ASK FATHER & POLL: Sign of Peace at Mass. Not good. What to do?

And... all order and reverence break down as the Lord's presence in the Eucharist on the altar are completely forgotten.

From a reader…


Father, I notice that at daily mass or where the mass is sparsely attended parishioners will wave to each other from across the church.

Is there a better way to handle this situation?

Sure there is!  How about not do it at all?

If that is what people are doing – sitting scattered and apart like that – they probably are okay with being left alone.  The little wave is probably an uncomfortable side-effect of being required by the priest to do something when they would rather just get on with Mass without being hassled.

I think it was GK Chesterton who recounted that something which made his conversion to Catholicism more appealing was that, when he went to a Catholic church, people left him in peace to pray as he pleased.  They weren’t forcing welcome on him all the time.

So, how about asking a few people after Mass if they really want or need that Sign of Peace wave.  Then, as a group, invite Father to breakfast and, over flapjacks and syrup, ask him, please, to stop with the congregational Sign of Peace already, at least for the weekdays.

The congregational exchange of a Sign of Peace is an option in the Novus Ordo.  It is done at the discretion of the priest celebrant.  It is NOT – and this is for the young deacon who recently decided to do this on his own during a Mass I said – NOT up to the deacon or anyone else but the priest celebrant to have that invitation.

Some people are under the impression that the invitation to exchange the Sign of Peace is an obligatory part of the Mass.  It isn’t.  The priest’s expression of peace to you is obligatory.  The exchange between everyone is an option.

So, ask the priest, nicely, with smiles, not to do it.  And then thank him when he stops.  And keep thanking him.  And take him to breakfast and thank him some more.

That said, let’s have a poll on this issue!  It has been a while since the last time I presented the question.  This time I added an extra choice/option.

Choose your best response and then give your reasons in the combox, below.

3rd ROUND: The congregation's "sign of peace" during (Novus Ordo) Mass

View Results

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  1. Lin says:

    I dread it but tolerate it. I have been to some parishes where they stand and greet each other before Mass starts AND still have the sign of peace. A little to Protestant for me!

  2. Servus Tuus says:

    I voted for the “I tolerate it” option. The unusual behavior at the Sign of Peace is, I believe, a symptom of a greater problem that is simply the lack of awe and mystery in most Masses. I truly believe that the way back to a more reverential worship is not to harp and complain about abuses, Father said this, Father didn’t say this, etc. Rather if we want to affect real change in the Church, I think personal discipleship is a better answer. Beautiful liturgy will follow.

    If your radical foundation of faith is the Church (which is not bad at all) and your dedication to Jesus Christ is because he is taught by the Church, then anything wrong with how things are done in the Church will cause you distress.

    Alternatively, if your radical foundation of faith is discipleship in Jesus Christ, and your great love for Him draws you to the Church because it is the church that you know he founded, then you will more easily be able to brush aside shenanigans at Mass because you know that the Church has had it far, far worse before.

    Discipleship is incredibly difficult, and I have failed at it every day of my life. But I will try again tomorrow.

  3. TopSully says:

    I don’t like, but is tolerate it. If I’m surrounded by children I usually try to avoid it and the germs. Sorry Moms, but the kids are Petri dishes of germ warfare.

  4. TopSully says:

    I don’t like, but is tolerate it. If I’m surrounded by children I usually try to avoid it and the germs. Sorry Moms, but the kids are Petri dishes of germ warfare.

  5. Lisa Graas says:

    I voted, “I don’t care one way or another.”

    baa baa baa

  6. Muv says:

    I can’t bear it and pretend it’s not happening. Adults usually get the hint and leave me alone, and I don’t give a hoot if they think I’m a grumpy old bat. However if a child offers a grubby little paw I never refuse because I can’t resist their beautiful innocent eyes and my germs are bigger than theirs.

  7. JARay says:

    I hate it. What is even worse, as Lin says, is when the priest asks everyone to turn to their neighbour and wish them “Good morning” before Mass begins and then there is the dreaded Sign of Peace later on as well. I have been to Mass in Singapore when I have visited on a few occasions and the custom there is to join one’s hands, as in prayer and then turn to others and give them a gentle bow in the Asian form of greeting. Now that I can tolerate! No one speaks, so there is no noise, and no one runs around the place from row to row.

  8. Magpie says:

    I have OCD and I hate the sign of peace. Why would I want to shake hands with strangers with whom I have no gripe? If I had no gripe before I will after as I recoil in horror from their sweaty, grubby hands. A few people I’ve spoken to who don’t have OCD also dislike it. Get rid of it.

  9. Iacobus M says:

    I’ve taught in three different Catholic high schools, and at student body Masses the sign of peace is always a free-for-all. In that situation, better not to do it at all.

  10. OrthodoxChick says:

    I dread it as it approaches and think of ways to avoid it. Best I’ve come up with so far is a nod instead of a wave, not that everyone lets me get away with a nod. I’ve had some people grab my hand from my side. Now, I have taken to holding my Latin-English hand missal at all times during the Mass except the homily. I hold onto it for dear life with both hands and usually (not always, unfortunately) doing that plus a nod gets me out of that hand shake thingie (as well as the wave).

  11. Sword40 says:

    I don’t tolerate it at all. But I need not worry about it anymore, as I go exclusively to the EF Mass.

  12. tealady24 says:

    I do NOT like it! Neither that nor the hand-holding, hand-raising during the “Our Father”. What is the matter with you Catholic people? Why do you want to be so Protestant!
    Who thought this nit-wit stuff up, anyway?!

  13. Carolan says:

    Really, REALLY dread it! My husband says he would rather be held down and have his eyebrows plucked with a clamshell. That would at least have some value as a suffering to be offered as penance. The sign of peace, however, is a source of sin that he must confess – to the very priest inviting him to the sign of peace. See the conundrum?

