It’s Flu Season, Practice Good Hygiene. Even On Sundays.
They’re calling it the flu from Hell. Referring, of course, to that killer virus rampaging across the country. Last week seven kids died from it, bringing the death toll for children to at least 37.
By the time spring arrives, it’s estimated that more than 50,000 Americans will be dead - many of them Baby Boomers.
Worse, in a story headlined “The Deadly Flu Season Could Get Even Worse,” Fortune magazine reports that this year’s epidemic shows no signs of slowing.
“Flu is everywhere in the U.S. right now,” said Dan Jernigan, the CDC’s flu division chief. “This is the first year we have had the entire continental U.S. be the same color on the graph, meaning there is widespread activity in all of the continental U.S. at this point.”
“We often see different parts of the country light up at different times, but for the past three weeks the entire country has been experiencing lots of flu, all at the same time,” he said, adding: “We have several weeks to go.”
Despite this widely disseminated flu news, I sat in my pew in Virginia Beach Sunday morning and watched in horror as scores of worshippers merrily joined hands during prayers, shook hands during the sign of peace, and marched up to the altar to receive communion. Out of a common cup.
It was all I could do not to stand up and scream: “What are y’all trying to do? Kill each other?”
Perhaps some churchgoers believe that stained glass offers magical protection against germs. Or that the Almighty would never allow anyone to catch a disease during a service.
The way I see it the Good Lord gave us brains. And science. Because of that, we all know how diseases are spread. So will someone explain to me why smart people who’d never think of sharing a drink with a stranger at the 7-Eleven are willing to suspend good hygiene once they enter a church?
A better question may be: Why are church leaders allowing these disease-spreading practices to continue, knowing that a deadly, contagious pathogen is on the loose and that many well-meaning parishioners will continue to act like sheep until they’re told otherwise?
The good news is that at least one common-sense cleric is trying to put a stop to mindless Catholic cootie sharing. According to WIVB-Channel 4 in New York, Richard Malone, Bishop of Buffalo, has asked Catholics not to touch each other during the the sign of peace. He’s also ordered holy water fonts to be scrubbed and he’s stashed away communion chalices until the danger of flu season is past.
Oh, and His Excellency has reminded Catholics that they are not obligated to go to church on Sunday if they’re not feeling well.
Here in Southeastern Virginia we have a new bishop. Someone who knows him ought to ask Barry Knestout to follow Malone’s lead. ASAP.
After all, going to church shouldn’t put you at risk of catching the flu from Hell.