Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Religious Response to Swine Flu

By Paula de los Angeles 

Even today, many will turn to prayer or religion when their loved ones are sick. As we have seen throughout history, sometimes religion makes the wrong choice about treating illness or people are blinded by their faith. As a practicing Catholic, I found this email by the priest at MemChu of Stanford to the Catholic community particularly interesting and am impressed by their response to the swine flu, one which is not outdated nor impractical to our health: 

Dear members of the Catholic Community at Stanford,

    As you all know, the situation with latest influenza strain is growing more serious each day; it is spreading all over the world and claiming more victims. If you went to Mass here last weekend, you know that we did not offer Holy Communion under both species; we did this on the advice of physicians within our community. Bishop McGrath has consulted public health authorities and has implemented the following liturgical changes effective immediately and until further notice throughout the Diocese of San Jose. Those of you who were here during the last flu crisis about five years ago will recognize these measures, which were taken by all of the dioceses of the Bay Area for several months. The Archdiocese of San Francisco will be issuing a similar, if not identical, policy in the next day or two, according to their liturgy office.

Everyone is asked:
  • To refrain from holding hands during the Our Father;
  • To offer a sign of peace other than shaking hands or touching (e.g., a bow);
  • All Eucharistic ministers (clergy & laity) use an alcohol-based anti-microbial before and after distributing Holy Communion.
  • That Holy Communion be received only in the hand and not on the tongue;
  • There be no distribution of the Precious Blood (i.e., Holy Communion from the cup); 

    These are temporary measures and will be rescinded when the danger has passed. I have put the Bishop’s letter to the priests and lay staff of the Diocese in this Sunday’s bulletin. This is an instance where the options given in liturgical law are curtailed for the common good, in this case preventing of the spread of a serious and easily communicable flu. I thank you in advance for your understanding of and compliance with these temporary norms. I am,

Yours sincerely,

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