GREAT FALLS — If you’re heading to mass this weekend, Bishop Michael Warfel of the Great Falls-Billings Diocese offered a few words to make sure worshipers are staying safe.
As Diocesan Bishop, I am responsible for promoting, regulating, and being vigilant over the liturgical life in this diocese. As such, I am instituting some reasonable precautions as preventative steps to help our faith communities, and the region as a whole, address this threat and stay healthy.
The following directives will apply until further notice:
• Distribution of the Precious Blood during the Eucharist is temporarily suspended;
• The manner of reception of Holy Communion, whether on the tongue or in the hand, must be properly received (see instruction);
• All priests, deacons and communion ministers are to thoroughly wash and disinfect their hands prior to Mass and distribution of Holy Communion; • Holy water fonts should be cleaned and drained on a weekly basis; • Collection baskets, if at all possible, should not be passed. (I recommend placing a collection basket before the altar with parishioners processing, as in the communion rite, to place their offering in the basket);
• The exchange of the Sign of Peace through physical contact (typically a handshake) is temporarily suspended -- an alternate means of signifying peace should be utilized;
• Those who are sick or begin to feel ill are not obligated to attend Sunday Mass. In the interest of the health of the parish community if a parishioner is ill, they are dispensed from attending Mass and should stay home until they are well.
These precautions will take effect immediately and continue as long as deemed necessary. My staff will continue to monitor the situation and will provide updates as needed.
In addition, the following petitions should be included during the Prayers of the Faithful at Mass:“For those who are suffering in the current outbreak of sickness, that they might be healed; for the health professionals taking care of those in need, and that our merciful and loving Father will strengthen our faith and trust in his goodness and divine providence, let us pray to the Lord.”
Michael Warfel Bishop of Great Falls-Billings
Instructions for the reception of Holy Communion:
A communicant who comes forward to receive the Sacred Host is asked to make a specific act of adoration before receiving the Eucharist.
In the United States, the US bishops have stipulated a bow of the head.
Reception of Holy Communion in the hand has become the common form for reception in most parishes.
However, reception of the Sacred Host on the tongue is also a common way for communicants to receive.
Unfortunately, in both cases, a good number of communicants have not received proper instructions on how they are to receive in a dignified manner.
For reception of Holy Communion on the tongue, after saying “Amen” in response to the communion minister’s statement, “The Body of Christ,”, the communicant should open the mouth wide and extend the tongue far enough so that the Sacred Host may be placed upon it without danger of the Host falling or spreading saliva to the fingers of the communion minister.
It is important to extend the tongue, not merely open the mouth. It is also important not to bite the Host which often times ends up including fingers.
Ministers of Holy Communion should be able to distribute Holy Communion without risk of touching the hands or the tongue.
The risk of transmitting infection when receiving on the tongue or hand is more or less equal.
The Archdiocese of Portland consulted with two physicians regarding this issue, one of which is a specialist in immunology for the State of Oregon.
When done properly, the reception of Holy Communion on the tongue or in the hand is minimal. The key is “done properly.
The risk of touching the tongue and passing the saliva on to others is obviously a danger however the chance of touching someone’s hand is equally probable and one’s hands may actually have great exposure to viruses.
For reception of Holy Communion in the hand, after saying “Amen” in response to the communion minister’s statement, “The Body of Christ,” the communicant extends their hands with the right hand under the left in support (left handed persons may wish to place the left hand under the right).
A “throne” is formed in the sign of an X-cross to receive the Sacred Host.
The communicant should then step slightly to the side and reverently consume the Host.
It is not acceptable to grab the Host with fingers. Should a communicate have difficulty with use of his/her hands, it is preferable that they receive on the tongue.
If Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion feel uncomfortable distributing Holy Communion either in the hand or on the tongue they should temporarily be excused from this ministry.
Here is the link to their website.