  14. mamamagistra says:

    From GIRM #82: “It is, however, appropriate that each person offer the sign of peace only to those who are nearest and in a sober manner.” My biggest gripe is when I turn to someone near me but that person has already started turning in the other direction and I would have to wait until she or he comes around full circle, except that I’m not patient enough for that. Am I only the person who tries but fails to make this exchange? I suspect that many attempts are made to give signs of peace, but that few are actually received in any meaningful sort of way.

  15. Arcgap says:

    Recently exiting the church after a Tridentine Mass an older “english” visitor was remarking that “it would have been alright if they didn’t forget the sign of peace”… So glad it is not an option to even have it. The reaction to it I have seen in many places is that it is the most important part of the Mass to many people and really needs to be scaled back or gotten rid of completely.

  16. Kathleen10 says:

    Dread it. In one local church they also force a greeting to your neighbor at the beginning of mass. ugh. I lose my concentration for God and become too aware of the people around me. It breaks the flow of the mass. On occasion I have put out my hand during the winter months when in our area some churches do not share the sign of peace and had people look at me as if I was clearly carrying typhoid.

  17. Rellis says:

    There’s a simple solution if you know it’s coming and want to avoid it: don’t get up at the “Amen” after the Eucharistic Prayer. Just stay kneeling, right until everyone joins you again for the Agnus Dei.

    People around me get the joke.

    A side benefit is that you also don’t get to see the Baby Boomers and well-meaning Latinos doing the orans position during the Pater Noster.

  18. trespinos says:

    I voted that I tolerate it, but I also would have ticked the “more contained, dignified” button, if possible. I live in a left coast diocese that is blessed with large numbers of Catholics of Asian extraction and I am edified always by their preference, in the main, for a dignified and quiet bow. If the old concept of a “pax” radiating out from person to person, in place of the simultaneous loud glad-handing that the gesture has become, could be recovered and all Mass-goers retrained, it would be a blessing. But if that can’t happen, not doing it at all, as Fr. Z suggests, is better than what we have now.

  19. APX says:

    But Father! But Father! Where is your sense of commuuunity?

    I went to a week day Mass that was similar to the aforementioned, and everyone just sort of did a head bow to each other. I personally thought this was an improvenent. I was at a Mass once where oddly enough the sign of peace was left it. Considering it was at one of those super liberal women’s retreats and the priest offering Mass told the congregation that one of Pope Francis’ recent comments to the press alluded to his support for women’s ordination, I was quite shocked and confused. Maybe with all the old people they were concerned about germs and illness for those with weaker immune systems.

    I tolerate it and wish it wasn’t there, or it was done the same as solemn Masses in the EF.

  20. disco says:

    I do dread the sign of peace at those rare times I am forced to attend the novus ordo. I have taken to replying “and with your spirit” when people say “peace be with you”. That’s a nice way to let them know we won’t be holding hands for the our father. The hand holding I dread, the clapping I cringe at, the sign of peace I live with. Communion in the hand, on the other hand, makes my blood boil.

  21. greenlight says:

    I guess you never know until you try, but I simply cannot imagine any of the priests I know taking that request well. Good and faithful men, all, but even if there were some who didn’t care one way or the other, I imagine they would cringe at the thought of facing all the other parishioners who raise a stink. I think all I could muster is: “You know, Father, if you ever decide to do away with the sign of peace, you’ll have my thanks and support.”

  22. Alanmac says:

    Three things bug me now about Mass:
    1.sign of peace, which is now a handshake of peace but so many germaphobes don’t want to shake or many immediately wash their hand with alcohol, I feel like a pariah.
    2. hands up at the Lord’s Prayer is unfathomable to me.
    3. applause at the end of Mass (for the musicians I assume) is irreverent as it takes the focus away from the Lord to the people in the Mass.
    Thank you for allowing me to rant.

  23. michelekc says:

    I have vacillated on this issue. I used to do the head nod and smile. Now I do a maximum of 3 handshakes with immediate neighbors but then promptly turning my attention back to the altar. Here is my thinking: whether you love the sign of peace or hate it, you must have noticed that many people are put off by coldness in response to an extended hand. I am hoping that by participating in a “sober manner” (GIRM #82) people around me will receive the subtle reminder turn back to the altar and witness the breaking of the very Body of Our Lord.

  24. Michael_Haz says:

    An earlier commenter said: “I dread it but tolerate it. I have been to some parishes where they stand and greet each other before Mass starts AND still have the sign of peace. A little to Protestant for me!”

    Exactly my feelings. And while we’re at it, is the holding of hands during recitation the Our Father a requirement, or an option set by the Pastor?

    My regular parish celebrates the Mass in Latin every day, except on Saturday, when English is the custom. When I am travelling, or cannot get to my parish, I attend Mass where I can, always in a Novus Ordo setting. I sometimes feel like I’ve wandered into a Lions Club meeting, what with all the introductions, handshakes, and shoulder pats. I prefer being left alone to pray, thanks.

  25. Mike says:

    Goodness, the whole thing is so middle-brow nice it’s beyond words. I tolerate it, but do not like it. The way the NO is done at my parish, it’s folksy, feminized nice. Which is sad, as it hides the face of Our Lord.

  26. LeeF says:

    The Vatican has dropped the ball with this. It should have been moved to the beginning of the Mass if we just have to have it, which we don’t of course.

    And what greenlight said. No way the average non-Fishwrap reading pastor gets rid of it. If a pastor has the guts to tackle the sign of the peace, he has the guts to do far more, and likely already has done so. For the rest of the pastors in a diocese, it’s just not going to happen. And what happens when they do omit it, even in only one weekend Mass, and parishioners complain to the bishop? Even if an ordinary merely “suggests” the pastor restore the sign of the peace, how many would deem it a big enough deal to make a stand on?

    Re germs, I have a container of those antiseptic wipes in my car which is the first thing I reach for after getting there following Mass.

