QUAERITUR: Kissing the priest’s hand

From a reader:

I was coerced into attending a church function tonight with a number of the other Latin Mass members and the priest (a member of the FSSP).

When the priest arrived and the greetings started, I noticed everyone kiss the priest’s hand when he reached out to shake people’s hands.

I’ve heard of this before, but I’ve never seen it. Quite honestly, I’m not particularly comfortable with doing it (it’s also not very practical either, given that I’m a young woman who likes to wear her lip gloss). I understand that it’s a sign of respect and veneration for the priest’s hands that can consecrate the host, and I don’t mean any disrespect by not doing it, but I’m really not comfortable with the whole hand-kissing thing. I got a weird reaction when I stood and just gave the priest a good firm handshake, so I’m wondering if it’s expected among traditional priests, or if it’s just something that the people at my parish do on their own and the priest has grown accustomed to it. I’m kind of the odd one out, and many of the trads at the parish look down on me as it is (I’m kind of dumb and awkward when it comes to Clerical Etiquette, but I was raised in the “Just call me Fr. Bob” era, so I don’t know what they can expect from me).

So what’s the deal with the whole kissing the priest’s hand? Am I expected to do it, or is it perfectly fine for me to just stick to what I’m doing? I still stand when the priest enters the room, or gets up to leave the table, and I don’t dare call him by his first name.

Does this suffice, or should I be doing something more?

A couple things occur to me as I read this.  First, it may be that you are too concerned about what other people think or that you might be imagining that others are seeing you negatively.  Maybe they are, I don’t know for sure.  But I raise the point.

The whole hand kissing, or baciamano “thing” is an old custom which shows respect for the priest as mediator.  It actually shows respect more for what we receive from the priest, rather than for the priest himself.

I don’t know any priests who expect that people should kiss their hands.  It may be that there are a few out there, but I haven’t met them.  I sure don’t expect it, but I accept it as graciously as possible when it occurs. It is sometimes a bit of a surprise.

If you are not comfortable kissing the priest’s hand, then don’t.  Don’t worry about what others do.  I am fairly sure that the priest doesn’t think you have to.  As a matter of fact, I am pretty sure the priest will be okay with not having – what did you call it? – lip gloss? – on back of his hand.  Blech.

On second thought, perhaps we should start a movement of people kissing the hands of liberal priests.  And the more liturgical abuses they perpetrate or ad libbing they inflict, the more lip gloss should be applied to their hands.

Technorati Tags: , ,

FacebookEmailPinterestGoogle GmailShare/Bookmark

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
This entry was posted in ASK FATHER Question Box, Our Catholic Identity and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

57 Responses to QUAERITUR: Kissing the priest’s hand

  1. Mariana says:

    Or you could just bow over his hand, without actually touching it with your lips or lip gloss (I know all about it! : ) ).

  2. Rich says:

    In some cultures you never shake hands with a priest without showing a sing of respect to his hand, but I have noticed some people touch their foreheads to the priest’s hand instead of kissing it.

  3. patergary says:

    I don’t expect my hand to be kissed but it is a custom and tradition of Filipinos in my parish and everywhere to kiss a priest’s hand. I then say to them God bless you. (65% of my parishioners are Filipino or Filipino-American).

  4. danphunter1 says:

    “On second thought, perhaps we should start a movement of people kissing the hands of liberal priests. And the more liturgical abuses they perpetrate or ad libbing they inflict, the more lip gloss should be applied to their hands”

    Bravo!
    I do not encounter many liberal priests, but the next time I do I will assuredly kiss his hand.

  5. Marcin says:

    On second thought, perhaps we should start a movement of people kissing the hands of liberal priests. And the more liturgical abuses they perpetrate or ad libbing they inflict, the more lip gloss should be applied to their hands.

    Not only that. Just imaging what would go in the heads of their equally (or even more) liberal parishioners. They would feel betrayed by their assumed protagonist, the beloved just-call-me-Bob priest. How could he do this?

  6. Patergary mentions the beautiful Filipino custom known among Tagalog-speakers as ‘mano po’, among Cebuano-speakers as ‘amen’ and to many as ‘bless’. It is a sign of respect not only to a priest but to a parent or older relative or even to a visitor. The one giving the sign takes the hand of the person being given the sign of respect and puts the back of the hand of that person on the forehead. Sometimes the hand is put to the lips but to the forehead is the more usual way.

    The Cebuano term comes, I am told, from the practice of families reciting the Angelus at nightfall, usually around 6pm, and the children giving the sign of respect after the final ‘amen’.

