UPDATED: Parish Guidelines for Public Masses

Archdiocese of Denver
UPDATED OCTOBER 1, 2020

As the Archdiocese of Denver continues to work to balance protecting the health and safety of our communities with ministering to the spiritual needs of our faithful, we have released updated guidelines for parishes for celebrating public Masses during this current public health pandemic.

The Archdiocese has worked with health experts, elected officials and our priests, deacons and parish staffs to develop these protocols.

How the guidelines are implemented will vary parish to parish depending on parish size, available facilities, and county-specific health orders. Please learn how a parish is operating during this time before going to a public Mass.

Key Updates:

  • The dispensation from the Sunday and Holy Day obligation remains, but it is time to start preparing for the obligation to be PARTIALLY restored.
  • Catholics who are healthy should be examining the risk factors in their lives and discerning if they have valid reasons to stay home from Sunday Mass. If not, they should begin resuming regular Sunday Mass attendance, space permitting at their parish. (See ‘Who should go to a public Mass?’ section below)
  • Attendance limits for Masses are being increased, as long as proper social distancing can still be maintained between families and local restrictions are followed.
  • A separate line for distribution of Holy Communion on the tongue is permitted, but please adhere to the protocols put in place by the parish.

These guidelines are effective October 1, 2020. Below is an updated Q&A on the revised guidelines.

The dispensation from the Sunday and Holy Day obligation is still in effect, but we anticipate that the obligation may be partially restored by the beginning of Advent. Further details and guidance will be provided before that happens, but Catholics should be doing an examination of their consciences to discern if they have serious reasons to continue staying home from Sunday Mass. If not, they should be resuming normal Sunday attendance by the end of November, space permitting at their parish.

Questions for discernment:

  • Do I have any health risk factors, or are there people who I live with or care for who have increased risk factors, that create a legitimate reason for me to not attend public Masses? Or, have I been using the dispensation simply as an excuse to stay home?
  • The Catechism of the Catholic Church states that individuals can be “excused for a serious reason (for example, illness, the care of infants).” (CCC 2181) Has the pandemic created a serious reason for me that I should continue to stay home from Mass?
  • Is my willingness to go to Mass similar to my willingness to enter into other public spaces? Have I have resumed other activities, but not attending Mass?

IMPORTANT: People who are sick, symptomatic, or have recently been exposed to the coronavirus should stay home as it is an act of Christian charity to safeguard the health of others.

Attendance at Masses is being increased but will still have restrictions to ensure proper social distancing between families. Capacity for services will be determined by local regulations and by the number of people and households who can be safely distanced from each other in any space.

Each parish will determine what scheduling and attendance procedures are necessary, so it is important that you stay connected to your parish via the parish website, email, Flocknote, social media, etc.

Catholics who aren’t able to go to Mass should continue to keep the Sabbath holy with intentional time in prayer including engagement in the readings for the day, which may be enhanced through watching a pre-recorded or livestreamed Mass and making a spiritual communion.

What

There are still some TEMPORARY liturgical changes including no hand holding, physically exchanging a sign of peace, or use of holy water. A solo cantor or choir of no more than four people can be used, but congregational singing should be limited.

The distribution of the Precious Blood is still suspended, but distributing Holy Communion on the tongue is allowed if it is in one separate line and happens after everyone else has received. Please follow the instructions of your pastor for lining up and receiving in a safe manner.

MASKS: Out of compliance, caution, and charity for one another, the faithful should continue to follow the mask-mandate for their area during public Masses. For the priest and deacon, it seems prudent to wear a mask for the procession, during the distribution of communion, the recession, and when greeting people after Mass.

Where

Archbishop Aquila has granted a ‘Dispensation of Place’ for parishes to be able to utilize other spaces for Masses including gymnasiums, parish halls and outdoor spaces. Parishioners are asked to avoid congregating in entry ways and should be mindful of social distancing in narrow hallways, bathroom entrances, etc., especially if multiple spaces are being utilized.

How

Acting with love and charity towards each other, we will continue to take appropriate steps to keep our parishes as safe as possible, and we ask for everyone’s cooperation and understanding as pastors and their staffs navigate this challenging time.

Stay connected with your parish to learn their specific policies and protocols for attending Mass and remember that there will be differences from parish to parish.

Let’s keep our trust in the Lord, to see this through until we can gather again in full.

COMING UP: For Love of Country: A Catholic Patriotism

Sign up for a digital subscription to Denver Catholic!

Our country has been through a lot this last year, as we all know. As many people have reacted against the founding and history of the United States, I have found myself drawn towards greater patriotism. By this, I simply mean a deeper appreciation of what I’ve been given by my country and also a growing realization of the duty I have to work for the common good, here and now. The Catechism of the Catholic Church speaks of this duty under the fourth commandment that enjoins honor not only to parents but also to anyone in authority.   

