QUAERITUR: Avoiding the Novus Ordo “sign of peace”

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.

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76 Responses to QUAERITUR: Avoiding the Novus Ordo “sign of peace”

  1. traditionalorganist says:

    In order not to be rude, I shake hands with those who turn to me. I don’t turn around. I also avoid eye contact because that makes people think you want to shake their hands. Another option is to make a ruckus and run around church every time the sign of peace is announced shaking everyone’s hands and shouting “praised Jesus! I love ya’ll!” Maybe the priest will think twice if you do that frequently enough. :)

    [And then you would officially be a jerk.]

  2. I have long ago given up the practice of going to Novus Ordo liturgies. The process is much too painful for me, and reminds me of the late Evelyn Waugh’s comments in one of his letters that attendance at the Modern Mass was “an occasion of sin for him” (quite likely, the sin of Wrath).

    On the few occasions, years ago, that I had been absent from St. Andrew Russian Catholic Church because of illness, there were some times that I had walked to a nearby RC Church in the neighborhood. At the “Kiss of Peace”, I prevented enforced overtures of handshakes, etc., by simply saying: “I’m sorry: I have a cold, and I’d really rather not share it with you.”

    You might try that. Most people are appreciative of efforts on their behalf not to infect them.

    [Not helpful. This isn't what the entry is about.]

  3. Genevieve says:

    I regularly attend a NO and usually don’t mind smiling and holding a hand up at the people around me. If I have a reason to really want to avoind the sign of peace exchange, I remain kneeling during the pater noster and sign of peace with my head down, eyes closed, and hands folded as if I am praying – which I am – for peace in the hearts and homes of those around me.

    Usually though, I just smile and shake while I say that prayer. What is that Catholic axiom? Oh yes, die to self.

  4. B Knotts says:

    At our parish, which is a Dominican priory, the hand shaking is reserved for special occasions. Normally, it is omitted. This seems a reasonable approach.

  5. benedetta says:

    Some people just smile gently and nod and keep their hands clasped together. Maybe that’s an option. I don’t think we can take it upon ourselves to change it as it is now however there are some priests who are shortening the time and remaining reverent and serene as an example that we should not draw it out so much so that it takes away from what is or will be happening at that time during the Mass.

    On a side note not all decide to give our children the wretched stuff in jars that passes for baby food…Europeans I knew at the time totally backed me up when I chose to serve a sort of Italian wedding soup in lieu of that stuff…you know, tiny smashed up meatballs, softened carrots and celery, a little spinaci…in brodo…

  6. billdanbury says:

    All I do is kneel in my pew and prepare for the fractioning. People don’t fuss, especially when they see my 8-year-old and 5-year-old follow suit. Ah, yes, the innocence of youth!

  7. Glen M says:

    From the USCCB GIRM:

    “As for the sign of peace to be given, the manner is to be established by Conferences of Bishops in accordance with the culture and customs of the peoples. It is, however, appropriate that each person offer the sign of peace only to those who are nearest and in a sober manner. ”

    After you exchange the sign of peace to the person nearest to you, kneel for the Agnus Dei in order to avoid any unnecessary exchanges.

  8. Young Canadian RC Male says:

    traditionalorganist, “option is to make a ruckus and run around church every time the sign of peace is announced shaking everyone’s hands and shouting “praised Jesus! I love ya’ll!” Maybe the priest will think twice if you do that frequently enough. :)”

    I am laughing out loud to myself reading this. This would be quite funny and shocking if this did happen. I love it.

  9. Elly says:

    I used to sit with a friend at the NO, who preffered the EF, and would do almost anything to avoid shaking peoples’ hands. She would go to the bathroom during that time or keep rearranging her belongings on the pew. I understand why people don’t like the sign of peace but how is doing these actions better? I have a hard time believing she was actively praying while she was doing all that. And is it really worth offending people? I would prefer the sign of peace be left out too but to me it seems rude to not do what the priest asks us to do, both to other people and to the priest.

  10. Papabile says:

    Father, a question…..

    First, thank God that the common pax is only an option for the Priest.

    While the translation of the latin in english is “Let us offer each other the sign of peace”, that actually reads much differently from the latin, which simply states “Offerte vobis pacem.”

    Honest question here…. isn’t “offerte” a verb in the imperative mood, and thus is the equivalent of directing someone to do something. It seems much more clear than “Let us” — but actually instructing/ordering us to exchange the peace.

    I may well be wrong here, but I thought you might be able to help since this really is the origin of your blog.

  11. EoinOBolguidhir says:

    A girl I know brought a friend raised without a religion to Mass to see what it was like. She tried to do what everyone around her was doing. After wishing, “Peace be with you,” to those around her. My acquaintance turned around and heard her friend saying, “Please be a Jew.” So much for the intelligibility and improved catechesis of the NO Mass.

  12. briaangelique says:

    I don’t necessarily mind the sign of peace, but the manner in which one of our bishop calls for it seems very…protestant. I also attend mass by myself, so to attempt to shake peoples’ hands while they’re occupied (enthusiastically) with their own family group is horribly awkward. OTOH, after I’ve already refused to hold their hand during the Our Father, it seems rude to just stand there…

  13. briaangelique says:

    *deacon, not bishop.

  14. TomB says:

    Being fortunate to have daily Traditional Mass available less than 10 minutes away, I am not often confronted with this decision. But when I am, what I do is to bow slightly and take a hand lightly (once I accidentally hurt someone who had an injured hand) to each person adjacent to me, and only them. I usually say “Peace of Christ” or something like that. Then I immediately kneel. Sometimes people seem surprised that I will give the sign of peace when I previously did not hold their hand for the Our Father, so this kind of heals the perceived slight. On occasion, I have even been to Novus Ordo Masses where the priest omitted the SOP!

  15. Konichiwa says:

    I’ve been in situations like the reader posted above. I’ve acted in like manner, and I think it’s fine as long as one isn’t doing to be better than anyone. On the other hand, some will think you’re rude. It saddens me that even my wife thinks I’m being rude. However, We both prefer the Usus Antiquor over the Novus Ordo.

  16. Centristian says:

    I don’t mind the Sign of Peace, actually. When I was at the SSPX’s seminary in Winona, it was part of the solemn rite, albeit it was only given amongst the tonsured clergy. But in our case, the tonsured clergy–we seminarians–formed the congregation. We sat in choir stalls and once the clergy participating at the altar had finished exchanging the Pax, it was given to the highest ranking person in choir, who passed it on to the person next to him, and so on, with the formula, “pax tecum.” The recipient responded, “et cum spiritu tuo”. Instead of a handshake, however, the giver placed his hands on the shoulders of the receiver, as the receiver clasped the giver’s elbows. The greetings were spoken into each other’s ear, which made the whole thing look like a European kiss.

  17. “… We sat in choir stalls and once the clergy participating at the altar had finished exchanging the Pax, it was given to the highest ranking person in choir, who passed it on to the person next to him, and so on …”

    Would that this were the norm in every parish, or just in ANY parish, that celebrates the Ordinary Form.

  18. Latriagiver says:

    Say something like… “Et cum tibi quoque” and shake thier hand. They won’t get the humor, but they may get a moment of “what did they say?”

    Would that be breaking any rules in the rite? :)

  19. meunke says:

    The handshaking I can tolerate. It’s the strangers in the pews that decide they want to hug you that gets to me… Happens a lot in the NO parish I go to sometimes when work schedule prevents me from going to my normal EF parish.

  20. Shellynna says:

    At the daily Mass I attend, the priest omits the invitation for the congregation to “pass the peace,” which I have to admit that I prefer. On Sundays, I won’t hold hands for the Our Father, so I make a special effort to be available for “passing the peace” at the sign of peace. I don’t “overdo” it, but I’ll try to shake hands and say “Peace be with you” to those in the immediate vicinity. Only once did I walk away from my pew to extend the peace, and that was for a severely handicapped man in a wheelchair several rows back. He was cognitively disabled to the point that I doubt he understood, but his caretaker very much appreciated it. I mention this only because I think it’s important to point out that occasionally there is just reason to extend the peace beyond a congregant’s immediate circle.

  21. Centristian says:

    “The handshaking I can tolerate. It’s the strangers in the pews that decide they want to hug you that gets to me…”

    While I think refusing the Sign of Peace is wholly inappropriate, it is likewise inappropriate to cross boundaries of familiarity with strangers. I would feel no remorse after refusing a stranger’s “liturgical hug”. I might even admonish such an enthusiast with something along the lines of, “really sir/madam, get ahold of yourself”.

  22. Papabile:

    While the translation of the latin in english is “Let us offer each other the sign of peace”, that actually reads much differently from the latin, which simply states “Offerte vobis pacem.”

    Honest question here…. isn’t “offerte” a verb in the imperative mood, and thus is the equivalent of directing someone to do something. It seems much more clear than “Let us” — but actually instructing/ordering us to exchange the peace.

    You are right.  Offerte is 2nd person plural: “Offer each other the ‘pax’, y’all!”.  Therefore the English is wrong.

    It remains wrong in the new, corrected translation as well.

    The corrected translation has this:

    128. Then, if appropriate ["pro opportunitate"], the Deacon, or the Priest, adds:

    Let us offer each other the sign of peace.

    And all offer one another a sign, in keeping with local customs, that expresses peace, communion, and charity. The Priest gives the sign of peace to a Deacon or minister.

    That directive to the priest does not say: “The priest leaves the altar and traipses around while ignoring the Blessed Sacrament unattended upon the altar and getting his hands smeared with other people’s sweat and germs so he can share them with everyone during Communion”.   No, it doesn’t say that at all.

  23. RickMK says:

    When I’m not at the TLM, I find an isolated spot so that there won’t be anybody nearby when the sign of peace comes. That’s easy to do at daily Mass, when there is plenty of empty space. It’s a lot harder to do on Sundays; on the very rare times when I have to go to a NO Mass on a Sunday, I find a corner in the back somewhere to squeeze into to avoid being too close to anybody else when that time comes. Then I always keep my eyes closed, because the chaos and commotion that inevitably accompanies the sign of “peace” is disturbing to see, and is easy enough to avoid seeing simply by keeping the eyes closed.
    The only time I’ve found it unavoidable is at a First Communion or Confirmation of a relative when the family all sits close together. But it’s tolerable once every few years and there are few enough people there that it doesn’t get too out of hand.

  24. asacjack says:

    In addition to the Sign of Peace disruption, we have recently added an additional opportunity to “become community.” Just prior to the start of Mass, the singer/cantor/choir leader (who with the choir and organist is at the FRONT of the church facing everyone) announces that “as sisters and brothers in Christ, greet everyone around you and introduce yourself by name if you do not know them.” You can imagine how this adds to the reverence of the rite.

    The irony to this is that 99% of the time the same people are sitting in the same places at the same Mass they have attended for the last 25 years. The people that are truly new and/or visitors are seemly overwhelmed by this sudden assault.

    I keep praying that I live to see this nightmare over.

  25. Rich says:

    When I go to a N.O. it is at a church where about 80% of the congregation is Filipino. As with people from most Asian cultures I am sure, most people at this church don’t feel the need to heartily shake hands with the people in front, to the sides, and behind them during the sign of peace, but many modestly smile and when it happens that they do make eye contact with you during the sign of peace, they simply make a slight bow of the torso or even just the neck as a gesture of peace. Ironically, it would be considered rude after learning of the this congregation’s general custom to try and shake hands with people at this church as one should know that’s not what others are inclined to do, and most importantly, it would likely chance to be culturally insensitive. And, gratefully, in this atmosphere one may decline from the sign of peace altogether without worrying that anyone will think anything of it, and, if they do think anything of it, even care.

