The perfect pew… or how to avoid the sign of peace

At Holy Innocents in Manhattan there are a few instances of the perfect pew for those who are especially disinclined to a group hug at the "sign of peace".

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. emily13 says:

    Perfect! That is where you would find me…especially right next to a pillar…I love sitting right next to pillars in the Cathedral here.

  2. TNCath says:

    Wow! That’s a pretty narrow seat. I would kneeling would be a challenge, too.

  3. TNCath says:

    Wow! That’s a pretty narrow seat. I would think kneeling would be a challenge, too.

  4. Denis Crnkovic says:

    Where can I order one? ;-)}

  5. revs96 says:

    What kind of view of the Altar does the world’s smallest pew have?

  6. Templar says:

    Every Pew is the perfect pew at our Church now that the Pastor has stopped encouraging the congregation to engage in the glad handing festival that the Sign of Peace had become. He told everyone they were free to do so if they wished, but to be aware that if they chose to do so, they would be doing it in the middle of the Angus Dei, and to be respectful of those in the congregation who did not wish to exchange the sign.

    Oh joyful days. Simple Orthodoxy

  7. irishgirl says:

    TNCath-I was thinking the same thing that you were.

    Skinny seats for skinny people!

    But I love how Fr. Z described it-good one there, Father!

    Need a little laugh after all the bad news in the Church….

  8. wolfeken says:

    There is one of those at Saint Mary’s in Washington, D.C. The few times I have sat there I have automatically reached for a seatbelt.

  9. Dr. Eric says:

    Some of the people I have met at church during the Sign of Peace wouldn’t let a little thing like a pillar stop them from grabbing my hand.

  10. mpm says:


    Good one!

    I was thinking that I might be able to rest my chin on my knees.

  11. AnAmericanMother says:

    If you turn to the person next to you with your hands clasped, nod respectfully, say, “the Peace of the Lord,” and then turn and look devoutly towards the altar, they will NOT grab your hands. That has worked for me wherever I’ve been — even the most way-out places I have run across.

    Alternatively, you could quietly greet your spouse, if you have one handy.

    One of the upsides of the H1N1 scare was a suggestion from our rector NOT to shake hands, hug, or kiss during the Peace . . . . and to respect others’ wishes in that regard. It seems to have stuck.

  12. Tim Ferguson says:

    this reminds me of the old fortune cookie – “Man who pass gas in Church sits in his own pew.”

  13. RichardT says:

    Unfortunately, as the title of the item below says, “There’s nothing to stop them” ” The more active will happily get out of their pews and move down the aisle to get you.

    And AmericanMother, nodding respectfully hasn’t worked for me. Even kneeling in prayer with my eyes closed doesn’t always work.

  14. ncstevem says:

    I’ve had the misfortune of having to assist at a NO Mass since I was married 1 1/2 years ago. Assisted at a SSPX chapel for 5 – 6 years prior to that. Told my wife I wouldn’t ask her to go to the SSPX chapel since she was a bit uncomfortable with their current status.

    Anyway, I bring my 1962 missal to the NO Mass and pray the Mass out of my missal and pretty much ignore what’s going on around me. Can be a challenge at times. The young priest celebrates a weekely TLM and a monthly Sat evening TLM to fulfill ones obligation so he’s not some effete 60’s radical. Even this NO Mass is pretty bad though – it’s just inherrent in the NO.

    I refuse to do the sign of peace (even with my wife) and ignore those around me.

  15. Maltese says:

    William F. Buckley Jr. wrote, “I somewhere opined that Evelyn Waugh’s death on Easter Sunday in 1966, the Sunday before the reformers promulgated the Kiss of Peace, was evidence that the Holy Spirit was in fact behind it all, but merciful in His afflictions: no imagination is so vivid as to visualize Mr. Waugh yanked from prayerful thought to clasp the hand of the pilgrim to his right, to his left, ahead, and behind him.”

  16. Justin from Ohio says:

    “One of the upsides of the H1N1 scare was a suggestion from our rector NOT to shake hands, hug, or kiss during the Peace . . . . and to respect others’ wishes in that regard. It seems to have stuck.

    Comment by AnAmericanMother”

    Shhhh….don’t tell anyone this secret. Many of us are hoping the “precautions” due to H1N1 will “stick” long after that health threat is over. I don’t think my parish is currently officially restricting hand-shakes and hand-holding anymore, but it sure seems to have decreased.

  17. Joan M says:

    My parish did officially restrict the sign of peace, but it didn’t take! Currently the priest only invites to give each other a sign of peace at the Sunday Masses. The choir sings a “peace” song that goes on so long that many people spontaneously drop to their knees after it (we have never knelt at the Agnus Dei) when the choir then singing “Lamb of God…”. This actually happened last Sunday – more than 90% knelt, like a flock of sheep, blindly following those in front of them.

    At the weekday Masses, the priest does not invite us to share a sign of Peace, but some (mainly middle-aged or elderly couples) insist in giving each other a hug or kiss on the cheek while the rest of us have moved on…..

  18. Sandy says:

    LOL, Father! As others have said, this won’t stop those who get out of their pews and walk around to shake hands; drives me up the wall! What seems to work is to fold my hands “steeple style”, and just nod my head while saying the words. After one time I close my eyes and bow my head. It also drives me buggy when the EMHCs go to the altar and continue glad handing! But I repeat myself :(

  19. Elly says:

    When I was very young I used to think the sign of peace was to give us a break from the intensity of what was going on- comic relief maybe.

