Monday, 24 August 2009

Hands Off!

I really hate the Sign of Peace at Mass. It's not that I'm being unfriendly or snobbish, it's simply that, at the time of the Mass when the Sign of Peace is offered, I'm trying to recollect my thoughts before receiving the Sacred Body and Blood of my Lord and God... I'm easily distracted at the best of times, and the general hubbub which ensues after the deacon's (or priest's) instruction to offer the sign of peace means that this is not the best of times!

Even when people try to be reverent, and only shake hands with those closest to them, it results in a lot of movement and noise. But, in reality, people seem to try to greet as many others as possible; there is the desire not to "leave anyone out" because you might appear to be unfriendly... And often, especially at weekday Masses, people aren't sitting close to each other, so you get some people all on their own, so others walk across the church in order to make sure they don't feel excluded. People mean well... they want to be kind.

I've learned to keep my head down and my eyes firmly closed... I used to look around and smile at those nearest to me, but that would often encourage someone to "be neighbourly" because I was standing all on my own, and they would walk up to me, hand outstretched. On the odd occasion, I've opened my eyes to find a hand still being proffered, and then it would be rude to refuse to shake hands, but this is rare in my own parish, since I normally sit near the front and don't turn around.

Such behaviour is often misconstrued, so this song made me laugh out loud... apart from the "C of E" bit, I can see me there in a couple of decades (assuming that all the "trendy" priests haven't died out by then!)

Twitch of the mantilla to Catholic With Attitude.


Ches said...

Thomas Day, the author of 'Why Catholics Don't Sing', was in a church in New York, I think, when it came to the sign of peace. He looked around and there was this one little old lady fairly close by. Feeling under an obligation to do the right thing, he approached her with his hand outstretched and said, 'Peace be with you.'

The little old lady then looked around at him and said quite sweetly,

'Honey, I don't do that sh*&@!'

Mac McLernon said...


Seraphic Spouse said...

Hee hee hee! At my Novus Ordo parish back home in Ontario, parishioners are so often so afraid of Asian flu, Swine flu, any old kind of flu, that instead of proffering a hand, they put their hands together and bow slightly. My hometown is about a third Asian now, so this is less strange than it sounds.

I think it is a great solution to the Sign of Peace, for it saves arthritic elderly hands from being mangled by the hearty. Also, it is less noisy.

Personally, if the person beside me at a Novus Ordo Mass is male and cute, I just kiss him. Yee-hah!

Daniel Blackman said...

I think Mulier Fortis and the individuals who left have left comments so far are mistaken.

Is it the sign of peace you object to, or the place within Holy Mass which the sign of peace is conducted?

I agree, just before the Angus Dei and Holy Communion time is a distraction. However, there has been mention that the sign of peace may be moved to just before or after the offertry.

I believe that the Sacred Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments is considering this proposal.

Catholic with Attitude said...

I think the hand shake at the sign of peace is the way to top off the great Catholic work out known as the Mass! Kneeling, standing, bowing.... the hand shake is the icing on the cake :P

I read somewhere that the Pope has been considering moving the sign of peace to either before the offering of the 'gifts' or just after which may be more appropriate. Also you could just get rid of it......

Mac McLernon said...

Daniel, it's mostly *when* the Sign of Peace is offered, but it's also the way people turn it into a free-for-all.

BTW - you are entitled to "disagree" with me, and my other commenters, (I have no problem with that - it's a free country) but to say that we are "mistaken" in what we have said is inaccurate and unfair: I am recounting my thoughts and feelings on the matter, not propounding doctrine.

Ches said...

Let me propound some dogma then!

I think the kiss of peace is in exactly the right place, for it is in the place which the Roman Rite traditionally placed it. Here the Tridentine rite is illustrative. In the 1962 liturgy, the 'pax' comes just after the prayer for peace, and it begins with a kiss of the altar to show that the peace we share comes from Christ. However, in the traditional liturgy, the 'peace' only went as far as the clergy, which is slightly odd since Christ's peace is offered to all the faithful, not just the hierarchy.

The trouble with the sign of peace in the Ordinary Form then - in my not so humble opinion - lies in the way it is done, rather than it being a distraction in itself (for in itself it expresses the truth of ecclesial unity which is intimately associated with the meaning of the Eucharist; take St Augustine's commentary on how wine and bread, being made from many grains/grapes united as one, are perfect matter for the sacrament). The sign of peace ought then to begin with the priest kissing the altar and then giving that 'peace' to the server who passes it to the congregation. This would show where our peace comes from.

The hand shaking ought to be replaced by the traditional greeting: peace giver putting hands on peace receiver's shoulders, moving head to the right and coming close to touching left temples, while saying, 'Pax tecum'. It is no more inconvenient than a genuflection, and if its meaning were explained, then it would be what it is supposed to be: an edifying sacramental, a gesture in preparation for Communion.

Either that or get rid of the thing!

Ches [in his doctrinal boots].

Jane said...

Hilarious Mac!

btw I absolutely agree with you.
To me, its place during Mass has always been an uncomfortable INVASION of peace. It's supposed to be a sign, not a three act jamboree with a cast of however many people are in the congregation. I do hope the Holy Father decides to move it out of the Canon of the Mass, where the excesses of some people will not be so painful.

Patricius said...

My only problem with the sign of peace is how it is often done. (Couples who kiss should have a bucket of water tipped over them and priests who leave the sanctuary should be taken hostage for a ransom!)Otherwise I particularly like Ches's suggestion.

Joe said...

1. I do think the sign of peace is in the correct place, and rather hope that the Vatican will not make a change.

2. Where the sign of peace is placed just before or after the offertory procession, I think it has a completely different meaning than in the Roman rite. Placed as it currently is in the Roman rite, it has a tremendous richness of meaning.

3. I think, in extending the sign of peace to the congregation, the ordinary form represents an authentic development from the extraordinary form. However, the practicalities do need some attention - and Ches makes, I think, good suggestions about the practicalities.

4. Catechesis is of the essence - people will not practice correctly what they do not understand. My own effort in this regard:

Daniel Blackman said...

Dear Mac, I agree, it can become a fee-for-all. I empathise with your feelings.

When I said 'mistaken' I was not referring to your feelings but rather what I think you were actually trying to get at.

Perhaps 'mistaken' is the wrong word. I think clarify is better.

I'm aware of the difference between an indivdual's subjective feelings and Church doctrine too!

Catholic Commentary has just posted a catechesis piece on the sign of peace which I think is rather good.

All the best

catholicconvert said...

I'm against the 'free for all' but not against the Sign of the Peace.

Mac, how would you have coped if you were alive in the days of giving the 'kiss of peace?' to one another?

Don't mean to sound snotty about it.

Mac McLernon said...

Catholic Convert - as a liturgical action, it's quite beautiful... there is a distinct order as to who gives the Pax to whom, and no one stops to have a chat... or kisses one person but only shakes hands with another...

...added to which, I don't think it was something that I, as a woman, would have to worry about...


Owen said...

Undoubtedly meant to mock, all in good fun, but frankly scarlet, I couldn't agree more. :)

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