Mexico City: Procession against the epidemic

From a reader in Mexico, a followup on the question about reception of Communion during an epidemic:

I would like to start by saying thanks for the answer you gave me about Communion in time of epidemics and also specially for your prayers and asking for prayers from your readers.

This are turning very difficult due to the swine flu epidemic specially in Mexico City. Today President Felipe Calderon ordered to close from May 1 to 5 nonessential government offices, private businesses throughout the Country, except supermarkets, pharmacies and gas stations. This measure in order to avoid large crowds gathering and possible infected patients to spread the disease even further.

Since Friday everybody is wearing masks to avoid infection, as days go by and many activities are suspended, the streets are starting to look emptier every day. Economic and psychological consequences are starting to appear due to the restrictions. The infected patients and death toll is increasing every day, and no one knows what will come, but the emergency measures seem to be starting to work very slowly in some areas.

I am sending you as attachment pictures of ¨The Christ of health¨ procession that took place around the boundaries of the Mexico City´s Cathedral last Sunday, and without prior notice in order to avoid large crows. The last time it was taken on procession was in 1691, (this occasion is the third time in history) during a smallpox epidemic. Cardinal Norbeto Rivera also wrote a prayer asking for the intercession of Our Lady of Guadalupe that we are praying as a novena that will end next Monday.

During the pasts days I have been praying for you and your readers especially at Mass. I really thank you and your readers for your prayers and I ask you to continue as well.

Have a blessed Easter, and again I tell you I am really grateful for your prayers and attention to this email.

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  1. Fr. Gary V. says:

    May the Christ of health deliver us from this “swine flu” epidemic. Our Lady of Guadalupe protect us with your mantle. AMEN.

  2. Andrew, UK and sometimes Canada says:

    “O Almighty God, despise not Thy people who cry out in their affliction; but for the glory of Thy name, be appeased and help those in trouble. Through our Lord Jesus Christ…”

  3. Ottaviani says:

    Are there any propers for a mass in time of pestilence in the traditional Roman missal?

  4. cathguy says:

    My family will say our next rosary for those suffering in Mexico.

    Thank God for our faith!

  5. Victoria says:

    There have been 7 confirmed deaths worldwide as of 29 April 2009.

  6. puella says:

    A case of swine flu has for the first time been confirmed in the Netherlands. The patient is a 3-year-old child who was recently on holiday with his (or her) family in Mexico. No other details have been released to protect the child’s privacy.

    Please include this little patient in your prayers, too.

  7. Ellen says:

    The flu – all strains – kills over 30,000 people in the USA every year on the average. Most of the people who die of it are old and its the secondary complications that get them. This strain seems to attack the young. St. Camillus, patron of health care, pray for us.

  8. prof. basto says:

    Isn’t a procession a form of gathering?

    Shouldn’t that be avoided, or just indoors gatherings?

    I mean that question with all due respect to processions as a sacred action, but there is a biological hazard in play, so perhaps other forms of devotion, such as private prayer at home, are more appropriate at this hour.

    Everybody can recite the Divine Office privately, pray the Rosary and the cardinal Catholic prayers.

    As for the Eucharistic Sacrifice, given that, as I understand, gatherings are forbidden in Mexico City during this emergency, priests should say Mass sine populo.

    It worried me when I was reading about swine flu in an internet article, and there was a photo of the door of a Church with the warning: “No Masses”. I don’t know what exactly was intended by that, but the sign should say: “No Masses with a congregation”. And priests should say Mass without the people, especially the appropriate votive Mass, when the calendar allows.

  9. prof. basto says:

    Victoria, Ellen

    There is a difference between suspected cases and confirmed cases. Confirmed cases requires a blood test that takes its time to be ready. That’s why we see diference in numbers.

    Everybody knows that Mexico is right now the country with most cases of this flu. Yet, due to health system reasons, the US has 91 officialy confirmed cases reported to the World Heath Organization, with one officially reported death caused by the disease, and Mexico has only officially reported 26 cases, with seven officially reported deaths caused by the disease.