    I remember being quite touched once at our house in Manila when a retired American Columban priest was being visited by members of a family he was very close to. They were middle-aged and all successful in their professions, but they gave the ‘amen’ to the priest to show their respect and affection. I remember too an Australian married to a Filipina visiting our house in Manila and reminding his two children – the family lived in Australia – to give the ‘amen’ or ‘mano po’ to the priests.

    On the other hand, I’ve occasionally seen missionaries rejecting this sign of respect, because they think it is abject, which it’s not, causing confusion, especially to children.

    It is a custom at many Filipino weddings for the groom, as he receives the bride from her parents, to give the ‘manmo po’ to them while she gives it to his parents.

  7. Random Friar says:

    The hand-to-the-forehead thing is a common Filipino thing. It is a sign of respect and a way to receive a blessing, originally for elders, IIRC, but also for priests. One should receive it gracefully and gratefully.

    A few hispanics will kiss my hands, but I think most of the young hispanics would rather be caught dead than following “that old custom.” It’s more common with a newly-ordained priest as a sign of respect and honor for the gift and office of the priesthood, and the role that mere hands play in confecting the Body and Blood.

  8. Josephus Muris Saliensis says:

    You’re not supposed to actually touch the hand with your lips! It is a gesture of respect, not a physical act.

    It is commonplace is some parts, particularly in Italy, but pretty unknown in the north.

  9. Subdeacon Joseph says:

    My right hand is often venerated as a Byzantine Rite priest. I never expect this. I once told a woman that it is not my hand, but it is the Lord’s you venerate after a priest’s ordination. Some people always shake my hand and I’m fine with that too.

    During services the deacon and those in minor orders are to always venerate the hand of the presiding priest when handing him a liturgical object, or removing it. They also must receive a blessing from him to vest, serve, and read the Apostle and Gospel. Every time a blessing is given the hand is venerated.

  10. AnAmericanMother says:

    Funny experience I had — there is this parish I sometimes attend that is run by a group of pretty wild-and-wooly Franciscans. The interesting thing is that the parish is in a 60s time warp, building, furnishings, music — but on the other hand they really believe and that shines through all the oddball externals.
    Father Wild-and-Wooly was coming down the aisle after Mass high-fiving the congregation. He had just heard my Confession before Mass and had given me a very holy and perceptive talking-to after listening attentively, then absolved me from my sins in the absolutely straight-up and correct manner.
    So when he got to me, sitting on the aisle — and this was absolutely spontaneous and without thinking on my part — I kissed the hand that had just absolved me from my sins. It freaked him out, but he bore it very well.

  11. EoinOBolguidhir says:

    Likewise when a gentleman kisses a lady’s hand, his lips never touch it.

  12. Bryan Boyle says:

    I think it’s a wonderful custom (watch out, Fr. Z, if I’m ever privileged to meet you in person). As you say, it’s a sign of respect Him in whose service those hands are consecrated, not the person they happen to be attached to…after all, you’re a sinner in need of constant conversion just as I am…;)

    Calling to mind that beautiful “Hands of a Priest” verse…we should remember that it is a priest who first raises his hand in blessing at our baptism…who confect and hold the precious Body and Blood at Mass, raised to bless us at each sacramental encounter…and whose hands we hope to see imparting His blessing on us as we travel our final journey…along with innumerable times in between.

    Ah…the hands of a priest. Such a treasure. And that’s why they are worthy of respect. Not for what they physically are…but for what they do in His Name.

  13. MJ says:

    I was at the FSSP ordinations a couple years ago, and I made sure to receive all the newly ordained priest’s first blessings….afterwards, of course, the priest’s hands are supposed to be kissed…I did kiss their hands after receiving their blessing, but I felt a little strange about it – I don’t remember if I had “lip gloss” on or not…I may have, perhaps that’s why I felt strange! I guess I didn’t want him walking away with pink goo on the palms of his hands. =P

  14. JMGDD says:

    I attend an FSSP parish, where the altar servers routinely kiss the priest’s hand when giving or receiving anything. I have not seen any parishoners do this, which is not to say it doesn’t happen.

    As an aside, most parishoners bow whenever the priest passes in procession. In my former Anglican days, I was taught to bow whenever the crucifix passed. It still throws me off to bow to the priest but not the crucifix, so I try to do both.

