With the winter upon us, and the swine flew issue at large- with over 100 South African cases- I thought to look into writing an apologetical work on the issue of mass and personal illness. I hope our viewers will forgive the brevity.
Today is Sunday, and like many active Catholics I go to mass every Sunday, and feast days when I remember these. When sick however, or if there are other valid mitigating circumstances- I do not attend mass- but not out of any perception of acceptable laxness. It is valid to miss mass when one is ill- or caring for those who are ill. How ill one must be- is a matter for the personal conscience.
With the swine flew pandemic, and many other issues faced by our readers throughout the world- it is perhaps important to note how sickness relates to our grave obligation to attend a valid mass on Sunday and on other days of obligation in our local diocese. We have previously listed all the days of obligation in the "Southern Africa" jurisdiction. I think there are about three which do not fall on a Sunday. Internationally there are about 11 universal days of Obligation- which individual conferences or dioceses can ask the Vatican for exemption from.
Illness, or caring for the ill, is a valid reason to miss mass. That said- if you are really ill- consider having yourself placed on a communion for the sick list from a nearby parish. Certainly contact a medical professional if needed- for medical treatment!
The reason we are obligated to attend mass- is because of the spiritually nourishing and healing and protective effect of mass- and especially in the Lord's Supper. I may note that while in South Africa, I have often noted a lack of reverence for the Divine Host, among our priests- that it is important that you take the Body of Christ with the utmost respect- and especially not take Christ's body and blood in mortal sin, or if you are not in communion with the church! Also consider weekly confession before taking communion- it is God you are consuming after all.
If you are seriously sick- ask for the anointing of the sick from a priest- this should include confession and the taking of the host.
Do not underestimate the power of grace in sickness- but also remember that there are measures in place to allow those who are ill to get the host at home, these can also stop the spread of sickness. Also, remember that while the church is a doctor of souls- that if you may be ill- it may be best to visit your local medical doctor or clinic.
Holding hands during the Pater or Our Father prayer- is not actually regulation- I.e. It is neither encouraged nor recognised- and the sign of peace does not have to be a handshake- it can be a cordial nod- one should take concern over their health during mass- and attempt to stop illness spreading.
Personally I also take communion on the tongue- which when done properly- does not involve a hand touching my mouth- and means that one less pair of hands have touched the host- that said, I am no health expert. I would not advise taking of the Blood of Christ if there is sickness in your community- and while we are obligated to attend mass- you are not obligated to take communion except possibly once at the Easter period.
Hope this information has been useful! God bless, and remember- you are important enough to God to not be forced to go to mass when ill- that is just part of why the obligation is lifted. That said- it is still a grave duty to attend under normal circumstances.
I would also like to state that this is not medical advice, and should not be taken as medical advice. It is only to be relied on at your own risk!