  27. Gerard Plourde says:

    My view is similar to @michelekc – I don’t advocate the practice that occurs in some communities in which parishioners exit their places to shake hands with people several rows away from them. But I have no difficulty with acknowledging my immediate neighbors with a “Peace be with you” accompanied by a nod of my head or a handshake. I base this on my belief that the liturgists who crafted the Mass of Pope Paul VI had a twofold purpose: they wanted to give a visible sign embodying Our Lord’s stated intent to build a church headed by his Vicar on Earth that facilitates our salvation and is charged to carry this mission of salvation to the ends of the Earth and at the same time sought to expand to the congregation the long-established Kiss of Peace contained in the traditional High Mass.

  28. Fatherof7 says:

    I voted for wishing it was more dignified, but I also wish it was at a different time. A few months ago, I was at what seemed to be an ordinary Sunday mass when I became transfixed on the consecrated host. His real presence had never felt so real before. I couldn’t help but stare at the alter, and the wonderful moment was interrupted by the sign of peace. After that moment, I can’t help but feel that the sign of peace distracts us from His presence.

    As for shaking hands, I shake people’s hands all the time at work. Why not shake the hands of my Catholic bretheren?

  29. Geoffrey says:

    I chose “I tolerate it”. It is not a liturgical abuse, and my beef is with liturgical abuses and bad liturgy. the Ritus Pacis can be done well. I would like to say “pax tecum”, but would probably encounter a lot of puzzled glances. I said it to the celebrant once and he responded “Et cum spiritu tuo”. Oh well.

  30. Kerry says:

    After “Et cum spiritu tuo”, the fair Penelope and I stand, palms together, eyes closed. Though I have once in a while shaken hands, smiled, and said, “Not peace, but a sword”.

  31. JMody says:

    I tolerate it – born during the Interregnum (after the Council, before the New Mass), I only have conscious memory of the Sign of Peace. I don’t like couching people or loud people or snotty kids or extended “three-deep” shake-n-hug-fests, but a simple shake of the hand or kiss to my family is … tolerable

  32. ConstantlyConverting says:

    I chose I dread it. I don’t generally know who I’m sitting next to and it feels very… put on. I just have no identification with it. All of that is merely an opinion, so I can’t really say what the Church should do, but I am not a fan.

  33. internicola says:

    I voted that I tolerate it….barely. At our church, the children from the Children’s Choir rush from their places and find their parents to wish them “peace”, which is very distracting and irreverent. I also abhor the older people (former hippies??) flash the old peace sign (which the hippies hijacked from a generation that used it to symbolize “victory”) from many rows away. Our pastor is always complimenting the Children’s Choir and everyone happily claps. Ugh, I can see how “protestant-like” our Mass has become.

  34. Southern Baron says:

    Tolerate. I don’t reach out, nod if it seems possible, but I don’t snub people either. The smiling lady with outstretched hand in the next pew wouldn’t understand and that moment isn’t the time to explain to her my views on liturgical reverence.

    That said, I love it when a priest who won’t cut it altogether allows maybe three seconds before moving on.

  35. Siculum says:

    We got rid of the Sign of Peace during the Swine Flu outbreak some years back, and kept it on the shelf for months afterward. It was awkward and un-enjoyable resuming it, which only happened because the priest forgot to skip it one week.

    I miss the Swine Flu. Ah well, there’s always the Novus Ordo Nod and the Extraordinary Form Exemption.

    NB: “Pope Benedict said the sign of peace at Mass “has great value,” especially in demonstrating the church’s responsibility to pray for peace and unity in a world too often troubled by division, violence and hatred.

    While Catholics at Mass should exchange a sign of peace with those near them, he also called for “greater restraint” to ensure the moment does not become one of irreparable distraction.

    The pope said, “I have asked the competent curial offices to study the possibility of moving the sign of peace to another place (in the Mass), such as before the presentation of the gifts at the altar. To do so would also serve as a significant reminder of the Lord’s insistence that we be reconciled with others before presenting our gifts to God.” —

  36. Susan G says:

    I understand the problems many people have with the Sign of Peace. If I were to imagine a perfect Novus Ordo, I would probably leave it out. That said, I think removing it entirely would be a grave error. We are capable of increasing reverence through our actions. We are capable of setting a good example and remaining prayerful and not looking like jerk who have to keep to ourselves. If it’s that unpleasant a moment for you… offer it up to the Lord. Yes, even suffering things we view to be irreverent can be offered to Him. Bear it quietly and gracefully. Use it as a moment of joyfully praying for those around you as you actually offer them a Sign of Peace. Don’t be habitual about it. Instead, use it to share an expression of Christ’s love. Christ is on the altar and you are preparing to receive Him and you’re concerned that a child’s hands are grubby? Really? What message does that send to the child of your love for him or her? Look those around you in the eye and offer them Peace. Ask the Lord to give them that. Because in my experience, being the veiling girl who kneels for communion is a lot less divisive when people also see joy in you. And I have no desire for anyone around me to be hurt by a refusal to shake hands and unable to concentrate fully on Our Lord. If you know better, grin, bear it joyfully and don’t allow your brother to fall into sin by your actions.

  37. The Sicilian Woman says:

    Amen, TeaLady24!

    I wish the handshake, the hippy-dippy hand-holding during the Our Father, and all other quasi Protestant/Fundie parts would just.go.away. AND the clapping in church after an announcement, any announcement. “The Youth Group will be selling cupcakes in the foyer after Mass.” [cue applause] Now, I love me some cupcakes as much as anyone else, but, oh, to have the quiet dignity and decorum of the TLM locally.

  38. APX: “But Father! But Father! Where is your sense of commuuunity?” Lol! You took the words right out of Fr. Z’s mouth. Hillarious! BTW I am a Canadian too, but I roam the fair city/Archdiocese of Toronto, ON.

    As for my thoughts on this scenario, being a server in the EF, I say, there should be a 7th option added to the survey: 7) Bring back the EF sign of peace. To me, it’s one good ol’ brotherly bear hug. Huzzah! Let’s do it!