  15. jbas says:

    Two elderly priests assure me the kissing of priests hands was not practiced in the USA or Australia either during the Mass or outside of Mass in the 1950′s. I don’t know how it got started here again recently in celebrations of the traditional Roman form of Mass, but I suspect people will see it there and start doing it in the parish hall, too. I really could do without it. But I’m all for starting the “liberal priest” thing.

  16. worm says:

    On second thought, perhaps we should start a movement of people kissing the hands of liberal priests. And the more liturgical abuses they perpetrate or ad libbing they inflict, the more lip gloss should be applied to their hands.

    LIKELIKELIKE

    “I don’t always kiss a priest’s hand, but when I do, I prefer a liberal’s. Stay orthodox, my friend.”

  17. AAJD says:

    Here’s a good and illustrated explanation of the custom of Eastern Christians in venerating the hand of a priest or bishop: http://www.saintelias.com/ca/etiquette/priest.php

  18. Alan Aversa says:

    I thought this was expected only of bishops.

  19. pseudomodo says:

    Worm,

    Perfect! I see a terrific parody coming to life here. Uno Equis! The most DIVINE man in the world!

  20. moon1234 says:

    @Alan Aversa
    For a Bishop, you would genuflect on your LEFT knee and kiss his ring. He will then most likely give you a blessing and then you rise. More traditional bishops will recognize (and in my opinion are deeply touched by this show of respect) and honor this custom.

    It is only wierd once or twice. After that it is perfectly normal. You just imagine it is Christ and NOT the Bishop that you are respecting. After that it is perfectly normal.

  21. Centristian says:

    “I got a weird reaction when I stood and just gave the priest a good firm handshake, so I’m wondering if it’s expected among traditional priests…”

    I used to be immersed in a traditionalist environment (the SSPX) and it was not customary for the laity to kiss the hands of priests upon greeting them. A simple handshake was the expected greeting (except in the case of a bishop, whose ring is “kissed” as a matter of proper etiquette, even in non-traditionalist settings). It was never expected that anyone should bow to a priest upon greeting him with a handshake, either. Hand-kissing was seen only in the liturgy, wherein inferior ministers handed items to the celebrant with “the usual kisses”, as Fortescue refers to them.

    The exception to this that I encountered was with respect to Spanish-speaking clergy. It seems that kissing the hands of priests when greeting them is customary in Spanish/Latino cultures. Traditionalists, ever attuned to such nuances, would often, I noticed, kiss the hands of priests with Hispanic names, even if they, the hand-kissers, were not, themselves, Hispanic.

    With respect to the concern about lip gloss, it is my understanding that such reverential hand kisses, when offered, are supposed to stop short of the lips making actual physical contact with the back of the hand. To actually physically kiss the hand is, I believe, considered a significant faux pas.

    There is a memorable scene in the movie “The Queen” in which Elizabeth receives Tony Blair in audience in order to invite him to form a government in her name (in other words to become prime minister). It is customary for the prime minister-to-be to kneel for the Queen’s invitation, and then to kiss her hand upon accepting. Although Americans didn’t get it, European audiences howled when Tony Blair actually, physically kissed the Queen’s hand.

    “So what’s the deal with the whole kissing the priest’s hand? Am I expected to do it, or is it perfectly fine for me to just stick to what I’m doing?”

    In the United States, the UK, Canada, and other English-speaking countries it is not customary for Roman Catholics to greet the clergy with a hand kiss or a bow. A handshake is expected. Stick to the handshake.

  22. irishgirl says:

    I’ve kissed a few newly-ordained priests’ hands in my lifetime. I think it’s a very cool custom-and a reverent one as well! ; )
    ‘Baciamano’-what a lovely Italian word to describe it! Bravo, Padre Z! : D

  23. CMRose says:

    Although I avoid going to Masses prayed by liberal priests and I avoid interaction with these priests like the plague, I do kiss their hands when I encounter them. Some appreciate the gesture….others look at me like I have 3 heads. It then becomes amusing AND respectful!

    When I first went to a Byzantine Divine Liturgy, my now-seminarian- friend stressed that I was not allowed to wear makeup so it wouldn’t come off when I kissed stuff (icons, hands, more icons). I had to laugh at that because I am the lazy young lady who refuses to wear makeup because it is too time consuming.

  24. Joe in Canada says:

    How to reverence a bishop has been dealt with here before – http://wdtprs.com/blog/2008/12/quaeritur-kissing-the-ring-of-a-bishop/ Genuflecting on the left knee has excellent support – our own host – but not universal.

