There is a lot in the news these days regarding the novel coronavirus Covid-19 outbreak and attempts to keep it from spreading. As I write this it seems all of Italy has been put under travel restrictions and there is even a report of an Episcopal priest in Washington, D.C. who has tested positive for the virus. While we need to be careful not to panic, it is also important that we be vigilant. I’m not going to use this space to tell you what to do to prevent the spread. That is the role of the Centers for Disease Control (www.cdc.gov) and it has been all over the news. You can also check the Needham Public Health website at www.needhamma.gov/85/Public-Health.
As for steps we are taking as a Church community, I would like to remind you that, at our liturgies, where many of us gather together, we are no longer offering the Precious Blood at Communion time and the Archdiocese has directed that we no longer offer a handshake at the sign of peace. I have also directed our custodian to be wiping down parts of the church that might be commonly touched by people such as door handles and pews. You may have noticed, also, that I’ve stopped shaking hands outside of Mass. I’m not so much fearful for myself, but aware that the current manner of dealing with any presumptive cases is self-isolation. In a one-priest parish, if the priest were to self-isolate, that would mean no sacraments. While we are still learning more about this virus, I also want to be careful of passing anything on to anyone else. More information about the response of the Archdiocese can be found at www.bostoncatholic.org.
I would also like to ask that if you are not feeling well, please stay home. This allows you to recover as quickly as possible while at the same time minimizing the possibility of transmitting any illness to other members of our community. Please remember that the obligation to attend Sunday Mass does not bind us when a physical impossibility prevents us from getting to Mass (e.g., a snowstorm, not having a ride or being sick). We are also not bound when there is a moral impossibility of getting to Mass, e.g., when we are caring for a sick relative and are not able to leave them alone and cannot be relieved by someone else for the time to get to Mass. In these instances I would encourage you to watch holy Mass on Catholic TV. The schedule can be found at www.catholictv.org. CatholicTV can be found at channel 268 on Comcast/Xfinity. Sunday Mass is also aired on channel 38 at 7:00 AM, which is channel 14 on Comcast/Xfinity.
During these days of uncertainty and concern, perhaps we can find comfort and consolation by together turning to our most merciful Father and pray with the words of the collect for the Mass for any need: O God, our refuge in trials, our strength in sickness, our comfort in sorrow, spare your people, we pray, that, through rightly chastised now by affliction, they may find relief at last through your loving mercy. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.