  39. meaculpa says:

    Dread it as in find an excuse to leave the pew if possible, May have actually pinched baby or two to facilitate said quick escape. Then felt guilty for walking away from Jesus, solution avoid NO mass unless it’s the only one around. Sorry to you all thinking this about sharing the lurv, but anything that distracts us from the Eucharistic presence of Our Lord & Saviour is wrong, fwiw.

  40. majuscule says:

    I tolerate it at our little church, where in know everyone including the women who traipse through the pews shaking any hand they can. But I dread it at a larger church. I try to sit far from anyone in that case.

    Back in the days when I wasn’t attending Church (shame on me) I was shocked one of the few times I did attend a Mass when the stranger next to me turned to me and…ohmygosh she wanted to shake my hand. That uneasy experience certainly delayed my return home to the Church.

  41. RafqasRoad says:

    In Marounite services, the sign of peace is not a handshake, but ‘a gentle embrace of hands’ that ripples through the congregation from the priest to altar servers, from altar servers to those in the front rows, who then ‘pass it on’ to those behind them back through the rows until it is finally received by those down the back. It is dignified and far from a ‘gladhand handshake. Likewise, I have been to a fantastic NO mass in Sydney (St. Michael’s Belfield in which Fr. S. gives the ‘greeting of the peace’ but moves on directly without drawing breath to the next stage of mass so nobody has time to exchange it; it is a given that (during weekday/weeknight masses, there’s no SOP exchanged between the congregants. Currently, in my local NO parish church it is the general ‘free for all’ but folk tend to stay within their immediate orbit except for one lady who on Fridays feels the need to come to myself and another parishioner who sit up there; I don’t say her nay. If Roman riters exchanged the SOP after the Marounite example, or after the Asian example cited in the comments above, the godly dignity of this practice would be vastly improved in my thinking.

  42. Sam says:

    I put that I like it. I don’t understand those who say they dread or tolerate it. It doesn’t for one second (for me) take away from who’s on the altar. I don’t like the hand-holding during the Lord’s Prayer and such, but I don’t understand what’s wrong with taking a moment to just being friendly with your neighbor. (Now I’ve never been in a parish that does a lot of hugging, peace signing, waving, etc… maybe that’s the difference). It helps puts me in the right frame of heart before Communion. Are we supposed to be in our own personal bubbles during Mass where it’s just us and Jesus and no one else?

  43. Panterina says:

    I used to dread it as it approached, but now I like it. That said, I like the “distant wave” better.

    I’m surprised at all the negativity. If we can’t even smile and extend our hand to fellow church-goers, how on earth are we supposed to behave at the command “love thy enemy”?

    mikelekc said: . My p0int exactly: Somebody extends their hand in a friendly gesture, and one cringes? Where has this [Catholic] world come to?

  44. KateD says:

    At the Ordinary Form it’s fine, even nice. Shalom!

    The OF can be beautiful, when done reverentially, but it’s the norm where we live that it’s not done that way. We go to the EF because it’s just easier…we know Our Lord is always going to be treated with the appropriate reverence, there are no abuses and the homilies are in line with the teachings of the Church. It’s well worth the extra hour of driving to attend the EF.

  45. I dread it, but when in Rome . . .

  46. TheRani says:

    I don’t particularly mind the sign of peace. I will politely shake the hands of the people adjacent to me and then return my attention to the altar. I don’t hold hands during the Our Father though.

  47. VexillaRegis says:

    At the OF, I have quite like it! In my parish, and in Scandinavia in general, the sign of peace is done reverently. No running around, waving or forcing others to shake hand with you. Most people shake hands, some do “Asian bow” or smile and nod. No problems. Could it be an American thing ;-)? I mean, we have parishoners from all over the World at the same Masses and the only one wishing to go around and greeting everybody is an American lady from the West coast, but she follows our customs here and doesn’t hold hands during the Our Father either!

  48. Ultramontane says:

    The Church in Japan has many issues, but this isn’t one of them. The OMI parishes on the island are very different (and not in a good way), but our parish generally just goes with the respectful bow accompanied by ?????? – “the peace of the Lord.” I used to dread the sign of peace in America, but this is very different, making me more or less indifferent to the practice.

  49. arickett says:

    I voted like it, because I would not have made it in to the church without the help and support of those people a met at the peace it bring community and sometimes a little joy

    It’s one of the things I than noticed about many those that push for the TLM mass is that not having to take part in anyway is a big plus for them. Even though that’s not what’s meant to happen.

  50. philbert says:

    I also like it, though in some churches the congregation goes overboard! But when it is well done with a good handshake (not flabby and not bone-crunching) with friendly tone and eye-contact, conveying a sense of “Shalom” I find it so valuable.

    It’s good for children as they are able to participate in the same way as grownups. And it’s good for the folk on the margins – I’m thinking of those who may not receive Holy Communion and in particular of a non-Catholic lady brought to church some time after her husband’s death: she burst into tears. Why? Because this was the first friendly loving touch she had experienced in 3 years.

    Shalom, everybody

  51. pelerin says:

    Sam writes that he does not understand those who dread the Sign of Peace. I am one of those who dread it and so much so that I have had to stop going to weekday Masses for the moment. Five weeks ago I received such a crushing handshake at Mass that I later had to visit the A & E to have an X ray taken and for it to be strapped up. It is still painful and on Sunday I felt very awkward when hands were thrust towards me but could not risk another crushing handshake. Those of us who suffer from arthritis in the hands will know how painful handshakes can be.

    Strangely it is often the most unexpected who have the strongest handshakes – this last time it was a frail looking elderly gentleman and on previous occasions it has been a lady! so yes there are good reasons to dread the Sign of Peace and I would welcome its banning completely. I understand those who are on the autistic spectrum also dread it and those with a phobia for germs too. So please all you who enjoy the handshaking please give a thought to those of us for whom it is a trial.

  52. pelerin says:

    PS While I was lucky to get away with what was described as soft tissue damage on this occasion I did wonder whether it was possible for a bone to be broken with a handshake. When I asked the doctor he confirmed that if someone suffers from osteoporosis then it is indeed quite possible. Another good reason to do away with the handshaking at Mass as osteoporosis is not visible.