  26. Childermass says:

    I was SO happy to get a reprieve last winter, when my archdiocese directed that there be no “kisses of peace” because of the flu.

    I hate, hate the idea of my sweat and germs getting on other people’s hands, which will (in 95% likelihood) very soon be holding the Body and Blood of Christ.

    So I began a policy of NOT shaking anyone’s hands. I hate to be rude, so I clasp my hands in the praying position up against my chest, smile broadly, and make a reverent bow towards those around me. People generally get the idea and don’t seem terribly put out by it.

    As for the churches that have TWO kisses of peace—both at the beginning of Mass and before the Agnus Dei—I just steer clear of THEM! :)

  27. marthawrites says:

    Six days a week I attend a TLM, but on Saturdays my only choice is a Novus Ordo Mass. At the Sign of Peace I place my hands in a posture of prayer, then look directly at the persons on either side of me and behind me, smile, and say “Peace.” At this Mass since I am receiving the Eucharist in my hands I do not want to be shaking others’ hands right before. I am trying to maintain reverence while appearing to be friendly–a compromise, I know.

  28. Childermass says:

    I was just thinking, there ARE ways to deal with Novus Ordoisms without causing too much fuss.

    Another example is the Holy Communion buffet line. I have never received in the hand, and I never will. But obviously this doesn’t always work well in the buffet line—the Communion minister (especially if he/she is a layperson) has in the past (alas) almost dropped the Host or touched my tongue while trying to pop the Host in my mouth. It also doesn’t help that I’m somewhat tall.

    I thought about kneeling , but there is one guy who does that at a church I often go to, and I just couldn’t myself ground the buffet line to a halt and draw so much attention to myself.

    So I have perfected a system where I genuflect while the person ahead of me is receiving and then lower myself to the Communion minister’s chest level, head turned up and mouth open wide. I’ve found that even a little old lady can give me Communion this way without trouble.

    This was on my mind because I was at Mass yesterday, and the priest actually quietly told me “Good job” after putting the Host in my mouth!

  29. Vince K says:

    I’ve Cardinal Arinze spoke on this topic and said something to the effect that most people hear the words and a “general jamboree” breaks out, but that the peace should be offered only “to the left and to the right.”

  30. P.McGrath says:

    What I do is just fold my hands in prayer, bow my head so that it’s leaning against my fingers, close my eyes, and just wait. To the hand-shakers, it’s obvious that I won’t be shaking anyone’s hand, and, so far, no one has yet barged in on this. I think it’s the simplest solution.

  31. ncstevem says:

    Went to a SSPX chapel for 6-7 years until I got married in 2008. My wife was reluctant to go to this chapel for Mass on a regular basis when I explained the situation to her prior to the the wedding. Now we go to a diocesan parish where the priest celebrates the TLM every Wed. evening and the first Sat. of the month – so it’s as ‘traditional’ as we’re going to get for the NO.

    I bring my TLM missal to Mass and pray out of it. I have to play a bit of catch up at the beginning of Mass since the prayers at the foot of the altar have been eliminated in the NO Mass. I follow the prayers and postures in the traditional missal. I don’t do the hand-shaky thing – even with my wife.

    We normally attend the early Mass and the church is typically only half full so there isn’t a problem with the aggresive hand-shaker types. Not too long ago we went to the later Mass which was packed and the old lady sitting next to me must have tapped me on the shoulder 4-5 times to shake my hand. She finally got the hint that I wasn’t going to shake her hand and went away in a huff after Holy Communion.

  32. Girgadis says:

    A simple bow to the person to my left and to my right and “Peace of Christ be with you” and then I simply keep my eyes straight ahead. People can and will think what they want, so I can’t be concerned with whether I’m thought to be rude or not. I will say that I find shaking someone’s hand not nearly as objectionable as having a stranger, without my permission, grab my hand during the Our Father and attempt to hold it. Only once has someone had the effrontery to do this and I’ve since learned that if I clasp my hands appropriately in a gesture of prayer, it’s impossible for someone to grab it. Fortunately, neither of these issues are a concern at the TLM.

  33. eulogos says:

    My usual Eastern Rite parish does not do this. But I personally had no problem with it when I used to attend the Novus Ordo, so long as it was only to those people nearby in the pew, and confined to hand shaking and “The peace of Christ be with you” which is what I usually say.

    These days I am usually only doing this at my husband’s Anglican parish. (always go to Divine Liturgy as well.) They have the “Peace” earlier in the liturgy, after the general confession, which comes after the sermon. It is connected therefore to the idea that before the Eucharistic liturgy starts, we confess our sins to God and then reconcile with our neighbors. They do tend to do a bit of milling at that point, as many come from nonliturgical traditions and have never seen a really solemn liturgy. But after that, the whole Eucharistic prayer is said with great dignity and uninterrupted by handshaking. I think that if there is going to be a handshake of peace, it is better off in an earlier position.

    When it doesn’t interrupt that part of the mass when we are supposed to be focusing entirely on the divine, I really enjoy the human warmth of the handshake, have made an effort to shake the hand of someone I feel uncomfortable with or have had some sort of conflict with, as a way of trying to obey the admonition to lay down my gift at the altar and first be reconciled to my brother.

    Susan Peterson

  34. Henry Edwards says:

    Centristian,

    Passing the peace as you describe in seminary is entirely different from the typical congregational sign of peace. Not only in form, but in substance.

    Passing the peace of Christ from the priest who has just confected His Presence on the altar, first to his immediate ministers, and then by them to remaining clerics is an ancient ritual in both Latin and Greek rites.

