Friday, October 23, 2009

H1N1 Flu, the Church, and You

At Mass last week I saw a pregnant woman shake her head no in response to someone's outreached hand at the Sign of Peace. A smart personal decision in flu season.
Concern for spread of the Swine flu continues and reporters are calling to ask what the bishops are recommending regarding church services. A Q&A at offers some advice. Much of it bottles down to common sense.

Common sense being uncommon, however, here’s the scoop.

1. Practice good hand-washing hygiene and even use a hand sanitizer before Mass begins if you’re a Eucharistic minister.

2. Don’t go to church when you’re sick.

3. Don’t receive from the Communion chalice if you’re wary you’ll catch or pass on the flu. (That’s a decision that usually rests with communicants not the celebrant. Receiving from the cup is nice but not required of anyone but the celebrant.)

4. Nod rather than shake hands at the Sign of Peace if you’re wary you’ll catch or pass on the flu. (That’s also a decision that usually rests with congregants and not the celebrant. Again, it’s a personal decision and in flu season no reasonable person need feel shunned or dissed if his neighbor opts for a non-touching Sign of Peace.)

5. All politics is local, and so too is the flu. What’s needed for one part of the country or even one part of a diocese may not be needed in another. What to do has to be rooted in the situation in a parish or city. A national declaration isn’t called for when it comes to the flu; a personal decision is.

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