QUAERITUR: The “sign of peace” is optional?!? Can I opt out?

From a reader:

Wait, the sign of peace is an option, not a requirement?!?! How did I not know this? Am I bound by obedience to participate if the priest uses this option? Can I decline the invitation?

The so-called “sign of peace” during the Novus Ordo is an option, not a requirement.  Initiating the sign of peace is an option left to the discretion of the priest celebrant.  He is not obliged to use this option.

The rubrics in Latin GIRM no. 154 indicate that the invitation to the “sign of peace” is something made pro opportunitate.  This is repeated in the rubrics in the Ordo at 128.  The phrase pro opportunitate means “insofar as it is fitting, opportune, advantageous”, or otherwise, “as circumstances indicate”.  The priest can determine that the circumstances to not call for a “sign of peace” on the part of the people, that it is not, in fact, advantageous.  He can make this determination because, for example, the sign of peace is not carried out with the proper decorum and that it therefore is inappropriate.

Can you decline?  I guess so.

The Latin for this invitation is “Offerte vobis pacem… Offer ‘the pax‘ to each other.”  The pax here being the Roman kiss of peace or its legitimate substitution.  That offerte is an imperative.  Latin imperatives are not always strict commands.  We use imperatives in addressing our liturgical prayers to God all the time.  We are not actually bossing God around when we use imperatives.  They can be a strong petition or invitation.  In any event, offerte isn’t just a suggestion.  You are being strongly urged.

So, yes, you can refuse to participate.  I don’t, however, think that it is quite right simply to ignore that “Offerte“.  That doesn’t mean you have to go bananas or contort yourself to greet everyone within possible reach.  It certainly doesn’t mean leaving your place.  And it should never mean doing something that is undignified, like the idiot wave at someone on the other side of the building, or overly invasive like hugs and kisses which usually involves the risk of either disease or disgust.

I think the very best option for the sign of peace is for the priest to leave people in peace.

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64 Responses to QUAERITUR: The “sign of peace” is optional?!? Can I opt out?

  1. albinus1 says:

    When I have to attend Novus Ordo Mass, I generally close my eyes and pray for those at Mass, or bury my nose in my (traditional) missal, and, again, pray for those at Mass. Usually those around me get the message to leave me alone, though occasionally I have had someone keep tapping me until I looked up and took his hand. Kneeling down and saying a prayer at the Sign of Peace is another good way to convey the message that you want to be left alone.

    I also refuse to hold hands during the Our Father when I happen to be at a Mass where that is customary. Sorry, I’m just not a touchy-feely person, and it makes me uncomfortable. Again, I just fold my hand and close my eyes. Usually people leave me alone, but there have been a couple of times when I’ve received horrified looks, as if I’m the person who is daring to break a chain letter.

  2. Gregorius says:

    The liturgies at my old High School always ommitted the sign of peace. Partly to get the Mass finished in an hour, and partly because guys don’t want to touch each other any more than they have too.

  3. Random Friar says:

    I find that when I celebrate the OF, folks will think “Father forgot” if I do not initiate the Sign of Peace, and will simply, by reflex, begin exchanging the Sign of Peace during the Agnus Dei. I’ve only tended to pass over the Sign of Peace if time for some reason was very compressed.

    I’m not against the Sign of Peace, per se, but I do believe that people’s personal space really needs to be respected. If someone is not open to the exchange in the same manner as you, it’s probably not a personal thing.

  4. I only exchange the sign of peace if it’s offered to the person to my right and the person to my left. I do not turn around or make any extra efforts at the sign of peace.

