Saturday, 29 February 2020

Coronavirus and Holy Communion

We have just received some guidelines from the Archdiocese on receiving Holy Communion in the light of  coronavirus. Sensible precautions such as:

• It is strongly advised that the shaking of hands at the sign of peace during Mass should be suspended.

• Holy Communion under both kinds should be suspended.

• The faithful should be encouraged to receive the sacred host in the hand rather than on the tongue.

• Priests should sanitise their hands before Mass and extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion should wash / sanitise their hands discreetly before Communion.

• Priests and extraordinary ministers should also wash / sanitise their hands after Mass. 

Of course, most of these injunctions may already be the normative pratice in some parishes. The option of the lay exchange of the sign of peace is not usually exercised here and Holy Communion is administered under one kind only.

Traditionally (and sensibly) the priest always washed his hands in the sacristy just before Mass - there is even a prayer to accompany it for those who might still use the vesting prayers. A few sacristies even have separate drying towels for before and after Mass - pre and post Missam.

Perhaps these precautions became popular during outbreaks of the Black Death and the like over the years...

However, I do take exception on a practical level to the idea that it might be more hygenic to administer the host onto the hand than the tongue. From my own experience, I find that it is a much more frequent ocurance to brush against someone's hand than to actually touch their tongue or lips with my fingers. Apart from which, we might note that placing a host on someone's hand means placing it on a hand that has probably touched the doorhandle of the church after another hundred people have done so that morning and thus the said hand might well be full of germs!

Anyway, most of what I thought of saying - and much more - has now been addressed by Bishop Athanasius Schneider in the article accessible here: