The Liturgical “Sign of Peace”: Move or Remove?

Sign of Peace graphic

At the request of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, a requisite inquiry into the timely appropriateness of the Latin Rite’s gesture of peace shared amongst the people during the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass commenced almost a decade ago. The Vatican’s Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments (“the Congregation”), under the papal authority of a new Holy Father, Francis, disseminated publicly this year their conclusions on the placement of the gesture. In its Circular Letter on the Ritual Expression of the Gift of Peace at Mass, the Congregation, although reiterating authoritative instruction on the avoidance of gestural abuses, decided that the gesture shall remain in the current liturgical place.

It is indeed born of a sound theology that amongst the faithful there is some sign of peace during the Mass, which in the current Novus Ordo Missae (contemporary Ordinary Mass) occurs prior to the breaking of the consecrated body and soon before Catholics of good conscience are invited to consume the actual flesh and blood of God. Further, the gesture also correlates with doctrinal teaching on communal worship and Christian fraternity.

Benedict XVI’s request for study of the topic, however, brings papal credence to the idea that the placement of the gesture is thoroughly and unreasonably anachronistic. Quoth Benedict XVI 2007 post-synodal apostolic exhortation Sacramentum Caritatis:

Taking into account ancient and venerable customs and the wishes expressed by the Synod Fathers, I have asked the competent curial offices to study the possibility of moving the sign of peace to another place, such as before the presentation of the gifts at the altar.

Indeed, it is the place of the peace gesture in the Novus Ordo Missae that is the problem.

Rather than reminding the faithful that they are sharing in a solemn sacrifice and preparing to participate communally in worship (lex orandi), and in the Supper of the Lord, receiving His very body and blood as did the apostles on the night that they were told He was to become the Passover Paschal Lamb, the gesture of peace in its current place obliterates the reverence of the moment.

As Saint John Paul II reminded the faithful in his encyclical letter Ecclesia De Eucharistia: “Every priest who celebrates Holy Mass, together with the Christian community which takes part in it, is led back in spirit to that place and that hour.” By “that hour,” John Paul II meant “the hour of his Cross and glorification.”

If at “that hour” Mary and John on Calvary looked up to the cross, smiled, hugged, and shook hands, this column would have nary any authority; but, alas, the Gospel of John says Mary and John did nothing of the sort.

The mind and soul are to be fixed upon the transsubstantiatio (“transubstantiation”) occurring on the altar; thus one is to be focused in soul, mind, and body, solely upon God.

The anachronistic confraternal peace gesture takes the soul, mind, and body away from the necessary contemplative prayer, thought, and internal preparation in which one should be engaged immediately prior to the receipt of Holy Communion. In a few short liturgical seconds, one is re-directed from the rightful focus on Christ and the Father (the latter most directly through the recitation of Jesus’ own Pater Noster [“Our Father”]), and onto the people by way of the peace gesture. The liturgy then swiftly reverts focus back onto the Lord with the chanting of the Agnus Dei (“Lamb of God”), which repeats twice the request of the faithful for the Lord to “have mercy on us,” which is surely aidful in, and companion to, a proper examination of conscience and soul in preparation for unworthy receipt of Holy Communion. One need not have considerable knowledge of the liturgy to see that the peace gesture just does not fit.

The move from focus on the Eucharist and onto the people is troublesome, for as John Paul II wrote in Ecclesia De Eucharistia:  “[T]he Eucharist, which is in an outstanding way the sacrament of the paschal mystery, stands at the centre of the Church’s life” (original emphasis).

More akin to evangelical Protestants’ understanding of worship, the gesture of peace in its current place maims the Catholic teaching of the sacrificial purpose of the Mass. Evangelical Protestants and so-called charismatic Catholics similarly view worship as celebratory fun full of pomp, whistles, vocal affirmation, clapping, and music that mirrors that which is played at dance parties. The Catholic Mass, however, is not a celebration, nor it is a weekend party filled with bread, wine, and good company. Catholics gather to venerate the Eucharistic sacrifice upon the altar.

For those Catholics who participate exclusively in the Novus Ordo, or in conjunction with the forma extraordinaria Missae (Tridentine Latin Mass), some solemnity-crushing modern liturgical abuses are avoidable. The peace gesture, however, can sometimes be difficult to avoid. Those Catholics leery of the placement of the peace gesture may feel as though they will be assessed as inconsiderate if they do not greet those around them. The trepidation of those who hold this opinion is valid, for the vast majority of Catholics at the Novus Ordo will likely see the non-peace-gesturer as individualistic and uncouth, rather than theologically upright—this, simply because they have no knowledge of the liturgical difference of opinion on the rightful place of the gesture. In the words of the Congregation’s instructional 2004 Redemtionis Sacramentum: “[A]buses are often based on ignorance, in that they involve a rejection of those elements whose deeper meaning is not understood and whose antiquity is not recognized.”

Thankfully, the Roman Missal has allowed consecrating priests to omit the gesture of peace among the people. The Vatican’s Circular Letter reaffirmed that the gesture is indeed optional, meaning that those who choose not to participate in the gesture when invited and those who intellectually disagree with its placement in the Mass are in no way challenging Church hierarchy on liturgical instruction.

Nonetheless, it remains strikingly confounding how the Congregation, which has spent considerable time within the last decade attempting to curtail what they rightly consider to be liturgical abuses with respect to the peace gesture, do not realize that there would exist no abuses in need of correction and on which instructions must be disseminated if the gesture was simply moved to an appropriate place of the Mass.

In Ecclesia De Eucharistia John Paul II declared with respect to the Eucharist:

In various parts of the Church abuses have occurred, leading to confusion with regard to sound faith and Catholic doctrine concerning this wonderful sacrament. At times one encounters an extremely reductive understanding of the Eucharistic mystery. Stripped of its sacrificial meaning, it is celebrated as if it were simply a fraternal banquet…. This has led here and there to ecumenical initiatives which, albeit well-intentioned, indulge in Eucharistic practices contrary to the discipline by which the Church expresses her faith. How can we not express profound grief at all this? The Eucharist is too great a gift to tolerate ambiguity and depreciation.

Again, there would be no abuses on which Supreme Pontiffs would have to spend time writing if the gesture were moved to a place in the Mass during which abuse upon the Eucharistic sacrament would not be an issue of concern.

In Redemptionis Sacramentum, the stated abuses of the peace gesture mirror some of the points made in the Congregation’s Circular Letter, released over ten years hence. The latter cited abuses that include a so-called song of peace in place of the gesture; the movement of worshippers from their immediate stations to extend the sign; the consecrating priest descending from the altar to offer the sign to laymen; and “the exchange of peace being the occasion for expressing congratulations, best wishes or condolences among those present.”

As the catholic, universal Church it is necessary to avoid the quiet, but very real, incessant growing rift that increasingly sees more traditionalist Catholics embracing the forma extraordinaria Missae, thus leaving many Novus Ordo Masses filled almost exclusively with the less liturgically pious. Just as is necessary in politics, the Church needs unification of all community members in order to keep a healthy balance. To utilize analogous contemporary political terminology, we need those on the right, the left, and those in the middle under the same roof, for the effect is compromise, as friction and diversity of opinion undeniably helps to move everyone to the center, thus reducing factitious extremist tides.

With a view toward respect for the Lord and unification in the Church, the Church’s good and blessed priests who seek to avoid the devolution of the Mass into celebratory weekend party sessions must begin to move away from inviting the people to embrace as they would at a weekend cocktail party, reminding the faithful that they are about to receive the flesh and blood of the Lord.

Perhaps inviting worshippers to embrace after the Mass might be a compromise, for this move would not eliminate the communal gesture but would also aid in the reclamation of a lost reverence in the Novus Ordo sacrifice.

For the Congregation, perhaps it will in the future analyze the gesture. If so, it might consider a liturgical analysis that finds the place most appropriate to which the gesture could be moved would be following the priest’s words that conclude the sacrifice: Ite, missa est, or “Go forth, the Mass is ended.” Appropriate placement of the gesture would be something like … Offerte vobis pacem … then … Ite, missa, est or “Let us offer each other the sign of peace”… then … “Go forth, the Mass is ended.”

The communal peace gesture’s placement makes so little sense that the Congregation’s affirmation of its placement is confounding. The inquiry into the gesture’s proper place was initiated by Benedict XVI, but the results were released under Francis. If Benedict XVI had not abdicated his divine papal authority, perhaps there would have been another decision. It is impossible to know what would have been, but Catholics believe in inalienable truths and both unwavering intervention and guidance by the Holy Spirit in the Lord’s Church. The Church is intrinsically inerrant, for it is guided by the Holy Spirit; therefore errors by the earthly men at its worldly helm shall always be corrected over time. Fiat voluntas tua (“Thy will be done”).

If it is His will, the gesture’s rightful liturgical placement shall again be considered. If John Paul II’s forceful declaration in Ecclesia De Eucharistia that: “No one is permitted to undervalue the mystery entrusted to our hands: it is too great for anyone to feel free to treat it lightly and with disregard for its sacredness and its universality,” then one can reasonably conclude that the gestural placement will find itself again under scrutinizing eyes in the Congregation.