  25. It sounds like this is a custom that varies a lot, both regionally and ethnically.

  26. Andy Milam says:

    Fr. Z;

    “On second thought, perhaps we should start a movement of people kissing the hands of liberal priests. And the more liturgical abuses they perpetrate or ad libbing they inflict, the more lip gloss should be applied to their hands. ”
    —Done. While I don’t wear lip gloss, I do use a lot of carmex in the winter time. So, I am sure that good ‘ol Fr. XXX, at my parent’s parish will love this new innovation (considering the number of liturgical innovations he has introduced).

    I wonder though, will he take it as a sign of personal affection, as opposed to respect for his role as mediator? Pish-posh, as you say…I will engage in this ancient custom and give the good Father the proper reverence due one who is as liberal as he.

    Great idea!

  27. Random Friar says:

    At my ordination, btw, the ordaining bishop kissed my hands. Or rather, the Hands of the Priest.

    All this talk of kissing hands or ladies, but the lips never touching reminds me of all these Bollywood movies, where there’s always a big show production about everything, but the two lovers’ lips never actually meet!

  28. APX says:

    @Fr. Z
    perhaps we should start a movement of people kissing the hands of liberal priests. And the more liturgical abuses they perpetrate or ad libbing they inflict, the more lip gloss should be applied to their hands.

    Which colour do you recommend? Cherry Kiss, Watermelon Punch, Berry Blast, or Coral Shimmer??? ;-)

    I don’t kiss priests’ hands, but I do wear lip gloss. I got caught off-guard attending my first Palm Sunday in the EF when it came to going up to receive our palms and having to venerate them first. My lip gloss was all over my coffee cup by the time I got halfway to the city, so I had applied a fresh coat before I walked into the church. I now have a palm with a big pink grease stain. I can understand this woman’s lip gloss transfer concerns.

  29. AnAmericanMother says:

    CMRose,
    Me too! And I am no longer young. I have so much to do in the mornings that applying “war paint” gets bumped off the list every time.
    Now I have a good excuse — don’t want to put lipstick on the priest’s hand (or the palms, or the chalice, etc. etc.)

  30. irishgirl says:

    I don’t wear any kind of lipstick (never acquired the habit of makeup, thank God), so I’ve never left a ‘mark’ on a priest’s hands, a palm, a crucifix, or anything like that.
    ‘War paint’-that’s a funny description, AmericanMother! Never thought of that! Good one!
    Another thought on kissing a priest’s hands: I wear glasses, so the first time I kissed a newly-ordained priest’s hands (in 1983 in Rome), I got my lenses all smudged when I came into contact with the new padre’s damp hands! Hey, it was the first time I ever did it-what did I know back then?

  31. jfm says:

    I have not been part of a tradition that kisses a priest’s hand.
    But it seems from general consensus here that if one were to kiss a priest’s hand, it should be an ‘air kiss’ without actual lip-hand contact. And the kiss would go to the back of the palm, not to any ring.
    For bishops, one would kiss the ring. (Also an air kiss? Or actual contact with lips on the ring?)
    I was not aware of genuflecting on one’s left knee as one kisses a bishop’s ring. I think I used the right (a.k.a. wrong) knee.

    For veneration of the cross on Good Friday, that kiss should have lip contact, right?
    I’ve always done that, but now I am wondering if it should be like the hand kiss.

  32. Prof. Basto says:

    I have strong feelings about this, because kissing the hand of a priest was something that was universally common in my country, Brazil until the Second Vatican Council, and in the wake of the turbulent cultural changes it almost vanished, together with Latin, covering of religious icons during Lent, etc., being retained only by the more tradional faithful, or by simple, conservative countryside folk.

    Actually, I have noticed from the internet that the people who most object to this gesture are people of the so called “Anglo Saxon” cultures and Nothern Europeans; I don’t know why, but perhaps this has something to do with the fact that the culture of the Protestant Reformation, and that led to it, is more entrenched in those Nations. As for my own country, the people who most object to hand kissing are those who militantly hold that one can now stand during the consecration, that kneeling is a thing of the past, and that the Sacrament of Confession is also a relic of times past.

    As a matter of fact, hand kissing in the past was a deeply rooted cultural gesture of recognition of a hierarchy, and it was not only a religious gesture. So, for starters, hand kissing was common within the context of a FAMILY. Not that the wife would kiss the hand of the husband, no. But that the children would kiss the hand of their father and of their mother, and of their grandparents. Even grown up sons and daughters were expected to kiss the hands of parents and grandparents, as well as the hands of the baptism sponsors (godfather and godmother).