  53. scribbly says:

    I tolerate it. Though I do find it’s a good opportunity to pray those around me, though I’m not happy about its ability to distract, as it can get pretty noisy and protracted as our Priest shakes hands all the way to the back of the church.

    We also have a time during the welcome when we’re encouraged to chat / get to know / those around us. I dread that… last week it was like a waive hitting the church. And to top it off, someone’s thought it was a good idea to ask any visitors to hold up their hands — three times!! No one did.

  54. JonPatrick says:

    I’m not crazy about the sign of peace but compared to some of the other problems with the Ordinary Form, I think there are bigger fish to fry. I would start with communion in the hand, a liturgical abuse started illegally in Europe and forced on the US bishops by sleight of hand (no pun intended) by a minority including then-Archbishop Bernardin and his progressive allies. Fortunately this is one that parishioners can take into their own hands (so to speak) by choosing to kneel and receive on the tongue.

  55. OrthodoxChick says:

    “Are we supposed to be in our own personal bubbles during Mass where it’s just us and Jesus and no one else?”

    I think we are. That’s how I was taught, anyway. I’ve been under the impression that we’re all supposed to be focusing our worship as individuals who are gathered together in His Name. Then the priest gathers up all of our collective prayers (isn’t that what the Collect is supposed to be for?) and makes one collective offering to the Lord out of our individual offerings. No?

    I’ve received my fair share of catechesis from out in left field over the years, so if I have this all wrong, then I’m certainly open to correction.

  56. Joan M says:

    I haven’t voted because none of the options really fit for me. I don’t mind it in some churches but hate it in others.

    Where I go to Mass 3 or 4 times per week (Sunday, Tuesday, Friday, and – sometimes – Saturday morning) the Sign of Peace option is only exercised on Sundays. It is usually carried out quite well – shaking hands with those in your pew and the one in front and behind you. The choir sings – for far too long, as we are left standing waiting for them to finish the last verse.

    Usually Mondays, Wednesdays and Thursdays I attend the church in my territorial parish – with trepidation! The priest does a good job of celebrating Mass, but has left the bad habits of the congregation alone. On normal Ordinary times weekdays the total congregation is, including me, no more than 9 or 10 people. I stay, alone, in the last pew, at the back of the small church. The others are scattered in the first 3 or 4 rows on both sides of the center aisle. At the Our Father, they normally form one line of hand-holding across the center aisle, and at the invitation of the priest to offer a sign of peace, proceed to hug, or kiss, or shake the hand of one and all – except for the one at the back. They continue doing this regardless of the fact that the Lamb of God is now being “sung” and finish giving signs of peace roughly half way through that. It drives me crazy!

    I wish that the priest would forbid the “string-band” hand-holding; eliminate the sign of peace for the congregation; and also forbid singing at the Mass – there is an entrance hymn; an offertory hymn; a communion hymn; and a recessional hymn – all sung by maximum of 9 voices (I have lost my voice over the last decade or so) in at least 4 or 5 different keys!


  57. PA mom says:

    In my area, the adults are dignified and subdued during the sign of peace. Gentle shake, nod of head, little smile.
    The children, however, always seem to look at it as an opportunity to stir things up. For that reason, I am grateful when it is suspended during the winter germ season.

  58. LeGrandDerangement says:

    I recently attended a Novus Ordo Mass where we had to exchange the Sign of Peace at the beginning, then when repeating it at the normal time, a squad of ushers advanced up the center aisle shaking hands with all the pewsitters on the ends of the pews.

  59. I don’t like the Kiss of Peace. I wish it was more dignified and exchanged with only people that I know. I prefer Masses that don’t have it. But mostly I wish people understood the true purpose of this exchange of Peace.

    The way the K of P is done in most parishes is a freaky, distracting free-for-all of saying “hi” to everybody.
    Its a terrible distraction at a moment that we should be acknowledging our sins and being recollected and getting ready for Communion.

    — First of all the K of P is a solemn part of the old Mass [and only for those in the Sanctuary/choir] and that K of P belongs right at that time in the Mass. But it has a specific purpose that appears to be completely lost on the casual happy clappy greeters.
    — The K of P is not an excuse to greet everybody. It is about forgiveness before receiving Communion, or even approaching God with one’s prayer.
    — Also, we get that ‘peace’ from Christ through the statement by the priest, not before that, and not without it. It is not ‘our peace’ so we should be mindful of what exactly this “Peace” is that we are exchanging.
    So if the K of P is about forgiving one’s “brother”, why am I expected to exchange this with total strangers? This K of P is about forgiving and asking forgiveness of those we know, and with whom we might be fussing.

    The way I do it: I exchange a quiet kiss with my husband, being mindful of any way I may have sinned against him, with the idea that I am asking his forgiveness, or in turn, forgiving him. I do something similar with family members or those I know.
    For those around me that I don’t know, so not to appear rude and thus be a distraction, I simply fold my hands, shake hands with no one, and do a simple bow with a “Peace be With You”. At daily Mass, this has caught on and, around me, everybody does this. Most people seem relieved not to have to shake hands when a reverent nod of the head suffices.

    Most people misbehave or act way too extroverted because no one has ever explained the history and the purpose of the Kiss of Peace. So I don’t blame them.

  60. Gemma says:

    I dread it… I only tolerate it at daily Mass, because I want to go to daily Mass. Aside from that, my family ignores it. We just nod our heads once, if that. Our focus is on the altar and the mystery… and we never turn our backs on our Lord!

  61. Andy Milam says:

    I simply don’t do it. As soon as the deacon/priest makes the proclamation to start the glad handing, I kneel down and start praying the missal. People leave me alone, and I leave people alone. My MO usually has me praying the TLM missal while the Novus Ordo is going on, so that I can stay focused on the sacrificial act.

