Wednesday, March 04, 2020

What we're doing about germs at St. Remy

Appearing in the upcoming parish bulletin:

In addition to an annual concern about the flu, we are all wondering how much of a problem the Covid coronavirus that originated in China will turn out to be. Even before this latter virus came on the scene, some have suggested a different approach with the Sign of Peace and the distribution of the Precious Blood at Mass. With the current, added uncertainty, I think the time is right to make the following changes, effective immediately:

- During the Sign of Peace, there is no need for any physical contact; simply saying, “Peace be with you,” gets the job done. If you wish, make a head nod. This is what I’ll do at the altar. Please don’t take it amiss if someone would rather not shake hands.

- We will only distribute the Body of Christ, not the Precious Blood, at all Masses. Those who are scheduled as Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion will be contacted, and the information included in the bulletin will be updated. (If this creates a problem for anyone, contact me and we’ll work it out.)

What about communion in the hand or on the tongue? 

This will surprise you, but based on my 17 years of experience as a priest, I have concluded that communion in the hand is more unsanitary than on the tongue! Amazing but true. Our hands can be every bit as germy as our tongues, and when distributing the Eucharist properly, it is far easier to avoid touching your tongue than your hand. Accidents can happen either way: sometimes people don’t really open their mouths (I don’t know why), or they don’t put out their tongue. Meanwhile, those who receive in the hand will very often cup their hands, or close them rapidly after receiving the Sacred Host, or quickly bring their second hand close. Meanwhile, some aren’t really standing still, and that also creates problems (thus the age-old wisdom of having an altar rail to lean on or kneel at). Bottom line? In my experience, touching someone’s hand happens way more often than touching someone’s mouth. 

What about holy water? Keep in mind that with lots of hands being dipped in the holy water, it should be obvious that germs will be in the water.
Is this overkill? It could be, and let’s hope it is. The main problem now is uncertainty. But in any case, we can at least do our part for the common good, and help to raise awareness of the need for good hygiene. We can all be more proactive about frequent and complete hand-washing, covering our face when we sneeze and cough – I try to do it into the crook of my arm – and keeping our hands away from our faces.

The far better precaution? Staying home! If you are feeling ill, stay home! If your health is fragile, or you have a weakened immune system, stay home! You are in no way obliged to attend Sunday Mass when you are ill, or you are concerned about getting ill. Stay home, and call me to arrange for a visit or with any other questions. 


rcg said...

Good move. I know it is 'above your paygrade' but I am skeptical about the need to remove Holy water. I would like tot test the concentration of salt on viruses. They are quite pathetic outside of their host and you will note that there are almost no viruses spread in the ocean except by ingesting the creature that the virus inhabits. I expect that if we instructed a weight to weight ratio of salt to water comparable to the Dead Sea we would have precious few viruses in that. Although my wife might complain that it stains her mantilla ;-).

Fr Martin Fox said...


We haven't removed holy water, although I am thinking about it. Holy Water can contain salt (it doesn't always because it can be blessed without it; the ritual for baptism makes no reference to including salt, for example), but it isn't very much salt, and I honestly have no idea how much must be included before it would have any anti-viral effect. What's more, we do remove holy water at the triduum.

That said, I would keep holy water available in the main container, so it wouldn't be completely unavailable.