QUAERITUR: Communion in time of epidemic

From a reader in Mexico City on the Swine Flu outbreak.

My emphases and comments.

As you are probably aware by now, there is a very serious influenza (also called swine flu) outbreak in Mexico City, since yesterday we are on alert.

Mexico City has closed all of its schools and universities until further notice because of the virus, and on Saturday, the country’s National Health Council said all soccer games would be played Saturday without public audiences. The government is asking everyone to avoid massive events or crowded places such as malls. All museums and auditoriums in the city and the neighbor state are being closed. For now things are under control apparently but we don´t know what is coming.

My question is. What are the best measures to take regarding Communion if things turn into an epidemic? Do you think at one point we should abstain completely from receiving Communion even if we go to mass. I hope this terrible situation doesn´t arrive. All throughout Mexico, thanks be to God, the common practice is Communion on the tongue, but what is the best thing to do during this alert and possible epidemic for the next days?

The Archdiocese has announced that masses will continue but Communion will be given on the hand, and the sign of peace will be omitted. They are asking people with flu like symptoms to abstain attending mass (sounds reasonable), stating that they will be fulfilling their Sunday obligation if the listen mass on the radio or watch it on television. [Hmmm… I wonder.  I don’t think you fulfill the obligation by watching on TV.  I think that if you are impeded from going to Mass for a serious reason – and this is a serious reason – then you don’t sin by not attending.  It might not make too much difference, but there is a subtle difference if I understand correctly.]

Finally I thank all your attention to this question, asking you to remember Mexico at your altar. If possible ask your readers for prayers and let me know if you have a special prayer for pests and epidemics.

I think I can speak for most WDTPRS readers that they will stop what they are doing now and say a prayer for you all, asking the help of St. Michael the Archangel.

So there is good news and bad new.  

The good news is that the Sign of Peace (which is optional anyway) isn’t to be given.

The bad news is that Communion in the hand is to be preferred during this out break.

Given the severity of the situation, I think it is not unreasonable to say that people should receive in the hand.  That increases the risk of profanation of the Eucharist, especially if that is not the usual practice there.  However, these are very special circumstances.

 

You ask about abstaining from Communion.  I don’t see anything wrong with that at all.  People are not obliged to receive Communion at every Mass.  I think many have the impression that they are!  Therefore they go when they should not.  This could be a good option.  It could be a good opportunity also for priests to preach about those situations when you should not go to Communion… leaving always the freedom to receive even during this epidemic (if that is what it is).

In thinking about the best way to approach the two goods, lowering the risk of spreading the disease and preserve the opportunity to receive Communion, one must consider both justice and charity.  It isn’t fair to other people to increase the risk of spreading this disease which is killing people in Mexico.  It isn’t in any way charitable to expose others to infection when there are easy ways to reduce the risk.  

Also, in this time of flu, the great sacrament of Christ’s love will be a great consolation.  A rather different spin on "Love in the time of cholera", I guess.

The bishops of Mexico I am sure have the very best intentions for their flocks.  If they can cooperate in the public order to reduce the risk of disease, then by all means they should call for changes in practice.  What was asked was not unreasonable.  
 

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58 Responses to QUAERITUR: Communion in time of epidemic

  1. Garrett says:

    Prayers for the people of Mexico!

    May I ask how Communion In The Hand decreases the chance of spreading the flu? I’m not sure I understand that part.

  2. MargaretMN says:

    Does anyone know what the practices were in other pandemics, like say, the Spanish Flu in 1918? I imagine that given that the church has been around many times longer than antibiotics there would be many, many instances of bishops coping with this sort of thing.

  3. A Random Friar says:

    IIRC during the SARS crisis in Taiwan, the distribution of the Precious Blood to the faithful was suspended, the sign of Peace suspended, and only communion in the hand was allowed. The reason for communion in the hand was to eliminate any possible contact with saliva (a prime transmitter of some flus, I imagine).

  4. LCB says:

    Sort of an academic question about this very serious situation:

    Can a Bishop (or a Pastor) decide that, for health reasons, no Communion shall be distributed at all?