It is the duty of citizens to contribute along with the civil authorities to the good of society in a spirit of truth, justice, solidarity, and freedom. The love and service of one’s country follow from the duty of gratitude and belong to the order of charity. Submission to legitimate authorities and service of the common good require citizens to fulfill their roles in the life of the political community (2239). 

Catholics, and all people of good will, are called to a love and service of country in order to work for the common good.  

Eric Metaxas argues that the future of our country depends precisely upon the active role of Christians in his book, If You Can Keep It: The Forgotten Promise of American Liberty (Penguin, 2017). He describes something called the Golden Triangle, an idea he borrowed from Os Guinness, but which ultimately comes from the Founding Fathers. “The Golden Triangle of Freedom is, when reduced to its most basic form, that freedom requires virtue; virtue requires faith; and faith requires freedom. The three go round and round, supporting one another ad infinitum. If any one of the three legs of the triangle is removed, the whole structure ceases to exist” (54). John Adams, for example, related very clearly, “Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other” (quoted on 61). Metaxas comments, looking to specific examples around the world, “if you take God and faith and morality out of the equation, everything inevitably falls apart. It cannot be otherwise” (48). It cannot be otherwise. That may sound extreme, but we have many examples from Communist and Fascist countries and now even from movements within our country that aggressive secularism parallels a collapse of real freedom.  

The Constitution established an ordered liberty that requires responsibility and a determined effort of preservation. Hence the title of the book, taken from Benjamin Franklin, a republic “if you can keep it.” We are called to actively preserve our country: entering into a deeper understanding of the “idea” of America that undergirds the Republic as well as showing a loving determination to overcome challenges and threats to its continuance. This is not to whitewash the past, as we all know the injustices of our history. Metaxas argues that we can be grateful for the good and unique blessings of our heritage while also working to overcome failures. “To truly love America, one must somehow see both sides simultaneously” (226). Furthermore, by loving our country we are willing her good, drawing our own selves into the work for her good and helping her to be true to herself. “So that in loving America we are embodying her original intentions — we are indeed being America at her best — and in doing so we are calling her to her best, to be focused on doing all she can to fulfill the great promise which God has called her in bringing her into existence and shepherding her through trials and tribulations all these and centuries — and now” (235).  

As Catholics, we have a lot to offer our country by drawing from our rich intellectual and spiritual heritage. Michael Krom, a philosopher at St. Vincent College, provides us with a great resource in his new book, Justice and Charity: An Introduction to Aquinas’s Moral, Economic, and Political Thought (Baker, 2020). In an age of confusion, Catholics can bring greater clarity in our national discourse on the nature of human life, virtue, and politics. “We live in a time of ideological conflicts, in which the citizens of the nations of the modern world seem incapable of agreeing upon even the most basic of moral, economic, or political principles. Civil discourse has been replaced with violent protest, and reasoned dialogue with character assassination” (2). As Catholics, we should be able to look above all of this, literally: “While the Church does not force us to reject political citizenship, she demands that we direct it to the heavenly, and we can do that by heeding her call to engage the world rather than conform to it. I wrote this book out of the conviction that those who want to heed the Church’s call to engage our culture need to look to the past” (ibid.).  

Dr. Krom shows us that St. Thomas Aquinas has much to teach us about living the good life, in pursuit of a genuine freedom and happiness, and that this should inform a Catholic approach to economics and politics. It is hard to work for virtue if you don’t know what virtue really is, and difficult to act justly toward others if you don’t understand the nature of duty. Aquinas can help us to judge the direction of our country, as “a government cannot be called ‘good’ unless it promotes just moral and economic relationships between its citizens” (121). This is precisely the purpose of government — to promote right order and peace. We can’t just dispense with politics because, “the fact that humans find their fulfillment in political community means that situating their own good with the good of the community as a whole is central to happiness” (125). We are not isolated individuals and can’t attain a good and complete life on our own.  

Our ultimate good, however, is God, not the political life. Everything — all of our choices, including economic and political ones — must be directed to our ultimate goal. There are not “two ends to human existence, the earthly and the heavenly … [T]here is only one end, the beatific vision” (162). In this way the Church informs our citizenship. Krom explains “how inadequate this human law is as a teacher in the virtues, for it is limited in scope to the prevention of those vices from which even the wicked can refrain, and thus leaves those who seek after perfect virtue to their own devices … [H]uman law is in need of a higher law to truly bring about a just community” (155). Unfortunately, we’re seeing that our society is no longer even trying to prevent serious vice. Catholics and all believers have an important role to play, because “the lack of religion in the citizenry leads it down the path of totalitarianism. It Is absolutely critical that a people maintain a strong commitment to a transcendent measure of the common good in order to protect the true flourishing of its members” (171). Krom’s important work on justice and charity can teach us how a Catholic can exercise a proper patriotism, a true love of country.