    The exchange of peace and human good will among men and women at this holy moment is something else. Reconciliation between people is a good thing, but it is not the objective of the ritual sign of peace.

    It seems to me that this change in the substance of the action, rather than simply the usual tackiness, is the real issue.

  35. Pete says:

    What about one who refuses the “sign of peace” with the priest? The priest is not allowed to leave the sanctuary to exchange it with the congregation (GIRM 136).

    I suspect the “sign of peace” is where one get to see the most common liturgical abuse in the “ordinary form”.

  36. mdinan says:

    I like to do what I call “Dolan Traditional Orthodoxy.” This is a roundabout way of saying “do what is reverent and pious, but smile at people while you’re doing it.”

    Therefore, I do not shake hands, hold hands, do any of this out of the pew-across the aisle “ring around the pater noster” goofiness. I will, however, smile at people who come to me and say “Peace of Christ” or some such.

    I rotate between three parishes generally–the first is EF (I go for the once monthly High Mass and the occasional low Mass),
    the second is a very reverent, half-Latin N. O. which does not choose to extend the kiss of peace to the people,
    The third is chock-full of the most kind-hearted people you’ll ever find, who love to have a 5 minute break so that every single person in the parish can shake hands with every single other person in the parish, and create one big snake of hand-holding at the pater noster. (It’s the prettiest church in the diocese with the best organ and some phenomenal music. Half of the time, the priest is fairly reverent, the other half (a different priest) plays fast and loose with the Mass. It’s at a very convenient time, the only parish in the diocese with a Mass within 3 hours of that time slot. )

  37. Fr. Basil says:

    \\ 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.\\

    The Holy Liturgy is not an opportunity for one’s personal prayer or contemplation.

    One attends to the liturgical prayers said or chanted aloud, makes the responses according to one’s ability, and participates in the various liturgical actions as appropriate, including the Pax.

  38. asophist says:

    I have tried the head-bowed-hands-folded posture, only to have people tap me on the shoulder – or in one or two cases my shoulder was actually grabbed – and stick their hands in my face, gibbering to me in street volume about Peace. I have read that in some locales in the early Church, the ‘sign of peace’ rite took up to an hour and it was known that children were conceived during it, in what, apparently, had degenerated into an orgy. Is the NO going down that path? Not sure I’d be surprised. I now attend only the TLM. Whew!

  39. Joanne says:

    I assist in the Mass @ at EF/OF parish. When the pastor says the OF, he omits the SOP. He’s been pastor of this particular parish for ~ 3-4 yrs now and many people in the pews still turn to each other and shake hands in spite of the lack of “invitation” to do so. I usually sit up at the front and kneel immediately after the response, “And also with you,” as do the servers and the lector. I see the other parishioners around me every week and I make a point of saying hello or smiling @ them before or after the Mass, so that they don’t think I am simply being unfriendly or rude at the sign of peace time.

    If someone extended a hand to me at “peace” time, I’d shake his or her hand briefly, or if I sensed that someone were looking at me expectantly, I would smile/nod towards him or her as I knelt down, but I seldom extend my hand to anyone or turn around. Great discussion!

  40. MJ says:

    Perhaps I am mistaken, but I believe the Sign of Peace was not intended to be passed between and among the laity. I am pretty sure that it is meant for clergy-to-clergy, and clergy-to-laity, but not laity-to-laity.

    At the EF the clergy exchange the Sign of Peace then (at a High Mass) a server incenses the laity and bows to them, afterwards they bow back (to him). There is no bowing to each other or exchanging gestures/words with each other.

  41. JimmyA says:

    Biting the bullet really is the right thing to do in my humble opinion, even though I share the view that it can feel awkward and is often handled questionably by priests, as per Card. Arinze’s jamboree comment. Refusing well-intentioned gestures of peace or sitting in a corner on your own both give the impression of being uncharitable in my experience. There is no excuse for making others upset or angry and thereby distracting them during Mass, however robustly we may debate things outside it.

  42. EoinOBolguidhir says:

    Father: “You are right. Offerte is 2nd person plural: “Offer each other the ‘pax’, y’all!”. Therefore the English is wrong.”

    I don’t speak Texan, but I believe the second person plural is, “All y’all.”

  43. pelerin says:

    A commenter further back mentions that a Priest is not allowed to leave the Sanctuary during the sign of Peace. A year ago during a Christmas Mass I attended I was amazed to see the Priest not just shaking hands with those in the front pews, but he went the full length of the church and shook hands with every single person present. And to think that Communion in the Hand was introduced ‘to save time’ and yet here time was added unnecessarily in this way.

    I don’t ignore those around who wish to shake hands at this point although I do wish those with a very firm handshake would not be so vice-like in their grip. Last Sunday a gentleman crushed my hand quite painfully! If we had a vote on whether to abolish it I would definitely agree because it
    interrupts prayer.

  44. Joseph-Mary says:

    Even this morning I could not help but think how it disrupts the Mass. Some people cross the aisle and hug and all that stuff. For daily Mass I don’t have to be next to anyone and I smile and nod and say “Peace of Christ be with you” to those around me but the focus of the Mass has been taken from the Real Presence of Jesus on the altar. I would rather not ever have it. I hope the Holy Father puts it at the beginning of Mass or gets rid of it.

    The one good thing about the contrived swine flu scare was that we got rid of the glad handing for a brief time.

  45. Papabile says:

    MJ wrote:

    Perhaps I am mistaken, but I believe the Sign of Peace was not intended to be passed between and among the laity. I am pretty sure that it is meant for clergy-to-clergy, and clergy-to-laity, but not laity-to-laity.

    I think this is why the new IGMR (GIRM) actually distinguishes between the response given between those in orders and the laity to laity….

    Note that the response from a lay person to a lay person is “Amen”, not “and also with you”.