  5. Rob Alvelais says:

    A few years ago during the severe flu season here on the West Coast, our diocese suspended the distribution of the Precious Blood as well. Interestingly enough, the chalice has more potential to spread germs by hand-to-hand contact with the cup, not by sharing the Precious Blood itself.

  6. Jenny Z says:

    May I ask how Communion In The Hand decreases the chance of spreading the flu? I’m not sure I understand that part.

    Garrett, I would imagine that the risk for transmission is greater, if a priest were to accidentally touch someone’s tongue, then touch the hosts to give others Communion… hands are generally less communicative than direct contact with someone’s mouth.

    My prayers for Mexico and for us… I’m seeing more cases pop up here everyday (just say there were 8 confirmed in New York).

  7. Evelyn says:

    How scary. Though I do have to note with a wry smile that while there is all this concern with Mass, the soccer games still go on. . .

  8. Mitch_WA says:

    I assume that they are suspending the distribution of the Precious Blood, right? I didn’t see that in the post… maybe I just missed it.

    Also I hope that once this disease passes the bishops of Mexico will make sure not to allow communion in the hand to become the norm, but help it return to the traditional reception on the tounge.

  9. Dante says:

    Cardinal Norberto Rivera has canceled all masses for this Sunday. Things are getting pretty bad down there.

  10. Mitch_WA says:

    May also note, that the school that has the suspected 8 cases in NYC is a Franciscan Prepatory School.

  11. Howard says:

    Is there any record of an infectious disease EVER being spread through communion? I always thought it was a miracle that this hasn’t happened (an ordinary, behind-the-scenes miracle).

  12. Rellis says:

    The one codicil that should be mentioned here is that every Catholic should receive communion worthily during the Paschal Season according to Church law. If a Catholic has not received yet this Paschal Season, then receiving in the hand in this circumstance would seem to trump spiritual communion.

  13. Mitch_WA says:

    Howard,

    Maybe, but also it could be the alcohol (appearence of alcohol) kills some bacteria. I know my parish priest has looked for (don’t know if he found them) purificators made with a type of linen that is naturally antibiotic. I think that disease can be spread not by the Precious Blood but by one sick person touching the Chalice, and then another 2000 people touching it after him, risking all of those people.

  14. Fr. BJ says:

    Rellis:

    The law does not bind us to the impossible. If receiving Holy Communion would involve the risk of contracting a deadly disease — and apparently things are getting pretty darn bad if the Cardinal canceled all Masses this Sunday — then it would NOT be better for someone to receive Holy Communion, even if he has not yet fulfilled the Easter Duty.

    He should receive Holy Communion at the next opportunity that it is SAFE to do so — and clearly the bishops are helping people to decide this at this time — and in the meantime, make spiritual communions.

  15. Indelible Inkstain says:

    My heart and prayers go out to all our friends in Mexico. It’s good to see the authorities taking such measures so quickly.

  16. Biff says:

    Prayers for Mexico. Drudge Reported that BHO was embraced by a man on his visit who died from pig flu yesterday. You can bet our Dept of Health is all over this.

    I’m betting the communion in the hand is discouraged but the rate of reception under both Species will remain the same.

  17. EDG says:

    I was hoping the one good effect of this would be the end of the “handshake of peace” and the cupbearers blocking the aisles. I’m not sure Mexico generally distributes Communion under both species (Spain does not, as a rule), so that may be why no mention was made of suspending the latter practice, btw.

    Supposedly anti-viral masks are effective at preventing contamination, which can be droplet borne. But I was a little puzzled by Communion in the hand, since one’s own hands have presumably been all over the doorknobs, pews, etc. prior to reciving the Host. Unless they are going to distribute hand-sanitizer on the way to Communion, I don’t think it would be any better than Communion on the tongue, and possibly worse. As several people have pointed out, there is no obligation to go to Communion, and people can do what we used to do in the old days if we’d eaten something after the fasting period had begun or for some other reason couldn’t go to Communion: make a spiritual Communion.

  18. Laura Lowder says:

    This site – http://angelqueen.org/forum/viewtopic.php?t=25548 – came highly recommended to me by one friend whose friend is “Kopp,” a level-headed voice in the discussion. There are several practical observations and recommendations in the discussion (don’t place trust in flu vaccine; the virus is too new – don’t panic – virus is responding well to TamiFlu – etc.)