    Often, this handkissing of the elders within a family or of the godfather/godmother would be the occasion to ask for a blessing. As it is known, it is traditional and proper of the royal priesthood that parents and godparents can bless their children. So, when kissing hands, the son would say “your blessing, father”, and the father would reply “God bless you”.

    Outside of the family context, in monarchies, the subjects would kiss the hand of the Sovereign. Brazil, for instance, had Catholic monarchs up until 1889; the Catholic Faith was the state religion, and Emperors were anointed and crowned by the Church in accordance with the ordo contained in the Roman Pontifical. In major solemnities, the subjects would kiss the hand of the monarch. Actually, even today, in the Coronation of the British monarch, there is a hand kissing ritual, that, in the British case, forms part of the actual religious ceremony. And when the prime minister or a minister is appointed, it is said that he “kissed hands”. In the past, appointment to a high office actually involved kissing the appointing monarch’s hand when the appointee was received in audience.

    In the Church, too, kissing hands is a symbol of hierarchy and obedience. And, in the Church’s case, it acquires additional symbolism because a priest’s hands are consacrated. If I’m not mistaken, the rubrics themselves used to prescribe hand kissing when the deacon collected the birreta from the hands of the priest, and in other occasions.

    Kissing the hands of the pope is of course still widely practiced. Apart from day to day hand kissing, there are even official hand kissing rituals prescribed for after the election of a new Pope and for the rite of installation. But it was also common and it is very traditional to kiss the hands not only of the Pope and of cardinals, but also of Bishops and even of simple priests.

    One does that out of filial respect, just like one calls the priest “Father”. If it was common and traditional to kiss the hands of one’s natural father, so too it was common to kiss the hands of one’s father in God, the priest. And if you don’t want to actually kiss (for instance, when women wear lipstick), then it is ok and respectful to almost kiss, by holding the person’s hand and bowing so that the lips are close to the skin but without actual contact.

    This is a traditional Catholic gesture that should not disappear. It is symbolic of virtues that are much needed nowadays.

  33. asperges says:

    There are two distinct issues here: inside and outside of Liturgy. Hand kissing was never considered very English, and although laid out in the (old) Liturgy (cf Fortescue O’Connor), except for requiems, benediction, Good Friday etc, it is not often done. It should be. Places like the Oratory do it, but it is not common here.

    As to respect for priests, outside of the liturgy, likewise it would be rare here too. Again not very English, a bit too Continental. I have done it in Russia as a sign of respect to a priest, particularly since there was a language barrier.

    Socially it is still practised in good circles in places like Portugal and sometimes France – very rarely here – but it is symbolic, not a real kiss usually. It is an “old world” thing and for that reason I can understand why Americans might not feel at home with it. I mean no disrespect by that. Just an observation.

    I have found that genuflecting to Bishops – which happens now less and less – of most persuasions goes down well. It is false modesty to refuse outward signs of respect and the “call me Bob” variety, get called “Father” or “My Lord” (we don’t use “Excellency” – that’s for diplomats). It isn’t homage to them personally but to their office.

    Lastly I would bet my shirt that there is no such thing as a left-kneed genuflection. It would be difficult and not appreciated if it were spotted.. Again Fortescue O’Connell (“Ceremonies of the Roman rite described”) explains what a genuflection is, and it is with the right knee in the Roman tradition. The double genuflection technically involves both knees, but that is all. The concept of left and right dates back to the Romans – left bad, right good.

  34. Centristian says:

    @JFM:

    “For bishops, one would kiss the ring. (Also an air kiss? Or actual contact with lips on the ring?)”

    I would go with an “air kiss”, myself. Again, social etiquette frowns upon actual lip-to-hand contact with this sort of gesture.

    “I was not aware of genuflecting on one’s left knee as one kisses a bishop’s ring.”

    While that is the traditional etiquette, the genuflection is frequently replaced with a bow, nowadays. Incidentally, you should only “kiss” a hand that is offered to you for kissing (with the palm down). It would be rather gauche of one to grab a bishop’s hand (or anyone else’s), twist it around, and force an unwanted reverence upon it. If a prelate extends his hand in handshake mode, then you should just shake his hand.

    “For veneration of the cross on Good Friday, that kiss should have lip contact, right?”

    The rules of social etiquette would not apply to contact with an inanimate object, so you may feel free to do either/or. For me, personally, if 25 people ahead of me have kissed an object, I’m not putting my lips to it. Air kiss.

  35. APX says:

    @AnAmericanMother CMRose,
    Now I have a good excuse — don’t want to put lipstick on the[...]chalice, etc. etc.)