  5. I’m afraid I disagree with you, Father. The option to have or not to have the sign of peace is that of the PRIEST who is the celebrant of the Mass. It is NOT optional for the PEOPLE if the celebrant has included it. Mass is a communal activity; we do it with each other not simply as a group of individuals near each other. What’s next? People deciding on their own to stand or sit for various parts of the Mass as they please? If you want to pray all by yourself and do what you please then DON’T GO TO MASS! When praying alone then everyone may do as he pleases. At Mass we pray together. I think if I encountered someone who refused to participate in the sign of peace (at least by a nod or bow of acknowledgement even if not by shaking hands) then a good smack across the face [!] would wake them up to the fact that the people around them are not to be ignored or treated as some kind of intrusion at Mass. If you don’t like the sign of peace then go find a church where the priest doesn’t employ it. It is HIS option, not everyone’s. [I don't think the parish church is Parris Island. Although Mass is sometimes as grueling as the Crucible, congregants have greater freedom than recruits in front of their D.I.]

  6. Geoffrey says:

    I think it’s bad manners to ignore someone when they offer the sign of peace. I don’t like it, but I would never intentionally ignore someone. It doesn’t seem very charitable.

  7. mattmcg says:

    I’m just going to hope Fr. Selvester is engaging in some well-intended satire…

    When my wife and I find ourselves at a NO, we have a system: when the Great Hug is coming, i pass the baby to her, then pinch her (the baby). So she’s got her arms full. Then I dote on them until everybody around us has finished catching up with each other.

  8. Fr Matthew says:

    Also, if you want to avoid a handshake and a noisy greeting, a polite smile and nod often seems to be satisfactory for many people. I’ve seen this done sometimes.

  9. brassplayer says:

    My sympathies go to your baby in this solution.

  10. mattmcg says:

    That’s the problem with these well-meaning liturgical innovations. They have no idea who they’re hurting!

  11. Andy Milam says:

    Fr. Selvester,

    Repsectfully I disagree. Mass is not a communal activity in the way that you are portraying it. It is first an interior action. If the priest offers the Pax without extending it to the faithful then he has still extended the Pax. Remember the Mass is an action of worship for the faithful, not just an action of community. I would argue that the idea of community that you’re promoting doesn’t properly have a place in the Mass. We should only be “communal” insofar as we gather to worship. Yes, it is simply a group of individuals gathered together. The priest collects the prayers of the worshiper and he offers them at the altar.

    If your point about community were valid, then one person missing Mass, or NOT GOING TO MASS! would be catastrophic to the integrity of the Mass. It is not. Why? Because those who have gathered together are worshipping. And it is that worship that is as subjective and unique as the philosophies invading the Church’s thought today. But this subjectiveness is acceptable.

    At Mass, we participate, at times together. Participatio Activa. However, and more importantly, we participate united together. Participatio Actuosa. However, this united action doesn’t mean that we are following the actions, but rather that we are worshipping.

    So, you’d be smacking me, becasuse I often assist at Mass by kneeling from right after the sign of the cross until the readings. And from the Creed (or bidding prayers) until I rise for Holy Communion. And from when I return from Holy Communion to the final blessing. Apparently, according to you, I’m not participating. Or am I? I would posit that I am. I am worshipping and have offered my prayers just like everyone else there. I gave them to the celebrant at the Collect and I pray during the Mass for those things that I would like to have prayed for. Knowing that they have been given to the celebrant at the Collect, I can then worship with full Faith that my prayers are going to be part of the unbloody sacrifice. And all the while I’m kneeling…..imagine that. Participatio Actuosa.

    Participatio actuosa is much more important than particiaptio activa. One is the essence of the liturgical action, one is merely the outward response to the prayer. Do you correct someone when they don’t join you in the blessing over meals? That is activa.

    The Mass doesn’t belong to the priest. It belongs to the Church, he simply offers it.

  12. doanli says:

    It takes away from the reverence and sanctity of the Mass; witness any Sunday and you have conversations going on—

    I can say that 99% of the persons I have shaken hands with that I have no argument with them, so what’s the point. I might mention when I was a kid there was another girl miffed at me because I was wearing the same shoes as she was and her family, sitting in front of us, did not shake my family’s hands–goes against the point of this thing, doesn’t it?

    Yes, I cannot stand it, but I don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings either, so I do it.

    My 2 cents.

  13. Fr. Selvester,

    what a catty reply…
    Brilliant advice (DO NOT GO TO MASS).
    I’m sure you have noticed that people do tend to vote with their feet.

  14. TomB says:

    Fr. Mattew,
    That’s my usual solution when I get caught in such a situation (which isn’t often).

  15. Bornacatholic says:

    Dear Fr. Sylvester. How often to do pray the Roman Canon?

    As for the KOP, I always kiss my Bride and shake hands with those in front of me and those beside me.

    Jesus didn’t refuse the kiss from Judas so who am I to refuse a handshake from my brother or sister?

    P.S. Try some Mystic Monk Decaf :)

  16. RichardR says:

    The idea of abusing a child in the Roman Catholic Church to achieve ones own ends, is, of course, traditional but, and I may have interpreted BXVI’s remarks incorrectly, my sense is that we should stop doing it.

  17. andrewalger says:

    The polite nod/bow is what is gone in Poland. I have adopted this gesture to great effect.

  18. danphunter1 says:

    ..and of course there is always the simplest way to avoid the “al a man left, dosey do” at the kiss of peace, go to the TLM.

  19. GodsGadfly says:

    If the point of *not* participating is not to disrupt Mass, besides the obvious, that solution seems to have flaws.

    But with my Spectrum Children, we usually have to deal with some kind of fussy child at that point anyway.

    Barring my kids, my usual excuse from all the “Calisthenics Confusion” is my wheelchair.

  20. GodsGadfly says:

    The Maronites do it right. The priest gives peace to the Deacon, who passes it to the servers and ushers. The ushers then go down the aisles. The usher shakes the hand of the firs tperson in the pew, and it’s side-to-side from there, all very orderly.

  21. Fr Martin Fox says:

    I have suggested that if folks don’t want to shake hands during the sign of peace, carry a handkerchief in your right hand, and be sure to wipe your nose right before the sign of peace; then give an apologetic gesture, and folks will understand.

    I happened on this solution myself, as a seminarian, when I came to Mass with a cold, and I didn’t want to give offense by not shaking hands, and didn’t want to explain it. It worked perfectly, and everyone looked very happy not to shake my hand.

    So why not do it all the time? I’m assuming you have a legitimate reason for not shaking someone’s hand; and a wordless explanation avoids disruption. I.e., “I’m not shaking hands to avoid spreading germs.” Sounds good to me.

  22. GodsGadfly says:

    That’s the big thing: it’s dead wrong to continue it during the Agnus Dei, and it drives me nuts how many people insist on glad-handing one during the Agnus Dei, then get mad when one doesn’t respond. Since we’re usually in the back, it’s usually the ushers who do this to us. Tying with the answer below, I was once at Mass at a parish that was not our regular parish. My son was being rowdy, and I was trying to handle him. Some usher came up to me and tried to give me “peace” during the Agnus Dei, while I was trying to manage a fussy toddler, and got mad at being “snubbed.” Then, en route to Commuion, he got in front of me and told me I couldn’t come to communion with a distruptive child.

    Never been back to that parish since.

  23. Fr Martin Fox says:

    Here’s what I do in Piqua:

    At that moment of the Mass, I address the people, per the rubrics: “The Peace of the Lord be with you always”…they respond as appropriate…then I say nothing about offering the sign of peace (which is optional); instead, I simply walk to the servers and exchange the peace.

    No problems. No one has complained.

    One result: the school Masses, where the sign of peace was out of control, are notably calmer at this point.

    Maybe not totally satisfactory to some, but it does lower the profile of this gesture, which has–to my mind–become way more than it should.

