Parishes, faithful asked to take precautions during cold, flu season
By Nissa LaPoint
Share a sincere sign of peace during Mass this winter, but avoid sharing germs.
The Archdiocese of Denver shared a friendly reminder to parishes and the faithful last month to be mindful of others during the flu season and practice good hygiene during liturgies.
“If you aren’t feeling well, please consider staying home,” said a Jan. 22 email from the archdiocese’s Office of Liturgy. “If you do attend Mass and aren’t feeling up to par, please refrain from receiving Communion from the chalice, or shaking hands during the sign of peace or holding hands during the Our Father. While we do encourage giving, we do not want to encourage giving our germs to other parishioners.”
The flu season peaked early this year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the vaccine was estimated to be 62 percent effective. Subsequently, 48 states reported widespread flu activity, including Colorado, although that number dropped recently to 42 states.
This year’s flu outbreak has not reached pandemic levels, but local faithful have expressed concern.
The Office of Liturgy and chancellor of the archdiocese communicated with parishes and clergy about best liturgical practices and distribution of Communion during flu season.
To parishes, liturgy experts recommend making hand sanitizers available to parishioners as they arrive for Mass. Extraordinary ministers of Communion are especially asked to sanitize, perhaps during the sign of peace, to prepare for distribution of the Eucharist.
The office further recommends that Mass-goers wash and sanitize their hands to prevent the spreading of colds and the flu.
If sickly faithful opt to attend Mass, associate director of liturgy John Miller suggests being mindful of others. This means not extending the sign of peace, and coughing or sneezing into one’s sleeve or handkerchief rather than one’s hands.
“We don’t want people to be sick and then have some sort of medical emergency at Mass,” Miller said.
Contrary to what some may think, Miller said that according to the CDC, it is more likely to receive a communicable disease from an exchange of the sign of peace than from the Communion cup. The 12 percent to 18 percent of alcoholic content in wine acts to kill germs.
The archdiocese is monitoring local health departments for notable changes in the flu virus. Parishes and clergy will be alerted should a change in liturgical practices be required.