    This is definitely a call to intercession, not only for Mexico, but for everyone.

  19. Fr. BJ says:

    I had the flu at the beginning of Lent and Tamiflu didn’t touch it. Apparently there was a strain of the flu going around these parts that was extremely strong this year. I can’t remember ever feeling that bad.

    But it is good to hear that Tamiflu is working in this case! The US Government has tons of it holed away and hopefully will send a lot to Mexico to help out. And also, I just bought plane tickets to go to Mexico at the beginning of June! I hope the epidemic is over by then!

  20. Irish says:

    St Raphael invoked for healing:
    Glorious Archangel Saint Raphael, great prince of the heavenly court, you are illustrious for your gifts of wisdom and grace. You are a guide of those who journey by land or sea or air, consoler of the afflicted, and refuge of sinners. I beg you, assist me in all my needs and in all the sufferings of this life, as once you helped the young Tobias on his travels. Because you are the “medicine of God,” I humbly pray you to heal the many infirmities of my soul and the ills that afflict my body. I especially ask of you the favor {mention your petition} and the great grace of purity of prepare me to be the temple of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

    Saint Raphael of the glorious seven who stand before the throne of Him who lives and reigns, angel of health, the Lord has filled your hand with balm from heaven to soothe or cure our pains. Heal or cure the victim of disease, and guide our steps when doubtful of our ways.

  21. Laura Lowder says:

    Father BJ – As I understand it, one of the weaknesses of TamiFlu is that you have to take it as soon as you begin to suspect you’re getting sick – or within 24 hours of that point. If you wait until you’re very sick and no longer have doubt it’s bad, then it’s too late; the virus has to run its course.

    That means I’m in serious trouble; I refuse to believe my body is going to succomb to such nonsense – until I’m flat o’ my back with it.

  22. Petrus_barjona says:

    I was in Toronto during the SARS epidemic back in 2001 and it was more unfortunate here as the death toll reached its highest at the beginning of Holy Week and the Paschal Triduum. The Archdiocese of Toronto carried out similar pastoral plans– No communion on the tongue, no distribution of the precious blood, the kiss of peace is suspended and the veneration of the Cross on Good Friday involved a general kneeling before the Cross.

    One of the noticeable consequences is the reduced number of Mass attendants for the Triduum, not because many were ill but because many were terribly afraid of large crowds and panicked at a simple sneeze or cough. (At one point, SARS was thought to be an airborne disease.) That being said, there were many pious but understandably scared people that found consolation or justification in watching a televised LIturgy.

    Unfortunately, 8 years after the epidemic, I think the general consciousness remain scarred by that event as even now, most people simply bow to each other for the kiss of peace. I’m not sure wether Communion in the hand became the general preference.

    Knowing how it’s like first hand, my prayers our very much with you. May our Lady of Guadalupe cast her mantle over her city to discourage the enemy.

  23. adrian says:

    I called my friends in Mexico, and things look bad. They told me all the coments above are accurate: Masses are suspended in Mexico city, and a televised one will be broadcasted, soccer games will go on, but without public…

    Last time I was in Mexico, in the parish I went most people had communion in the tongue, and receieved under one species.

    I think only during the “Cristeros” war were masses not offered (They were forbidden by the then anti-clerical government) officially, but many were underground. This present situation is unheard of in Mexico to the best of my knowledge.

  24. Alina ofs says:

    I have heard that there are also already other countries and states effected.

    Holy Mother Mary, Sweet Mother of Den Bosch, please help the people.

    Let us all pray and have a spiritual communion for all those people that are in threat or already infected.

    This is really, really, really bad.

    In Christo pax et bonum

  25. Cathy_of_Alex says:

    MargaretMN: During the 1917-1918 influenza pandemic in the U.S., Masses were, in many places, suspended entirely out of the fear of any gathering of people spreading the disease.

    Looks like adrien just confirmed that Masses are cancelled in Mexico City.

    What’s to be done? Personally, I’d rather risk death than not be able to attend Mass or Adoration or even go to Confession.