    154. Then the priest, with hands extended, says aloud the prayer, Domine Iesu Christe, qui dixisti (Lord Jesus Christ, you said). After this prayer is concluded, extending and then joining his hands, he gives the greeting of peace while facing the people and saying, Pax Domini sit simper vobiscum (The peace of the Lord be with you always). The people answer, Et cum spiritu tuo (And also with you). Afterwards, when appropriate, the priest adds, Offerte vobis pacem (Let us offer each other the sign of peace).

    The priest may give the sign of peace to the ministers but always remains within the sanctuary, so as not to disturb the celebration. In the dioceses of the United States of America, for a good reason, on special occasions (for example, in the case of a funeral, a wedding, or when civic leaders are present) the priest may offer the sign of peace to a few of the faithful near the sanctuary. At the same time, in accord with the decisions of the Conference of Bishops, all offer one another a sign that expresses peace, communion, and charity. While the sign of peace is being given, one may say, Pax Domini sit semper vobiscum (The peace of the Lord be with you always), to which the response is Amen.

  46. devthakur says:

    I was once at a Mass full of abuses (the 50th anniversary of a couple was being celebrated and the celebrant had them give each other communion, to give one heinous example). At the pax, the priest joined in a jamboree and the members of the couple’s family were running around the church embracing each other. So far, standard stuff.

    5 or so minutes later, the priest was trying to hold up the host and begin the Agnus Dei … but he had no one’s attention (but mine and my family’s). He tried clearing his throat, looking around, starting the Agnus Dei, but people continued to mill about, hug and kiss, chatter.

    I confess I should have been saddened for Our Lord but I sinfully thought, with some wrath and some glee, that this priest deserved it, for he encouraged such ridiculous “empowering” behavior on the part of the laity, and what gave him the right to decide at an arbitrary time that enough is enough and now we should came to liturgy?

  47. pelerin says:

    Interesting comment above regarding the actual words. In Britain we say ‘Peace be with you’ and the reply is usually ‘and with you.’ I have never heard anyone say ‘Amen’ after this. In France the people say and reply ‘La paix du Christ’.

  48. PeterK says:

    my problem is that no one knows what each NO parish practices with regards to the sign of peace handshake. I’ve always been troubled by it as it reminds me of a Protestant practice and the vast majority of NO parishioners appear to try and see how many hands they can grasp during the that time.

    My practice is not to seek out people but rather give the sign of peace to the people next to me and the person in front of me if they turn around and offer their hand. I do not turn around to the pew behind me.
    i’m not trying to be rude I just don’t like the practice. maybe the parishes need to put a sign up as one enters the church telling us whether or not the sign of peace is given during the Mass

  49. Father G says:

    “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.”

    A confrere of my religious community argues that it is the invitation itself that is optional and not the sign of peace. Therefore, even when he does not say “Let us offer each a sign of peace”, he will exchange a sign of peace with the ministers and the laity will follow suit among themselves.

    How can I best explain to him that when the invitation is not said then it means that the celebrant does not exchange the sign of peace with the ministers nor the laity among themselves.

  50. Papabile says:

    pelerin says:
    10 January 2011 at 6:43 pm

    Interesting comment above regarding the actual words. In Britain we say ‘Peace be with you’ and the reply is usually ‘and with you.’ I have never heard anyone say ‘Amen’ after this. In France the people say and reply ‘La paix du Christ’.

    The response Amen was only put in the new IGMR, so it is less than 10 years olf at this point. No response was ever dictated before.

    My understanding from a friend in the curia is the CDF actually intervened with CDW to ask that this be specified because the “et cum spiritu tuo” refers to the ontological change in the soul re: Holy Orders, so laity should not be using the same response among themselves.

  51. I just tolerate it. I only shake with those who turn around to shake my hand so as not to be rude, but I never turn around to those behind me. I only experience the handshaking when I am NOT at my own parish; we do not give the sign of peace where we attend. :)

  52. Papabile says:

    Father G states:

    How can I best explain to him that when the invitation is not said then it means that the celebrant does not exchange the sign of peace with the ministers nor the laity among themselves.

    Father, I think the way to do this would be to point to the IGMR, #266, where the rubrics for the pas are for Mass with one minister:

    266. Expleta acclamatione in fine embolismi qui sequitur Orationem dominicam,
    sacerdos dicit orationem Dómine Iesu Christe, qui dixísti; ac deinde subiungit: Pax Dómini sit semper vobíscum, cui minister respondet: Et cum spíritu tuo. Pro opportunitate sacerdos dat pacem ministro.,

    266. After the acclamation at the end of the embolism that follows the Lord’s Prayer, the priest says the prayer Domine Iesu Christe, qui dixisti (Lord Jesus Christ, you said). He then adds, Pax Domini sit semper vobiscum (The peace of the Lord be with you always), and the minister answers, Et cum spiritu tuo (And also with you). The priest gives the sign of peace to the minister, if appropriate.

    “Pro opportunitate” is the defining message here. It’s not required.

  53. gambletrainman says:

    Generally, I go to the traditional Mass, but, on occasion have been to a NO Mass. Personally, I don’t believe in all this handshaking and hugging that goes on. I feel that if you really want to get friendly with “your neigbor”, do it before or after Mass, not during. Generally, if I have the chance, I will explain (before Mass) to those I know who will be close to me that I don’t do the “Sign of Peace”, and they seem to understand and accept my position (I don’t offer any explanation, other than “I don’t do it).

    However, once at a funeral of a cousin, after having made my customary statement, evidentally, someone about 2 or 3 pews back may have come in late, or for whatever reason, didn’t hear my statement, and got concerned seeing me sitting in the pew (I am unable to kneel, even at the Traditional Masses, so, I just sit, head bowed down in prayer). Afterward, this person made a remark to another family member: “I felt so sorry for ___, he must be taking her death so hard.”
    Okaaaay.