For at the Last Supper, when Jesus told his followers most dear that he was to die the next day, his apostles upon hearing this did not smile, hug, shake hands and break into song at the prospect of their divine rabbi’s forthcoming bloody and inhumane sacrifice. Remember, the Lord’s hands with which he raised the bread and chalice in the Upper Room would be nailed heinously to a cross, his digestive tract pierced with a spear to ensure bodily death. He looked up to heaven that evening and asked that they eat and drink in his memory. One would think that such a Lord would deserve rightful due, and that the gestures would be saved for either the conclusion of, or following, the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.

Gerard T. Mundy

By

Gerard T. Mundy is a writer and a university professor of philosophy and political theory at a Catholic institution in the New York area.

  • Michael Paterson-Seymour

    “He gives us his body,” so Augustine wrote, “to make us into his body.” This brings out how the sacrament symbolizes and effects the unity of the people who join together to celebrate the Eucharist and to receive communion. Similarly, St John Damascene reminds us that “Because we partake of a single bread, we all become a single body of Christ, a single blood, and members one of another, being made of one body with Christ.”

    Against this background, the appropriateness of the Pax is obvious enough.

    • Linda

      I was visiting a parish that extended the sign of Peace at the beginning of Mass and it seemed appropriate at that time, as a welcome to each other.

      • Bobalouie

        Our parish does that too, except it still has the sign of peace in the usual place. So we greet those around us at the beginning and once again at the sign of peace.

    • Glenn M. Ricketts

      Michael, I take those observations to reflect everyone’s unity, first of all to Christ, not to each other. And in any case, the manner in which the gesture is extended almost universally here in the US conveys no discernible sense of Christ or “peace,”, but rather of a festive social gathering, an extension of the parish ice cream social. That’s probably not what you have in mind, but it’s certainly been the reality in this part of the Church ever since the “sign of peace” was first introduced.

      • Michael Paterson-Seymour

        In the Orthodox churches, it takes place after the dismissal of the catechumens and before the Creed, again emphasising the gathered faithful as the Body of Christ.

        Perhaps, we should restore the dismissal of the Catechumens, which also occurred in a number of the Spanish and Gallican liturgies?

        • Glenn M. Ricketts

          I’m certainly open to suggestions, since the present practice here – and I suspect in many other venues – is decidedly unsatisfactory. As I noted elsewhere in this thread, the current rubric does not mandate a physical expression of “peace,” only a verbal greeting.

          I haven’t exchanged comments with you for a while, so please accept my warm wishes for the Christmas season.

        • R. K. Ich

          Indeed, dismissal is highly appropriate. “Holy things for the holy.”

  • Salvelinus

    Thankfully I haven’t had to deal with this sign of peace, of the congregation for over two years now.
    For that, I haven’t dealt with other protestant like aspects, like communion in the hand while standing either.

    • Martha

      Agreed! It’s been about 2 1/2 years for me as well, and I can’t imagine ever going back to the NO. What a hot mess. I can’t imagine how the NO was ever successfully implemented. I feel robbed by all the years that I didn’t know what I was missing. How must my grandparents have felt when they knew what they had, and it was replaced with something unutterably inferior? Who trades gold for coal?

      • Donna Ruth

        Coal? Oh my, that is a regrettable choice of words. Those of us with limited or no access to the EF must be sustained by the Holy Eucharist who comes down on the altar during even the most happy clappy NO. To remain focused, we must learn to avert our eyes, keeping them closed or riveted on our missals. Yes, it can be distressing attending the social-gathering, Event Mass, but all is forgiven when sweet Jesus arrives on my tongue. I come before the priest at Communion as one person and glide back to the pew filled with the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of our Savior. How blessed we are.

        In the secular world, a Chateau Lafite Rothschild is still fine wine whether it be in fine crystal stemware or a styrofoam cup. Our humble Lord Jesus deigns to come be with us in the Holy Eucharist whether it be amongst bells and majestically rising incense during an EF, or during the most minimalist NO Mass. Deo Gratias!

        • Martha

          If the Lord deigns to offer his Son to us through the Holy Eucharist at an NO mass, it is in spite of that mass, not because of it. Gold vs. Coal? Just calling a spade a spade.

          I’m sorry you have poor access to the TLM. That is a shame. We drive 30 minutes each way, and we’ve talked of spending weekends in a city 2 hours from us if our local-ish one should ever be taken away. We are truly living in a sacrificial environment, but as the Mass is the pinnacle of our lives, any sacrifice we can make is worth it to offer God our very best.

          Dominus vobiscum!

        • R. K. Ich

          Holy matrimony can be validly conducted in jeans and a t-shirt by the bride and groom with the priest wearing a Hawaiian shirt and sunglasses (just need the stole to show he is a priest!) — our Lord deigns to bless even this. But the question still remains: is this the best we can do for such a great event? Isn’t there such a thing as “more fitting” and “less fitting” ways to express the holiest things on earth?

          Likewise, there are an infinite number of things one “could” do to the Mass, and still have a valid mass — but why even go there?

          The whole “What can we get away with?” mentality forges a minimalist liturgy, with the hammer of stupidity on the anvil of schlock, resulting in objectively distasteful and unsuitable rubrics.

          The liberty to tinker is not the same as expediency. If something smells rotten in the NO due to some boneheaded move (sincere or not is irrelevant) on the part of “the experts,” we should just acknowledge it. And if good Catholics are deprived of the Church’s best liturgy through no fault of their own, so much the sadder for them.

  • john

    With my small children, the sign of peace interrupts the solemnity of the consecration (which they have usually just begun settling into and stopped squirming), and introduces an opportunity for silly exaggerated hand-shaking, squeezing of hands extra tight (followed by muted howls of faux-pain), and either my wife or me scolding one or several or all of the children that they aren’t going to get a donut if the keep this up. Its timing is most unfortunate, I think. I would be much more appropriate to scold them about the donut just before the music volunteers belt out “Sing a New Church.” I’d be very happy to remove the event altogether.

    • Glenn M. Ricketts

      When my wife and I were married, a number of non-Catholic friends came, including a Jewish one who rather unintentionally offered a telling comment on the Sign of Peace. It was a nice ceremony, he observed, but, if you don’t mind me asking: why did everyone all of a sudden stop in the middle of it and shake hands? Indeed.

    • Raymond Rice

      Maybe you should teach your kids what it is really about instead of eliminating it!!!

  • Scott W.

    From the article: “Evangelical Protestants and so-called charismatic Catholics similarly view worship as celebratory fun full of pomp, whistles, vocal affirmation, clapping, and music that mirrors that which is played at dance parties.”

    There’s no mystery why: when there is a giant hole where the Sacrament is supposed to be, there is an (unsuccessful) attempt to fill the hole with everything but the kitchen sink. This happens in Catholic parishes as well where some need is not being met such as families rarely socializing outside of sporting events. So instead of an appropriately sober exchange of peace, we get the pew-lunge of peace or worse, the opening-bell-of-the-New-York-Stock-Exchange of peace.

  • The place that is proposed to move the Sign of Peace is where it most likely was in the early centuries of the liturgy of Rome, before its being moved around the time of Augustine. The case for returning it to that position is compelling enough to make us forget a number of things:

    1. The “Pax” remains in relatively the same position in the Traditional form of the Roman Mass (the “Tridentine Mass”), where it is only employed in the Solemn High or Pontifical Masses. Changing its place would, in principal, be one more sign of discontinuity between the two forms, at a time of calling for precisely the opposite. Are we going to make matters worse, if only in principal?

    2. Moving its location assumes that the abuses which accompany it will no longer occur, or that their disturbing effect will be diminished. Do we really believe that the priest will be less likely to leave the altar and pass it among the pews, that a “song of peace” will not be sung, or that people will not continue to mill about and prolong the Mass with glad-handing?

    3. An opportunity will be missed to do it correctly, in the form of the “holy kiss” referred to in the Epistles, that which is akin to the “Latin kiss” in Hispanic cultures, or most important, in the Traditional form of the Roman Mass itself. In some Orthodox churches, the faithful pass the Peace amongst themselves, and it looks nothing like the backslapping Roman counterpart. Has the correct method of giving and receiving the Pax been so much as contemplated?

    There has been enough tinkering with the Mass, and little of genuine benefit has come of it. FIrst it will be this, then it will something else. Do it correctly, as traditionally done, or leave it as an option. Better yet, just leave it the h*** alone!

    For once.

    • Glenn M. Ricketts

      How about simply going with the current rubric, under which the Sign of Peace as a physical gesture of some sort is optional? Only the verbal greeting is mandated. I’m not sure exactly how to handle this, but I hope you’ll agree that the present practice is quite unsatisfactory, with all of the high fives and other eccentric gestures that seem to be the climax of Mass for many people. Reception of Holy Communion unfortunately comes as almost an afterthought.

  • AcceptingReality

    Gerard I agree with you wholeheartedly that the sign of peace, where it is, does obliterate the reverence of the moment. At are parish, the extraordinary ministers are still offering each other peace long after the Lamb of God prayer has started. Indeed I think the sense of the sacred in general is largely lost in most parishes. At our parish (and many others) a new practice has cropped up. That is the invitation to “stand and greet your neighbor” at the start of Mass. This new practice, coupled with the “sign of peace” (not to mention joke telling priests and other things that solicit and elicit applause from the congregation) have fostered an overall casual approach to Mass attendance that is quite irreverent. Very, very few come in and kneel before Mass, praying and examining their consciences in preparation for the Holy Sacrifice which is about to occur. They sit and chat, loudly, as if waiting for a stage show or a football game to start. It’s a disgrace.

