We are now at the peak of the flu season. Last weekend, I shared that we are trying to be sensitive to this health issue. Similarly, many parishes have been concerned and have asked for guidance from the archdiocesan Office for Divine Worship. Here are their guidelines which they offered:
1. While communion under both species has “a more complete form as a sign when it is received under both kinds,” [GIRM 281], it is not always necessary or advisable.
2. It is left to the prudent judgment of the pastor whether communion under both kinds should be offered during a period in which there is a high incidence of colds and the flu.
3. If Communion under both kinds is retained those who are not feeling well should refrain from receiving from the chalice, and should receive Holy Communion under the form of bread alone to avoid transmitting any illness.
4. Due to the fact that our hands are often transmitters of the cold and flu, care should be taken that:
a. No one should ever be permitted to self-intinct (dip) the consecrated host into the Precious Blood. The practice is prohibited by law and its result can be the unknowing transmission of illness.
b. In place of the regular way of offering the sign of peace a nod of the head and a verbal greeting of peace rather than the shaking of hands during this cold and flu season may be used.
c. Holding hands during the Our Father should be discouraged.
5. Those who are Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion in the parish church or those involved in ministry to the homebound should take special precautions. They should heed all health directives by frequently washing their hands and avoiding contact with others, especially those most susceptible to illness.
6. Catholics who are ill are excused from Sunday worship out of respect and concern for their fellow worshipers. Catholics who are ill may make a spiritual communion during the time of their illness.
So, I believe it prudent during all Masses to refrain from offering the chalice, discouraging shaking hands at the Sign of Peace, as well as from holding hands at the Lord’s Prayer. It is my hope that fewer people will communicate the flu virus while at Mass. Thank you for your understanding and patience, as this may be a source of sacrifice, especially for those for whom the chalice is the only way they receive communion due to celiac disease. In these cases, a blessing and spiritual communion is the best that can be offered. These practices will be in place through the end of February where we expect to return to our regular practices.
Fr. William Holtzinger