  54. spock says:

    Wow. This conversation is very strange to me.

    I prefer the Tridentine Mass as well but this much ado about nothing in my opinion. Yes, it can go to excess and be distraction, as everything else can, but come on my friends, we should have higher priorities than this. To me, this borders on the effeminate defined properly as an unwillingness to pursue an arduous good. Shaking your adjacent neighbors’ hand should be an “easy good” not an arduous one. If the person is coughing or sneezing or feeding children etc.; that person should avoid shaking hands but that’s just common courtesy. We shouldn’t need a rubric to deal with those cases. I basically agree with Father Basil above. Not the time for strictly private personal prayer. The exception there would be offering up your own intentions, prayers, actions and sacrifices.

  55. MissOH says:

    I attend the TLM on Sundays, but when I go to daily mass I just smile and say peace, but I don’t offer my hand. Sometimes my daughter wants me to hold her, and that was always handy, but she is getting bigger now. There are quite a number of others at the parishes where I go to mass who don’t offer their hands but all smile and will offer peace. At one parish, one of the priest always comes off of the altar and down into the pew area, but he only says peace and shakes the hands of the first few people on the end so avoid those pews and no problem.

  56. Jim Dorchak says:

    I do the Mother Teresa thing.
    My buddy (hi Gus) who knew Mother Teresa when he was in Mexico said that she never shook hands at the sign of peace, and that she and her sister nuns all practiced the method of doing a slight INDIAN type bow with your hands clasped in prayer.
    Works for me! No shakey bakey at the apex of the Mass when I should be in deep prayer and preparation.
    Jim Dorchak
    http://qm2ss.blogspot.com/

  57. First, I am in a parish where the priests have opted out of inviting the people to share a sign of peace (and the people of Assumption Grotto prefer it that way). I am very appreciative when a bishop or other significant person within the archdiocese visits and follows the “Grotto protocol” so to speak, in this regard, using all or most options as we see them exercised every day at the parish. I see it as an act of charity on their part, knowing that this may not be their personal preference, but they know it is ours. Some do not follow “Grotto protocol”, but I have always respected this, interiorly and exteriorly, because they are functioning within their right.

    This is a two way street at this time, given the rubrics.

    When I am not at my parish, or when there is a visiting priest/bishop at my parish who invites the congregation to show a sign of peace, I will do so, politely and in a reserved manner with those on either side. I do this for two main reasons:

    1) It is up to the celebrant to invite us or not invite us to share that sign of peace. Certainly, I have a right to keep my head down, or to kneel down at the Agnus Dei, but I feel at least some small sense of obligation to follow the legitimately, expressed wishes of the celebrant. It’s not a matter of being obedient per se because the obligation is not there. It is a matter of charity on my part, towards the celebrant.

    2) Most people are truly and innocently ignorant of the contemplative dimension of the Mass. I therefore, tolerate it out of charity because they do not know any better. I believe I am capable of doing more harm to the reform of the reform by not giving great weight to the state of catechesis on worship these people have. They are not only uninformed, but in many cases malformed. Priests are among them with very poor formation on worship.

    That being said, I do all I can to discourage anything more than that brief shake with people on either side of me. I place my left hand on my heart, and I extend my hand making very brief eye contact, then bowing my head with a gentle smile. I then return as quickly as possible to a prayerful position with my head bowed and my hands clasped together in prayer and wait for the end of the Angus Dei to kneel, as it is expected per the rubrics.

    I think we can move forward most effectively by continuing to discuss things like active participation, the contemplative dimension of the Mass, and most of all – unconditional and God-centered worship

  58. I dread the sign of peace. Even worse is when priests command meet-and-greets at the beginning of Mass. I loathe touchy-feeliness and forced intimacy with strangers, and feel quite strongly about people I don’t know touching me — some would call it over-reacting, but it is not I who force the issue. The extroverts who run the world have not the first clue what a torment these exercises are to their introverted brethren.

    And it’s all so unnecessary. When we orient ourselves vertically at Mass, instead of horizontally, and give first priority to the worship that is due to God, instead of focusing on ourselves and our neighbors and all the goofy ice-breaking activities, all the community and one-big-family stuff takes care of itself. We are all one in our common purpose and focus on God; one with the saints in heaven and the souls in Purgatory; and one especially in the Eucharist. This is a taste of the Communion of Saints.

    Miss A., O.P.

  59. Maxiemom says:

    I remember when the sign of peace was introduced into the Mass. It was once simply turning to the person to your left or right and simply saying, with out contact, “peace be with you” to which the response was “and also with you.” I’m not a fan of the hand shaking except with my immediate family members.

  60. Martha in SD says:

    One comment said…
    “I remain kneeling during the pater noster and sign of peace with my head down, eyes closed, and hands folded as if I am praying – which I am – for peace in the hearts and homes of those around me.”

    I would love to kneel during the Our Father, but is that GIRM for NO? I know one does in the EF, but are we supposed to or is it suggested to in the NO form? That would certainly alleviate a lot of “problems” with the whole Sign of Peace thing. I personally think it is very distracting to break away from prayer mode after the Our Father to give signs of peace to all around us. In my opinion, the celebrant has already given the sign of peace and therefore it is really unnecessary for us to return it to the people around us. It is exponentially implied, isn’t it? I will say that I am lucky enough to go to a very small parish and it is known that our family doesn’t “do” the sign of peace. Mass is said by a priest who transcends himself from the altar and lets Jesus be the one speaking. He says everything slowly and deliberately with pauses between thoughts so that you soak in what he is saying. The Mass he says on behalf of Jesus is no shorter than 70-80 minutes, and usually longer. The church actually looks like a Roman Catholic Church and has side altars and a kneeling rail. We don’t even have EOEM at our parish as our priest is the only one who gives the precious eucharist, ever. I truly believe that this is the kind of Mass that VII intended, not what we have today as a majority. If only all NO were said this way, I think people would get a lot more out of it and actually KNOW what the Mass is really about. I like to think it is the closest thing to an EF on can get in the NO form (I hope that does not offend anyone). I love EF too, but can’t get my family on board to attend EF exclusively for Sunday; yet. Pray for our parish of Our Lady of Guadalupe in SF, SD. They want to close it. (wow, I really digressed here, sorry)

    Anyway, this is a great blog, and I have learned so much from it. Thank you, Fr. Z!