    I do think you cast too broad a net when you say charismatic Catholics view worship as celebratory fun full of pomp, whistles, vocal affirmation, clapping, and music that mirrors that which is played at dance parties. Please insert the word “some” there. I am a “charismatic” Catholic. Meaning I pray in tongues and believe in the “gifts of the Spirit” but I don’t think clapping and pomp and vocal affirmation are appropriate for Mass. My strong sense of the solemn and reverence for the Blessed Sacrament have grown out of my “charismatic” background.

    • R. K. Ich

      Having grown up the Pentecostal/Charismatic (non-Catholic) churches, I can tell you quite the opposite is true. What the Catholics borrowed from non-Catholics is downright distracting if not dangerous. The “renewal” myth that is propagated is the Holy Spirit “gets His way” over against the “dead” religionists who (*gasp!*) focus on Christ and Him Crucified.

      The Charismatic movement rightly focuses on certain virtues of what the spirit-filled life ought to look like, but what it grabs with its left hand it loses with the right. The goods are fully present in Word and Sacrament. The unfortunate bi-product of this movement is an elevation of experience over dogma and revelation. What invariably happens is there’s a push to make the sign-gifts the forefront of worship, as if that’s the “real deal” and the rest are “missing out”. It creates an unfortunate tier system within the congregation that leaves the “inexperienced” hungering for something not necessarily granted to all (I am a soft cessationist, so I don’t think it’s a healthy idea anyway to focus on sign-gifts since those were largely consigned to the Apostolic era – lots of room for “creativity” shall we say?)

      I think the renewal mentality does point out a need to have a vital prayer life, but that was obvious to me in traditional, non-charismatic circles. I allow there are mystics in the body who have experiences not all necessarily will share, but to alter the character of the Mass for the Spirit to “do His thing” is a tricky method the devil will use to keep the Cross from being central.

      “Experience, my dear Wormwood, is what we want to keep the patient focused upon. As long as he is convinced the truth plays second fiddle to his gut, his adrenaline, his tears, this is how we can more easily clench doubt against the Enemy Above.”

  • lifeknight

    As with many things in life, the sign of peace has devolved to the “lowest common denominator.” Right or wrong, my teenage sons mock the gesture by shooting peace signs to the elderly who insist on hugging, kissing, and speaking at volume 10. It is one of the most egregious interruptions of the sacred mysteries.

    • Raymond Rice

      Write to the pope and tell him he is wrong??!!!

    • Raymond Rice

      Thjey are wrong and you should correct them!!

  • s;vbkr0boc,klos;

    “As the catholic, universal Church it is necessary to avoid the quiet,
    but very real, incessant growing rift that increasingly sees more
    traditionalist Catholics embracing the forma extraordinaria Missae, thus leaving many Novus Ordo Masses filled almost exclusively with the less liturgically pious.”

    Oh dear! oh dear! Those who pushed Humpty Dumpty wish to put him together again.

  • me, myself & I r all here

    if…… only…… perhaps your next article can focus on the “wringing” of hands & it’s appropriate place in the Holy Sacrifice……

  • Paolo

    The Ambrosian rite (Diocese of Milano, Italy) provides for the sign of peace to be exchanged before the offertory – Mathew 5: 23-24. But I think the problem arises from the fact that too much stress is placed on the communal – community aspect of the Mass at the expenses of the most important propitiatory sacrificial meaning as in the Vetus Ordo. That’s why also the celebration ad orientem, a possibility also in the Novus Ordo, should be re-introduced.

    • JOHN GRONDELSKI

      I am really challenged by why my fellow Catholics think that orthodoxy and communality are somehow at loggerheads. I find the Circular Letter problematic in not telling us WHY it chose to leave the Sign where it is when it would most appropriately fit at the Presentation and Offertory (“before you bring your gift to the altar…”) and strikes me as clericalism that “we decided and don’t necessarily need to tell YOU why….)

  • Apart from the fact that people lose the forest through the trees as they ensure that they extend greetings to everyone about; the best reasons to dispense with the SOP are viral and bacteriological.

  • Kathleen

    “The Catholic Mass, however, is not a celebration…” Hmm. We call it the celebration of the Mass. We call the priest the celebrant.

    • JP

      In English, celebration also means memorialize, and/or to perform a religious function. There is no “celebration” (party). In the old days, the Mass was also called the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.

      • Dick Prudlo

        It still is called the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. And when looking at my calendar it is today, not yesterday. To my reckoning the No Mass is neither a sacrifice nor very Holy, it is a conundrum devised by Mason;s and Protestant’s for the benefit of NeoCatholics. It is and always will be nothing more than a 1970’s hoax that is an insult to our Father.

        • Martha

          I agree, Dick, although I have to admit the whole valid/invalid licit/illicit thing has me confused. What I do know is that it is clearly inferior, and was clearly hijacked. I also know that, after getting to know the Mass of All Time, I can’t sit through a NO without feeling anger at the injustices and disrespect being ‘offered’ to Our Lord.

          Someone said that to be deep in history is to be Catholic. Apply that to the novelties of today, and it would be resaid, to be deep in the history of the Mass is to be in the TLM.

    • Martha

      We are at the foot of the Cross during Mass, Kathleen. We must keep that in mind.

      • Kathleen

        I have been a practicing Catholic for 60 years. My husband is an ordained Deacon. I (horrors!) play guitar at Mass. Both of us have been blessed with the opportunity for some wonderful theological training. TheLord’s sacrifice leads to joy and resurrection. The Eucharist is a healing presence. I worry that we are bringing our worldly, political, agendized secularness into our celebration of the Mass.

        • Martha

          The Lord’s sacrifice does lead to resurrection. Mary and John were not celebrating that while He was on the cross, however. They were contemplating His sacrifice, His love, His passion. I’m sure they were feeling extremely solemn, to say the least. We should be in awe at His sacrifice, and should be feeling extremely undeserving of such an act of love. The preparation prayers to receive the Eucharist of St. Augustine and St. Thomas Aquinas show this well when they speak of condemnation, judgment, being unworthy. They say they ‘fearfully deign to approach’ the sacrament. They’re not saying sappy happy things like, ‘Yay, Lord! You rock! Woo hoo!’ We mustn’t forget our place. Our Father demands respect, as He is the ultimate of Fathers.

          I worry, too, that we are bringing our worldly secularness into the Mass.

          I think we would all agree that the best environment in which to contemplate (the Mass or anything else), is a quiet environment. Music can accentuate prayer, but only if accordingly solemn and contemplative.

  • Margaret Rudolf

    It can be a very painful experience for an older person with arthritic hands. Maybe someone should remind the congregation of this before the sign of peace, wherever it is placed.

  • Lego Man

    Get rid of it. Who wants to touch dirty, sweaty hands of strangers?. If I had nothing against the stranger next to me before, I certainly do now that my personal hygiene and space has been so grossly violated.

    • JR

      Sweaty? How about the person who coughs and sneezes into that hand all during Mass and then extends it to you to shake? That’s when I take out my handkerchief for some faux nose blowing and nodding instead. That’s even worse than the “hand on the oily head” blessing given at Communion time to arms-crossed-blessing-seekers.

      • JR

        I forgot to mention the people who insist on holding hands for the Lord’s Prayer and even poke you to comply.

        • Lego Man

          I find that easier to refuse but it’s not much of a problem in Ireland.

          • Raymond Rice

            Because the Irish don’t go to Mass???

        • P.

          My God! I might have to touch someone in Church?

          • Raymond Rice

            I almost gagged the first time that I heard that Jesus mixed His spit with dirt and put it on a blind man’s eyes!!! LOL

            • Ted

              You almost gagged as you do not have faith. Pray to Jesus and ask him for the faith that is lacking. God Bless You!

              • Raymond Rice

                Thanks for your rash judgement!! If I don’t have faith, why should I pray to Jesus??

          • JR

            I’m there to worship God, not play touchy-feely. I can do that while socializing after Mass. And that goes for the clapping and singing “Happy Birthday” at the end of Mass; better to give the person the blessing from the Book of Blessings.

            • P.

              God is present four ways at Mass: 1. In the priest, 2. in the Scripture,
              3. in the Eucharist, 4. in His Body, the People of God, the Church. If
              any of these elements are absent they we do not have the fullness of
              the Mass. Aren’t all of these called upon to interact in order for us to
              get the graces of the Masses. Why would the Body of Christ, the Church,
              not want to touch or be touched?
              As for Contemplation at Mass,
              Vatican Council II calls for full participation of the People of God at
              Mass. The Mass is the only time when Contemplative Religious Orders
              break silence and participate with the Church, the Heavenly Choir in the
              “Celebration” of the Eucharist!

        • Barbaracvm

          I had a woman reach across two pews and slam her fist on my shoulder so hard she dropped me to my knees.
          I don’t see that as peaceful.

      • Lego Man

        I have tried the handkerchief trick but it doesn’t always work.

        • Raymond Rice

          In true Latin form you should bow to them and say “nolite tangere!”

      • Raymond Rice

        You of course told him the scriptural basis of it??

    • Barbaracvm

      All the surfaces that you touch and add the surfaces everyone else touches then goes into your mouth when receiving Holy Communion. NOPE I still will not receive communion in the hand.