  62. Priam1184 says:

    I tolerate it. I have never been to a Mass where it was not done, including the Holy Father’s Mass last year in Rome. At weekday morning Mass I just keep my head down and my hands folded because the across the church wave is kind of odd. The whole thing is kind of odd I admit but there are other things that go on at Mass that trouble me a whole lot more than this.

  63. Vince K says:

    I dread it because, as Cardinal Arinze said, it usually turns into a “general jamboree. To the left and to the right, only, please.” Even following his advice, it is still too much of a distraction at a very important part of the Mass. Have people shake hands and wave to each other afterwards at doughnuts and coffee.

  64. FruityPebbles says:

    There was period of time when I had no other human physical touch during the week except for the Sign of Peace. Because of this experience, I always make a point to look around myself for people who are are at mass alone, and offer my hand to them, and I look them straight in the eyes when I speak to them. I want them to GET that I saw them, that they are there. It disturbs me when family members turn in on themselves during this time, and don’t use it as an opportunity to reach out to somebody who may desperately long for the touch of another human being.

  65. greg3064 says:

    I don’t mind brief nods toward the people in your immediate vicinity. Anything more is distracting. (I like the idea of moving it earlier, though I would also be fine with eliminating it entirely.) I voted that it should be more contained and dignified.

  66. smcollinsus says:

    With onset off a particularly bad flu a few years ago, we stopped inviting the congregation to exchange the Peace. Some people told me that they felt like “they hadn’t been to church, because they didn’t get a chance to share the Peace.” What? That’s why you come to church?! Why cannot people understand that our response “And with you spirit” IS the receiving of Christ’s Peace – from Christ himself in the person of the Priest?

  67. Elizabeth D says:

    “I have never been to a Mass where it was not done”

    I think the largest attended Mass I have been to where the passing of peace was not done was a Sunday Novus Ordo Mass celebrated by Fr John Zuhlsdorf at the Cathedral Parish in Madison. I liked the omission (I have come to see the wisdom of being friendly to people sitting near me during that time but I do not like the sign of peace, we need to be friendly and welcome and greet people but I am not sure that is the moment).

    Though he didn’t use a stitch of Latin, and not a note of singing. The Novus Ordo is to him, I guess, “low Mass”!

  68. yatzer says:

    I wish that the overly aggressive hand shakers would show that interest in their neighbors AFTER Mass. Around here you can be practically mobbed during the Peace and then completely ignored afterwards, even when there are coffee and donuts. At a daily NO Mass, I usually try to sit as far away from anyone else as possible to avoid both being rude and having to do something that makes me cringe. I do bow, nod, or wave and certainly will shake hands if someone else approaches. The Asian way would work, but I doubt that would take hold in my part of the USA.

  69. gracie says:

    I smile (a very little) and do the old Indian “How” sign to the people around me. They extend their hands, I have mine raised, palm outward, at them, and they realize there’s no way they’re going to get to my hand so instead they give up and smile and nod back at me. At least it gives me *some*control over the whole mess.

  70. MarylandBill says:

    I am in the camp that likes the sign of peace. I like it because it reminds me of Matthew 5:23-24 (Which I am sure it was suppose to do), and I like it because it reminds me that we are all worshiping together, not alone.

    That being said, I think that where it was placed in the Ordinary Form was a mistake. It might have made more sense to have it occur immediately following the penitential right (Thus stressing that it is an act of forgiveness and not a simple handshake), or to have it occur once the gifts are brought to the alter but before they are consecrated (thus literally following the injunction of the Gospel). As a final thought, perhaps it would make the most sense of all to move it prior to the opening prayer. Either way, I understand and agree that it is often undignified especially when Christ is on the alter and deserving of all of our attention.

  71. Mike says:

    I voted “if it were more dignified,” etc. As it happens, I find the Sign of Peace jarring, but then that’s how I feel about most of the Novus Ordo as it is practiced under even the best circumstances. (I didn’t realize just how jarring until I began attending the Traditional Mass regularly.)

    My instinct is to reject friendliness that seems contrived or out of place. Not wishing, at least in this case, to be bossed by my instincts, I shake hands or nod as seems appropriate to the venue. A Mass at which people poured out into the aisles would likely not see me again if I could help it.

    At a couple of NO parishes I attend in different dioceses — one of which dioceses is not noted for its respect for Tradition — the Sign of Peace simply isn’t done at least at the early Mass on weekdays. I imagine the celebrant may omit it in consideration of people having to rush off to work, although it doesn’t take up more than 10 or 15 seconds.

    It seems to me a shame that the extended Kiss of Peace couldn’t have been developed into a more dignified ritual as is done in some Eastern liturgies. I suspect that the failure to have done so is what rankles a good many respondents here, just as with the imposition (and, not infrequently, distortion) by obsessive liturgists of other elements of the NO upon us ignorant laypeeps as Tradition — already tatty at the edges, what with Rosaries and suchlike private devotions having distracted worshipers during some celebrations of the old Mass in bygone days — got tossed onto the ash heap.

  72. THREEHEARTS says:

    Why not print out the instructions from Rome on the so called sign of peace. It certainly does not quell the bedlam that breaks out at this time. So many do not go to confession can they give peace and what kind of peace is it. I was taught never to turn my back on the altar and yet it is now common place. It is disgusting as the number of people going to communion chewing gum. I spent all one mass, in a packed church, gazing at a striking cobra on the back of a young boys tee shirt. Is it any wonder there is a lack of piety and the virtue of religion in the Church ntoday

  73. Maxiemom says:

    I don’t mind shaking the hand of the person next to me during mass. I’m not a fan of looking around to shake as many hands as possible and when the church is mostly empty or any other person in the pew is too far away to shake hands without walking , I think turning to that person and a nod of acknowledgement is fine.

  74. THREEHEARTS says:

    Sorry I forgot at the local Ukrainian catholic Church the new bishop tried to introduce it and I loudly proclaimed I would not do it and no one else did and as far as I know they still do not. Instead of complaining why do you all not exercise the sensuum fidei and not even bother to say no, say no. I have heard from some who criticize my actions that it the same as going to confession. I asked well you can then confess your sins to me it will be just as useless

  75. Gail F says:

    Like it a lot but it should be brief. It’s just silly when it goes on and on.