  20. MaryAgnesLamb says:

    Oh this is too perfect. I was just grousing about how exuberant our Parish is about the whole hand-holding Our Father, sign of peace issue. Not only do we hold hands, but we all file out of our pews to meet in the middle of the center aisle to do so. So, unless you are solo, against the wall, as with one of these babies (Oh how I long for one!) there you are, either trapped or rude, take your pick. I keep thinking we are going to burst into “Kumbayaa, My Lord”, for pity’s sake!

  21. MaryAgnesLamb says:

    Well, now I have reread my post and fear that others more bold than i at refusing to take part might take offense. It would not really BE rude not to , but it just makes me feel that way.
    Mea culpa.

  22. catholicmidwest says:

    Have any of you ever had to actually fight somebody off? Happened in a little country parish here in Michigan. She just wouldn’t take no for an answer. What an experience.

  23. catholicmidwest says:

    Sure, Elly. Didn’t you know? It’s the intermission! Just like at the movies.

  24. mfg says:

    Those of you with solutions: It doesn’t work in Southern California. A woman prishioner walks from the back to the front of the church, shaking the hand of each pew ender on her way. If she misses you on the way up she’s gonna get you on the way down. At another parish even though I fold my arms across my chest and close my eyes tightly, a woman four or five people removed from me leans way over and with her knuckles raps the top of the pew in front of me to get my attention, even remonstrating with my grandchildren to alert me–to no avail. I remain inert like a statue (the only one in church btw), see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil until the calm after the storm. After Mass my grandchildren excitedly relate to me all that happened. The grandchildren also take no part in this debauchery. It runs in the family.

  25. Ellen says:

    My church has a couple of pews that are a bit wider – you can sit 2 people in them. I try to get one since I usually have it to myself. I don’t mind shaking hands, but I don’t want to hold hands at the Our Father. That really gets me and it’s why I chose that pew.

  26. Desertfalcon says:

    I wear a full beard, a menacing scowl and use a cane to walk. None but the brave dare try hugging me at Mass. For those that do, I use my good Scots crook like a constable does his truncheon during crowd control.

  27. irishgirl says:

    Ha-I love that, Desertfalcon! Especially comparing your crook to a constable’s truncheon! Good one!

  28. John 6:54 says:

    I sure hope Jesus is never sitting in the seat next to you all. You guys all make the sign of peace sound sinful. Almost sounding like a bunch of Pharisees as though its against the “law” to give some a hand shake and say “peace be with you”. Lord help us. Do you not try to see Jesus in your neighbor? Are you all too good for the sign of peace?

    I love this blog and I love the comments. I love the orthodoxy here but at times its a bit ridiculous. This in my humble opinion is one of those times.

  29. If the ‘sign of peace’ is an authentic liturgical gesture, then we should be doing it according to how it’s in the EF, in continuity with Sacred Tradition. Hand shaking is NOT a liturgical gesture; a bow or the very sober Roman “embrace” (which does not involve any real body contact other than the hands and the shoulders) are the only acceptable gestures, as far as my puny mind can see.
    It’s not the sign of peace, per se, that’s the problem, in my opinion.
    This hugging, hand shaking, kissing, running around are just crazy.
    That’s the problem, as far as I can see.
    And the ritual Sign of Peace in the EF is only done in a Solemn High Mass.
    If it is done at all in the OF, it should be optional and done with some decorum.

  30. catholicmidwest says:

    John 6:54,
    I can assure you that if Jesus sat down beside me in Mass, he wouldn’t wrestle me down just to get my hand out of my pocket, so that he could get his little liturgical jollies like that lady I mentioned above. God doesn’t work that way.

  31. catholicmidwest says:

    And John 6:54,
    Mass is about worship. You wanna have a PTA meeting? Have at it. LATER. MUCH LATER. And without me.

  32. WGS says:

    Announcing the sign of peace is an option for the celebrant, but also the choice of sign of peace is a personal option for each worshipper. Your sign of peace is not necessarily that of your neighbor in the pew.

    The traditional sign of peace is awkward to accomplish in the pew. So, if I have to attend a N.O. Mass, I make sure that I have a hymnal, missal, prayer book, anything like that firmly in my two hands at the time of the sign of peace.

    Equipped thus, I make a slight turn of the head and look pleasantly at one or two nearby folk and then perhaps return my eyes to my book while I wait for the time to pass. As to the elbow grabbers, sometimes a quiet look of puzzlement is effective.

  33. catholicmidwest says:

    I wish everyone were as respectful as the people around you, WGS.

    The lady who accosted me actually stuck her hands in my pockets and tried to wrestle me down to get my hand. The only reason it stopped when it did is that it caused a stir among the people around us when she piled onto me.

    Seriously, if it hadn’t happened in mass, and I hadn’t known she was just a liturgical nut, I’d have yelled help and physically fought back to protect myself and my wallet. It was an assault.

  34. catholicmidwest says:

    Luckily this degree of aggression has only happened once. Most of it is mild to insistent and judgmental.

    I don’t turn people down who stick their hands right out, but I don’t volunteer. And if I just can’t take the nonsense, I put my hands in my pockets and look down, or go to the ladies’ room. I generally sit near the ladies’ room in the back anyway.

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