      • Raymond Rice

        So you want to receive the saliva on the hand of the priest form the previous recipient??

        • Barbaracvm

          When done right there is no transfer. Since you partake of the blood what is the difference sipping from the chalice?
          We could do it the way the Byzantine way and the priest throws the host into your mouth.

          • Raymond Rice

            You mean like a small sacred friz bee???

        • Ted

          There is a story of now Saint JP II who was saying Mass in a country in Latin America and during Mass after the consecration a bee flew into the chalice. The Holy Father proceeded to drink the chalice which included the bee. It did not affect him in the least except most likely God gave him additional Graces and of course he is now a canonized saint. Hmmm maybe there is something to the sacred and Holy after all…. Need faith brother!

          • Raymond Rice

            I don’t base my faith on “stories.”

    • Raymond Rice

      Doesn’t the pope do this when he works the crowd??

    • P.

      Wonder if that is what the Samaritan said, “my personal hygiene and space has been so grossly violated.” How gross, all beat up, bleeding and all.

      • Lego Man

        There is no relation between the two. The hand shake is hardly critical care.

        • P.

          Correct, so what’s the big deal about touch?

    • Raymond Rice

      You logo indicated indicates a angry man!!!??

      • Ted

        Raymond do you worship the devil? I just think that someone who says what you say must reject Christ and hate his church. Me thinks there is a traitor and wolf among us! By the way you serve a looser in the devil – lol

        • Raymond Rice

          Dear Ted:
          I think I read somewhere that someone in the Church once said” Judge not lest you be judged”. Or “let he who is without sin, cast the first stone”. Have you heard these quotations before? HAVE YOU HEARD THEM?? WHO SAID THEM?

    • Raymond Rice

      “Who wants to touch dirty, sweaty hands of strangers?.” I would probably feel the same being next to you??

  • Mike Foley

    Gerard, you are quite right to sense that something is wrong with the Roman rite of peace in current usage but you are missing something key in the Congregation’s report: the kiss of peace in the ROMAN Rite is not a “confraternal” gesture (as it is in the Eastern rites which have the kiss elsewhere) but a “Pascal kiss.” In other words, the Peace in the Roman Rite is not inspired by Matthew 5:23-24 but by John 20:20-23. For more on this crucial distinction, may I recommend a shorter article (http://catholictradition.blogspot.com/2008/03/by-michael-foley-rite-of-peace-which.html) and its longer, more scholarly cousin (http://www.liturgysociety.org/JOURNAL/Volume14/14.1Foley.pdf)?

    The heavy lifting on the Congregation’s report was done by Archbishop Ranjith, a close liturgically ally of Pope Benedict XVI. I find it highly unlikely that Pope Benedict would have arrived at a different conclusion than Pope Benedict, which is to keep the Roman rite of peace and to exhort bishops to teach their flock about its “Pascal” meaning. My guess is that Pope Francis rubber stamped something that had been in committee for a long time and saw no reason to overturn it.

    Pax!

  • St JD George

    It may be a symbol of community but it doesn’t accomplish anything and is more awkward than not, especially where during the Mass it occurs. It should either be placed at the end or removed, or reminded that there are a great many other ways to participate in communal, fraternal acts outside of the Mass.

  • Martha

    I agree with a number of commenters here in that its timing is most unfortunate. We’ve entered into the mystery, and now are supposed to yuck it up with the people around us? How does that foster adoration or contemplation? It’s ridiculous. My recommendation? Get thee to a TLM, stat, and assist at the Mass of All Time.

  • JP

    According to legend, the Novus Ordo Missae, was written on the back of a napkin in an Italian cafe. I really find the story difficult to believe, but there are times that the legend becomes very believable. It makes absolutely no sense to insert a handshake into Mass during the consecration.

    • Tamsin

      Depends on what you’re consecrating… if the goal is to affirm that Christ is really present in each of us, and the Eucharist is symbolic, then the Pax was put right where it belongs: “Truly I tell you, just as you shook hands with the least of these who are members of my family, you shook hands with me.”

    • NO devotee

      Honestly the order of Mass between the NO & EF are close to the same. The only main difference is that EF is more fancy & in Latin. Superficial difference not substantive

      • Glenn M. Ricketts

        I think that understates it by quite a bit, actually – just compare the entrance rites and the offertory for a start.

      • Martha

        I’m with Glenn, and I think he’s being charitably underzealous with you. If you were to take a third party observer who is not Catholic to a NO, and then to a TLM, I highly doubt that observer would link those two masses as being from the same religious branch. The differences are staggering!

        I’m sure you’re familiar with the NO Mass… now take a missal from the TLM and read through it. You’ll find at least 50 percent new (actually old!) material, and what remains has in large part been morphed to be more PC and Proddy-friendly.

      • Athelstane

        Superficial difference not substantive.

        The order of Mass is largely similar, on bare outlines, but it’s not superficial that the entire offertory has been radically overhauled, that multiple new eucharistic prayers (an unprecedented development) are offered as options to the Roman Canon, or that 50 of the 52 ancient Sunday collects were replaced, or that an unprecedented three year lectionary was used to replace the ancient one year lectionary. For starters. Compared to these changes, the permission to use the vernacular in the N.O. is indeed fairly minor.

        The sign of peace is indeed in the same place for both missals, especially if one uses the Roman Canon. It has always been in this place, and if it is moved, one jeopardizes the entire theology of the pax – it is at that point in the Mass for a reason. The real problem is how the laity are made to share in the pax now in the N.O..

    • P.

      You are correct. That is when we “put on our funeral faces.”

  • Jacqueleen

    May I make a correction to the point made relative to the Charismatic Worship, clapping, clanging, etc. Having been born again in the 70’s by Father Jim Ferry and several times since then, I can attest to the fact that Charismatic Worship has combined with the Marian style of worship and praise which I find to be very holy not noisy, not clapping of hands but the raising of hands prayerfully pointed towards heaven and palms up meaning “receiving” and “Surrendering” However, the Holy Spirit dwells within the Charismatic and calls them to holiness, a life of prayer and the use of the 7 Gifts and the 12 Fruits.

    As for the “Sign of Peace” during the Mass, Pope Benedict asked us to refrain from too much display of hand shaking and noisy wishing of Peace to each other because it strays from the solemn,prayerful moment during the Mass. I happen to agree with Pope Benedict that it belongs in an Evangelical Service and not in the Solemnity of the Mass. Pope Benedict tried very hard to bring REVERENCE BACK TO THE MASS which disappeared after the liberal interpretation of Vatican II. It is up to each and everyone of us to bring the reverence back to the Mass by our participation, by our appropriate behavior receiving Communion, by acknowledging the Real Presence of Our Lord on the altar, etc. We desperately need to get back to basics…for example, Respectfully receiving Communion on the tongue while kneeling.

  • Of course I totally agree about any loss of solemnity in the Mass — but I was struck strangely by the statement: “…The Catholic Mass is not a celebration…” Wait a minute. Are you so sure about that? Surely the great solemnity of the Mass cannot be without its note of celebration! I would say that in that word “solemnity” we must be able to find equally both Cross and Resurrection.

  • ForChristAlone

    No problem for me. At the Pater Noster, I remain kneeling in awe before the Lord of the Universe who has become present on the altar. For me, the Pater is the culmination of the great eucharistic prayer to the Father in thanksgiving for sending His Son to die for our redemption. Remaining kneeling and in awe of the Lord, I also avoid the nonsense of shaking hands with people I don’t even know and feigning some charitable gesture. I am also able to remain kneeling while reciting the Agnus Dei – the hymn of praise to the Lamb. I rise only to proceed to the altar to receive the Lord in humble adoration.

    If everyone else did likewise, we could dispense with all the silliness and perhaps restore reverence for the Eucharist and belief in the Real Presence.

  • NE- Crypto Catholic

    Frankly, (pun intended) I fully expect that we will shortly see a new decree from the Vatican that it is mandatory to walk, bicycle or use mass transit to attend Mass or religious celebration as use of any device motivated by any sort of engine is a mortal sin against the earth. So, the whole issue goes away!

  • carole

    Delete it completely.

  • David Lukenbill

    As a convert I always accepted this practice as a normal part of the Mass, but once I attended the Latin Mass,realized it was not; and that is part of the reason I prefer the Latin Old Mass over the vernacular New Mass.

    The sign of peace breaks up the contemplative, reflective posture so important to Mass, something this article notes quite eloquently.

    • R. K. Ich

      Agreed. It’s never a good idea to disrupt the crescendo of anything that has the mark of intimacy.

    • Raymond Rice

      Mass is not a contemplative activity. It is a social activity.

      • Mark

        You couldn’t be more off base, Raymond. The Holy Sacrifice of the Mass is the most singular activity in the Heavens and in the cosmos, as it is the offering of the Spotless Lamb, the Beloved Son of the Eternal Father, to the Father, as the only, the Singular Sacrifice, worthy of God; God Himself. This Sacrifice is the submission of the Holy and Perfect Will of the Eternal Son, consubstantial with the Father from all eternity, into the Holy and Perfect Will of the Almighty Father. We miserable human creatures stand there in grand trepidation as mere witnesses to this Eternal Offering. As thus, we are commanded into contemplation by the reality of the Holy Sacrifice, which requires that every iota of our miserable being rest in perfect focus, unwavering focus on the Perfect Act. Amen.