    According to a TV report I watched today, global the ratio of deaths per cases is 7%.

    However, according to a press release issued yesterday by the WHO, there were 147 officialy reported cases worldwide, and 8 deaths. That would mean a 5,4% ratio. (

    That ratio is very high. And those numbers are subject to change, even from deaths that have already taken place, as more suspected cases become confirmed cases. We hear of more than 150 deaths in Mexico. Some of those cases surely will be confirmed.

    Also, another ratio to be watched is the number of cases vis a vis the total numbers of the population. Swine flu seems to spread much faster then bird flu.

    So, we need to support the initiatives of the healthcare workers, and pray.

  10. sacerdos in germania says:

    One would use the Missa votiva pro vitanda mortalitate…

  11. Anthony says:

    Pray for Mexico. I don’t mean to speculate but I can’t help but wonder if this virus is a chastisement for Mexico’s legalization of abortion 2 years ago. [While God foresees permissively that these things occur, and He brings good from them, I don’t think it works in the way you suggest.]

  12. Matt says:

    I would NOT worry about this being a Pandemic until there are MANY more cases. More people die of the REGULAR flu each year. There is a lot of fear mongering right now.

    The cases in the US are also not being properly reported. The reporters are neglecting to report if the people who are sick or have died are actually US citizens. Some people reported as “sick in the US” are NOT actually US citizens. They are people who have come from Mexico in search of healthcare. The number of ACTUAL US CITIZENS who are sick is much lower and to date NONE have died.

    Public services (sewer, water, sanitation, etc.) and public education (hand washing, no coughing on others, stay home when sick, etc.) is much more widely practiced in the US than in other countries. The availability of hydration supplements and medicine is much higher in the US than in Mexico.

    Until we have a significant number of deaths in the US from this, I think most of this is fear mongering. This is a good test for the government though to see how willing people are to let the government “take over” their lives. Use some common sense people; push your government agencies (CDC, etc.) to come up with a vaccine or methods to rapidly develop a vaccine.

    The “swine flu” is also not solely from swine. It is an H1N1 variant flu made up of a mutation of swine, avian and human flue strains. They probably chose swine flu as a name to avoid the mention of the avian component.

  13. Tom says:

    Swine Flu now at Notre Dame. Will this keep Obama away?

  14. Mila says:

    Father, when I see all these things happening–earthquakes, floods, possible flu pandemic, etc.– and then I see this procession in Mexico City and I see it as a very Catholic response to a crisis. The Church has prayers for every ocassion. Last weekend would have been the Major Litanies; pretty soon we would be coming up on Rogation Days. Why did the so-called reform give all this up, when we need it so much? Thank God for Pope Benedict and Summorum Pontificum.

  15. J. Wong says:

    Our Lady of Guadalupe, pray for us.

    This photo bings memories of the processions I attended as kid in Lima, Peru:

  16. trespinos says:

    The sight of that procession is very moving. It reminded me of my visit to Patzcuaro on Dec. 8, 2003. The great feast day saw the town packed with people and the 16th century cathedral dedicated to Our Lady of Good Health packed with worshipers. The tourist guidebook didn’t explain why Abp. Vasco de Quiroga had chosen that title of Our Lady. But the next day, when I had occasion to visit the state government hospital in town and take note of the minimal resources available to these poor folks after 450 years, I understood. I will join my prayers with theirs today and until this scourge has passed.

  17. Memphis Aggie says:

    I think the risk has been overstated for this particular flu strain.

    From an LA Times article:

    “This virus doesn’t have anywhere near the capacity to kill like the 1918 virus,” which claimed an estimated 50 million victims worldwide, said Richard Webby, a leading influenza virologist at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis, Tenn.

    This is a man I know and respect personally. He is a WHO recognized influenza expert.