    Sure, there’s a point where public health is risked but how do we weigh that against any possible dangers to our souls?

    Tough issues.

    Pray. Be ready.

  26. Liam says:

    A science point: Bacteria are not viruses. Two different kingdoms of living things. Viruses tend to be much more resilient critters, as it were.

  27. MargaretMN says:

    Cathy of Alex. Thanks for answering my question. I think there are two problems, one is risking your life, the other is risking other lives if you are unknowingly carrying the virus, like that guy who shook Obama’s hand in Mexico City and subsequently died of it. I presume he didn’t realize he could be contagious.

    One thing to realize here is that at least so far, most people who are infected don’t die. This not like the Spanish Flu, striking young and presumably healthy people dead. It’s making healthy people ill and killing people who have already been weakened by other illnesses, like any other bad flu strain. The moral of the story is to take any illness seriously and take appropriate action to get better, for your own sake and for the sake of those around you.

  28. I am not aware of Communion on the tongue being suspended and then being replaced by Communion in the hand for past viral outbreaks prior to Vatican II. A type of this situation occurred in the Old Testament, when Uzzah touched the Ark of the Covenant and was struck down. (2 Samuel 6:6-7). Practical expediency did not override obedience with regard to the sacred.

  29. “A science point: Bacteria are not viruses. Two different kingdoms of living things.”

    Another science point: Viruses are not ‘living things’.

  30. Joshua says:

    Shane, that is disputed. Viruses are the tough, grey area of what is living and what is not. I think myself that they are, but that is another matter

    In places where communion done the right way, on tongue, is the norm, then it seems wrong to mandate communion in hand, because the priests are much less likely to touch anyone’s tongue. Then it seems communion in hand would be more dangerous.

    As a protective measure, the server could have a purificator with disinfectant on it in case the priest touches a tongue.

  31. Andreas says:

    There are serious inconsistencies in the swine flu epidemic media reports:

    a) The swine flu cases in the US are equivalent to any other kind of mild flu cases, easily treatable, with no life threatening consequences. So why is this newsworthy?

    b) There have been death associated with the swine flu in Mexico but it is not explained why this relatively mild and easily treatable flu resulted in a number of deaths.

    c) Presently it is reported that some 80 people died from this in Mexico. How does that number compare statistically to other causes of death in a nation where some 25 million people live in Mexico City alone? Why is this significant?

    d) Statistically, why are the media reporting possible “epidemic” proportions when this is such a mild, treatable strain of flu with small numbers of incidents here and there?

    I wonder if this is not just a bunch of hype. Unbelievers are always afraid of something: bird flu, swine flu, economic downturn, health insurance, gas shortage, food shortage, population explosion, etc. Perhaps they should read the Gospel once in a while: “oh you of little faith …”

    Just asking some questions, not trying to be indifferent!

  32. Peter says:

    Shane O’Neill said: “Another science point: Viruses are not ‘living things’.”

    Biology
    Yes and no – a vexed definitional issue to be sure. Viruses do need living cells to replicate and make more viruses, and they have DNA or RNA, and in this case some proteins, so they are made of the same stuff as us, and in some cases they can hang around for a long time and still be infectious (‘viable’).

    I noted somebody mentioned antibiotics – well they don’t work for viruses. There are some anti-virals around but for this I don’t think they would be of much use.

    Biology & liturgy
    The chance of infection occurs for both modes of receiving the host – if the virus is released in oral/nasal secretions then it can obviously be spread by touching one tongue then another.

    Joshua said: “…because the priests are much less likely to touch anyone’s tongue…”

    Oh how I wish this were true! – I’ve noted on these threads before that in my experience quite a few exclusivly EF clergy (ie they distribute virtually exclusively on the tongue) have APPALLING technique – the ‘touch the tongue rate’ in some cases must be close to 100% from the amount of finger or thumb I sense (and I doubt it is my ‘reception technique’ as other priests do NOT touch my tongue).

    I am all for a universal return to recption on the tongue, but the very high incidence of ‘tongue touching’ is not going to help.