    Oooo, I forgot about that one, but usually by the time communion time came everything was either absorbed or worn off. I can see how that would be an even bigger issue, as lipstick and lip gloss residue would be wiped off onto the purificator. I once got lipstick on my white shirt, and that was a real pain to get out. I’m sure the sacristan appreciates it when people don’t goop on the lip goo. This thread has inspired me to switch over to lip stain for liturgical events.

  36. buffaloknit says:

    I have a few hand-kisisng thoughts to share!
    First off, as other’s mentioned, the kiss the questioner asked about is most likely an “air-kiss” which is what stereotypical women from NYC do when they great each other, what one does when kissing the Queen’s hand or the bishops’ ring, etc, etc. There should not be any makeup transfer if the kiss occurs correctly, as an “air-kiss.”

    To the woman who asked the question in the first place: how would you like to be one of the first customers of a new “mark” rep & sometimes commenter on Fr. Z’s blog? If you take a look around my blog-in the next few days-you’ll soon find a link to my online “mark” shop. Perhaps you need a higher quality lip-gloss? (I’m still working on setting-up the online component. So check back!)

    (The “Mark ” brand is cheap, but *many* of the actual products that go on the face-everything except the plastic compact itself–are “MADE IN THE USA” unlike similarly cheap products from Ulta and Sephora-whose ingredients come from China. Just sayin’ ! I would love to answer any questions you have! This is the end of my self-promotion.)

    A related issue: I think this woman and I are in the same generation, and sometimes I think I would benefit-as she says she would- from a question/answer pamphlet/book of various etiquette things that I never acquired as a child. I can imagine converts wanting to be able to find this sort of information-which is not readily obtained outside of years of experience in many different social settings. Perhaps I will investigate presenting such a list at my own blog!

  37. APX says:

    @ buffaloknit
    A related issue: I think this woman and I are in the same generation, and sometimes I think I would benefit-as she says she would- from a question/answer pamphlet/book of various etiquette things that I never acquired as a child.

    I too support this idea. It’s so confusing now. When I grew up in the 90s we never called the priest “Fr. Firstname,” always “Fr. Lastname”. There was no hugging, no getting too friendly, and we definately didn’t call the bishop by his first name, let alone the shortened version of it. When I started reverting back and saw all the hugging, horse-playing, running out into the aisle during the procession to hug the priest, etc etc, I was really taken aback by it all. I don’t feel comfortable with such informalities. Maybe that’s why I prefer the EF Mass and traditional priests. Things are more formal and respectful.

  38. I witnessed an event some years ago regarding a young Orthodox priest being uncomfortable with his hand being kissed after imparting a blessing. An old monk came forward, received his blessing and as the young priest pulled it away the old monk pulled it back, kissed it reverently, and then said to the priest: “Father don’t take it personally; it is the hand of Christ that I am kissing.”

  39. AAJD says:

    Hieromonk Gregory’s story puts me in mind of something attributed, perhaps apocryphally, to St. John Chrysostom, who once said that if you are walking down the road and see an angel and a priest coming towards you, you ignore the angel and greet the priest first by kissing his hand because his hand alone has touched the Body of Christ–a “privilege” not accorded the holy incorporeal powers.

  40. Mike Morrow says:

    jbas says: “Two elderly priests assure me the kissing of priests hands was not practiced in the USA or Australia either during the Mass or outside of Mass in the 1950?s. I don’t know how it got started here again recently in celebrations of the traditional Roman form of Mass…”

    Very true. As a relic of the pre-Vatican II era, I also confirm that this “priest hand-kissing” custom would have been completely alien in the Church of the American South before Vatican II. Even when I was an altar server during Mass, I never observed such a custom.

    I sometimes think that such things have been recently introduced by those of a “super-traditionalist” inclination. Those types are usually people who have no experience with the pre-Vatican II Church. I look upon such innovations as being non-traditional, since they weren’t part of the tradition in the Church in the location that I was raised. It’s culturally foreign, even offensive, to both clergy and laity of northern European background.

  41. Prof. Basto says:

    Mr. Morrow wrote It’s culturally foreign, even offensive, to both clergy and laity of northern European background . My question: isn’t that so because the clergy and laity of northern European background are immersed in a culture that is dominated by Protestantism? For instance, I know that many Protestant converts have difficulty calling the priest “Father”, as is the universal and traditional Catholic custom. Isn’t the aversion to hand kissing similar in origin? I believe it is, even if you don’t realize it. It is an aversion that results from the same Protestant background that considers it ridiculous that a priest be called Father.