  76. paulah says:

    A few years ago I did not care for it. But since then I have experience two friendships restored due to an exchange of the Sign of Peace during Mass which quite frankly I do not think would have been restored otherwise. Also, there are times when my spouse and I have had disagreements which were released at this time. Now I am very glad to have the Sign of Peace at Mass.

    I do hold that in many parishes, the exchange of the Sign of Peace is not done in a respectful and/or proper manner, with the intention it should be done. But I hold that this is a result of the congregation not being properly catechized on it’s purpose.

    The Early Church had the Sign of Peace in Sunday’s Worship, only before the Offering of the Gifts. This is described in Justin Martyr’s First Apology, Chapter 65:
    “Having ended the prayers, we salute one another with a kiss. There is then brought to the president of the brethren bread and a cup of wine mixed with water; and he taking them, gives praise and glory to the Father of the universe, through the name of the Son and of the Holy Ghost, and offers thanks at considerable length for our being counted worthy to receive these things at His hands. And when he has concluded the prayers and thanksgivings, all the people present express their assent by saying Amen.”

    St. Augustine also spoke of it:
    “Then, after the consecration of the Holy Sacrifice of God, because He wished us also to be His sacrifice, a fact which was made clear when the Holy Sacrifice was first instituted, and because that Sacrifice is a sign of what we are, behold, when the Sacrifice is finished, we say the Lord’s Prayer which you have received and recited. After this, the ‘Peace be with you’ is said, and the Christians embrace one another with the holy kiss. This is a sign of peace; as the lips indicate, let peace be made in your conscience, that is, when your lips draw near to those of your brother, do not let your heart withdraw from his. Hence, these are great and powerful sacraments”

    I hold the Sign of Peace is a good thing. But like all things, we need to be respectful.

  77. paulah says:

    A few years ago I did not care for it. But since then I have experience two friendships restored due to an exchange of the Sign of Peace during Mass which quite frankly I do not think would have been restored otherwise. Also, there are times when my spouse and I have had disagreements which were released at this time. Now I am very glad to have the Sign of Peace at Mass.

    I do hold that in many parishes, the exchange of the Sign of Peace is not done in a respectful and/or proper manner, with the intention it should be done. But I hold that this is a result of the congregation not being properly catechized on it’s purpose.

    The Early Church had the Sign of Peace in Sunday’s Worship, only before the Offering of the Gifts. This is described in Justin Martyr’s First Apology, Chapter 65:
    “Having ended the prayers, we salute one another with a kiss. There is then brought to the president of the brethren bread and a cup of wine mixed with water; and he taking them, gives praise and glory to the Father of the universe, through the name of the Son and of the Holy Ghost, and offers thanks at considerable length for our being counted worthy to receive these things at His hands. And when he has concluded the prayers and thanksgivings, all the people present express their assent by saying Amen.”

    St. Augustine also spoke of it:
    “Then, after the consecration of the Holy Sacrifice of God, because He wished us also to be His sacrifice, a fact which was made clear when the Holy Sacrifice was first instituted, and because that Sacrifice is a sign of what we are, behold, when the Sacrifice is finished, we say the Lord’s Prayer which you have received and recited. After this, the ‘Peace be with you’ is said, and the Christians embrace one another with the holy kiss. This is a sign of peace; as the lips indicate, let peace be made in your conscience, that is, when your lips draw near to those of your brother, do not let your heart withdraw from his. Hence, these are great and powerful sacraments”

    I hold the Sign of Peace is a good thing. But like all things, we need to be respectful.

  78. Uxixu says:

    I’m ok with it as long as it’s relatively reserved and dignified, not going across aisles leaning over four people, etc but to the immediate neighbors.

    That said, I much prefer at an EF parish where they skip it entirely.

  79. marnold says:

    The sign of peace is one of the main reason I’ve switched to attending TLM. I move a lot (every 1-3 years), so I never know many people at the parish I’m attending. Even though I have been Catholic for my whole life, parts of the mass that try to “build community” always leave me out in the cold. I’m single, with no children and the new person. Rarely do people get to know me and when they finally turn my way during the Sign of Peace (after hugging their families and greeting all of their friends) calling it awkward would be kind. TLM is so much better because I can go to church, pray, and NOT have it pointed out to me that I don’t know anyone.

  80. Cafea Fruor says:

    I find that blowing one’s nose with a handkerchief just at the moment when the priest gives the invitation for the Sign of Peace and then holding onto that hankie when the Sign of Peace starts is a really good way to avoid people grabbing your hands. Lucky for me, I have allergies, so I always have a hankie on hand. :)

  81. Will D. says:

    I voted for “I don’t care.” If multivoting were possible, I’d have added “I wish it were more dignified.” What is so bad about saying “peace” to the people with whom you are about to share the Eucharistic feast? Or are they nothing more than noisy, irreverent disease vectors?

    As for Fr. Z’s problem with the deacon jumping the gun on him, the rubrics are geared to that sort of misinterpretation. After the instruction for the priest to give the sign of peace to the people, they read:

    128. Then, if appropriate, the Deacon, or the Priest, adds: “Let us offer each other the sign of peace.”

    It’s easy to understand why the deacon might think it is his option, rather than the celebrant’s.

  82. Uxixu says:

    I would love to see the thoughts of some of priest & deacon readers of Fr Z, as well.

  83. joan ellen says:

    I do not appreciate the Sign of Peace at Mass. The new order of Mass, valid as it is, distracts me from the main purpose of the Mass…to worship the God of Israel, in memory of the Son who Sacrificed Himself that I may be saved, and to hear the word of God the Holy Spirit in the Homily/Sermon.

    How I wish just 1 of the 3 Masses of a weekend could be the Pope Paul VI Mass of Vat II, as outlined in Sacrosanctum Concilium. I believe there is no sign of peace as we experience it in that Mass.