    The virus will be (if it has not been done already) be fully sequenced very shortly. At present it appears to be like the 1957 H1N1 flu which although serious was not the stuff of horror films. Coming on the tail end of the season may be a blessing as it may be possible to adjust the seasonal vaccine to protect against it.

    Another crucial thing to be aware of with regard to the flu is which antibiotic to use should you be unfortunate enough to come down with a secondary pneumonia (one of the most common ways death occurs). One of St. Judes Dr.s has published on this and you and your Dr should know about it (see link)

    God gives us both ordinary (via medical science) and extraordinary means (via prayer/intercession). It makes sense to pursue both.

  18. Gloria says:

    The Sacramento Diocese is sending a letter to parishes in all 20 counties of the Diocese this weekend. It will state that holding hands during the Our Father and handshaking during the sign of peace should be suspended. Communion in the cup should also be suspended and Communion “ministers” should use disinfectant on their hands before and after handling the Communion vessels. Parish administrators are free to make their own decisions. One pastor of a largely Latino parish with many Mexican immigrants has said he won’t change anything, because it might spread more concern than is warranted. He doesn’t want to panic anyone. The letter also gives the common sense admonition to stay home when ill.

  19. Catholicnerd says:

    Secerdos in Germania, do you know where we might find the chants for the Missa pro Vitanda Mortalitate? Neither my Liber nor my Gradual contain the chants, and I can’t find any manuscripts in the online databases. Do we actually have the music yet?

  20. Catholicnerd says:

    Scratch that. I found it in the 1908 Graduale Romanum. Which conveniently is available for free online from the CMAA!

  21. hugh says:

    image of Christ on the cross — known as the “Lord of Health” — was removed from its spot in the cathedral for the first time since 1850 and carried in a solemn procession around the streets of central Mexico City. The “Cristo,” as the image is known, has been credited with past miracles, including intervention in an 1850 cholera outbreak.

  22. Gloria says:

    The Bishop of another California Diocese has a letter to parishes similar to the one in the Sacramento Diocese. This one says not to give Communion on the tongue, only in the hand.

  23. John Polhamus says:

    This rant has nothing critical to say about the procession pictured, but this demand that communion be received in the hand is pure modernist balderdash. I can tell you that I will be receiving communion on the tongue this Sunday in San Diego, or I won’t be receiving physical communion, in favor of a spiritual one. I have touched my Lord once in my life, and found the practice so unsettling and distasteful that I will NEVER do it again – unless I suddenly find myself in deaconal orders for some unforseen reason. Whose hands do they think are cleaner, yours or the priest’s? I can pretty well guarantee that it’s the priest’s. Also, there is no physical contact when receiving on the tongue. The priest doesn’t slather his knuckles all over your tongue when administering the Blessed Sacrament, and traditionalists have no need to receive from the chalice – Christ is present whole and entire under both species: receive one and you receive both.

    Further, radio reports from KNX in Los Angeles today quote University of Georgia researchers as saying that the genetic components of the H1N1 virus make it impossible for it to be as bad as the 1918 flu that killed millions. In fact, every year 35,000 people die in the United States alone from regular flu, and H1N1 probably isn’t as severe as that virus. Current mortality is less than 1/10th of 1% of the annual average. So indications are that this pandemic talk is pure hype (as described by the researchers), despite the mortalities in Mexico, and who knows what immunizational differences may exist between our two cultures that may account for that. AND if you were alive during the 1957 outbreak of H1N1 (no, it has nothing to do whatsoever with pigs), you probably still have aome natural immunity to the virus from your exposure to it at that time. Whatever the case, getting the Lord of Health crucifix out into the streets is a good thing no matter what causes it.

