As we move into the cold time of winter, we spend a lot of time indoors. There are germs circulating, and when we are in close proximity, we pass them around. I have talked to a few people recently who have suffered with the flu. As I write this note, Fr. Russell is receiving treatment for his flu. So as I sometimes do around this time of year, I would like to offer some thoughts on keeping ourselves healthy.
My first suggestion, for those who have not already done so, is to get a flu shot. About twenty years or so ago, I was serving in a parish in which a nurse asked me if I had gotten a flu shot. My thought at that time was that flu shots were more for elderly people. The nurse asked me, “How much time do you spend in school with the kids?” Knowing how children can pass germs around, I asked her to give me a flu shot. Since then, I have gotten a flu shot every year. Of course I don’t know if I would have gotten the flu if I hadn’t gotten the shot, but I feel more confident with it.
The other points have to do with our gatherings in church, where we pray together in close proximity. A couple of areas of concern are the Sign of Peace and receiving the Precious Blood of Christ from the cup. Some parishes have gone so far as to stop offering Communion under both forms during cold and flu season, but I do not want to go that far. I would rather leave all of this up to everyone’s individual choice. If you are concerned with receiving the Blood of Christ, don’t. Similarly, if you have something that is contagious, please stay away from the cup. Eucharist in both forms is a powerful sign of the Sacrament, but we receive the entire reality of the Eucharist when we receive the Body of Christ.
Similarly, if you have concerns about the Sign of Peace, or if you are feeling ill, you do not have to shake hands. There should be some sign to those around you so that you are not skipping the Sign of Peace altogether, but you can do so without physical contact. I would suggest folding your hands in a prayerful posture and bowing slightly in such a way that the people around you can understand that you are not ignoring them but are simply taking a precaution.
When you come to church, I hope that you will find a great spiritual experience. Beyond the spiritual aspect, we also are concerned with the temporal well being of all our parishioners. So please stay healthy during cold a flu season. And if you do find yourself “under the weather,” please disregard what you learned about sharing when you were in kindergarten.