    Perhaps this is something the EF fraternities should take VERY SERIOUSLY and address in their formation and in their post-ordination meetings?? [I note too that some EF clergy will refuse to distribute in the hand, so the imperative to ‘do it right’ is great].

    Hands are an excellent way of spreading flu and cold viruses (and other pathogens) – that’s why hospitals put so much emphasis on hand-washing. So Communion in the hand will also be a vehicle for transmission. Maybe the titre of infectious virus will be less, but it will still be there.

    Perhaps for both ways of receiving this underlines the need for good personal hygiene and good technique.

    As for comunion under the species of wine – well that seems to me a no-brainer – STOP RIGHT NOW!! (the amount of alcohol in altar wine is NOT surface-sterilization strength – you need upwards of 40%, more commonly 70%). (And I wonder how many people have contraced cold sores (herpes simplex virus) from the indiscriminate sharing of the chalice … ?)

  33. John Penta says:

    As I understand the biology of it:

    The reason they banned (or at least heavily advise against?) Communion on the tongue in Mexico at the moment is precisely what others have stated – infection control. You just don’t want to be putting fingers/hands near mouths when you’re dealing with a virus that spreads throigh mucus (spelling…?) secretions, saliva, and the like, it’s really that simple.

    Andreas: Your questions are understandable – at the moment, the reason this is getting the coverage it has is because it’s a swine flu with some very unique genetic characteristics that not merely jumped the species barrier (it has elements of swine, avian, and human influenzas in its DNA), but also looks very likely to be transmissable from person to person, and nobody is really sure how virulent this is. Public health authorities in Mexico, in part because the health system there is creaky at the best of times, are (pretty understandably) playing it safe.

    To answer your questions in detail:

    a) Because this is the same virus that killed people in Mexico – nobody is really sure (or even willing to hazard a guess) as to why the heck it’s not killing people in the US.
    b) There could be any number of reasons. Part of what we’re seeing in Mexico is that the deaths happen when people blow it off and try to ‘tough it out’.
    c) I can’t answer the statistical end of this question – the significance though is pretty easy to answer, though it remains a good question: It’s past flu season, is one part of the answer. Influenza is, quite simply, not supposed to be raging in late April, early May. Part of the answer, too, is that deaths and infections, if you listen to people on the ground, are generally suspected to be undercounted in this case. More people could have died or been infected. We simply don’t know yet. Finally, there’s history to look at. We are, statistically, “past due” for a pandemic influenza outbreak – they happen roughly in cycles. Thus, the epidemiological community is on edge.
    d) See my comments about possible statistical errors and undercounting.

    In short: 90 percent of stopping this outbreak in its tracks is probably the same infection/disease control measures you take with any other influenza outbreak. 10 percent, but possibly a key 10 percent in a crowded area like Mexico City, are the extraordinary measures such as cancelling Masses.

    Understand though that even in more-developed countries like the US, it’s a really, really bad idea to take this lightly. Please, don’t ‘tough it out’. Use the medical system, it’s what it’s there for.

  34. Andreas says:

    John Penta:

    Your explanation is sensible: the concern is mainly over the new virus strain which could potentially become the beginning of a new cycle, the kind that seems to reoccur at certain intervals. OK. I can understand that. But it still doesn’t warrantee such alarmist headlines as: “Global race on to contain flu outbreak! Pandemic fear grows!” from MSNBC. Especially knowing that presently this flu is readily curable.

  35. John Penta says:

    Andreas: Well, that’s just the media being the media. Breathless headlines are nothing new, anyway.

  36. michigancatholic says:

    Andreas,
    I think the CDC, WHO etc are not so worried about the virus as it is in the US cases so far. Rather, I think they’re holding their breath about what comes as a bit of time passes. Two dangerous points:
    1) how easy is transmission–ie. how many individuals will an infective strain be able to run through before it burns itself out?
    2) and related: how will it mutate as it runs its course? [ie. how many opportunities and how much genetic change over those opportunities]
    Flu viruses nearly always mutate through a flu season. One puzzle right now is why are people dying in Mexico but not here? Is there already mutation? And the scary part is what if the mutations turn and move the infection beyond what we can treat? What then?

