To what extent can the duty to attend mass be expected to yield way to the duty to keep yourself and others safe?

I’ve been wondering for a while, not necesarily in the form of scruples but also in the abstract, as in finding out where the balance falls.

There’s been a lot of emphasis put lately on not attending if you’re sick and contagious, including flu and colds. This includes a minor chance of more serious symptoms and consequences for others than you yourself are experiencing from it (for example for obvious reasons men who have already been born will not be experiencing any complications to a pregnancy themselves ;)).

On the other hand attending mass is still a very important duty.

Hence I wonder to what extent it is appropriate to take rather extreme precautions concerning other people’s (spreading the contagious stuff) or your own (complications) health, or, in other words, to what extent can the duty to attend mass be expected to yield way to the duty to keep yourself and others safe?

Obviously, if the risks are big, you stay home. If the risks are almost certainly not there while a possibility still exists, you attend.

But what about those situations where you can certain stand or sit through one hour of services and the journey is not likely to make your cold or flu worse, and you can even keep some distance from other people, you just don’t really know which stage of the flu or cold you’re at and don’t know if and how much you can spread.

In other words, can it be said to be required to stay home from Mass if there’s a 50/50 or less chance of being contagious but it’s still there.

(Naturally, I’m presuming that if you do go, then you don’t participate in the Holy Communion, don’t sneeze into confessionals. don’t participate in the sign of peace, avoid holy water, preferably stay away from large groups of people, children, pregnant women, anybody looking frail etc. All of which, by the way, does seem like a suggestion that you should stay home instead.)

What do you guys think?

For me, I used to never get sick, but ever since no longer working in an office but only from my own home I have flu or a cold more often than not, from October through April. I work with it but sometimes take lighter workloads, dress more warmly, take medications, avoid going out shopping etc. and just usually stay home rather than going out except when I’m feeling healthy. But mass is a bit more problem because most of the time I really want to go but at the same time I don’t want to put other folks at risk. In rarer situations I’d prefer to stay home due to how I feel about my own health, while it would theoretically doable to go and sulk in a corner, and obviously many people will have gone who are sick anyway (some of them without knowing or realizing, others thinking they still must go etc.).

Staying home through uncertain times just in case I could be contagious and make someone else get sick too would mean skipping quite a lot of masses in the winter season — and for reasons I’d be quite dismissive of, if they concerned only my own health and wouldn’t expect someone else to stay away in a similar situation.

So what do you guys do in coinflippy situations? Anybody got any good advice from a wise priest or sister? Especially one that doesn’t have a super hygienic bias against germs? :wink:

My advice comes from my experience with my wise mother. If we were not running a fever, we went to Mass.

Nowadays, if you are running a fever, you can watch Mass online and pray for spiritual communion, but, unfortunately, you will have to miss out on direct participation in the communal sacrifice.

May God bless you and all who visit this thread.

Watch Mass online, and ask your priest about having someone to bring Communion to you while sick.

That’s guesswork, really, given that one can be contagious while asymptomatic, and vice versa.

I’d say that if nothing is exuding from you body (no sweats or coughing or sneezing fits), are not visibly unwell, and have enough energy to participate in the Liturgy, you should be there. Otherwise, use your judgement.


Since I usually serve as an EMHC for Communion, I stay home if I have a fever or diarrhea. As a retired Nurse, I am also conscious of this problem. Simple answer: carry some antiseptic hand gel (available in small travel size bottles) to use on your hands before or even during Mass. Receive the Holy Eucharist in the hand (not on the tongue), which is permissible, skip the Chalice of the Precious Blood if you might be contagious. Stay home if coughing heavily. Use the get and only shake hands at the Sign of Peace. Avoid hugging or closely approaching the elderly and frail, and just greet them with a smile and tell them you have a cold. Otherwise, unless a confirmed case of the flu, and Dr. says you are still contagious, go ahead and go to Mass, so long as no fever present. If you are getting that many colds and flu while working at home and not around others, check with your MD. You may have an allergy rather than so many colds! (Symptoms are VERY similar!) I found out my constant colds after retirement were due to allergies, not colds! Never had many when working as a Nurse with a lot of ill patients! (But, then, I washed my hands constantly, and used a mask when patients were contagious, so I didn’t get sick). Sounds like you might be allergic to dust, or to something in your house. Doctor can check you for allergies. I found I have about 5 allergies, which include dust, and oddly enough, grass! Fresh cut grass gives me all the symptoms of a cold! And I mowed my own yard for years and had the same reaction then! Ignored it for years, then found I was actually allergic to grass! Oddball, but true, and actually not uncommon. So, I can get those same symptoms in summer as well as winter. I change the filter on my home air return from furnace and A/C at least once a month with a really good hypoallergenic filter, and that has reduced the allergies a lot! If really ill with flu and with any fever (even just 1 degree!) stay home, you are contagious even at a distance of 5 feet or so! Hope this helps!