        • Raymond Rice

          Please read the documents of Vatican Council 11

          • Ted

            Raymond all of Heaven is present at every Holy Mass the priest is never alone plus the numerous Angels are always assisting the priest

            • Raymond Rice

              Read the documents of Vatican 2/ why was the Mass language changed to English if not to unify a social activity!!??

              • Pamela

                I’m pretty sure the language was NOT changed to English, but
                in fact the documents of Vatican II reiterate Latin being the official language
                of the Church and Mass.
                From SACROSANCTUM
                CONCILIUM “36. 1. Particular law remaining in force, the
                use of the Latin language is to be preserved in the Latin rites.”

                Latin is the unifying language, whereas the vernacular has created massive
                disunity among the universal Church. Contrary to what the actual council
                promulgated, it was pushy bishops who rammed through the vernacular AFTER
                Vatican II, taking advantage of the small opening they found in the actual
                documents. I don’t think the documents support your position even if you
                do keep insisting that we all read them. Perhaps you should read them
                again.

                • Raymond Rice

                  “Latin is the unifying language,” How can a language no one knows be a unifying factor?? How does it unite them unless through a commonly held ignorance!

                  • Glenn M. Ricketts

                    Why do you say that they were ignorant? Ignorant of what?

                    • Raymond Rice

                      people are ignorant of latin and consequently that may be thwe unifying factor!!

                    • Glenn M. Ricketts

                      How do you know they were ignorant of it? Where did you get that information? Most everyone was thoroughly familiar with it. and followed Mass in their missals. No offense, but you seem to be “ignorant” of the state of things prior to VII.

                    • Raymond Rice

                      I am talking about the long period of time before V2 when most of the Catholics among the peasantry were unable to read. If people were that adept at reading Latin, WHY WAS THE GOSPEL READ IN THE VERNACULAR. and the sermon or homily too, and Latin only spoken among the clerics?????

                      Look up the term “neck verse” in English history.

                    • Glenn M. Ricketts

                      But I was talking about the early 1960’s the period in which the massive liturgical reform occurred. Most people then weren’t conversational in Latin, but were quite familiar with the responses, and were able to follow easily. The reform wasn’t aimed at the Middle ages, so why do you reach back so far? Doesn’t seem to connect. In any case, peasants in those circumstances, probably couldn’t understand the vernacular that well either, given the enormous differences in local dialects and regional speech patterns.

                      Anyway, consider this: even if, as was true, most people did not understand Latin, isn’t it possible that the Latin ritual – note that word – communicated with them, even very powerfully? The gestures, the repetitions, the shared experience? I think you’d agree, wouldn’t you, that someone wholly unable to read music or play and instrument can nonetheless deeply appreciate Mozart? Again, the term is “communicate.” A liturgy is just such a form of “communication,” often at the vital subconscious level. Drastically disrupting those sacred words, gestures and rituals can be profoundly unsettling and traumatic, as the historian of Elizabethan England A.L. Rowse observed in comments on the imposition of the Anglican liturgy during the 1550’s. There were critics of the more recent liturgical reforms – such as mythologist Joseph Campbell, the communications theorist Marshall McLuhan and anthropologist Mary Douglas – who made these very points. Unfortunately, the reformers were not very good at listening.

                      But please: think about that key word: “communication.” A liturgy is a ritual, something much, much larger than the mere spoken word.

                    • Raymond Rice

                      As I said, you have to see the big picture!!

                    • Glenn M. Ricketts

                      How’s that? I don’t take your point.

                    • Raymond Rice

                      Read Church History from the New Testament up until the present.. I learned what was essential and what was cosmetic.

                    • Glenn M. Ricketts

                      Raymond, I have no idea what you’re saying. Please be more specific and clarify?

                    • Raymond Rice

                      You will learn where the Holy Spirit was moving and where She/ He was not,; what is essential to the Church and what is not and what is merely human without the holy Spirit.For example, papal conclaves to elect a pope are not always guided by the Holy Spirit.

                    • Glenn M. Ricketts

                      And how exactly did you learn these things? What if I’ve also read the same sources and reached a different conclusion? Is that where you learned to attribute feminine pronouns to the third Person of the Trinity? I seemed to have missed that point myself.

                    • Raymond Rice

                      As far as pronouns go, read the New Testament in the original Greek as I have and you will see treatment of the Holy Spirit Where the HS is called Hagia Sophia!!

                    • Glenn M. Ricketts

                      How does “Holy Wisdom” support your point? We also seem to have strayed far off topic, so what about the liturgical reforms we were discussing?

                    • Raymond Rice

                      Is the Holy spirit guiding the Church or not???

                    • Glenn M. Ricketts

                      I presume He is, but again: what’s your point? Are you saying that the present state of the Liturgy of the Mass is the work of the Holy Spirit? If so, how do you know that?

                    • Elleblue Jones

                      I grew up pre Vatican II and we had Missals with translations. Even as a very young child I prayed and responded at Mass and clearly understood what I was saying. Using the vernacular language around the world has had the opposite effect of unifying our Church.

                    • Raymond Rice

                      How do you know???

                    • Raymond Rice

                      The Church must change to keep up with the times (Pope Francis) and change is incredibly difficult. As St Teresa said, ” God only is changeless”,

              • Glenn M. Ricketts

                Raymond, please read articles 36 and 54 of Sacrosanctum Concilium regarding the use of Latin in the liturgy of the Mass, and perhaps share your interpretation with us here.

                • Raymond Rice

                  Some of the decrees were tainted by the Romanist Latiners

                  • Glenn M. Ricketts

                    Really? How do you know that? Do you have the authentic text in that case?

                • Barbaracvm

                  This kind of changes the direction of Vatican II.
                  The pope made the comment that the lack of head covering should not prevent a woman from attending mass.
                  The news media distorted the comment and said the church had changed its stand on woman did not have to wear any type of head covering.
                  The church has never changed its stand but the media lied.

          • Mark

            Raymond,

            Your persistent suggestion about “reading the documents of VCII” is simply gratuitous without a very specific citation regarding what precisely it is that you are referring to. When you make such a request, know that you are speaking to all 21 so called “Ecumenical” councils, as no one can contradict any of the others; therefore no one Council stands alone. VCII cannot be viewed any differently, as thus, when you cite VCII as something to be “read”, you are from a de-facto posture citing them all to be read. Thus, I posit my request again. What specifically is it that you are alluding to from the Councils that speaks to your suggestion that the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass has anything specifically to do with our miserable creatureliness, other than as mere witnesses to the Holy and Perfect Act, known in the Mind of God from all eternity? What was it that the Blessed Virgin and Saint John the Apostle were doing as they stood at the foot of the Holy Cross? They stood there in awesome wonder, as they witnessed sensually, our Blessed Dominus stripped of all His humanity, in the utter quiet of Psalm 46:11, “Be still and know that I am God.” Amen.

            • Raymond Rice

              Reading the documents will give you an overall view of the sense of what it is to be Church. It will also show the path that has been made by Christ in the scripture and how His way of doing things has continued through the Spirit inspired councils and the effects thay have had.
              “They stood there in awesome wonder, as they witnessed sensually, our Blessed….”

              Get real!!! Mary was stressed almost beyond endurance, not in some awesome wonder!! She was a fully human mother!!!!

              • Mark

                Dear Raymond,

                You have now demonstrated a profound lack of perspicacity as it relates to anything ethereal of Holy Mother Church. For you to suggest that the Blessed Mother was anything less than sanguine at the foot of Her Son’s Cross, our Blessed Dominus and Redeemer, Jesus the Christ, Son of the Living God, is utter absurdity. The Blessed Virgin, sinless in the Mind of God from all eternity, is not affected by Original Sin, thus. She sees into the Cross and the Redemption offered by it, as none other human person ever has or could. Have you ever read an account of a martyr, whereby it is told that they were anything less than sanguine, as they were meeting their death??? Surely you do not mean to suggest that the personal make-up of our spiritual Mother is something less than that of the holy martyr, receiving the Grace of the Holy Spirit to endure their death peacefully, while all at once praying for the eternal salvation of the soul of the one perpetrating their persecution. No Catholic can suggest such absurdity. “Mary, full of Grace”, the Archangel proclaimed.

                You are in my prayers.

                • Raymond Rice

                  Thank you for judging me!!

                  • Mark

                    Dear Raymond,

                    Please spare us all the petulant platitudes. The highest level of cognition that the human mind undertakes is “judgement”. We make judgements hundreds of times a day, Raymond. Our Blessed Lord commands us to judge words and actions as our only means of knowing right from wrong. If the heat is too hot for you in this kitchen, then I would “judge” that it’s time for you to simply leave it. Your discourse has been quite childish and at its essence has added nothing material to the discussion, in any event.

                    Go in peace.

                    • Raymond Rice

                      As I said in an earlier post “I
                      think I read somewhere that someone in the Church once said” Judge not
                      lest you be judged”. Or “let he who is without sin, cast the first
                      stone”. Have you heard these quotations before? HAVE YOU HEARD THEM??
                      WHO SAID THEM? Mark?? Are you still there??? Can you answer My question??