  24. cresci says:

    When I go to a mass that I know the Sign of Peace will be respectful and limited to the ones immediately around me, I usually don’t mind shaking their hands (usual here in Brazil).
    When it’s one of those Charismatic Masses or whatever that people try to force you into dancing, hugging, etc; or when I am not in the mood to shake hands, then I have the strategy of coughing hard and doing this with the hands covering on the mouth; this is usually sufficient to keep people away (and even sometimes I had my hands untied together by some brute old men who though I should be FORCED into giving them the hands). In fact, I start doing this at the Our Father because, at least here, they start with a “let’s give our hands and sing all together the prayer that Our Lord taught us” stuff.

  25. nanetteclaret says:

    Fr. Selvester -

    A “good smack across the face” for someone who refuses to participate in the “Sign of Peace?” What are you really saying? “They’re going to participate or by golly, I’ll smack some peace into them!” This is so wrong on so many levels.

  26. Tom Ryan says:

    If someone from another planet saw an OF Mass for the first time, he’d conclude the Sign of Peace is the high point of the show.

    That’s the way it was for a poor deceased priest I knew who was chaplain at a very large state run institution for the mentally retarded (shaking hands lasted minutes) and sadly it isn’t much different at most wealthy suburban parishes.

  27. tioedong says:

    two problems.
    One, the sign of peace interrupts the deep prayer of contemplating that Jesus appeared on earth . Sort of jars you into a “happy meal” mentality from “sacred feast” contemplation.

    Two: when I was single, often I was surrounded by neighbors who literally wouldn’t give me the time of day. So now they want to shake hands? No way.
    Often I just stood in the back of church to avoid the faux friendliness (and to make it easier for me to leave when I got paged out for an emergency).

  28. Rouxfus says:

    “The beatings will continue until morale improves!”

  29. J Kusske says:

    In East Asia the practice is to bow with hands folded, which in effect is similar to a nod (a shallow bow, not a deep or medium one). I’ve taken to doing it wherever I go and some Westerners are a bit startled at first, but usually smile and reciprocate.

  30. elaine says:

    In grad school we did a handshake experiment where everyone shook hands with 3 different people around them. One person was secretly “infected” with a disease and then when we used an indicator to see who caught the disease, almost 90% of the room had. This is why I don’t do sign of peace. A nod, a smile, and a polite “peace be with you” will suffice.

  31. Andrew says:

    Notice the loving and accommodating attitude displayed by the saintly Piux XII, and the freedom that he grants to the faithful as opposed to the harshness and military-like uniformity proposed and demanded by the liturgical innovators of our day:

    “So varied and diverse are men’s talents and characters that it is impossible for all to be moved and attracted to the same extent by community prayers, hymns and liturgical services. Moreover, the needs and inclinations of all are not the same, nor are they always constant in the same individual. Who, then, would say, on account of such a prejudice, that all these Christians cannot participate in the Mass nor share its fruits? On the contrary, they can adopt some other method which proves easier for certain people …” (Pp. Pius XII, Mediator Dei, 108)

    It is very curious that in an environment (a typical Novus Ordo) where you cannot find two Masses that wouldn’t be different, where improvisation and on the spot creativity is the accepted norm, some are ready to demand strict adherence to their “rules”. The fact that one person is begging the Lord for mercy while another is still running up and down the aisle kissing and hugging everyone in sight, doesn’t seem to offend their sense of uniformity at all.

  32. kat says:

    I always love watching, at a Solemn High EF Mass, the CLERGY reverently bowing to one another, hands on shoulders, in such a wonderful symbol of unity at the sign of peace, passing it down the lines one to another.. and I love the fact that THAT is all there is to it.

  33. Miriam says:

    I miss the wonderful holy priest who used to say mass at my parish. He skipped the whole sign of peace thing. He is gone because unfortunately he was much too orthodox for the other parish he was loaned out to on several occasions a week.

    He would actually say that sin exists, that abortion is always wrong, the confession is necessary.

    The most reverent priest I have ever seen especially with the Eucharist.

