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.