I agree. But sometimes there are elderly people or people with who have weak immune system that catch cold easily. You could still be have those germs on your hands and if you were using a missal or shaking someone’s hands at the Sign of Peace, someone may still catch it. I’d err on the sign of caution and stay home but watch the Mass on TV.

It’s a matter of disposition…if you feel by missing Mass you are “getting away with something”, you probably are and you should attend. If you are only truly concerned about others then you probably are in the state of grace should you then not attend Mass…but only you and God know your heart.

Peace and all good!

This is what I was thinking too, as soon as you said that you have more colds now that you work from home.

Yes, get tested for allergies and treat yourself to an air purifier. Something in your house is making you “sick.” It could be dust, or if you have pets…And things that may not have bothered you when you were younger, can bother you when you get older.

Chev, you are too young to live with undiagnosed allergies for the rest of your life. :slight_smile:

If you weren’t getting sick when you worked in an office, but you’re sick from October to April now that you work from home, you should probably get your furnace filters checked (remember to change them once every six months) and get an air purifier if changing the filters doesn’t help.

Get checked for allergies, in any case - it’s not normal to be sick for months at a time.

First thing I thought when I read the situation was the same thing others have written: allergies? Or something else within the home, like low levels of carbon monoxide present during months when the furnace runs? (Please check your home’s CO levels!!!)Who knows? But this is unusual. We homeschool and I know numerous people who work from home–and people I’ve known get sick less when they aren’t exposed to all those germs through school or the office. Curious situation that I’d suggest you investigate. We aren’t suppose to give medical advice, but this situation you described is something you should investigate further!

If something in your home is making you sick, getting out of the house for Mass might save your life! (Please check CO levels!!!)

To answer the original question: it depends on the church situation. I would avoid crowded services and attend a Mass time when there’s more space between people. Depending on the parish, I might attend a different parish. Some parishes skip the handshakes and handholding and/or don’t offer the Cup during cold season.

I’m guaranteed to feel bad either way. :wink: There will generally always be guilt, either for failing to go/using an excuse or forcing the issue and exposing others to a risk for the sake of me going. So I’m not really good at handling close cases on the basis of a gut feeling.

I do know that I’d rather answer for missed masses than for flus inflicted on people on Last Judgement, though I can’t guarantee I’m correct.

It’s my impression that at some point the risk aversion becomes quite extreme when just about any health problem is presented as a reason to stay home and minor risks of spreading a light disease (which people need to face constantly in order to have healthy immune systems to begin with) are coupled with improbable scenarios of meeting people for whom — and their family members and friends — the risks would be worse than most other people, where it’s certainly a real possibility but only like <5% chance. We would multiply those friends of friends till infinity until everyone on earth was connected.

Then there’s the factor that if you choose a less densely packed mass (e.g. extremely late or early hour), then the exact same mass will be picked by just the people who catch bugs easily, are already feeling unwell or have some other immune problem or higher risk, and if you sulk in a remote corner somewhere, you’re probably going to make the area contagious anyway for someone who goes there at next mass. Including someone who wants to avoid germs, who would go precisely there.

(If I go, I rather tend to stand on the floor some yards away from any pew, door or other object or wall or obviously any person.)

If you are contagious, stay home. I can trace most of my colds/flu to being around sick people at church, especially people who were coughing and sneezing just next to or behind me. And yes, it was from church - no one else near me in other places was sick. Don’t shake hands with anyone if you are sitting there with kleenex in hand constantly blowing or wiping your nose. It’s just common sense.

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