and post-Mass social gatherings/refreshments—are to be cancelled.
• Turn off water fountains or mark them as not to be used. Bottled water should be available in case of necessity.

Level “D”
In addition to the steps found in levels “A”, “B”, and “C”, the following steps are now added if necessary:
• If Public Health authorities mandate that all large-group gatherings be suspended, parishes will comply and stop offering the Mass and other sacraments to groups. If such were to occur, the Bishop dispenses from the Sunday obligation to attend Mass.
• If public celebration of the sacraments is suspended, signs to that effect will be posted at entrances to the church and parish offices.


KAM said...

In our diocese the Bishop sent a letter around that only suggested we stop the wine, no sign of peace and communion only in the hand. That lasted only until the next day, Monday, and at Mass that morning our priest continued to offer the wine, he asked to show each other a sign of peace and most of the 20 or so people who do attend morning mass continued to recieve on the tongue. That was about a month and a half ago, and the only rule still in place for Sunday Mass is no wine for the congregation. Go figure. I was nervous about continuing to recieve on the tongue but as soon as I saw the little old rosary ladies never stopping, well, that answered my question.

Cathy_of_Alex said...

If they stopped Mass, well, I think I may as well be dead.

Nan said...

They missed a few possibilities:

BYOHWB with gloves and masks for refills.

Icon Air Kiss. A woman at the local Byzantine Catholic parish won't kiss the icon despite both her grandfathers having been priests. I think she's the priest's MIL but don't know that for sure.

Switch to electronic transfers to avoid having to quarantine the cash!

Terry Nelson said...

I like Nan's idea about electronic transfers - she needs to be on a parish council. As I mentioned on my blog - the holy water fonts were the first things to go in my parish - they still have the sign of peace and communion from the cup however - and lay people blessing little kids.

swissmiss said...

In the parish I was attending, my husband and I are pretty much the only ones to receive on the tongue, so when I read the bishop's message, I thought I better be obedient. I haven't heard anything about this in our regular parish though.

Cath: Ditto

Nan: Good ideas, unfortunately my hubby is very reluctant to give anyone access to our accounts. Maybe we all should wear scrubs and gloves to Mass. There's an idea for Cathy...design some Mass appropriate scrubs...a big picture of your favorite saint or devotion on the back, colors to match the liturgical period. Disposable mantillas.

Terry: Seems a wee bit backwards.