The Diocese of Providence has just issued a list of recommendations to local parishes to help prevent the spread of swine flu. They recommend, first and foremost, that parishioners avoid the practice of shaking hands during the sign of peace. (Those of you who aren’t Catholic may not be aware, but in-between all the sitting and standing and kneeling and walking up the aisle there’s one part where you shake hands with your neighbors and say “peace be with you.” When you are a child it is the only part of church worth looking forward to.)
Other recommendations, some of which seem really crazy and out of touch with all my Catholic schooling, after the jump:
• If your parish is in the habit of holding hands during the Lord’s Prayer, this practice should be eliminated.
• If your parish has the laudable practice of distributing Holy Communion under both species, the distribution of the Precious Blood of Christ in the chalice should be discontinued for the time being.
• Those who are distributing Holy Communion should be especially mindful of the particular need for personal hygiene before the distribution of Holy Communion. It is permissible to use hand sanitizer before Mass or even immediately before Holy Communion is distributed.
• You might want to consider having hand sanitizer easily available at the doors of your church, school, or other public buildings.
• Parishioners should be reminded that if they have symptoms of illness they are dispensed from attending Holy Mass on Sundays, and in fact should not attend Holy Mass. This is an obligation in charity that parishioners should take very seriously.
• Please ask the Lord’s protection upon our community during this time of widespread illness. You might want to offer a parish Mass for this intention. The Sacramentary has special prayers “For the Sick,” and “For Any Need” that would be very appropriate. Also, please include a petition in the “General Intercessions” for this intention.
• Let us be united in prayer the peaceful of repose of a beautiful young lady, Victoria Sousa of Bristol and a student at St. Philomena School who passed away as a result of the H1Nl Virus, and her family and friends who mourn her loss, and all those who have been and will be affected by this very difficult health crisis.