ASK FATHER: URGENT EMERGENCY PREDICAMENT! Mass in Presence of a Prelate but we don’t have a Pax Brede!

When I see the word “brede” I can’t help but think of the novel In This House Of Brede by Rumor Godden (US HERE – UK HERE).

From a reader…


Our little EF congregation would like to invite our Bishop to attend a Mass. we do not have the items or people sufficient for a Ponitifcal Mass. we are thinking of Mass in the Presence of a Prelate. however, we are having trouble finding a pax-brede. any suggestions.

First, good for you for getting what you are able to do, done.  Quantum potes, tantum aude…. brick by brick… and all that good stuff.

Some of you are probably scratching your heads wonder what a “pax-brede” is.

Explanations are in order.

There is a moment in the Roman Rite designated for the “Sign” or “Kiss of Peace”.  You all know.  Most of you dread it.

In ancient times that kiss was done in the Roman manner, formally.  It wasn’t an undignified free for all of idiot waving and roaming about, no longer mindful of the sacred.  Giving the “pax… peace” flowed out from the altar, as the bishop/priest would bestow it on the sacred ministers, who in turn would go to the other clergy nearby, and so forth and so on.

At one point there developed an object to facilitate this kiss of peace.  It came to be called a instrumentum pacis or osculatorium (Latin osculum = kiss).  In English was was called the “pax brede” or simply “the pax”.

Brede is an archaic spelling of “board”, for that is what this object is: a flatish board, often highly decorated or with a decorated frame, usually having a some kind of handle, presented for people to kiss.  It is often decorated with the Lamb of God or another eucharistic symbol.

It is possible that this liturgical critter evolved to speed the process of giving the sign of peace among quite a few participants, or to avoid any embarrassments, etc.  In any event, the presenter presents the “pax brede” with a “Pax tecum”, whereupon the presentee kisses it and responds “Et cum spiritu tuo.”

The use of the pax brede, or pax, pretty much died out except in fancier Masses, as those of higher prelates such as bishops or involving them.  Even in those Masses, use of the pax didn’t widely survive.

However, it remains an option today, under Summorum Pontificum.

Now, to your specific situation: Mass in the presence a prelate.

If you have a Solemn Mass in the presence of the prelate, the deacon could take the Pax to the bishop, who is at that moment parked, kneeling at his bench and faldstool set in the sanctuary directly before the altar.

However, in the Low Mass or Missa Cantata there is no deacon to bring the Pax to His Nibs.  The priest is not supposed to leave the altar!  Quod Deus avveruncet!

So.  What to do?  How to get the kiss of peace to His Nibs the Bishop?

DING! The pax brede.   But wait!  You don’t have a pax brede.   Thus, the question.

Well, sonny, I say…


If you don’t have a motivated, dedicated, yah ha, oorah pax brede, then overcome its lack by adapting something else to serve the purpose.

What could substitute for a pax brede?  Let’s see…

You don’t want to use just anything, for this is sacred worship.

It should be flatish, as the pax brede is flatish.

It should probably have a handle, as the pax brede usually does.


Why not improvise your pax brede by using the Communion paten?

It is a sacred vessel, blessed because the Host and particles may contact it.  It isn’t decorated, but… hey!  You don’t have a pax brede and you need a solution.

The priest’s paten is, at this moment during Mass, busy with other duties.  The Communion paten, however, is waiting for its queue.  Give it a TDA (Temporary Duty Assignment).

The MC can carry the TDA brede to His Nibs, and then keep it at hand for the distribution of Communion, to follow soon thereafter.

IMPORTANT:  Explain to His Nibs beforehand what you are going to do at the sign of peace.  Explain that, because you don’t have a pax brede, you will substitute a paten.   Don’t take His Nibs by surprise.  In my experience, bishops don’t like surprises.  Also, it is the common sense, correct thing to do.

You might send His Nibs to this blog post!  On the other hand, it is possible that he will already have read it.


About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. Chuck4247 says:

    “His Nibs” is a phrase I’ve not heard before. What is the origin of this nickname for a prelate?

    [No, this isn’t a phrase just for a prelate. It is a rather out of date, facetious nickname for someone who has a authority, “the boss”, etc.
    It isn’t always kindly meant, but I don’t mean it unkindly. As a matter of fact, any bishop who wants to participate in the TLM is good value in my book. “His Nibs” used around here is a term of endearment rather than mockery.]

  2. Archlaic says:

    (Presuming) the happy circumstances in which your congregation finds itself, i.e. having a bishop whom you believe will accept such an invitation, it might be useful (once the invitation has been accepted) for your pastor/chaplain/celebrant to approach the rector or sacristan if the cathedral and find out what sort of *pontifical* items might be available to borrow for this Mass. You’d be surprised what sorts of things can be unearthed in the myriad sacristies, storerooms, closets, lofts, and other behind-the-scenes niches of a typical cathedral. [That’s true! It might be that there is one squirreled away, perhaps in some glass case.]

    Maybe gather a little intel first, and find out whether there is one person e.g. the bishop’s M.C., amongst those with access to the cathedral and the authority to loan such items, who is well-disposed or at least open/minded toward Summorum Pontificum and the TLM.

    All they can say is “no”, but you may be surprised…

  3. APX says:

    You’d be surprised what sorts of things can be unearthed in the myriad sacristies, storerooms, closets, lofts, and other behind-the-scenes niches of a typical cathedral.

    Before we got our new beautiful Black Solemn Mass vestments (made with that same embroidered flower material Fr. Z recently made a post about), we needed a solemn Mass set of vestments for a funeral, so our priest at the time contacted someone down at the cathedral who found the cathedral’s old Solemn Mass Black vestment Set (heavily embroidered with gold bullion thread) and gave them to us to keep since they weren’t getting any use at the cathedral.

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