AFQB: Kissing Hands/Objects in “Tridentine Mass”

I had this question in the ASK FATHER Question Box recently.  Here it is with my response.

Classical Latin Mass: Follow-up to Kissing Hands/Objects

By Anonymous on Tuesday, November 14, 2006 – 2:45 am

Fr. Zuhlsdorf,

In a previous thread about the "Tridentine" Mass, you said that servers should not kiss objects or the hands of priests during Mass because the practice was ended before the 1962 missal was promulgated. I’m wondering, specifically, what documents (if any) ended this practice.

Thank you for your response and all of your good work.

(I have been told to perform this rubric, and, to be honest, think it is a nice one, but need some clarification as to its legitimacy.)

By Fr. Zuhlsdorf on Saturday, November 18, 2006 – 8:55 am:

The 1962 edition of Fortesque’s book (p. 88) says this about a server at Low Mass:

Whenever he hands anything to the celebrant, may kiss first the hand, then the thing. These are the so-called "solita oscula".[1] They are omitted in Masses for the dead and when the Blessed Sacrament is exposed.

[1]By custom these oscula are frequently omitted altogether by laymen and should be nowadays."

Nota bene: "may kiss".

Frankly, in many respects it makes no difference what the servers do, provided they get the wine and water to the priest when he needs them and move the book around, and so forth. If they want to kiss things, who cares? For Low Mass I think it is a little precious, but that’s just my point of view.

This is a different matter with the deacon and subdeacon at a High Mass. According to the rubrics for them in the 1962 edition, they do indeed continue to perform the solita oscula when handing things to the priest or taking things. If non-clerical servers at High Mass (or Low Mass) do this in imitation of the deacon or subdeacon, I guess that makes no difference whatsoever. The rubrics are silent about that.

Servers at Low Mass and High Mass are wonderful and helpful. However, the rubrics about what they do or why they are there are less clear than those laid out more carefully for the deacon and subdeacon. Variations are more possible with them than for those more central of the sacred ministers. Back in the day, there are an awful lot of things that the rubrics are silent about and the Sacred Congregation for Rites did not clarify.

I think Fortesque’s comments (above) are sound and ought to be followed. If a server is not a cleric, he should leave out all the kissing. Servers are not little clerics, or, in the case of older men, "hobby clerics". It is not obligatory for them to do what the clerics are obliged to do.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. Servers are not little clerics


    Are you making a pun?

    (For the benefit of non-Italian speaking readers, I should note that the Italian for altarboy is chiericetto, literally a ‘little cleric’.)

  2. Augustine says:

    Thanks Father for answering my question–and in its own blog post no less!

  3. Zadok: It took a Roman to notice! Thanks!

  4. Augustinus says:

    I was an altar boy when the Old Rite was the norm and I have never kissed, or been asked to kiss, any hands or objects – other than the bishop’s ring when presented to him.

  5. Jon says:


    At our indult Mass, celebrated by the FSSP, as I’ve mentioned before, the servers are taught the “second Confiteor” right before Communion. They’re also taught to first kiss the priest’s hand, and then the cruit handles before giving them to the him during the Offertory. Later, when assisting at the Purification of the vessels, they do not.

    I might also mention that Mass at our indult is deeply traditional in other ways. For instance, the people never join in with responses, not even at High Mass. They never join in the Pater Noster either. Although quite beautiful, in that sense it’s the antithesis of what we experienced in Camden. The choir and servers do all the responding.

    The Canon is completely silent. Neither our usual priest, nor any from Scranton that might substitute, even whispers it audibly. Last month, I was privileged to spend a week-end with our friend Dr. Edwards down in Tennessee, a visit I enjoyed immensely, and btw, a friendship for which Henry and I owe you many thanks. I of course had the treat of assisting at the local TLM with Henry and his wife while there. I was surprised when the priest celebrant uttered the words of Consecration aloud in a distinct voice. I later asked asked the priest about this, and he told me that’s what it reads in Fortesque, and that’s the way he was trained by FSSP priests down in Atlanta.

    I’m wondering how much of this might be attributed to regionalism. Long before I attended the TLM, I noticed that congregations in the South tend to respond more vigorously. The farther South I go, the more vocal the participation seems to become. I wonder if it’s due to the fact that the Irish comprise most of the Church north of the Mason-Dixon, at least in the East? And I wonder how much of that regionalism might be translated to other customs, like the kissing of cruits?


  6. Augustine says:


    Correct me if I’m wrong, but I think Pius XII and/or John XXIII encouraged (but did not mandate) the people to respond at Mass, and even to say the prayers at the foot of the altar with the server at Low Mass.

  7. Jon says:


    If memory serves, and without looking it up, I believe the “dialog” Mass was first approved in 1922, during the reign of Pius XI. I’m not sure how that permission applied vis a vis a High and Low Mass.

    Btw, I should mention for clarification that the description of what goes on at my indult Mass applies whether the Mass is High or Low. Also, the Mass I attended in TN was a High Mass.

  8. Joshua says:

    Jon wrote: [b]I of course had the treat of assisting at the local TLM with Henry and his wife while there. I was surprised when the priest celebrant uttered the words of Consecration aloud in a distinct voice. I later asked asked the priest about this, and he told me that’s what it reads in Fortesque, and that’s the way he was trained by FSSP priests down in Atlanta.[/b]

    Umm I have looked at Fortescue there, I think the priest is mistaken. Those words are still “silent” (that is not audible to the congregation). They are however to be said deliberately and distinctly, for obvious reasons. Perhaps there was a slight miscommunication, mistaking distinct or clearly for aloud?

  9. Joshua says:

    Father, while I agree with your reasoning would it not be right to say that if the priest asks that the solita oscula be done they should be? Perhaps one could speak (with due reverence) to the priest, but if he aks for it and it doesn’t seem verboten it seems you should.

    Also, the CE seems to imply that they are like clerics:

    “However, owing to the almost complete disappearance of the inferior clergy, there has gradually arisen the custom of appointing lay persons to perform certain minor clerical duties. In most of our churches, the choirboys, schoolboys, sacristans, and chanters, serve low Masses and Missae cantatae, occupy places in the sanctuary, and act as acolytes, thurifers, masters of ceremonies, and even as lectors. On such occasions they are given, at least in solemn services, a clerical costume, the cassock and surplice, as if to admit them temporarily to the ranks of the clergy and thus recognize and safeguard the principle of excluding the laity.”

    Would the argument be that they assume the role of clerics to a point, but not wholly?

  10. Brian says:

    I have assisted at the Old Mass weekly, celebrated by
    many different FSSP priest; in the South, in Atlanta.
    I have never heard
    any of the inaudible parts of the Canon said audibly by any one
    of these priests

  11. Jon says:


    Interesting. Maybe if Henry looks in tomorrow he can clear things up.

  12. Joshua: Again, I think it makes not the slightest difference if servers kiss things or not. Who really cares?

    I am of the opinion that the oscula on the part of lay servers at Low Mass add little of value to the ceremony, but that\’s just my opinion.

    If the priest insists that they be done, just do them.

Comments are closed.