Monday, December 29, 2014

When Staying Home is the Right Thing to Do

The great hospital stay of '2012...
I was recently involved in a conversation where someone announced that, short of being hospitalized, they refuse to miss Mass.  It doesn't matter if a member of the family is sick, they will be there on Sunday, because they aren't going to stay home just because "someone else might catch the sniffles."
I had to exit the conversation, after begging the person to stay home if they're sick and being told that they absolutely would not (and that I should be thankful that I don't go to their parish...), to keep from saying exactly what I think of this attitude.

Thankfully, I have blogging, where I can say exactly what I think in a general way, which so often keeps me from saying what I think about a specific situation out loud (or stewing over what I didn't say for days afterwards).

I know Rebecca already wrote a great post on this topic, but after seeing it come up again and again this Advent/Christmas/flu season I feel that it really can't be said enough.

Please, if you're sick, stay home from Mass.  You're excused.  You don't need to confess it or agonize over whether it was a sin.  It's not.  When you're ill you don't have to go to Mass.  It's really quite simple.

Sometimes going to Mass through all the challenges that life throws at us can become a point of pride.  When I look long and hard at my own experiences in the past I think it had become exactly that for me, and it was humbling when I realized (after speaking with my pastor and explaining our situation) that sometimes I really shouldn't be there (but that's really it's own post, since that has little to do with illness and everything to do with the beautiful but very strong sensory experience that is the Mass).

I was proud that I didn't miss Mass for years, that I was there, in agonizing pain days after my first c-section, that we braved dangerous roads and blizzard conditions to be there one Christmas Eve, and that as soon as I was released from the hospital we were bringing our newborn babies to the next Sunday Mass.

I don't think it's bad to push yourself to go if you aren't putting yourself or anyone else at risk.  That's a personal decision to work out for yourself.

Everything changes though, when you're putting others at risk by going to Mass when you're sick.  I know it can be hard, especially when an illness is being passed around through your family and it seems to go on and on and on.  Believe me, I know what that's like.

I also know what it's like to not have the greatest immune system.  While I tend to be totally able to fight off illness when I'm not pregnant, any illnesses when I'm pregnant, from the first trimester onward, tend to take a nasty turn.  That week I spent with the infectious disease team at our local hospital where they were starting sentences with phrases like "You'll probably live if..." has forever changed how I look at little old viruses that don't seem that serious.

And after the last two pregnancies and many, many viruses my OB pointed out this last time that it seems that any little illness sends me into labor now... which was the reason for all those trips to labor and delivery where James thankfully managed to stay put this last time.

Between my own experience and watching Maggie have a fever for roughly three months out of this past year, and going through round after round of antibiotics and tests and fears and doctor's appointments and hospital visits wondering whether something was seriously wrong, since she just wasn't getting better as the fever bounced from 99 degrees some days to 104 other days, my thoughts on going to Mass when a person is ill has crystallized.

It can be hard to imagine when you're healthy and the flu means being sick for a day or two... but for the very young and the very old and those with compromised immunity, a "little virus" can be life threatening... or even life ending.

Sometimes it's kinder to make the sacrifice not to go so that you don't endanger others and put them at risk for a hospital visit, or worse.

After all, even if you avoid others you're still likely touching door knobs and doors, pews, the holy water font and possibly receiving the precious blood (and that's not to mention air born viruses).

Jesus knows your heart.  He knows that you want to be there.  And he sees the sacrifice that you're making when you can't be there because you're putting others ahead of yourself and staying home.  So please if you're sick, stay home from Mass.  Those who go who aren't quite as strong and healthy will be grateful that you're not putting them at risk, and you'll get the rest that you need to get better as quickly as you possibly can.


  1. My immune compromised mom misses Mass from November to April because people refuse to stay home when they are sick. Christmas Eve Mass was a cacophony of sniffing, coughing and sneezing. People are so selfish and rude. And it's not just limited to Mass - people go everywhere when they are sick. Stay home, folks! Life is not all just about you.

  2. Thank you.

    For the first time in years, I haven't been to Mass on Christmas, in fact, I missed Mass this Sunday, too. But with a bad cold it was not possible, and I would have infected others (especially during these days, where Mass is especially crowded). Insisting on going to Mass (or work- although I know this topic is difficult in countries like the US where sick leave seems to be unpaid mostly- in Germany, that's different) is uncharitable. Also, people are so different when it comes to the amount of pain they can bear.

