From a reader:
My wife and I attend an Extraordinary Form Mass almost exclusively, but at times, whether due to weather or circumstance, are forced to attend the closer, Novus Ordo parish. As those go, it’s very good, but I digress. My question is whether it is mandatory to break from prayer or contemplation to shake hands during the time at which the priest asks us to do so. I find it terribly disturbing to have to greet everyone around me during the Canon, and generally try to just keep my eyes down, in prayer, during this time. I do not wish to offend anyone, however, and I surely do not wish to violate my obligations at Mass. It is simply that my style, sense of propriety and Asperger’s cause me to really prefer otherwise.
Am I out of line to just stand silently with my eyes closed? Is this acceptable? Perhaps in bad taste?
I am glad you are willing to go to a Novus Ordo Mass even though it is not your preferred form.
First, be clear about something. The invitation to make a “sign of peace” is itself an option in the Novus Ordo, left to the discretion of the priest. The priest gives a “sign of peace” as part of the rubrics. He must do it. The invitation for others to do so is an option.
Unfortunately, the option has become the norm, so much so that most people think it is obligatory.
Too bad for those who really don’t like this feature of the Novus Ordo. They seem to have no rights regarding this rite.
After that, I suppose there is the issue of “manners”, involved here. Most people in the pews simply won’t understand why you might want to pray or not grip someone’s clammy, germ-filled hand at this point during Mass. You run the risk of being, unintentionally, rude, by declining that honor. You have to decide what you think about that.
I am sure that some people will chime in saying that they fold their arms, they ignore people, they cough into their hand, etc., and they may even say this with a measure of glee with which we are supposed to be as impressed as they are with themselves.
In other places I have written that perhaps one way to see the TLM and the Novus Ordo is that the former is the grown-up Mass and the other is like the … you know. Consider where you are, and make the necessary changes in your head to adapt to the situation.
Here is one way to help you get through it.
I am sure most parents – just as an example – when feeding their skeptical toddlers with the flying airplane spoon or the choo-choo, even tasting the nasty goo in the spoon with something like exemplary appreciation, don’t actually like the goo in the spoon. They would prefer a steak and glass of Bonarda. But they don’t, therefore, begrudge the choo-choo spoon to little stupor mundi just because they personally want grown-up food.
You adapt according to the occasion looking forward to when all that will be unnecessary.
Sometimes it isn’t possible to sit far enough from people so that you don’t have to do this.
In that case you should probably just bite the bullet and do it, remembering that you will be back at a TLM soon.
And to sooth your irritated nerves, have some Mystic Monk Coffee when you get home.