Our priest has tested positive for COVID-19 and, while he has said he is starting to feel better and I am very glad to hear that, I am also worried about the exposure to my fellow parishioners.
Our parish is full of admirably faithful people, many of whom are elderly and especially vulnerable. We are also home to a large population of immigrants and laborers with a disproportionately high level of virus exposure and limited access to healthcare.
As such, I think we need to be especially careful.
For instance, Canon Law prohibits bishops from forbidding Catholics to receive communion on the tongue, even in the midst of a global pandemic, because that act “expresses the faithful’s reverence for the Eucharist.”
But, I’d like to suggest that we, as empathetic human beings, express our reverence for each other and for our pastors and communion distributors by not receiving the Eucharist until we feel it’s safe to do so, or receiving it via the hand. The church has allowed this for 51 years and, it seems to me as I witness our priests placing the host on people’s tongues, and then dipping their two fingers in a bowl to cleanse them, and reaching back into the chalice to distribute again, that even the most reverent church goer might see that this practice should be suspended in the midst of a pandemic.
The church is still going to offer you the option to receive the Eucharist via your tongue, but I’m asking you to forego it for the time being in deference to the health and well being of your fellow parishioners. You may, like me and many people I know, choose to forego communion entirely until you feel it is safe to receive. This is an acceptable option.
I also hope Bishop Ricken continues to extend the dispensation from the mass attendance he issued and to see all Catholic churches continue to offer their masses online for those who can not safely attend and to encourage their especially vulnerable members (and those caring for them) to stay home for now.
Because, here’s the thing about the most faithful Catholics I know: they will attend mass under any circumstances. Go to any Catholic church in the midst of any seriously inclement weather, and you will see elderly people calmly dusting a blizzard’s snow off their boots, or shaking a hurricane’s rain off their umbrella, and settling into their pews.
Gently explaining to them that a televised mass covers their weekly obligation and that it would be wiser for them to participate in the mass in that way until it was safe for them to come back would be a service to them all.
These are good people who may not understand that the actions they view as a devotion to their faith are putting their and other people’s health at risk. We all need to remember that.
According to Saint Faustina, Jesus once said, ““A single act of pure love pleases me more than a thousand imperfect prayers.”
I implore my fellow Catholics to consider that the efforts we’re all making to stop the spread of COVID-19 are acts of pure love for our fellow man.
The church will be here when this epidemic passes. We want its members to be here too.