Apparently there is no uniform reaction to the swine `flu threat around the country in Catholic dioceses. One of my parishioners came back from visiting family recently and told me that in her daughter`s parish everyone was still receiving from the chalice and shaking hands at the sign of peace. In Hexham and Newcastle we have been requested to stop exchanging the sign of peace with a handshake, to stop the distribution of Holy Communion from the chalice and to not receive Holy Communion on the tongue.
The last point caused a lot of anguish among the faithful at the EF Mass but so far as I hear there is a kind of exception for the them. Distributing Holy Communion on the tongue to people who are kneeling is a different affair to giving it to those who are standing where there is more chance of the celebrant`s fingers making contact with the communicant`s tongue. For the sign of peace, as I only heard from those who regretted the new regulations, on a Sunday I ask people to turn to their neighbour and wish them peace. This seems to work well enough.
Not included among the request we received was the emptying of holy water fonts but this appears to have happened anyway but I`m not sure it is necessary.
Those who are finding it all difficult point to the sharing of hymn books as a possible source of infection but we`ve not received any request about this. I also never give a thought to avoiding shaking hands with people outside of Mass.
One thing that does strike me as odd is that we still have concelebration. I went to Fr Daley`s Requiem Mass on Friday and all was as normal. As priests we shared the chalice. Should this be happening if the other requests are serious? Maybe it is time to drop concelebration for the time being unless we think priests are expendable or miraculously protected from swine `flu.