DRVC Guidelines for the Celebration of the Feast of St. Blaise, Ash Wednesday
& the Rite of Election in the Time of COVID-19
The Feast of St. Blaise (Wednesday, February 3, 2021)
At the conclusion of Mass or at the end of a brief Liturgy of the Word, the Priest celebrant may replace the final blessing with a communal blessing of throats (cf. Book of Blessings 1626). This is done without the crossed candles, saying: “The Lord be with you.” R./ And with your spirit. With hands extended over the assembly he says:
“Through the intercession of Saint Blaise, Bishop and Martyr, may God deliver you from every disease of the throat and from every other illness: In the name of the Father, and of the Son, + and of the Holy Spirit.” R./ Amen.
The dismissal then follows, using “Go forth, the Mass is ended”, or one of the other formulas found in the Roman Missal.
However, in the event that a pastor decides to bless throats individually, this should take place following the dismissal at the end of Mass or at the end of a brief Liturgy of the Word. Both the Priest and/or Deacon who administers the blessing and the person receiving the blessing should wear masks. A distance of six feet should be maintained. The candles are normally held in the shape of a cross, often tied together with red ribbon. They should not be lit, and the prayer “Through the intercession of Saint Blaise …” is said over each person. No other gesture besides holding them at a safe distance and making the sign of the cross at the invocation of the Holy Trinity is observed. It must be restated explicitly that candles may not be touched to the neck of any member of the faithful, and then touched to the neck of another. This would be a direct violation of the pandemic protocols now in place in our region.
Ash Wednesday (Wednesday, February 17, 2021
)in the time of the pandemic, the imposition of ashes in the usual manner is not possible. We remind the faithful that Ash Wednesday is not a Holy Day of Obligation, and that one is not obliged to attend Mass, nor is one obliged to receive ashes.On January 12, 2021, Robert Cardinal Sarah, the Prefect of the Congregation of Divine Worship and Discipline of the Sacraments, issued a note entitled “Distribution of Ashes in Time of Pandemic”. In that document, Cardinal Sarah gives the following instruction to the clergy:
The Priest says the prayer for blessing the ashes. He sprinkles the ashes with holy water, without saying anything. Then he addresses all those present and only once says the formula as it appears in the Roman Missal, applying it to all in general: “Repent, and believe in the Gospel”, or “Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return”.
The Priest then cleanses his hands, puts on a face mask and distributes the ashes to those who come to him or, if appropriate, he goes to those who are standing in their places. The Priest takes the ashes and sprinkles them on the head of each one without saying anything.
Because of the instruction from Cardinal Sarah and due to the current state of the pandemic, this year the Diocese of Rockville Centre will administer ashes to the faithful by sprinkling the blessed ashes on the top of the head of the recipient. This is the traditional practice of the Roman Rite, and is currently observed in Rome, throughout Europe, and in various other parts of the world. This method, rooted in the scriptural tradition, will allow for ashes to be given easily without making physical contact.
Sprinkling ashes on the crown of the head recalls the biblical method of putting on sackcloth and ashes as a sign of penance. A number of accounts in the Bible mention people sprinkling or pouring ashes over their head (for example, Numbers 19:17, Jonah 3:6, Nehemiah 9:1, Judith 4:11, & Esther 4:1). This gesture, while not as dramatic, recalls that penitential practice. The ashes not being visible will also more clearly help those who receive them to put into practice the teaching of the Gospel appointed for the day to carry out one’s penance in private. Additionally, it is helpful to recall that in Baptism, we have been anointed on the crown of the head. The ashes to be imposed on the crown signify our repentance from sin, which has marred the grace of Baptism.
The Rite of Election (Sunday, February 21, 2021)
Because of the current state of the pandemic, and because of estimates of nearly one-thousand participants throughout the Diocese this year, it is not possible to hold the customary large-scale celebrations. The RCIA permits the Diocesan Bishop to delegate his role to others (RCIA, 122). Consequently, in the Diocese of Rockville Centre this year, Bishop Barres delegates to every pastor his permission for them to celebrate the Rite of Election in each individual parish.