                      Reply

                      Share ›

      • Barbaracvm

        A social activity is a concert or a ball game. Mass is contemplative, focusing on GOD.
        To often people pick which mass by the music that is played. The Latin mass was sung. The mass today has music played. A big difference.

        • Raymond Rice

          Have you read the documents of Vatican 2 ???

          • Barbaracvm

            Not all change that came out of Vatican II was for the better.
            All progress is change.
            Not all change is progress

            • Raymond Rice

              As I asked, HAVE YOU READ THE DOCUMENTS OF v2 AND SUBSEQUENT PAPAL ENCYCLICALS???????????????????

              • Glenn M. Ricketts

                Have you?

                • Raymond Rice

                  yes!! it is a part of my job!!

        • Raymond Rice

          Your comments reflect a pre-Vatican 2 mode of thinking!!

          • Glenn M. Ricketts

            Your comments seem to reflect a lack of thinking.

            • Raymond Rice

              are we getting a little nasty here???

              • Glenn M. Ricketts

                No, not my intention at all. But you seem to be shooting from the hip quite a bit.

            • Philip Sieve

              It’s sophism built upon the shaky ground of feelingd. His belief that Latin was abolished is proof he knows nothing of the ordinary rite orVatican 2, but lies told by “experts”. He’s making himself look ignorant. The EWTN Mass is probably the most authentic version of that rite and it would be fine, if those who claim to love Vatican 2 and the N.O. Mass would care to actually implement it without the show it has become on weekends. . The off-script chatter of the priest outside the homily and the announcements before Mass is over, like the handshaking, has to go, so we can be led to the cross and focus on what Mass is mmaking happen.

              • Glenn M. Ricketts

                It’s not only “experts,” alas, but many clergy who seem to regard the use of Latin in any capacity as some kind of evil. They have no compunction in telling unsuspecting laymen that, no.we can’t have Mass in Latin because it was “banned” by VII. That outlook is widely reflected in many diocesan newspapers, as well. When you refute that assertion, as I’ve done on numerous occasions, the response is usually purple anger, along with well, forget it because it’s NOT happening here.

                When I lived in Chicago in the 1970’s, the “conservative” ordinary, John Cardinal Cody, went so far as to prohibit local priests from celebrating Mass in Latin in the OF, something he had no canonical authority to do. Complaints to Rome, of course, were simply ignored. He didn’t seem to mind the activities of Gabe Huck and the Liturgy Training Institute, but he saw to it that there was not a single word of Latin was heard anywhere in the archdiocese on his watch.

                I think we’ve made some progress since those dismal days, but obviously there’s a long road yet to travel.

                • Barbaracvm

                  Used to have bishop who refused the Latin mass in any format. After he retired the new bishop allowed a Latin mass for special events.

                  • Glenn M. Ricketts

                    That’s certainly an improvement. But I emphasize again, that no bishop has any canonical authority to refuse Mass in Latin, whatever his personal preferences. Indeed, he has an obligation to respect the pastoral needs of those who want Mass celebrated in that manner.

                    • Barbaracvm

                      Unfortunately this bishop was petty and vengeful if any priest should not do what he was told.
                      He demanded the vow of obedience even if it was not in line from the Vatican.

                    • Glenn M. Ricketts

                      Well, I’ve known more than a few like that myself. Too bad, really.

          • Barbaracvm

            The Byzantine rite along with the other non Latin rites still sing the mass.

        • Raymond Rice

          low Latin Masses were sung??/

          • Barbaracvm

            I don’t remember singing low Latin Mass but I do remember singing high mass. and in Gregorian chant

      • Elleblue Jones

        You are probably one of those who feel the intense need to yap once you enter the Church. I’m not there to socialize, that’s a Protestant thing because they don’t have the Sacraments and priesthood. If you need to ‘socialize’ then head down the road to any empty building.

        • Raymond Rice

          NO!!! I do not feel an intense need to “yap”. With today’s homilies, I feel an intense need to read so I have been reading “Gone with the Wind” after having read “War and Peace” and “Remembrances of Things Past” . Thanks for your judgement on my character; I do not socialize!! If I needed to, I would text or talk softly on my cell phone like the rest of the people.

  • thebigdog

    The farther people move to the left, the more they value the horizontal plank of the cross and the less they value the vertical. The sign of peace should be removed completely because the Mass is not about human beings’ shallow symbolic gestures of good will.

  • Michael Wallis

    It’s the liturgical equivalent of the “show business kiss”–meaningless . It’s long past time to dump it but I won’t hold my breath waiting for Bergoglio to do anything constructive.

    • R. K. Ich

      For my money, a long line to the confessional prior to Mass is a good indicator people are tying up loose ends before communion. If somebody has any grievances with his neighbor, he should rectify them before or after service, even if that means he abstains from communion until he resolves the issues.

    • P.

      Don’t like the Pope, huh?

    • Michael_Brennick

      If the Pope was convinced that all that hand sweat was contributing to faux climate change I know he’d act.

    • Raymond Rice

      A little respect please.

    • Hugh Lunn

      Spot on Mr Wallis.

  • Ruth Rocker

    I seriously dislike the “sign of peace” during Mass. The host and wine have been consecrated, becoming the true Body and Blood of our Lord and everyone just turns their back on Him laying on the altar and glad hands everyone around them. Far from being a solemn gesture, it’s more like a cocktail party.

    During the TLM, there is no sign of peace and there is no need for it in the new mess we were given after Vatican II. The simple thing to do, at least for me, is to remain kneeling, praying and focusing on Jesus at the front of the church.

    • Barbaracvm

      I kneel right after the Our Father before the ‘howdy dody time’. No one bothers me. I use this for more prayer time.

      • P.

        “No one bothers me.” Bothered by the Church, The People of God, Christ Body. I don’t think it is just “you and God” but the Church and God. Not a bother to interact with Christ’s Body the Church.

        • Barbaracvm

          I con’t consider kissy face, talk about vacations as prayerful. The distraction of someone walking down the aisle demanding his ‘sign of peace’. None of this is focusing on GOD.

          • P.

            Matthew 22:36-40New International Version (NIV)

            36 “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”
            37 Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’[a ] 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the *second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’[b ]** 40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”*

            • Barbaracvm

              Do you love enough to work in a soup kitchen.
              Do you love enough to try to educate some one in prison.
              Do you love enough to help those on the streets.
              Do you love enough to feed and bath those unable to care for themselves.
              Do you love enough to emulate the late Mother Teresa.

              Putting coin in the collection is clean and quick. No commitment to getting your hands dirty or any kind of discomfort.

  • DJ

    I disgree with the author’s statement: “The Catholic Mass, however, is not a celebration, nor it is a weekend party filled with bread, wine, and good company. Catholics gather to venerate the Eucharistic sacrifice upon the altar.” The Mass is, indeed, a celebration, a celebration of the Paschal Mystery – the Life, Death and Resurrection of Our Lord, Jesus Christ. And Catholics gather to do more than “venerate the Eucharistic sacrifice upon the altar”. We come to a banquet in which we are invited to partake of, not merely venerate, that Eucharistic sacrifice. Jesus didn’t say, ” This is my Body – venerate it.” He said, ” Take this, all of you, and eat it. This is My Body…..and this is My Blood.” I don’t disagree, however, that the kiss of peace is in the wrong place. It should be at the very beginning of the Mass. When you first arrive at a friend’s house for dinner or a banquet, you usually greet one another with a hug, a kiss, or a handshake. Why not do the same at Mass, before the solemnity begins? Why should this even take an act of the Vatican to instigate such a practice? If I were a pastor, that would be the practice in my parish.

    • GG

      Celebration as in coming together in a corporate way, not celebration as in a party.

  • Fortitudinous

    “… his digestive tract pierced with a spear to ensure bodily death.”

    Painfully incorrect both theologically and anatomically.

  • To Dust I Shall Return

    I feel pretty bad about even attempting to dispute this view, as reverence for the Eucharist is… well, it is life. So here goes nothin’.

    The author makes a lot of all-too-true statements. But I can’t help thinking of the extreme value of community and fellowship. I love the TLD, I love my faith, and I can’t stand the idea of being corrupted by values of this world like in the days of my youth. That said, I only attend the TLD when I need to, and I’ll explain “need”.

    Despite my desire for zealous piety and reverence, I stand tormented by the sight of those “less liturgically pious” abandoned by their “clearly” more pious peers. As alluded to in the article, we all really do need to be under one roof. Does this really mean spending an hour in solemn near-silence? Can the “more liturgically pious” really not drop their focus to shake a few hands for a moment before resuming it?

    I for one am not so ADD, pardon the less politically correct term. When I get up off my knees and see the risen Lord truly present on the altar, I would hope you could turn 90 degrees to your left and see it again. My neighbor might have a handful of germs on his hand, but he was also created in the image of Christ. I *especially* love to see the man I’ve never met before in my humble home parish.

    I admire people who receive Communion on the tongue, but it doesn’t mean anything different than getting it on the hand. I don’t ever recall reading anywhere that Jesus spent the evening of the Last Supper slowly dropping bread into the Apostle’s mouths. Why do we continually mock those we visually judge as less reverent? God sees the heart. We don’t even know the vast majority of these people.

    And since when did respectful and reverent become so synonymous with stillness and quiet? This comes from an introvert that has the most fun in his day pouring through theology books! I can’t help but remember King David in 2 Samuel 6. Can you imagine a priest dancing before the Lord with all his might, and the choir going crazy with singing, lyres, harps, tambourines, sistrums, and cymbals?