    Hedda from Germany :)

  3. I hear ya'! And when you are feeling better, or when you have to miss because you are tending to someone else who is sick, check out Heart of the Nation website which has the weekly Mass recorded. They are on some T.V. stations around the country that carry it, but you can watch the video at any time on the Internet, and although it isn't the same as attending if you can, you can "attend" when you can't.

    God bless and hope everyone is feeling better soon! ~ Bonnie

    P.S. If you do watch Heart of the Nation My Sunday Mass, don't forget to donate if you can to keep them up and running.

  4. Thank you for voicing this. It is precisely because of people who refuse to stay home when sick that I cannot attend Mass during winter months with my medically fragile son. Not at all. If everyone who was ill would stay home when they were ill that might be a different story but because of selfishness on the part of others not willing to stay home one, maybe two Sundays while they are recovering, we have to stay home the ENTIRE winter. Your unwillingness to miss ONE maybe TWO Sunday masses means we miss TWENTY plus a year. Does this make Jesus happy? Something to think about.

  5. I understand and agree with what is being said here, but the reality is that quite often people are most contagious right before they show symptoms - and stop being contagious well before their symptoms cease (depending on the illness). Someone who is showing symptoms may have been cleared by their doctor to be out in public as non-contagious. I have cough-variant asthma, so when my asthma flares I cough - sometimes a lot. But I'm not contagious. Please don't automatically presume people are non- thinking or selfish. Please continue to protect yourselves and your children, but also consider this other side. People on both sides of this coin must be responsible.

  6. The whole "oh, it's just a cold!" Attitude is disgusting. My grandpa died from "just a cold." The week before he got sick, he had only been to Mass and the Shoe repair. I bet I can guess where he got sick.

  7. Amen!

    My husband grew up in Florida, which has, to put it mildly, a disproportionately high percentage of elderly/immunocompromised people. Every Fall, his priest would give a sermon on why it was a sin against charity to go to church while sick. What might be a case of the sniffles to you could KILL Mrs. McOlder next to you. Period, full stop, end of sentence.

  8. Hi Shelley,

    Every member of our family has breathing allergies (except James so far) and most of us have asthma too so I can totally relate and definitely don't make assumptions. I pretty much always have an asthmatic cough... this was aimed at the people who are sick, who know they're sick and are going anyways (which was what the person who I was having a conversation actually said) not at those who aren't contagious.

  9. When my husband's asthma flares and he is coughing a lot, he stays home from Mass. Not only does he not want to make people uncomfortable and worried, he knows frequent coughing is annoying and distracting. But most of the hackers, sneezers, snufflers and nose-blowers at Mass don't have asthma - they are actually showing symptoms of an illness.

  10. Also it is not true that a person is "modt contagious" before they have symptoms. Although they are contagious 24-48 hours prior, people are MOST contagious when they are sneezing and coughing. It's hard to spread germs before symptoms begin.

  11. YES YES YES YES - THANK YOU!!!!!I am publishing this anonymously because most people online don't know I have MS (people in person can now see the effects). I am feeling dreadful about having missed Mass the last few weeks because my doctor's office told me they are seeing so much flu. So many people go to Mass even with fevers, which makes those of us with compromised immune systems and risks of serious complications have no real choice but to stay away. A case of simple sniffles for one person can cause flare ups and expensive treatments and family upheavals for others. Thank you for getting the word out!

  12. Yes. This has been on my heart so much lately.

  13. I am a postpartum nurse and we always tell parents not to take their babies to public places or "anywhere they don't have to be" during flu season because you can never count on people to do the right thing. so, healthy people need to take the precautions to protect their little ones.

  14. On the third Sunday of Advent the kid behind me in Church was snuffling and hacking - he sounded like he had pneumonia. I felt terrible for him, couldn't one of his parents stayed home with him?! Then the kid sneezed a big wet sneeze right onto my neck. It was disgusting. Parents didn't even apologize. I was miffed, but didn't think much of it until I spent most of Christmas week - and this week - in bed with bronchitis.

    I will be missing Mass until I'm symptom free!


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