  61. Jack Hughes says:

    I really dislike it when people intepret the sign of peace to mean lets roam the pews and shake as many hands as they can; I can tolerate it most of the time but when people ignore my obvious wish not wish to participate I can get crank.

  62. Dr. Eric says:

    I am the father of 4 little children (9 and under) with one on the way. I attend Mass at one of the more orthodox parishes in our diocese (which isn’t all that great as our priests are pretty heterodox- 60% of them signed a letter in rebellion of our bishop.) We let the kids do the sign of peace until the organ lead-in for the Agnus Dei that’s when I direct them all to turn around to get ready to sing. I allow them a little “social” time so they can get ready to focus on the altar again.

    I would prefer the way the Maronites exchange the sign of peace in which the Deacon receives the sign from the priest at the altar and he walks down the nave and passes the peace from the altar to the middle person who passes it towards the rest of the people in the pews (each person only turns right or left to pass it to the next person and it ends at the outside aisle.)

    Way off topic, I would also prefer Communion under both species the way the Maronites do it with intinciton by the priest.

  63. Marius2k4 says:

    Latriagiver said:

    Say something like… “Et cum tibi quoque” and shake thier hand. They won’t get the humor, but they may get a moment of “what did they say?”

    Would that be breaking any rules in the rite? :)

    For what it’s worth (as Latin’s just my thing) if one is responding to “Pax tecum” (“Peace be with you”), one would probably respond “Et tecum quoque.” (“And with you, also”). Remember, ‘tibi’ is dative, and ‘cum’ requires an ablative. Moreover, cum+te is a special case, and goes to ‘tecum’.

    Heh… As it is, I find it REALLY difficult not to do the thrice-breast-striking “Domine non sum dignus” whenever I attend NO Mass as it is, I’m thinking of getting my Latin quota fulfilled during those times in which I’m forced to fraternize during the Canon. You know, something along the lines of “Et Pax Domini Nostri Jesu Christi semper sit tecum quoque. Benedicat te Omnipotens Deus, et vultus luceat suus super te nunc et semper.” Aside from the lovely alliteration, I’m thinking this might at least be effective at convincing them that I’m crazy (to be sure, I’m not entirely convinced otherwise) and best not disturbed when obviously in prayer. Too much?

    Quid est? Modo lingua ecclesiae utor… Mihi censeo intellegendam esse laicis etsi solum minime, et haec pejorem statum prodesse omnibus facit.

  64. Marius2k4 says:

    Bah, in the previous post, I over-”As it is”ed. Apologies to all.

  65. shadowlands says:

    I too, often find the anticipation of the sign of peace unpleasant, at least in the natural. I seem to be in another world during Mass, most of the time.

    I handed over this problem to the Holy Spirt and the thought then occured to me, to greet whoever was put in my way as though they were Christ Jesus Himself. Also, to allow Christ Jesus to shine through me, as I shook the other person’s hand. For all we know, the person may be at Mass for the first time and how they are welcomed (or not) may have a profound effect upon them. This way, the sign of peace can be offered to God, for His purposes. Who knows who He will arrange for you to be sitting next to, in order for Him to meet that person, personally.

  66. S. Murphy says:

    Shadowlands – yeah!

    I grew up with it; I’m used to it; I don’t mind it, most of the time. Sometimes someone’s smile, and ‘God’s peace be with you,’ snaps me out of whatever funk I was in, and actually helps me focus on being grateful for the miracle that happens on the altar. I do hate it when the sign of peace becomes a 5-10 minute intermission. If you’re walking up and down the aisles, looking for your friends, you may ave your priorities a little skewed.
    I’m not offended, hurt or confused if I turn towards someone, and they keep their head down in prayer, or just smile but don’t extend their hand. They find the whole thing distracting, they’re trying to pray; or they’re in chemo and don’t need my germs meeting their weakened immune system – not my place to judge.

  67. o.h. says:

    The Sign of Peace is an opportunity for those of us wearing chapel veils or other indicators of traditionalism (dress, gesture) to strike a blow against the stereotype of coldness, contempt or superiority. Reach over your children’s heads with hand extended and a genuine love for your fellow Christian in your heart and visible on your face; remind yourself before you turn to your brother or sister in the next pew that you are a desperate sinner in need of his or her prayers and kindness (didn’t you admit as much at the Confiteor?), and that it is an honor that your Catholic neighbor is taking your hand and greeting you in peace.

    At one Mass, the Sign of Peace was a visible marker of the changed attitude of my pewmate, a nun in very modern business garb, who, as I sat, stared hard at my covered hair and frowned at me before turning away. I prayed throughout the Mass that I could somehow convey my love to her and my gratitude for her vocation, and at the Sign of Peace, poured all that was in my heart into my greeting. She suddenly turned the warmest of smiles on me and hugged me, and patted my children. Maybe she had been praying similarly also?

  68. Centristian says:

    If we are attentive and engaged and if we are participating liturgically and corporately, as it is envisioned that we as congregation are to do, then I become perplexed when I hear complaints that the exchange of Peace is a “distraction” or a “disruption”.

    A distraction from what, precisely? From private, esoteric meditations or devotions? We are, all of us, meant to be publicly engaged in a rite of public worship when we attend Mass, and we’re all meant to be on the same page at the same time, as it were, following the same program. I’m afraid I fail to see why the act of turning to offer one another a sign of Christ’s peace in the context of His Eucharist should be a thing vexing to Christians.