    Of course, this is an extreme example, I’m not saying we need to go dance and be merry in the sight of some slave girls. But maybe we should also faithfully cease trying to steady the tipping ark? If I can’t help but feel uplifted at Mass, when should I? Somehow, I can’t imagine it would be better in adoration, quite the contrary… I feel nervous for even the slightest squeaky pew there!

    I for one am grateful for the comfort of my neighbor in the solemn sorrow I feel during every Mass. We are still human. Christ himself was comforted in His great Agony.

    I am not advocating a party. But I humbly suggest that “compromise” lies in the integration of all forms of proper praise. The musicians seem to be our last hope in this regard. Every time an organ blasts through the marble halls of the Cathedral, I only wish I could exalt God with such fervor. Our great architecture is getting “remodeled” away by the day, art and iconography removed. If our aim is reverence at Mass, show the NO’s the sacrifice of your example and your foolishness before Christ in front of them! I for one adore sitting in the back of an NO Mass in my absolute Sunday-best and being clearly the most engaged adorer, the clearest voice, and the most foolishly passionate singer there.

    It really is shocking how many of these poor less-pious people really are seeking truth but have no clue how to and are surrounded by the truly impious. I sing loud enough to let the NO’s *finally* have someone who actually will do it. And do you know what they do? Sing just lower than me, so I cover them up. How do I know this? Because that was me all those many years ago. I wanted so badly to participate, but I couldn’t do it with no one else doing it. Sometimes it really does just take one. Christ intentionally taught us to say “OUR Father…” not “MY Father…”. We are only through Him, with Him, and in Him together.

    Shall we leave these even one of these sheep to the wolves? I go to a TLD about once a month, not on a schedule but when I need it. Not because an NO Mass and its community can’t possibly be as reverent or respectful. But because sometimes I just need what the TLD offers depending on how I am on those days. I don’t always feel compelled to dance like David, and sometimes I really do just need some silence and obvious reverence.

    That any celebration of the Mass as currently approved by the Magisterium is being called “protestant-like”, “silly”, “impious”, and so vehemently derided fills me with horror. The plank in my eye isn’t any less large than anyone else’s in the comments section, but Spiritual Elitism is just as oppressive as no one singing by you in the back of Mass.

  • Why the cheap shot at charismatic Catholics? They’re all over the web. How about a link? I think it’s because it’s not true.

  • KeepitKleen

    Excellent piece. In my parish, the sign of peace adds 10 minutes onto the Mass, as the priest invites all the children in the church to come forward and hug him in the center aisle. Talk about taking the focus off the Eucharist! By the time all the oohs and ahs over cute kids have ended, and crying lost toddlers have been returned to their parents in their pews, I don’t see how anyone can get back to why we are there in the first place.

  • gregoryvii

    The Solution? Holy Mass in the Extraordinary Form!

  • Dan

    The traditional Latin Mass is the only solution.

  • The_Monk

    Shaking hands, in and of itself, is a filthy, disgusting and barbaric practice that is of no worth. Then to further devalue a custom that has nothing positive going for it by linking it to the ‘Sign of Peace’ really makes the case for ridding ourselves of it forever….

  • Patrick McGrath

    Dump it! For the love of heaven, dump it!

    • P.

      Ah, “the love of heaven”, do they share in the handshake of peace in the Heavenly Banquet? I’m told our Mass mirrors the Mass in heaven.

  • Paul

    i think removing the sign of peace would allow folks to return to their individual spiritual concerns without the distraction of greeting or acknowledging another person. the old
    Babushka’s i see praying the rosary at mass have the right of it.
    they are taking care of their spiritual needs and you can take care of
    your own

    one of of the things nice
    about Catholic services is they allow for the complete anonymity of attendees which is impaired a bit when someone is smiling at you and wishing you the peace of Christ.

  • kmk

    I wonder why there’s not more sickness. We recently began attending a church closer to our home. I was a bit surprised to see no ‘hand sanitizers’ for the Eucharistic Ministers, who share the sign of peace by shaking hands with others immediately before serving. Additionally, those receiving Communion on the hand must have ‘germs’ from several other people that they’ve recently touched during the sign of peace.
    The medical community makes a big deal out of frequent hand washing to maintain health. Is this another ruse to make Catholicism irrelevant?

  • Raymond Rice

    Oh! By the way, there are Christian children being decapitated in Syria.

  • TERRY

    William F. Buckley Jr. in his book ‘Nearer My God’ wrote some interesting things about his reaction to the NO.

    I prefer the Latin Mass.

  • Jean Robertson

    it is indeed an egregious interruption as lifeknight says. It is almost unbearable. It needs to be removed….

  • David

    Have we all forgotten that it is at Mass where we gather as the body of Christ to receive the body of Christ so that we may become the body of Christ to the world? Our Lord’s prayer in Gethsemane is that His believers would be one. Mass is a communal thing…it is not a private devotion. To think of it as a private devotion is error.
    The placement of the sign of peace in its current position during the liturgy is a reminder of this reality…that what we are about to do in receiving His most Holy body and blood in the Eucharist is what unifies us, and by doing so we are Christ’s body, being made into His likeness and converted into His image, and we are called to love others selflessly and sacrificially, just as He has loved us.

  • Tony

    Move it, at least. You’ve just said the Lord’s Prayer. You are about to strike your breast three times and ask for mercy, and fall to your knees and repeat the grand words of the centurion. In the middle of that, what — chatter? Makes no sense.

  • John Boyle

    The place of the sign of peace is not the problem. It is also there in the extraordinary form but only exchanged amongst the ministers. The problem is its execution and ignorance of its true significance. To move it to another place would be a departure from the tradition of the Roman liturgy as then Cardinal Ratzinger explained in the Spirit of the Liturgy, if my memory serves me correctly ( I do not have the text at hand right now). The fact that a request for study does not imply that is anachronistic. Irreverence can occur at any time. Is it more tolerable at one point of the Mass than at another? Catechesis and liturgical formation is the answer, including the fact of its being optional. (Optional that is to invite all to exchange it. If the invitation is given the faithful should do it. If it is not, the faithful should not do it.) According to then Cardinal Ratzinger the sign of peace in the Roman Rite expresses the communion we share with one another that will be expressed sacramentally in the reception of Sacramental Communion.

  • Elleblue Jones

    I detest the sign of peace and hope it is stopped. It has become a reason to socialize and talk during mass (as if some people needed a reason.) It turns the mass after from the reverence and sacrificial nature.

  • Shawn Albert

    There was a time when I might have favored just moving it, but now, no way. Just get rid of it. It’s nothing more than a distraction from the REAL reason we are at Mass. And then of course there’s the patently phony “sense of community” that it shall we say, instills. Sure shake hands or whatever and after Mass try to run that same people over in the race to get out of the parking lot……

  • Mike

    Are we not the true body and blood of Christ. I am not taking away the transubstantiation, I am solo pointing out that we are to be as Christ said from the Cross” This is your Mother this is your Son. ” They were embraced. (Mary and John) If their is ill reverence at this point in the Mass, It is because Nobody teaches reverence anymore. If it becomes a silly time as some are saying. Then that is a time for teaching, both for Parents and the Pastor. Allowing this is where irreverence and the work of satan can delude and take from the moment. It always falls on personal responsibility. We are all to be aware of our social and moral responsibilities. To often Everyone wants to say this is the cause and that is the cause, When it falls squarely on yourself!!!!!!!

  • Will

    Excellent analysis…beautiful writing style. I’ve attended Novus Ordo masses in which I was given to expect a cocktail waitress would soon be making the rounds…literally 5-10 minutes of chit-chatting and mobile socializing. It would have been fully in context for the priest to have politely admonished the faithful to “ok, people, let’s return to our seats and get on with this sacrifice at my hands business, shall we”… not pretty.

  • ann ketzlick

    Finally, an article about this ritual that addresses what I’ve complained about many times. If the Church insists on keeping the sign of peace, can we PLEASE do it at the beginning of Mass? Nothing is more disruptive at the time of Consecration with people around me waving, hugging, kissing when I’m trying to focus on Our Lord. I love celebrating the Mass with hymns, music and lively sermons but at Communion I would like to feel the peace of Our Lord’s Presence.

  • wixom

    This business of shaking hands during mass is just awful. In the church I used to go to, the people would be running up and down the aisles saying peace and this goes on and on thru the Lamb of God when the priest is holding up the host. We should be kneeling and praying to our Lord instead of socializing like fools. This thing has made me so angry that I was forced to leave that church. Another thing is holding hands during the Our Father. Another and the absolute worst is singing during communion. This is a very special time when we have received the body of Christ and we are supposed to be praying and having a conversation with God and the guy (or woman) next to you is singing off key and loudly. There should be NO SINGING at communion. NO HOLDING HANDS at the Our Father, and absolute DELETE the hand shaking. I am now in a traditional Catholic Church where none of these things are done.

  • JimmyChonga

    In the oldest form of Catholic ritual – the Maronite Rite, the Rite of Peace is transmitted FROM the sacred gifts on the altar, to the priest, then to the congregation. It is done peacefully, respectfully and “sacredly” (if that is a word). I would recommend it – rather than slapping your neighbor on the back and making peace signs to those across the church.

