Saturday, May 2, 2009

Living in Lake Wobegon

Pandemic fears have reached the Catholic Church of St. Joseph. It seems the bishop had an article in the St. Cloud Times this morning advising parishes to take precautions because of the H1N1 (swine) flu. The directives were not to hold hands during the Our Father and not to shake hands during the Sign of Peace, just to nod and say "Peace be with you" or some other greeting. And churches should feel free not to offer the cup for Eucharist (just the bread).

At our church, they decided to still offer the cup, since partaking of it is entirely optional anyway. But we were advised to not hold or shake hands. This seemed absurd to most people in the church, but we complied. The priest announced, before asking us to give each other a sign of peace, that the bishop had supposedly said at a Mass he officiated earlier in the day that "husbands and wives could give each other a kiss... but otherwise, a nod would suffice." So we were able to laugh as we turned and obediently did not shake hands, asking friends when the last time was they'd been to Mexico.

After church I was introduced to a couple sitting behind me, and at that point we all shook hands. And it was also a First Communion service, so the six little girls (one with extreme veil issues) and two boys, were all getting handshakes and hugs at the back of the church. And if you're not likely to get it from a seven-year-old, who are you going to get it from?

But the oddest thing was to come home and turn on A Prairie Home Companion. Garrison Keillor was just launching into his monologue, and his first joke was that Pastor Inqvist at the Lutheran Church had advised against shaking hands at the sign of the peace! People began to laugh right away, although this wasn't the real joke. His joke was that the Lutherans were happy about this because they knew any handshake could open the door to a hug. Well, there's never any danger of hugs from the German Americans of St. Joseph. And not much danger of the H1N1 virus either, I wouldn't think.

He then moved on to a story about turkeys in mating season...

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