    I can understand that the gesture is now, and has been perhaps for some time foreign for some cultures. But offensive? To fellow Catholics, even if they are of a different culture?

    And aren’t those cultures of “northern European background” the same ones that gave us the Protestant Reformation? Aren’t those cultures, led by German intelectuals, the ones that prevailed in the iconoclasm of the post Vatican II era? So is the aversion of those cultures to the gesture of the baciamano, beija-mão, besamanos really a model to be followed and retained?

    In my view the gesture is as Catholic as the sign of the Cross. And the first ones who opposed it were the same folks who oposed the sign of the Cross, “Mass priests”, “popery” and the like. So that’s why I believe that it is all important that especially in those countries where there is a Protestant majority dictating cultural trends and habbits, this traditional genuinely Catholic gesture be adopted.

  42. RickMK says:

    I think the FSSP brought it over to this country because of its European roots. I don’t think it was ever a practice in the United States before being imported into this country from overseas. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with it, but it was never more than a local custom.

    I have heard the ringing the bell 3 times at the elevation, in addition to once at each genuflection, i.e. ringing the bell 5 times at each consecration instead of 3 times, is also a local custom, from France, that was brought into this country by traditionalist groups.

  43. APX says:

    @RickMK
    I have heard the ringing the bell 3 times at the elevation, in addition to once at each genuflection, i.e. ringing the bell 5 times at each consecration instead of 3 times, is also a local custom, from France, that was brought into this country by traditionalist groups.

    I’m not sure that’s correct. The first EF Mass I ever attended was offered by an 85 year old diocesean priest, in a city that’s been offering the EF Mass by indult for the past 20 years. There’s no FSSP in the province, with the exception of a couple recent visits on special feast days. They still ring the bells 5 times. I might be wrong about this, but I think my 1962 Missal has all those bell rings in it (I’m at work, so I don’t have my missal on me to confirm this.)

  44. Michael J. says:

    I have never had any priest, let alone a Traditional Priest, expect anyone that I saw to kiss their hand. However, what many liturgies are lacking, Traditional ones, that is, is where the Acolytes are to kiss the hand of the priest and the item they are handing to the priest. When did that stop? I mentioned this once to our Master of Ceremonies, and he said if that took place he doubted any parent would allow their child to serve at such a Mass. I was taken aback. I know some of the priests of the F.S.S.P. expected their hands and the items handed to them to be kissed, and others did not. I guess it is a personal decision? My mother, born in 1941, and raised until age ten mostly in Germany (Bavaria), remembers the priest coming to teach religion to the class and all of the class kissed his hand or ring if he wore one.

  45. RichardT says:

    Which side of the do you kiss – the back of the hand or the palm? Is kissing the palm of the hand just for a priest’s first Mass, or more generally but only in a liturgical setting, or all the time?

  46. Jayna says:

    Apparently I’ve been doing it wrong all along. Every time I’ve greeted Card. George, I touch my lips to his ring (I typically don’t wear lipstick to Mass, so I don’t have to worry about that), but I don’t actually kiss it…if that makes any sense.

    As to Centristian’s comment about shaking their hands, the three bishops I’ve met (so, granted, we can’t take this as a norm) have all extended their hands in such a way that suggested they were expecting a handshake. But I can’t help but wonder if that is just because they don’t expect anyone to want to kiss their rings, so they just don’t bother. Admittedly, I myself didn’t bother when it came to Arbp. Gregory because I was told beforehand that it isn’t really his “thing,” but I knew that both Card. George and Bp. Zarama were fine with it, so I just went ahead and kissed their rings. I can say that Bp. Zarama appeared positively delighted by it.

  47. Mike Morrow says:

    Prof. Basto says: “Mr. Morrow wrote It’s culturally foreign, even offensive, to both clergy and laity of northern European background . My question: isn’t that so because the clergy and laity of northern European background are immersed in a culture that is dominated by Protestantism?”

    I would strongly disagree. I see no connection to Protestantism with respect to the hand kissing and similar customs. Protestantism is a relatively recent 500-year-old phenomenon. Northern Europe has a Catholic tradition going back far longer. Even after Lutheranism came to dominate northern Europe, there remained a very large Catholic minority. My Catholic ancestors were from Friesland and Niedersachsen. Had there never been any Protestantism, these practices would still have been culturally foreign in the north. I think it is more likely that the influence was not one of Protestantism upon northern European culture, but rather northern European culture upon Protestantism.