    Are we really so introverted and stingy? If so, perhaps we’re missing the central point of what we’re doing.

  69. MJ says:

    “One attends to the liturgical prayers said or chanted aloud, makes the responses according to one’s ability, and participates in the various liturgical actions as appropriate, including the Pax.”

    My abilities happen to limit me to not participating in the OF Sign of Peace, except to perhaps bow and smile with my hands folded together.

    :)

    I think the issue here may be slightly deeper than what has been touched on thus far. In the EF the Sign of Peace between and among laity is non-existent. In the OF the Sign of Peace has become (as others have pointed out) a 5-10 minute intermission where folks leave the pews, the priest leaves the altar (um wait…hands have already been washed…and he’s not supposed to leave the altar during this part of the Mass….), etc…it’s just gotten out of hand. Why has it gotten out of hand, but more importantly, why was it introduced anyway?

    “Are we really so introverted and stingy? If so, perhaps we’re missing the central point of what we’re doing.”

    I don’t think this has anything to do with being introverted and stingy. I have no problem greeting people and shaking hands after Mass. The “central point of what we’re doing” is assisting at Mass, receiving the Eucharist, praying the Mass (as St. Pius X said) — the central point of what we’re doing is definitely not greeting our neighbor and exchanging pleasantries.

  70. americangirl says:

    I wrestled with many parts of the Novo Ordo Mass for many years. I was deeply troubled by the fact an option is NOT given to people who prefer to kneel in reception of Our Lord.I finally came to this conclusion: I will be prayerful and respectful towards others in less of course something heretical is occurring then I will speak up and voice my objections. However, it is now up to the Church to correct the many wrongs which transpired after the “COUNCIL” I can only pray, hope and address anything I feel is a gross misinterpretation of the documents and teachings of the Church. The peace sign as well as the holding hands during during the Hour Father are inappropriate one should be dispensed and the other should be moved to another part of the Mass. I can genuflect before receiving my Lord, not hold hands during the Our Father and politely say to my neighbor “The peace of the Lord be with you. ” without much embellishment of the gesture. I am so grateful Pope Benedict is leading us in the proper direction of worship. Unfortunate, many of our Bishops are are dragging their feet if not ignoring him. He is the person of Christ on Earth, I follow the Pontiff to know what is right and wrong.Sooner or later I am confident the Holy Spirit will right the many wrongs which are occurring in the Mass. I can only hope and pray and offer to the Lord all of my apprehension, sufferings and displeasure I experience at some of the Masses I attend. Maybe in some small insignificant way my offering to the Lord can help change the hearts of the Bishops and priests who resist the movement of the Holy Spirit. Jesus I trust in you !!!!

  71. The best way that I’ve found is to stare straight ahead, either at the tabernacle or the crucifix, whichever is over people’s heads; most people won’t try to shake hands if they don’t make eye contact briefly. Those who will stand and stare at me expectantly, I will turn, smile, incline my head towards them, and say ‘peace be with you’. I don’t make a production out of it; normally that’s enough to indicate my goodwill that they don’t mind the ignoring of their proffered hand.

  72. Centristian says:

    “In the OF the Sign of Peace has become (as others have pointed out) a 5-10 minute intermission where folks leave the pews, the priest leaves the altar (um wait…hands have already been washed…and he’s not supposed to leave the altar during this part of the Mass….), etc…it’s just gotten out of hand. ”

    Well, if that were my observation, I suppose I would have an issue with the exchange of peace, too. I have to say, however, that despsite the multitude of similar complaints I have read on this thread, I have never once experienced anything like that in any of the numerous Masses I have attended in my lifetime, in any of the many parishes that I have ever visited or belonged to. I’ve never seen the priest leave the altar for it. I’ve never seen a Sign of Peace that got out of hand, that resembled anything like a social event, or that lasted for any longer than a moment.

    In fact, far from being hyper-enthusiastic about it, most people in the pews are positively timid about the Sign of Peace.

  73. Rich says:

    Though I would like right now
    To embrace the chance
    To disagree with that fellow,

    What I really want to know
    Is how to write comments
    Using that cool shade of yellow.

  74. Byzcat says:

    I’ve seen many abuses. Personally it makes me uncomfortable. I’m glad the Byzantine Rite doesn’t include it for the laity (priests exchange the kiss of peace if concelebrating), since I’ve changed rites, since I always experienced it as a distraction. That said, many people find a great deal of comfort in it. It takes away from the focus of the Liturgy, which should be Christ, in my opninion. Then again, the Liturgy doesn’t belong to me. It belongs to the Church. The Holy Spirit will sort it all out in the end.

  75. Medieval Peasant says:

    I avoid shaking hands because I have a compromised immune system. I wish the Church would think about bacteria and viruses more often. The Novus Ordo has all kinds of practices that put people like me in danger of contracting disease. One of the worst things I suffer from is not being able to receive the Eucharist because the people distributing including the priest don’t know the “art” of placing the Eucharist on the tongue. They end up touching people’s mouths and tongues and then spreading the opportunistic pathogens to me. This does not happen at TLM’s that are celebrated by an FSSP priest who knows of only one way to place the host on someone’s tongue. For the sign of peace I just smile and wave.

  76. amsjj1002 says:

    When I go to church, I say a Divine Mercy chaplet before it starts. Afterwards, I wrap my rosary round my hands. I have my head covered throughout. I do this for both forms.

    When I have to attend an NO Mass, I think anyone who’s cared to notice the signs would suspect I’m a visitor. Anyway, when the sign of peace is offered, I smile and nod at them, and the rosary keeps my hands clasped. I get smiles and nods back, and it also keeps my nerves settled.