    Don’t think I’m not in sympathy with tho who suffer or have suffered, but neither the evidence nor the consensus exists to call this a pandemic of hyper-lethal proportions…UNLESS THERE IS SOMETHING THEY ARE NOT TELLING US, and who can be accountable for that. But I’m sick of the hype, and through being manipulated by the media. Read this excerpt from the latest Order of Secular Servites Newsletter (which unaccountably came in the e-mail today, despite me not being a Servite Secular), and tell me if you think our western panic is justified:

    From Sister Juliana:

    “We are doing better. It seems that the cholera is diminishing. God willing. There are many people in two areas near the sea that are dying of hunger, because during the past 4 months it has rained only on four days (and this is the rainy season). Therefore they have nothing to eat…already several have died of hunger. A mother hung herself because she had children and her husband abandoned her. Since she had nothing to feed the children, she killed herself. We are organizing the local Church collections, and already a truckload of food has been sent out.”

    Does she sound panicked? No. Does she sound resigned to the Will of the Almighty in all things? Yes. So should we be, without sacrificing our religious practice on the altar of Media Hype and Governmental Interference. C’mon: “Faith-Up” and lets get on with it.

  24. Gloria says:

    Ottaviani – There is a proper for “Mass for the Deliverance from Death in Time of Pestilence” in the 1962 Traditional Missal. There are several Masses for various occasions -war, illness, peace, forgiveness of sins, for travelers and pilgrims, etc.

  25. Has requiring Communion in the hand ever been done before? There have been a ‘couple’ of earlier epidemics the Church has suffered thru. I would think we could look this up. The whole argument about which organ is ‘cleaner’ comes to mind. Unless the priest is touching tongues, it is ‘cleaner’ to make the direct line from his clean hand to your tongue, rather than his clean hand to your unwashed hand to your tongue. If it is more likely that his hand will touch yours than it is that his hand will contact your tongue, then Communion hand is more likely to spread disease than Communion on the tongue. I can’t remember the last time a priest or even EEM touched my tongue. Father, and other EEMs, when you give Communion in the hand, do you touch hands any less than you touch tongues?

    K. C.

  26. Victoria says:

    8 confirmed deaths as of 30th April 2009

  27. Brandon says:

    Meno chiacchiere – più processioni!

  28. M says:

    Requiring Communion be received in the hand has been done before in Malaysia and Singapore (South East Asia) during the earlier SARS epidemic. After the epidemic, some catechists used the opportunity to claim that it is somehow allegedly more reverent that Communion be received in the hand and made fun of those who returned to Communion on the tongue as, “Sticking out our tongues at God’s gift of himself.” The catechists and Sunday School teachers have been teaching the First Holy Communion classes to receive Communion in the hand. It has come to the point that most receive Communion in the hand and EMHCs now automatically reach out with Communion towards our clasped hands, even when our mouths are open. Some EMHCs are so unfamiliar with the technique for giving Communion on the tongue that I am embarrassed to have had to imitate a dolphin snapping at a fish to prevent a “flying host incident.” Please pray this does not happen in Mexico or anywhere else.
    M — 1 May 2009

  29. Geremia says:

    Anthony, I do not think one can say whether the virus is Mexico’s chastisement. What if this flu virus were manmade and not natural? Nevertheless, Our Lady of the Sick, ora pro nobis!

  30. Peter says:

    On several blogs I have seen comments suggesting this strain of influenza is ‘man made’.

    While Occam may have brought us the error of nominalism, I think his ‘razor’ of choosing the simplest explanation of all the facts as the most likely serves us well.

    Influenza viruses have a demonstrated track record of recombining, sometimes in human hosts, sometimes in other animals. There is nothing unpredicted in this.

  31. Petrus says:

    After the swine flu, I see no more handshakes during the sign of peace. God works in an unexpected way.

  32. Herbert says:

    This is a very good practice among Spanish Catholics. Here in my country particularly in the Archdiocese of Cacers in the Philippines we have two famous icon venerated by the people here. It is the image of Nuestra Senora de Penafrancia and the icon of Divino Rostro has been credited with the stopping of a plague. Hence for the past 300 years it had been venerated by the people. if you wish to know about this devotion log on to the web pages of the Archdiocese of Caceres.

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