  37. Peter says:

    MargaretMN, I suspect that during past epidemics, ie Spanish Flu in 1918/19 and earlier, the practice of frequent communion was not widespread, so the problems we have now would not have occurred. As someone else pointed out, it is not necessary to receive Holy Communion to fulfil your Sunday obligation, efficacious though it may be. When it is not possible to receive Holy Communion, a spiritual communion would suffice.

    Regarding Communion on the tongue, I have been attending the EF Mass for 15 years and have frequently had my tongue touched by the priest, as have other people (so it is not the way I hold my tongue!). I don\’t know why this is, maybe from rushing, or just poor technique. Maybe this would be an opportunity for priests to review their technique!

  38. Louise says:

    Oops that last comment to MargaretMN should read “Comment by Louise”. Peter had his say earlier.

  39. C. says:

    My feeling is that Communion in the hand is dangerously unsanitary and could exacerbate this pestilence. Saliva only carries influenza in miniscule amounts. The priest can purify his hand before Mass, but the people will not–they may have touched highly infectious nasal or throat secretions left by other people. I think good objective, reproducible scientific research should be done on this question, as it is likely to crop up again and again.

  40. C. says:

    BTW, the question of Communion aside, this influenza strain is apparently killing young adults (ages 20-40) with healthy immune systems. In Mexico City, it went from first reported emergence to virtual quarantine with access to the Sacraments imperiled within just 11 days. Now many countries are experiencing first reported emergence.

    So, a question for those in that passionate age bracket: When was the last time you went to Confession? Was it a good Confession?

  41. Maureen says:

    Considering that Confession is not at all pushed on people nowadays, I think you can assume that anybody who bothers to go has probably made the best Confession they can.

  42. Gareth Mills says:

    There is a photo of Bp McCarthy (Sandhurst, Victoria, Australia) celebrating low Mass during the Spanish Influenza epidemic in 1919 on the Southern Steps of Sacred Heart Cathedral. The government had prohibited gatherings of people indoors.

  43. Liam says:

    How communion in the hand would be more dangerous is beyond me. There’s a huge bit of logic missing in that one.

  44. dcs says:

    How communion in the hand would be more dangerous is beyond me.

    Simply put, one might cough or sneeze into ones hands or wipe ones nose with ones hands and not wash them afterwards. One puts ones hands in all sorts of places one would never put ones mouth. Many churches in the U.S. probably have washrooms these days but who knows what the situation in Mexico is?

  45. Bill in Texas says:

    re Communion: There is nothing wrong with trusting the bishops to know what they are doing.

  46. cel says:

    I would also think that this would be a good reason to ditch the Unnecessary Ministers of Holy Communion. Aside from more than half of them being even less need if communion is only offered in one species, it would seem preferable to have fewer contact points. A priest and a single deacon both distributing communion could serve a congregation of 500-1000 in a reasonable time I think. If those two and the alter servers were to take special care to have clean hands, vessels and other sacred objects then even better. Who know what you get when 10 people from the congregation go to “help out.”

    Would it be licit for those serving communion to pause every so often to rewipe their hands with say something sterile like alcohol and a purificator?

  47. I can sympathize with people who are confronted with such a health crisis of this scale, and I can understand the need to take various measures, that would otherwise be eschewed, to minimize the risk of infection. What I don’t see is any verification, in this forum or elsewhere, that placing Communion on the tongue is any more dangerous than placing it in the hand. In both cases, there is virtually no direct physical contact. Further, contact with either the mouth or the hand poses health risks. People are admonished in advertisements to wash their hands more often than their mouths. If nothing else, that should indicate where there is risk.

    Priests often wash their hands more elaborately after certain ritual acts, such as washing of feet on Holy Thursday. Some use soap in addition to lemons. Perhaps a more elaborate form of ablutions after Communion could be provisionally adopted.

  48. It would seem that the obligation is to keep the Lord’s Day holy. If one is not able to attend Mass for the reasons mentioned above, one should at least pray the Liturgy of the Hours/Divine Praises, and meditate on the readings from the Mass. If the Hours were not available to you, I would think that a Rosary offered for the sick would suffice.

