Following the recommendations of health officials of the State of Vermont and the lead of the governor, the Diocese of Burlington lifted all the Covid-19-related restrictions and mandates in June. However, due to town mask mandates being enacted, some pastors have implemented parish-wide protocols for their communities.

With the onset of the delta-variant surge, Burlington Bishop Christopher Coyne told pastors and parishes to follow their local mask mandates and is encouraging parishioners in places that don’t have mandates, especially those who are not vaccinated, to wear masks and physically distance as they are able. He also encourages Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion to wear masks while distributing communion.

Josh Perry, director of the Office of Worship for the Diocese of Burlington called wearing a mask at Christmas an act of charity. “As Christians, we should be helping each other on the path to holiness. And if someone is uncomfortable coming to Mass (for whatever reason), we should really consider how we can best help alleviate that issue,” he said. “Today, the issue of whether people are masked indoors is a real issue for some. … You may disagree with those who wear masks or not wear masks. However, if it would make someone feel more comfortable attending Mass if they saw the majority of parishioners wearing masks when attending Mass at Christmas, then we should really consider the use of masks. That small gesture of charity and — yes — sacrifice — can go a long way in helping one another on the path of holiness.”

Hand sanitizer is also recommended, and most parishes have a supply of hand sanitizer available at the doors of the church. “Sanitizing the worship space is not mandated, but it’s a good practice,” he said.

Last Christmas, some parishes required Christmas Massgoers to sign up to ensure the church did not exceed its Covid-restricted capacity. But this year because there are no capacity restrictions in place, parishes are not required to have registration for Christmas Masses.

Christmas Mass gatherings are important, especially this year after the restrictions in place last year because of the pandemic. “At its core, Christmas is about coming together, because Christmas is about Emmanuel — ‘God with us,’” Perry said.

Christmas is always a Holy Day of Obligation. Because Christmas falls on a Saturday this year, Catholics must attend Mass twice over the course of the weekend.

Perry explained: “One can fulfill the Christmas obligation by attending Mass on Christmas Eve (4 p.m. or later on Dec. 24) or attending Mass anytime on Christmas Day (Saturday). Then the Sunday obligation is fulfilled by attending Mass on Saturday evening (if you’ve already gone to a Christmas Mass on Friday night or Saturday morning) or anytime on Sunday. And yes — you can go to Mass twice on Saturday — once in the morning (for the Christmas obligation) and once in the evening (for the Sunday obligation); however, if the first Mass you attend is Saturday evening, it counts for your Christmas obligation, and you’ll have to attend again on Sunday to fulfill the Sunday obligation.”

Contact your pastor if you have questions.

—Originally published in the Dec. 18-24, 2021, edition of The Inland See.