Saturday, November 07, 2009

St. John's Archdiocese Fight Against H1N1

Church is a very communal place and with the H1N1 scare, Archbishop of St. John's Martin Currie is taking steps to prevent its spread in Newfoundland. There will be several steps taken, but I'm wondering about the ramifications of these steps. They include:

  • No holy water in fonts around the church. Rather, holy water will be sprinkled on people by aspertion, similar to what happens now during Christmas and Easter.
  • No hand shaking during the sign of peace. Rather, people will greet each other without shaking.
  • The precious blood (wine) will not be distributed during communion. Rather, the body, blood, soul, and divinity of Jesus Christ will be distributed only in the form of bread.
  • Communion cannot be received directly on the tongue, only in the hand.
I have certain issues concerning these steps. I think the holy water aspersion is fine, and perhaps aspersion should be done during Mass anyway, even when there is no risk. It is an extra reminder of our baptism. No hand shaking is also a good precaution, as long as people continue to greet each other in some way. Not receiving the precious blood is not a huge issue, because by receiving Christ in the form of bread, you receive all of him. Also, it is rare to have Eucharist in the form of wine at a Sunday Mass anyway.

I think more steps could have been taken, but it seems they are somehow too ingrained in the liturgy. One example is extraordinary ministers of communion. If only the priest gave communion, there would be a lower risk of spread of H1N1. If you increase the number of people distributing communion, you increase the risk that one will spread it. Why this wasn't changed, I'm not sure.

I started writing this blog post before I actually went to a Mass where these rules were implemented. One danger I see is that this will put even more pressure on EVERYONE to receive communion in the hand. Once the few people who still receive it on the tongue get used to receiving on the hand, they may not go back to the tongue. This is especially true if the Archbishop does not issue a statement indicating a return to normal can happen.

Another issue I have is that at the Mass I attended, there was no aspersion of holy water. This is very unfortunate because holy water also was not available in the fonts.

I'm very glad the Archbishop decided to take these precautions. People who are afraid of H1N1 will not stop going to Mass completely. I just hope the future is also considered.

1 comment:

  1. Wait wait... So you're telling me holy water is just like normal water and can be a beacon for disease too? I always thought holy water was pure and healing. This makes no sense!

    And why would god allow a virus to be transmitted in his house by and to people praising him!

    This all sounds rather fishy...