    In the East we have a Typica or Reader’s Service which can, with the permission of the bishop and in the absence of a priest, substitute for the Divine Liturgy. Does anything like this exist in the Latin West?

  49. Liam says:

    When I receive communion in the hand, the minister’s hands don’t touch mine. Only the forward edge of the host does. When I receive communion on the tongue, some contact is more common. It may be an issue of skill, but hand seems far less of an issue, and the tongue itself has saliva at its most lively.

  50. “There is nothing wrong with trusting the bishops to know what they are doing.”

    No, there isn’t. Nor is there anything wrong with the faithful bringing their concerns to them.

  51. A few years ago in Toronto SARS hit us right in the middle of Holy Week. The main differences were that in Roman Catholic and Anglican Churches Communion on the tongue was forbidden as was Communion under both kinds and the Pax. It was most edifying to see the official notice from the Anglican diocese that the witholding of the chalice should cause no concern since the entire Body and Blood of Christ was received under either kind. Cranmer\’s ashes must have been sizzling. I don’t know what Eastern Rite Churches did. There were elaborate precautions for the washing of the feet.

    At least in our parish, the priests washed their fingers with \”Purell\” (kills 99.9% of germs)along with the Lavabo.

    It was largely felt that such measures were more than was called for but even in a city with a high Chinese population the disease was contained within the hospitals (which no one was aloud to visit)and it never made it into the general population. Regretably some nurses died. Better too much prevention than too little.

    The unfortunate effect of such strikes is what it does to the tourist trade. Chinese restaurants were especially hit and it has taken years for the city as a whole to recover from the loss of tourism even though in a city of two and a half million, not counting the outer suburbs, NOBODY contracted the disease. All of the ill people were travellers returning from the Orient.

  52. MAJ Tony says:

    David: Re: Eastern Rites. The Byzantines practice intinction with leavened bread. They essentially pour/drop it in your mouth, so they don’t touch the spoon to your mouth.

    95% of all disease germs on the hands are found under the fingernails. Keep ‘em trimmed, and use hot water and soap in preference to hand sanitizers. When you sneeze, the best way to contain it, barring a handkerchief, etc. is by sneezing into your armpit, or inside your shirt if possible. That way you don’t get it on your hands.

  53. isabella says:

    OK, I almost got thrown out of a microbiology class for this comment when we were discussing the Black Death. I said that I absolutely REFUSE to believe that the Body of Christ is a vector for disease transmission, and would be happy to receive directly behind somebody with the plague, ebola, etc. Face it – if they did, their hands have already contaminated everybody and everything they have touched, anyway.

    The “sign of peace” on the other hand – I bow my head and say “peace” when I have to go to the Novus Ordo, and since I wear my mantilla, people are generally nice and just do the same (probably assuming it’s some weird custom, lol). If the flu ends this practice, good. I’ll pray for the people who have it, nevertheless.

    And wash your hands, people. We were taught to wash with hot soapy water long enough to sing the “Happy Birthday to you” song all the way through (slowly), in order to wash away all the bugs. To practice, we had to dip our hands in a bowl of chocolate pudding to simulate “you know what” and they had to be completely clean when we were done washing.

  54. Mildred says:

    In churches where the chalice is offered it should be replaced by individual “Communion Cups” like those used by some of our Protestant brothers. Is this ever permitted, or has it been done in Catholic Churches?

  55. Brian says:

    According to http://www.catholicculture.org/news/headlines/index.cfm?storyid=2786 some US bishops are mandating that Holy Communion be distributed only in the hand.

    Canonically, can a bishop mandate that?

  56. C. says:

    Brian, add the Diocese of Manchester (NH) to that list:

    The faithful should be strongly urged to receive Communion in their hands, and not on their tongue.

    In practice, this means some priests will pull a Tod Brown, and others won’t mind if you fall in at the end of the line. In your charity, please pray for the Catholics in these dioceses.

    In more populated, urban Boston to the South, there are no changes or restrictions at this time.

  57. raymond says:

    Folks,

    There are thoughtful people (way moreso than yours truly) who think these ‘flu’
    bishops have gone too far. Should a bishop mandate you to do something
    which offends your conscience?

    I hope to have some video up on my blog tomorrow….

    K. C.