  34. Patikins says:

    I literally laughed out loud when I read Mattmcg’s comment. Maybe that’s because I know a Matt McG who would say something that. He would no more hurt his child than Fr. Z would fire a beretta during mass.

  35. Luke says:

    “The idea of abusing a child in the Roman Catholic Church to achieve ones own ends, is, of course, traditional but, and I may have interpreted BXVI’s remarks incorrectly, my sense is that we should stop doing it.”

    This comment alone is an excellent reason for this née blog layout to have a report button.

    When did child abuse become funny?

  36. Luke says:

    I meant to say “new.” I’m not sure way my iPhone veered off into French just then.

  37. I only ignore people after the Agnus Dei has started, if someone extends the peace to me, I’ll return it, I don’t believe in being impolite, I don’t seek handshakes and things like that though.

  38. Tom Ryan says:

    Andrew:

    Scratch a liberal and you’ll find a tyrant.

  39. ncstevem says:

    Unfortunately I have been going to a NO Mass since I was married 2 years ago. Prior to being married I had been going to a chapel staffed by the SSPX. My wife is hesitant to assist at Mass there all the time so we go to the diocesan Mass most of the time and about once per month we go to the chapel.

    Anyway, when we go to the NO Mass I bring my missal and pray the TLM and try to ignore all that is going on around me. I have to play catch-up at the beginning of Mass because the prayers at the foot of the altar are omitted in the NO Mass. I don’t do the hand shaky thing and if there are lots of people around me I kneel and they get the hint.

  40. vernonq says:

    When a new Chaplain started ‘dumbing down’ the Sunday Mass and introduced the “kiss of peace” the servers decided not to shake hands and we just approached him with both arms outstretched ready to do the EF form of the Pax. He changed his intended handshake to a proper passing of the Pax (albeit in English) and we’ve done it that way on the Sanctuary ever since.

    In the congregation I alway simply join my hands and close my eyes so nobody disturbs my preparation for Communion.

  41. WGS says:

    I’ve never had a problem with the Sign of Peace. I prefer the traditional form, but that is awkward to accomplish in the pews. So, instead I prepare myself with a firm two-handed grip on a Missalette, Hymn Book, Missal or Spiritual Book. Then, when the time comes, I might nod pleasantly to one or two nearby fellow worshipers. The choice of my sign is up to me, and there is no reason why I should be required to have the same sign as my neighbor.

  42. THREEHEARTS says:

    The sign of peace is not a sign of unity, holding hands at the Our Father is not a sign of unity. The Profession of faith, the Creed is a sign of unity (Church Teaching) Fr Selvester I would not try slapping peoples faces in the mass I go to; that really is a sign of ignorance, of prideful ignorance. but really you are not a priest are you? When the Prince of peace is on the altar must we go into the bedlam that occurs where every one present or most that are present leave their seats children go crazy without discipline. First of all you should read what the US Bishops think about the congregational pressure that occurs at the Our Father and the quandary they are in in finding some way to stop it. Let me give you a personal opinion that will not be acceptable. Most people who attend mass have not been to confession for months and lack the virtue of religion Pope Pio Nono I believe wrote about the contagion of sin in his encyclical on the Mystical Body. I will not touch anybody during the time Christ is present on the Altar, if the great Pope Pio Nono believed in the contagion of sin then I too will believe. The truth of the Virtue of Religion leads me to think and to act accordingly that I must with the deepest of efforts pay more attention to Him than to anyone around me. Read it again in seclusion with My God whom I am eager to receive I see no one that is anyone around me. How dare any of you interfere in my space when I am preparing to receive Crucified Love arisen from the Dead. Keep your hands to yourself. In any case how many of you can bless anyone with peace, Very few I daresay if any especially in the light of the rubrics of Indulgences which state very succinctly that the Church says we cannot earn a plenary indulgence without confession within 16 days (Octave before and octave after receiving) If the Church believed and taught different then a plenary indulgence does not need the Sacrament of Confession . I can’t bless anyone with peace that is for sure, pray for them yes, but setting aside this futile discussion and this is a stupid subject and is not worthy of discussion and is the trouble with the Church today worrying about actions or subscribing to the belief that I can give anyone peace. Inform your conscience about your behavior at Mass and do try to worship the Love that has died and risen glorious for you during the celebration and find in yourself if it is there the state of the grace that sanctifies.

