A Catholic Convert in Ottawa

Passing the Peace—Not Cold Germs

Posted on: September 25, 2014

As the temperatures fell in Ottawa, it seemed many students were coming down with colds, including my son. But he felt better within a couple of days. Still healthy, my husband and I thought we were home free.

Until Mass on Sunday.


Cold and flu season may be getting an early start…

As the service began, two children behind me started coughing. And continued coughing throughout Mass.

One person near me blew her nose, followed by another person. And another.

Then I could hear coughs coming from various corners of the church.

I watched one woman use the same tissue several times and not once follow up with hand sanitizer or even a wipe.

And then parishioners proceeded to shake hands with people all around them as a sign of peace.

Those who were pregnant or who had elderly parents or small children with them must have been even more uncomfortable than I was.

We’re familiar with the Sunday obligation, as set out in s. 2180 of the Catechism:

The precept of the Church specifies the law of the Lord more precisely: ‘On Sundays and other holy days of obligation the faithful are bound to participate in the Mass.’

But s. 2181 follows:

(T)he faithful are obliged to participate in the Eucharist on days of obligation, unless excused for a serious reason (for example, illness, the care of infants) or dispensed by their own pastor.

We need to think about how quickly cold germs spread in such close quarters. If we suddenly have to cough (into a sleeve) or use a tissue at church, we can use hand sanitizer. But if we’re coughing and sneezing or we feel unwell, we should stay home. If our children are sick and we need to stay home to care for them, we can.

I enjoy worshipping at Mass and understand not wanting to miss the service. But if we’re under the weather, maybe we could read the Bible or the Sunday missal readings, pray the rosary, or watch a Mass on one of the Catholic TV stations at home. We can still observe Sunday as “a time for reflection, silence, cultivation of the mind and meditation which furthers the growth of the Christian interior life” (s. 2186) without passing cold germs along with the sign of peace.


1 Response to "Passing the Peace—Not Cold Germs"

You described the Sunday Mass I went to last week 😉 Our former pastor used to give the same announcement every year as the weather got colder: stay home if you have a cold or are coughing or have a fever or if you find it difficult to walk through the ice and snow. Often, his words would fall on deaf ears.

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