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First Saturday: Before and after 8:30am Mass
Bishop Swain wrote to the priests of the diocese reminding us of guidelines he had previously issued that address concerns about the spread of influenza at Mass and other liturgies. He reminds us that those who are ill with the flu or other illnesses are dispensed from attending Mass on Sunday – they may view the TV Mass from the Cathedral or on EWTN on Sunday as well as dedicating time to prayer such as the rosary during the day.
He also reminded us that the priest may determine not to distribute Holy Communion under both species – the Body and Blood of Jesus – during this time. This is what I have decided to do for a period of time while the flu season is most intense. No one is obliged to receive the Blood of Christ at any Mass, and when only the Sacred Host is consumed at Mass, the entire Christ - in His body, blood, soul and divinity - is received. Sometimes people have expressed the concern that if they do not receive both species, they have not fully received Holy Communion – this is not the case. The same guidelines remind us that the dipping of the consecrated host into the chalice by the one receiving Holy Communion is always forbidden.
Finally, Bishop Swain writes the following:
There is no liturgical directive that any or all in the assembly must hold hands during the Our Father. Some find it awkward, overly familiar or intrusive to this devotional prayer to the transcendent Father. The faithful should be encouraged to not hold hands, therefore, if they do not feel comfortable doing so. The sharing of the Sign of Peace may be omitted at the discretion of the priest-celebrant. The shaking of hands during the sharing of the Sign of Peace is always optional. In addition, it should be shared only with those in one’s immediate area. It should be presumed during the flu season that many will prefer not to shake hands.
The rite of the Church does not prescribe that people should hold hands during Mass, instead it is understood that each person is directing their minds in prayer to our heavenly Father, rather than to one another. As Bishop Swain states, many find this awkward and they should not be obliged to do so at Mass. The Catechism reminds us that ‘the Lord’s Prayer brings us into communion with Father and with His Son, Jesus Christ’ – that is the focus of that prayer especially in preparation for Holy Communion. The sign of peace and charity towards one another is the expression of a true communion with God. His last piece of guidance should remind us too that some people may not wish to offer us the sign of peace, not out of a lack of charity, but out of a concern not to spread a sickness they may be recovering from.