  43. dominic1955 says:

    This is one reason I find the TLM so “liberating”. One good priest I know explained to us that during the TLM the people have a general “rubric” to follow, but aside from kneeling during the Consecration (which isn’t absolutely mandated, but, of course, highly customary, proper and fitting) one can do pretty much whatever they want as long as they don’t really disturb others (i.e. if you want/need to stand a lot, go to the back). It is kind of like at the Easterners’ Divine Liturgy, they often do all sorts of things that the average Westerner would find odd, but I think it beautifully highlights the fact that actual participation and communal worship doesn’t mean a fascistic exercise in uniformity.

    I personally sit during the Epistle at a Low Mass even though it is the “custom” at my parish for the people to kneel, something I carried over from my days as a seminarian. Other folks have their own little quirks but no one gets all bent out of shape over it.

    Why can’t this attitude carry over more often to the NO?

  44. Melody says:

    Father Matthew has the right idea, fold your hands in prayer, look solemn, and give a warm smile and nod to those around. For additional effectiveness, do this before they have a chance to offer you a hand. Look downwards or towards the altar to signal you are waiting for mass to go on.

    Personally though, I think a restrained one armed hug is a good sign of peace. Traditionally, people kissed each other, and as a member of an Italian family I think hugs have the closest meaning in our culture to that which kisses once had in Rome. Handshakes bring to mind job interviews and business introductions and thus seem entirely inappropriate as a familial gesture. I’m not saying the sign of peace should devolve into one massive group hug, but there are certain restrained ways of embracing that would not disturb the solemnity of mass.

  45. Central Valley says:

    This topic make me recall a very holy Monsignor from the diocese of Fresno, who has since gone to his eternal reward. He always skipped the group groping. I only wish more priest would follow his lead. There have been times at the “sign of peace” there has been enough force used on people a police report could have been filed. This is why if I am forced to attend a NO Mass, I try to hide out in the back or away from people. In the EF of course, you are not molested during Mass, you are allowed to medidate on the actions of the altar, unlike some of the Las Vegas style stage shows some moodernists call a Mass.

  46. poohbear says:

    I do not shake hands due to health issues that cause me to be more prone to infections, but I always smile, nod and say ‘peace’ to those around me. As someone mentioned above, a tissue in the hand helps.

    On the other hand, I find the ‘sign of peace’ to be a chance for families to be all huggy kissy with each other and ignore people outside their little circle. I usually attend Mass alone, and most often, when I turn to either side, there are families who are so absorbed with themselves, that they are only interacting with their own family.

    To the person who mentioned slapping— this actually happened to me once– an elderly woman slapped my arm to get my attention during the Our Father so we could hold hands. I was praying with my eyes closed and head down– what a shock to be jolted from prayer to see this woman holding out her hand and giving me a dirty look! The slap was so hard I actually had a bruise!

  47. Scott W. says:

    To the person who mentioned slapping— this actually happened to me once– an elderly woman slapped my arm to get my attention during the Our Father so we could hold hands. I was praying with my eyes closed and head down– what a shock to be jolted from prayer to see this woman holding out her hand and giving me a dirty look! The slap was so hard I actually had a bruise!

    Now imagine a visiting non-Catholic getting this treatment.

  48. Legisperitus says:

    When all this hand-shaking business first started, a great-uncle of mine had some little cards printed up that gave a polite explanation of why he did not believe in shaking hands while Our Lord Jesus Christ was lying sacrificed upon the altar. When people reached out their hands to him, he’d give them a card.

