Health precautions at Mass in cold and flu season

Image: SunCreekUMC

Parishes in the Archdiocese of Boston received word today of further health precautions in the liturgy related to the cold and flu season. It is, of course, unfortunate that circumstances warrant these precautions but they are for the community's safety and, it's to be hoped, we'll soon find ourselves in a more healthful climate.

To: Archdiocesan Parishes and Institutions
From: Rev. Jonathan Gaspar, Co-Director of
Office of Worship and Spiritual Life
Date: 10/26/2009
Re: Archdiocese of Boston Flu Season Directives

The Office of Worship, in consultation with local health authorities and the Archdiocesan Office of Risk Management, continues to encourage the clergy and faithful to observe necessary standard precautions to protect the health of others during this flu season, and especially with the risks related to H1N1 influenza. The best way to prevent the spread of contagious disease is to practice good hygiene. In addition to practicing good hygiene, the Cardinal directs the following for the celebration of the Sacred Liturgy and for flu prevention:

• The Holy Water fonts are to be drained, cleaned with a disinfecting soap, and re-filled with holy water on a regular basis. Please note that old holy water should be disposed of in the sacrarium.

• The distribution of the Precious Blood for the faithful is suspended, with the exception of those who must receive from the cup due to medical reasons. The faith of the Church teaches that Christ, whole and entire, is received even under only one species.

• The exchange of the Sign of Peace is to be offered without any physical contact. If the priest celebrant chooses to extend the invitation for the sign of peace, the faithful, instead of a handshake, may bow to the persons nearby.

• While the faithful retain the option of receiving Holy Communion on the tongue or in the hand, all ministers of Holy Communion are advised to distribute the consecrated hosts with care, being cautious not to touch the tongue or the hand of the communicant.

• Parishioners should be reminded that if they are ill or suspect they are ill with a contagious illness, they are not bound by the Sunday Mass obligation. They should remain at home and return to church when they are well.

These directives are effective Saturday, October 31, 2009 and remain in effect until the cold and flu season has come to an end. We thank you for your understanding and support of these directives, which aim to protect the health of our people.



  1. WOW! The RCAB is not taking any chances. I guess this is an example of being safe, not sorry. Somehow I think they have gone a little overboard on this one. At least they didn't suggest wearing surgical masks to mass.


  2. It does seem extreme, and it is too bad it had to come to this, but watching the way that seasonal flu and H1N1 are zipping through whole school populations, faculty included, it probably does call for erring on the side of prudence.

  3. I'm with Rosemary on this one. Glad I took the Precious Blood last Sunday!

  4. I am glad they're taking these measures. Imagine the criticism if somehow receiving the Eucharist spread the disease. In fact, I'm somewhat relieved.

  5. I understand suspending drinking from the cup but I feel communion on the tongue is just as risky and should be suspended as well. I try, as Eucharistic Minister, not to touch a person's tongue but I'm not always successful. I visit and bring communion to a local hospital and we have been told to insist that the patient receive in the hand. We refer people who won't comply to the chaplain who will visit them.

  6. I think it's really too bad. The H1NI hype is really just that. Our media employs scare tactics and successfully spreads fear. This flu season is no different than any other and there is concrete evidence that H1N1 is not more dangerous or severe than the regular flu. I was so happy to be part of a church that didn't let it get to us!
    I will miss the cup and handshakes/hugs very much.
    - Meighan

  7. Basically, these are feel good measures that have a negligible effect on flu transmission. The very fact that they are allowing communion on the tongue, which is far more risky than drinking from the chalice, shows that they aren't serious about transmission. Door knobs, hymn books, bulletins, touching pews, all of these can transmit the virus if you don't practice normal hygiene. I wonder where all these ideas are coming from, but it is not from epidemiologists.

  8. Anne,
    Who instructed you not to give out communion on the tongue for those patients? It was my understanding that any new rules were not in effect until Oct. 31.

  9. Over 38 years of distributing Communion, I've heard from several doctors that we should fear the unshielded sneeze of the person next to or behind us more than receiving Communion from the cup. And I understand your caution regarding communion on the tongue.

  10. I guess the church doesn't want a repeat of the Black Death. J

  11. J

    What hysteria. The Black Death was most likely caused by rats, not communion. Unfortunately, hysterical people of the day blamed Jews and cats for the Black Death. Let's try to stick with science this time. It is less harmful.


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