The proverb "cleanliness is next to Godliness" has taken on new meaning for some Catholics. With the threat of the H1N1 virus garnering national attention, some churches have incorporated precautions into their services in hopes of minimizing the spread of the virus.
The proverb "cleanliness is next to Godliness" has taken on new meaning for some Catholics.
With the threat of the H1N1 virus garnering national attention, some churches have incorporated precautions into their services in hopes of minimizing the spread of the virus.
At Our Lady of Lourdes in Utica, recently installed hand sanitizer dispensers mounted by entrances where communal bowls of holy water are found serve as the most visible reminder of the flu threat.
“At this point, it’s about reminding people they have choices and should hopefully be considerate of others,” the Rev. Joseph Salerno of Our Lady of Lourdes said. “We’re trying to react while also trying not to overreact.”
The Roman Catholic Diocese of Syracuse has recommended that churches monitor the spread of H1N1 in their locales and encourage parishioners to receive Communion in their hands rather than in their mouths.
People also should be reminded that partaking in some practices, such as sharing a cup of wine and water regarded as the blood of Christ, is optional. Churches also may consider temporarily discontinuing certain liturgical practices, including the sign of peace handshake and the availability of shared bowls of holy water, to stop the spread of virus, according to the diocese.
Mary Ann Gorges of Yorkville, who attended a Mass at Our Lady of Lourdes Sunday, said she’s tried to take precautions to stay healthy during Mass but noted that she thinks there should be a balance between being safe and being overly cautious.
“It seems risky to drink from the cup,” Gorges said. “But I feel God has protected me with so much that I wouldn’t change everything.”
At Historic Old St. John’s Church in Utica, the Rev. John Buehler said he urged parishioners during the Nov. 15 Mass to take the host in their hands, though during services Saturday evening and Sunday morning there were still several holdouts who refused to heed the new rule.
Clara Mae Durant, 78, of Deerfield, said she was more concerned with the sign of peace, the time during Mass when parishioners shake hands with others sitting nearby.
"If someone is coughing next to me I have these little wipes," she said, patting her purse.
And Durant and her grandchildren would be washing their hands as soon as they arrived at Denny's for dinner after Mass, she said.
Her husband, Jack Durant, 80, said he accepted the host in his hand for the first time Saturday.
"I was just one of the few who did it the old way," he said.
A St. John's parishioner for 30 years, Elaine Lopata of New Hartford said Buehler's admonition did not change the experience for her.
"We've taken it with the hands for years," she said.