  49. irishgirl says:

    When I used to attend the N. O. Mass, I would fold my hands and give a little nod if I didn’t want to shake hands at the Sign of Peace. Or else I’d cross my hands over my heart.

    I like the way it’s done in the TLM-slowly, with dignity, and only by the clergy.

  50. doanli says:

    Except for TLMs I have attended, I cannot remember the last time I attended Mass in the NO where the priest skipped the handshaking…*sigh*.

  51. MJ says:

    “I think the very best option for the sign of peace is for the priest to leave people in peace.” YEAH! :-D

    At the EF, the Sign of Peace is reserved for the clergy, not the laity (that is, laity one to another). The Sign of Peace is given from clergy member to clergy member beginning with the highest ranking clergy down through the servers. At a High Mass at least, a server turns to the faithful, bows, the faithful return the bow, and the server incenses towards the faithful. After a final exchange of bows (not laity to laity but server to laity and laity to server), the faithful sit and the server returns to the altar…

    When I happen to be at an OF Mass (which isn’t often) I just fold my hands and close my eyes when the Sign of Peace comes around…I usually stand in that way until I hear the noise settle down and I’m sure folks are finished…I think only once have I had someone actually try to shake my hand while I was standing in this way, and I just kept my hands folded, smiled, and nodded to them.

    IMHO, the way the EF does it is best. :)

  52. doanli says:

    Oh, and my Grandpa, who has passed this life now, used to put his head down and keep it down during the Sign of Peace. He also would keep pulling his handkerchief out of his pocket too, though I don’t know if it was to keep people from wanting to shake his hand.

    The changes in the Mass hurt my grandparents greatly, but they kept the Faith and kept going to Mass.

  53. robtbrown says:

    Fr. Selvester,

    I have to admit that I’m not sure whether your comments are meant to be satire–I hope they are. That notwithstanding, I’ll take you at your word.

    1. It is a common (and superficial) error to say that the mass is a communal activity. Rather it is an ecclesial action (I don’t care for the word “activity” in this case), which means that it concerns more than those physically present. In fact, the Roman canon invokes the presence of angels.

    The pot lock after mass or parish picnic are examples of a communal activity. Or, if you want more uniform activity, football practice or bayonet training in BCT.

    2. Although the celebrant can opt for the sign of peace, he is not charged with how it is given. A nod of head, a very short wave of the hand, or gesturing with the eyes can also be considered signs of peace. Although I do exchange handshakes when there are people nearby, it always reminds me of the coin toss before a football game. “Peace to you.” And the reply, “We will receive.” And THAT reminds me of some funny incidents that actually happened at the coin toss.

  54. Will D. says:

    Acknowledging the people worshiping with you at mass does not seem to me to be an undue burden. If you don’t want to shake hands, don’t. A polite bow will suffice.

    The norm at my parish is to hold hands during the Lord’s Prayer and to be quite free with the sign of peace, but I’ve never had anyone give me any static — let alone force their attentions on me — when I keep my hands folded for the prayer and not shake hands for the sign. I would prefer that the hand holding and excessive handshaking stop, but there’s no call to be rude about it. And pointedly ignoring your neighbor’s well intentioned gesture seems quite rude.

  55. Daniel Latinus says:

    The liturgies at my old High School always ommitted the sign of peace. Partly to get the Mass finished in an hour, and partly because guys don’t want to touch each other any more than they have too.

    This was the custom at my old high school back in the late 1970s. I was never told why they didn’t pass the peace, but I figured that it had to do with the kind of shenanagins took place during the peace in my old grade school. In grade school, the kids would crunch each other’s hands hands, reach across multiple pews to shake hands with their friends, give the “soul brothers’ handshake”, “slap five”, or “slip skin.” I don’t remember anybody getting in trouble for doing these things.