    Also, got to take exception with the use of Eucharistic ministers – they are relied on far more than they should be; so what if the distribution of holy Eucharist takes longer than the choir has in songs they’ve prepared to sing; SILENCE! It is so necessary in our liturgy. Even the liturgy of the Book of Revelation has periods of absolute SILENCE for those at the base of the altar to adore and worship God.

    While I’m at it, I would like to mention moving the Tabernacle OUT of the holy space of the church, sequestering God off to small “adoration” chapels is STUPID.

    Finally, what about all the UGLY churches? As I sit back and re-read these items, I can’t help but think how they demonstrate just how HORRIBLE were the 1960s. People want to blame VII for the churches problems, I don’t. I blame the LAME 1960s.

  • Ellen cerro

    It has to be 20 plus years since my husband and I actually touched hands during the sign of peace. It is an easy maneuver; just smile sincerely and do not extend your hand. It’s easy. We are not nit- pickers with Mass we so, so, so appreciate every single moment and breath we share in the presence of our Lord. Stop all the nonsense discussions and get to Mass with open flesh and open spirit.

  • Eaglegirl

    Maybe I am way off base here, but why can’t the sign of Peace be given at the very start of Mass? Greeting each other before the meal and worship? Just makes more sense to me to do it at the start of Mass, if it is to be kept within the Mass. Am I missing some reason that it couldn’t be placed here?

  • Wanda

    I have always thought the sign of peace – which dates from the very beginnings of the Mass – made profound theological sense. Just as Christ is human and divine in nature – going out to meet us – and just as the Virgin Mary said her fiat – so we, filled with the love of Christ, reach out to extend this love to others. Those who don’t like it are justified if the sign is just a secular greeting. But the meaning in the context of the Communion of saints, is really profound and my contemplation of the divine mysteries is deepened by it, when I think of the love coming to us and then reaching out from us. It is about Communio, isn’t it?

    • Griffonn

      I thought it was about us becoming the body of Christ – uniting from a bunch of atomic individuals into one body.

      Anyway I will be very sad if it goes.

  • RightWingGal

    Get rid of it! Not only is it a distraction, it seems like the people who sneeze into their hands or wipe their noses with their hands are the ones who are most insistent about shaking hands. These same people will ignore you outside the church. Two weeks ago I was smacked from behind because I did not turn around to shake hands with the strangers behind me, and they were not about to let me pray undisturbed. They were going to get their handshake!

    • Griffonn

      Yes, they wanted contact with you.

      How selfish of them.

      You should buy some alcohol wipes for your hands if it bothers you.

  • MairinT

    Cut out the hand-shaking. Many people who insist on this would not bid you the time of day outside the church. We are no longer allowed time to prepare to receive the Holy Eucharist (nor time for thanksgiving after) besides why does the priest wash his hands before touching the Host when all and sundry are going to parade up to receive in their non-purified hands ? It is such a Protestant thing (and they do not have to worry about the reverence of the Body of Christ).

  • Sue

    Excellent, well-reasoned article! Thank you! I attend the Novus Ordo Mass, but the parishes we’ve belonged to omit the Sign of Peace so everyone can concentrate on Our Lord’s presence on the altar & prepare to receive Him! Now, if we can just have quiet Masses . . .

  • Nordog6561

    Nothing worse than seeing people running up and down the aisles playing clutch butt with one another mere seconds after consecration.

    Our Lord is literally on the alter and suddenly everyone wants to have a social hour.

    It’s madness.

    • Mars Attacks!

      1.) It was a stupid hippie thing introduced in the era of folk masses and liturgical vestments that looked like felt-and-Elmer’s-glue craft projects.

      2.) It spreads colds and the flu. My nonagenarian mother is so annoyed about this aspect, she places her hands together and bows like the Dalai Lama.

      • PJ4

        It was always my understand that the “Kiss of Peace”, prior to V2, was only among the clergy on the altar during a Solemn High Mass or Pontifical High Mass

        After V2, it was extended to the congregation

        Yes?

        • Mars Attacks!

          I don’t remember it prior to the early 1970s. I believe it was related to opposition to the war in Vietnam. And, no, I’m not joking.

          • PJ4

            I’m pretty sure “the kids of peace” is denoted in the 1962 Roman Missal

      • Griffonn

        I LOVE the sign of peace. I can’t tell you how scary it used to be for me to walk into a church full of people I don’t know – and how depressing to walk out of church without having had a single instance of human contact.

        The church I am at does not do it, and I miss it.

        • Mars Attacks!

          Interesting take.

          • Griffonn

            Probably wouldn’t be a bad idea for the church to provide those little alcohol hand wipes if they do it though. I could see the spread of disease as a valid concern.

        • R. K. Ich

          Meh, I hate half-hearted if not insincere “Peace” and well-wishing.

          Let coffee hour be the time to break the ice and chum it up.

          Maybe re-introduce the ancient Agape feast?

        • Barbaracvm

          You get the sign of peace during mass. Have you noticed these same people do not give you the time of day, once you walk out the door?!

      • Your mom sounds like a smart woman.

  • Joseph Arlinghous

    It is precisely at this same point of the TLM, right before the fraction of the bread, where the Deacon and Priest would offer the “Kiss of Peace”. The “Kiss of Peace” is of very ancient origin. Remember this is the “unbloody” sacrifice. A sacrifice yes, but a sacrifice of thanksgiving. (The word Eucharist means thanksgiving.) Why are we giving thanks? That Christ has been sacrificed? Uh, well no, not really. But rather, we are giving thanks because He, by his sacrifice, has broken down the dividing wall that separated us from God and has reestablished PEACE between God and man. The “Sign of Peace” or the “Kiss of Peace” celebrates the fact that Christ has brought Peace between man and God.

    At this point of the mass, the sacrifice is complete. As in ancient sacrifices, the blood has been separated from the corpse. Now both the Ministerial Priest and the Priesthood of the faithful acknowledge and celebrate the peace that has been won. We minister to each other a sign of that peace. Then we turn to the task of offering the sacrifice to God. Sacrifices must be offered. In Judaism, the sacrifices were offered either by consuming by fire or consuming by ingestion. In accordance with His command, we consume the sacrifice by ingestion.

    It is vital that we recall what the sacrifice has accomplished. Is it not right that we recall and celebrate that the victory has been won and through this most Holy of Sacrifices, we are restored to Peace with God and one another?

  • Charlie Rooks

    Very well written article! It’s always seemed out of place for me and I’m all for the “sign of peace” ……at the beginning of Mass! In the beginning of the Liturgy, with the salutatory introduction extended by the presiding Priest, the call for the Sign of Peace would be the most natural place to extend God’s peace to your fellow Catholics in the pews near you. Simple! Problem solved!!!

  • Maria Gabriela Salvarrey Rodri

    Just a side note I know it wasn’t the subject of the article but my medical formation cringed and I can’t help to offer correction. Jesus was pierced on the side and blood and water flowed. This indicates that all the artists that place the spear wound on the torax are quite wright in doing so. So you see his digestive tract was not pierced more likely his lungs and pericardium.

  • Mainer

    It is likely that not everyone feels comfortable giving a sign of Peace with strangers and because it is done out of necessity/conformity may not at times be a sincere gesture from the heart.

  • intellectone

    “All the good works in the world are not equal to the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass because they are the works of men, but the Mass is the work of God. Martyrdom is nothing in comparison for it is but the sacrifice of man to God; but the Mass is the sacrifice of God to man.” Quote of St. John Vianney. Patron Saint of all the world’s priests.

  • Philip Sieve

    The familiarities by the priest during the liturgy and announcements before Mass is over must go along with the handshaking out the door and ushers should silence the adult children who talk before and after Mass. Seriously! People complain about the youth! Really? Why might that be happening more often than not? Maybe it’s childish adults who need to turn their caps around to the forward position and dress and act like grownups (actually, hats are to be off when at Mass for me).

  • TJ

    I think the sign of peace is a good idea, but, the current timing of it should be changed to the beginning of the Mass or the Offertory

  • James N Rice

    Just get rid of it! It’s distracting, annoying and intrusive. Where is the logic in me exchanging the “Kiss of Peace” in church with the woman I love and have spent the last 10 years of my life as an adoring and loving husband.

  • andia

    I would like to see it removed entirely. There is no reason to force physical contact between strangers( pew mates). Moving it and changing from the common handshake to an embrace will make it worse….why should anyone have to submit to demands from a virtual stranger to touch (or worse, embrace) someone …priest or not….simply because they come to worship? Thanks but no thanks. And putting it at the end will take all control away, now at least the Mas moves on, at the end one would be trapped until the seat mates got their fill of “peace making ”

  • mad2002mad

    Wow, never gave this much thought. Just accepted the sign of the peace as a necessary reminder as to why we there, which i thought was to join in “common union” to worship. As a Latin rasied Catholic–you know where the nuns pounded the old Latin mass into our brains, i like the new mass. Believe Benny the XVI was just looking to change something for change sake. Just as he messed up the responses. Been around long enough that i don’t take things too seriously. When at mass, I don’t wonder about the folks around me trying to determine who is and isn’t a good Catholic. Sadly too many converts do this, they need to be more Catholic than the Pope. Our Church is big enough to accomodate a variety of worship styles. Live and let live.

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