  84. Chris in Maryland 2 says:

    While we can disagree about the preference for the “Kiss of Peace,” it is a gross misunderstanding to refer to it as a “Protestant” concept smuggled in via the Novus Ordo.

    As Fr. Adrian Fortesque showed in his superb book The Mass (1912), currently selling in a reprint by the FSSP, the “Kiss of Peace” was in The Mass throughout the 1st Millenium of The Church, and well into the 2nd. It is an ancient part of the Mass. It was in different points at different times and places over the centuries – which is why B16 suggested it might better be located “before bringing the gifts,” per I believe one of St. Paul’s epistles.

  85. SanAntonioQueen says:

    I intensely dislike the way the Kiss of Peace is done in the Novus Ordo Mass. I am a Latin Catholic but belong to a Maronite parish. If the Rite of Peace was done as it is in the Maronite Church (or the Chaldean Church) I would find it much more meaningful. I have always thought that the placement of the Kiss of Peace is wrong – it should come earlier in the liturgy. In the Maronite liturgy, the Rite of Peace is done after the Creed as the offertory begins. The Maronite liturgy fairly shouts that peace comes from the Lord: the priest says a short prayer which differs according to the Anaphora (Eucharistic prayer) that is being used that day and then proceeds to kiss the altar, saying “Peace be to the altar”, and touching the bread and wine placed on the altar, says, “Peace to the holy mysteries placed upon the altar.” Then he greets the deacon and says “Peace to the deacon,” and then the altar servers and says, “Peace to the servers,” and then facing the people says, “Peace to my brothers and sisters.” Then the servers proceed done the aisles, passing the peace to the individuals on the ends of the pews, who then pass it to the person next to them. No one gives the peace to the person next to him or her until he or she receives it. The whole rite of peace is done while seated and the “commentator” reminds everyone at the beginning of the rite to wait until it is received before passing it to the next person because it truly comes from the altar; from the Lord. The choir sings an appropriate hymn while this is being done. It is reverent and respectful; peace comes from the Lord and is passed from him to all. I like the Rite of Peace as it is done in the Maronite Church (and the Chaldean Church since it is done in the same way and at the same time in the Chaldean liturgy.) All this to say, I hate the way it is done in the Western Church and love the way it is done in the Eastern Churches.

  86. mo7 says:

    I go the OF Mass most weekdays. They all [including the priest] do the ‘wave’ to one another . I don’t. It’s seems to me that with the host having just been consecrated and laying on the altar, it is uncomfortable to turn my back and wave to everyone in the church. Only to turn back and compose myself properly for the Agnus Dei. It is all so misplaced! I’d rather they do the pre-mass greeting.
    In my parish the same people spend up to 10-15 minutes chatting after Mass in the church. For some of the older, retired parishioners Mass is a social event.
    What I’d like to know is how you keep the right frame of mind, when things like this distract you or make you uncomfortable?

  87. franciskoerber says:

    Peace! Peace and LOVE! Avoid the NO if possible.

  88. lelnet says:

    I’ve been to a few Masses where the sign of peace could have (and hence, should have) been “more contained, dignified”. This has never, however, been the only liturgical problem with such a parish, nor ever has it been the most serious. My solution? Go elsewhere, in the future.

    What is done at Mass should be done reverently…period. The sign of peace can be, and ought to be, done reverently. I’ve seen it happen. It happens every Sunday at the parish where I attend Mass most frequently. Also at the parish where I attend most frequently if for some reason I can’t make it to my usual parish. Also at the parish that would be my official, residential one if my house were 500 feet West of where it actually is, and which I therefore attend whenever circumstances entirely prevent driving 30+ miles into the city for either of my two usual parishes. (The less said about the liturgical situation at my _actual_ “home” parish, the better…I will simply say that “reverence” does not seem to be on their priority list. There’s a reason that the only thing that could get me back in the doors there is the prospect of having no other way to avoid mortal sin.) Also, it happened at the parish where my wife and I celebrated the feast of Sts Peter and Paul this year, which was a stroke of sheer good fortune, since we were out of town that weekend, and (having no better guide than we simply attended Mass at the closest parish to our hotel. We got lucky, but it’s not like we were fighting against a winning-the-lottery level of improbability, either.

    I pray for those who need this small bit of human contact as badly and as urgently as I once did. And for those who find their fellow children of God so loathsome that the prospect of even the briefest of interactions with anyone other than a close relative inspires dread or hatred.

  89. I agree that at a daily Mass where folks are scattered all over a huge nave, the sign of peace should simply be skipped. Even if they are a bit closer together, skipping it is fine. Nevertheless, the current attitude seems to be that the sign of peace is oh, so important. It is one of those things that has been blown out of proportion in many implementations of the Novus Ordo and almost no one even applies rational standards to it. One of the things I like about the extraordinary form is that I don’t have to be concerned about this.

    I want to add that individuals in the congregation should not self-exempt themselves simply because they don’t like it. It’s the priest’s option, not that of individuals (unless perhaps they have a communicable disease, in which case they should seriously consider staying home altogether). One does not need to approve personally of every aspect of the liturgy before participating.

    One thing I have noticed as I have wandered about the Philadelphia archdiocese is that even at Sunday Mass, parishes are so sparsely attended that skipping the sign of peace may be advisable. In fact, maybe if we moved in a more reverent direction we could fill those churches again instead of closing them and combining them.

  90. tolerate. but it comes at a horrible time just as our focus should be on the Eucharist. Always wondered why we didn’t skip the sign of peace during Mass and did it AFTER.Seems to me that is when you want to extend charity and cordiality to the people you just attended Mass with.My experience was always that we left,went home and never said boo to the folks again.At this point am home bound and watch Mass for shut ins. I do not miss the sign of peace but i do miss being part of the community.The Eucharistic minister does bring communion on First Fridays and the priest will come for confession if i call.
    It bothers me that we are so isolated. The one thing that does keep me going is that God has a plan even under these circumstances.

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