  48. Luce says:

    I asked my Bishop how I should go about kissing his ring. I live in a very liberal diocese and did not want to “make a scene” by kissing the Bishops ring, but many times in less public situations I saw that others did. I was happily surprised when I explained to him my desire to kiss his ring in the “right” circumstances, and his reply was ” I think you should be bold and not worry about when it is the right time.” Wonderful! He has made it so easy to do the right thing.

  49. VEXILLA REGIS says:

    Father Z would approve : I am reading on my Kindle 3G Mons. Robert Hugh Benson’s “Come Rack, Come Rope” a grand novel of Catholics oppressed by Queen Elizabeth I . When the hero Robin Audrey is ordained Priest, specific mention is made of his palms being kissed after his first Blessings are imparted. Mons. Benson wrote around 1900. He was a convert from Anglicanism, and he is a grand story teller. His purely fictional “Lord of the World”is a delight also.
    I am inclined to accept the spirit of Prof. Basto’s approach to the issue. It was NEVER the custom in Australia from the 1940s – but then again, Australians of that time were even more affected by the British upper class abhorrence for any public display of affection or respect, than they are to-day.
    It is pleasing to see such customs growing , as people become more and more aware of what we have lost culturally in our Catholic life. Interestingly the growth of affection for the EF Mass here is among the young – and the Latin Mass communities are the youngest “Parishes”one could find in Australia.

  50. RichardT says:

    I suspect Prof. Basto is right, that there is a cultural divide that is deeper than whether the country is a predominantly Catholic or Protestant one.

    In pre-Reformation England a wooden disc was passed round the congregation to be kissed for the pax, so that the peace could be offered without anyone actually having to touch anyone else. That suggests that a cultural dislike of public physical contact pre-dates the Reformation.

    What about Ireland? Was kissing the hands of priests (outside of the liturgy) common there in the 50s?

  51. RichardT says:

    A broader thought – should we be collecting, and writing down, a lot more information about pre Vatican II practices now, while people who remember it are still alive?

    There is a danger that otherwise the broad tradition will be lost.

    Yes a few groups have preserved traditional practices throughout the Novus Ordo years, but they are small groups and are necessarily an exception, from one ‘extreme’ (I don’t mean that in a bad way) of the Church. We risk losing the broader idea of what most people did, and how they did it, in the days when most people did these things.

  52. AnAmericanMother says:

    Prof. Basto,
    From the inside, so to speak, it looks to me like the hand-kissing divide is cultural and predates the Protestants.
    There’s a similar divide between the North and the South in the U.S., the South being more emotional, more demonstrative, and less disturbed by physical contact. Honest male friendship, for example, is not ‘looked at funny’ around here. If your Church-of-God-of-Prophecy friends are moved to pray over you, they will almost certainly embrace you. But there is no hand kissing tradition. There weren’t many Catholics here until recently!

  53. VEXILLA REGIS says:

    Please excuse an interesting digression – in Indonesia some years ago a wealthy businessman related to me the remorse of his teenage son for an act of boldness.This led the son to apologise and to kiss his father’s knee in token of his grief for the offence given.Many cultures, many times, and as we see many customs.

  54. TravelerWithChrist says:

    Why all the worry about lip gloss and it feeling weird and such; all this points back at the “ME” and not towards Jesus. The kneeling and kissing of the hand was once standard.

    I think we need to elevate our priests again, dress them in rich vestments, kiss their hands; and in turn, expect them to elevate themselves to behave more Christ-like. EMHCs, removing the richness of the altar and their vestments, facing the people, calling them by their first name, and such has lowered the respect that we should have for the priest who is ‘in persona Christi’, who’s hands are sacred (again a reason for kissing their hands), and much much more.

    Also removed is the reverence and mystery around the altar; the altar rail was two-fold – for kneeling to receive communion and to prevent lay people from entering the sacred area.

    Deo Gratias for all of our good priests.

  55. In the Middle Ages, people were much more physical and kissy and huggy. (Especially the English, who were notorious for snuggliness.) In later ages in Europe, you get air kisses, and the English not kissing each other every five minutes. I blame the religious wars, myself.

  56. Or the Plague. Come to think of it, the Plague and the Black Death probably explains it better.

  57. Mike Morrow says:

    RichardT says: “I suspect Prof. Basto is right, that there is a cultural divide that is deeper than whether the country is a predominantly Catholic or Protestant one.”

    You might want to review again what Prof. Basto has written above, because what you state is the opposite of what he asserts. In fact, I made the point in my last post that it was a cultural issue, not a religious issue.