Thursday, 23 July 2009

Swine Flu

The Archbishops of Canterbury and York have issued a letter on the 22nd July 2009 offering their guidelines as regards liturgy during this uncertain time of swine flu. Their recommendations are practical and helpful and will be implemented here at St John’s in this form:

1. Communion will only be administered in the hand.
It is a venerable practice around the world and widely used here at St John’s to receive communion directly in the mouth. When risk of infection existed, necessary precautions were taken to make sure that both the communicants and the priest are safe. This is one of those moments. The best practice in this scenario is to give/receive communion directly in the hand, ensuring that the hands of the priest and the communicant do not touch.
Communion in the hands is received by the communicant presenting at the height of the mouth the right palm supporting the left, (left palm on top). The priest will place the most Blessed Sacrament on the left palm. The communicant communicates by lifting the host with his right hand using the thumb and index finger. The communicant is to make sure to communicate immediately in front of the priest. Great care is to be taken to ensure that no fragment from the host is left on the hand or allowed to fall on the floor. Under every fragment, there is the whole Christ: body, blood, soul and divinity.

2. Communion will be only administered in one kind.
Our Lord used the elements of bread and wine on the night he instituted the Mass. Since Apostolic times communion is received under both kinds. However, our Faith teaches that Christ is fully present under each element. When communion is administered outside the Mass (like Good Friday/ home or hospital communions) only one element is used. Remember after consecration what looks and feels and tastes like bread is Christ: body, blood, soul and divinity and so is what looks like wine. Receiving under one kind is the same full communion.

3. The sharing of the peace between the faithful is omitted.
The sharing of the peace indicates the harmony and unity of those about to make their offering and receive the one body of Christ. It is not meant to be the intermission as happens in some churches.
The priest who celebrates does not only stand in the person of Christ but also represents to God the whole community. Because of the risk of spreading infections by shaking hands, the priest will offer the peace to all and all offer it back to him, in his person, offering it symbolically to each other. I know it will get some time to get used to this but I believe we need to be watchful and observe safe practice, especially for the safety of the vulnerable members of our community.

4. Anti-bacterial gel for hands will be available in the necessary places for the clergy and other ministers to use at the appropriate time and for all to use at their discretion. Plastic bags for used tissues are available at the back of church.
This procedure has already been in place and those who need to use it know were to find the gel and when to use it. More gel will be available in the Parish Hall and crèche for you to use as needs be. Plastic bags are available at the back of church so that you can immediately isolate any tissues in them until it is safe to bin the bag with the tissues in it.

5. A system of flu-buddies will be in place.
We need volunteers to help, as need arises, those who are suffering from swine flu. This involves getting the necessary medications and maybe some shopping. No direct contact will be involved between the buddy and the person who suffers. If you can help please leave your name at the back of church. If you need this help or know of someone who does please contact me (contact provided) or Mr David Bonner (contact provided) in my absence.

For some these measures will not be enough, for others they go too far. I hope that you will find that these measures are the mean between two extremes. The Archbishops have shown great pastoral care in issuing guidelines and it is sensible to take heed of it and put into practice for the benefit of the whole community. I hope and pray that all of us will be safe from this illness and encourage you in joining me in prayer for those who are suffering from it and those who are working hard to keep us safe.

Fr Ivan Dominic Aquilina SSC
The Feast of St Bridget of Sweden, Co-Patron of Europe
23 July 2009.

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