    In grad school we did a handshake experiment where everyone shook hands with 3 different people around them. One person was secretly “infected” with a disease and then when we used an indicator to see who caught the disease, almost 90% of the room had. This is why I don’t do sign of peace. A nod, a smile, and a polite “peace be with you” will suffice.

    In light of this, I wonder how many bishops prohibited the peace during the recent flu epidemics.

  56. Will D. says:

    In light of this, I wonder how many bishops prohibited the peace during the recent flu epidemics.

    It wasn’t prohibited in our diocese but the bishop had the priests remind people that the handholding during the Lord’s Prayer is not required, and that people weren’t obligated to shake hands. The major change was restricting the Chalice to the priest for the duration of the scare.

  57. Fr_Sotelo says:

    Thank God for that Swine Flu scare !! It was the perfect excuse for abolishing the Sign of Peace in my parish. I continued to give Holy Communion on the tongue while convincing everyone that shaking hands needed to go. After the winter months passed, a long message went into the bulletin about how the parishioners were now “delighted” with the new spirit of recollection at Communion time.

    While a few people whined, the majority of people seem fine with the hand shaking and hugging being only a distant memory. For the weddings and funerals, the organist states loudly, “PLEASE KNEEL” even before the Lamb of God begins, thereby heading off handshaking by the visitors who always try to start it up again. This winter, if priests would only terrorize people with nightmarish tales of what can happen from touching each other’s hands, we can get more and more parishes to get rid of the Sign of Peace.

  58. doanli says:

    Fr_Sotelo,

    I hope that spirit comes to my parish. (Please, Lord?) We need more reverence.

  59. my kidz mom says:

    My daughter reports that at her high school, “peace be with you” is replaced with “did you see what happened on ‘The Office’ (or other fav tv show) last night?!”

  60. catholicmidwest says:

    We always have it. People think it’s necessary here. Hmmm.

    I won’t turn down anyone if they extend a hand to me. I’m not that bad. But I don’t run all over or instigate any hand-shaking. It can and does often get out of hand. :D

    I have a pet peeve about all the arm raising and arm waving and hand-squeezing and fraternal horsing around that goes on during the Our Father. That bothers me about as bad as the hand-shaking, if you want to know the truth. What is all that about???? I half expect some of these people to set up “the wave” and get out the stadium blankets.

  61. catholicmidwest says:

    PS, my kids mom,

    I have no doubt about that. I used to teach in a catholic high school. Catholic high school masses can be interesting.

  62. catholicmidwest says:

    A. Fr. Sylvester, I can’t believe you just told me not to go to mass. What kind of a pastor are you anyway?

    B. I don’t have to shake hands if I don’t want to. Period. Usually I am decent enough about it, but if I hear much more crap like this I’ll jam my hands back in my pockets and that will be it. This is baloney.

  63. david andrew says:

    I’m currently dealing with a problem surrounding this question.

    As often happens at weddings, the bride and groom have decided that at the kiss of peace, they’re going to go down from the altar and shake hands/hug every member of the wedding party. This will, of course, make this otherwise brief liturgical action, which is optional, much longer. Add to this that the bride will also present a single-stem rose to her mother and the mother of the groom during the kiss of peace, which is not at all a part of the rite.

    The problem? She’s requested that I play/sing a “peace” song (Peace is Flowing Like a River, Let There Be Peace On Earth, etc.) during this protracted action. I’ve explained in three different ways why this is not appropriate and why are unable to fulfill her request. Of course, because she believes it’s “her day” and “her wedding Mass” and that she’s paid to “rent the hall (church)” and that the priest (a guest and visitor, not the pastor of the parish) has said it would be OK, she should have it.

    “Say the Black, Do the Red” arguments don’t seem to work in cases like this, and because of the permissiveness of pastors (who mistake their permissiveness for being “pastoral”) who over the years have served as serial abusers of the liturgy, we have oh so much work to do before problems like this or the “seventh-inning stretch” attitude toward the kiss of peace goes away.