Dear St. Thomas’,
The newest corona virus continues to dominate the news: no little feat during an election year! It’s good and important to have accurate information and to be vigilant. It is likewise important to be calm and to hold everything in perspective. The flu is still a greater danger than Covid-19. As we gather together in community, we will do well to the instructions our Diocese sent out, “Hygiene Best Practices for Eucharist”. This is the article I summarized during announcements last Sunday.
Some things to keep in mind are:
- Wash your hands. 20 seconds with soap and warm water.
- The peace doesn’t have to involve physical contact. A bow, wave, or smile will suffice. A fist bump or elbow bump are low-contact alternatives.
- You don’t have to receive wine in order to receive full communion. Just the bread is full communion. If you’re feeling really nervous and want to skip the bread and wine altogether, that is a perfectly valid choice as well!
- Historical and medical studies both affirm that the communion chalice (filled with high-alcohol-content wine) is not a medium through which diseases spread.
- Intinction is actually less sanitary than sipping from the chalice – your hands pick up more germs than any other part of your body! Intinction by one set of fingers (let the Eucharistic Minister dip the bread in the wine) is better than intinction by 50 sets of fingers (the congregation each dipping their own). I have asked the Eucharistic Ministers not to allow others to dip their own bread in the wine.
- If you’re feeling iffy – stay home.
- Again: wash your hands. 20 seconds with soap and warm water.
I’ve been keeping an eye on my friends back in Seattle, currently the epicenter of the corona virus outbreak in the United States. A few days ago their Bishop distributed a helpful video where he says some of the same things I said to you on Sunday. Today he sent a longer missive detailing their Diocesan response to a local outbreak of increasing severity, including specific instructions for local parishes.
But we’re not there yet. This is a good time to keep some food in the cupboard and a good novel or two handy in case of illness. (You’ll thank me after that freak March snowstorm!) In the meantime, let us watch out for another, keep in touch with each other, be gentle with one another. Whether it’s allergies, the flu, Covid-19, or fatigue, feeling bad is part of the game of life, and the grace we show one another is a reminder and icon of God’s love for us.