Saturday, February 13, 2010


In November, our bishop banned the common chalice to the congregation as well as the actual sign of peace out of fear of an H1N1 epidemic and the very real possibility that one could spread this flu from the common chalice and from a hand shake. This is the first time in my entire life, not to mention my nearly 30 years of priesthood, that a connection was actually made between the sharing of viruses and drinking from the common chalice. And yes, it was the first time since 1980 that I had experienced no chalice to the laity at any Mass I had ever celebrated not to mention the absence of the Sign of Peace.

The first Sunday without the common chalice (we normally have four Host stations and six chalice stations), I realized how much easier it was to set up for Mass and how much smoother the actual process of preparing for Holy Communion at the time of the Agnus Dei went. Instead of eight extra ordinary ministers of Holy Communion, we only need two.

The other thing I noticed was how easy it was to purify the chalice, the one chalice and that I could actually do it during Mass if I wanted, without prolonging the Mass and I didn't have to drink the ablutions (water placed in the chalice that needs to be purified) that upwards to 20 or 25 people had had their lips on. I was relieved and delighted about that health concern that I've had ever since I've had to purify chalices that upwards to 30 people have shared!

One of the constant issues we have had at St. Joseph Church, in fact, I've had in all the parishes I've been, is extra ordinary ministers of Holy Communion who are not faithful to their schedule and fail to find a replacement when they miss Mass (I hope for a good reason!) This causes other extra-ordinary ministers of Holy Communion in the congregation during what should be an intense time of prayer and preparation to receive our Lord in Holy Communion to become preoccupied by the need to see if enough EM's have presented themselves to the altar area (side chapels of our sanctuary). So they crane their neck and realizing they are needed come forward, but others are coming forward too, so some have to go back, but too many go back so some have to come forward again! It is just like watching the Keystone Cops in some ways, but not really funny! Then sometimes there simply aren't any extra EM's at the Mass (all of them must have a good reason for missing Sunday Mass?) and one or two completely full chalices languish on the altar during Holy Communion and then must be consumed by someone,the question is who?--a great amount I might add.

But without the common chalice, what a blessing! Two EM's come forward at the appropriate time, are given Holy Communion and then their ciborium and go to their station and there is no confusion, no distractions and yes, there is very little possibility of the "profanation" if not down right "desecration" of the Sacred Species of the chalice! Mine eyes were open and the bishop's ban on the common chalice was in reality a step forward and not a step backward in the need to restore reverence and prayerfulness at the time of preparing for Holy Communion.

Now, I am partial to the laity receiving the consecrated Wine of the chalice just as I am partial to receiving the Precious Blood when I celebrate Mass. For me it is not optional, I must, even though, of course, our Lord is completely present in the Consecrated Host. So one of the reasons I have seen it as important for the laity to have this privilege of the option of the chalice for the entire time I have been ordained, is because I see it important for me, which is required for the priest-celebrant. But mine own eyes have now seen how much better it is not to have multiple chalice stations and multiple EM's coming forward at Mass. Therefore, I would like to implement "intinction" to at least give the laity who desire the option of receiving the Consecrated Wine in addition to the Host, the possibility of this wonderful gift and privilege. The GIRM allows this and by way of intinction.

Finally, omitting the "Handshake of Peace;" Mine own eyes have seen now, for the first time since the "Handshake of Peace" was pushed on us around 1967 or so, that it does break the prayerful preparation for our Lord who at that time is completely present on our altar, waiting for us to receive Him in the Most Blessed Sacrament of the altar. Not exchanging the "Handshake of Peace" sent me back in time to 1967 in my home parish of St. Joseph in Augusta and the wide ranging complaints that we laity had about the "Handshake of Peace" when it was forced down our throats(or onto our hands). We said, it distracts us from our preparation to receive our Lord! Why are we greeting one another so late in the Mass and at this particular time (no priest actually gave a good catechesis on this and even when a good catechesis is given, people still think it is a time to glad hand others, slap them on the back, go around the church and just socialize!) The "handshake of peace" was not a good idea at the particular time that we are asked to share it. Perhaps a better solution would have been to move this prior to the Liturgy of the Eucharist, perhaps after the Penitential Rite, or to keep it in the traditional location, but simply have people turn side to side and bow one's head in respect to one's neighbor as a sign of the need to be at peace with one another before we approach the altar--that would be a great solution, but I can't change that on my own authority. But make no mistake, the "Handshake of Peace" is not mandatory in the Catholic Mass--it is optional, always was since 1967 or so. Did you know that?

So, in my mind, not having multiple Communion stations for the common chalice and not having the "handshake of peace" are blessings in disguise to help keep the Mass reverent and prayerful. Your thoughts....


Anonymous said...

Thank you, again, Father. May it stay that way!
As for the "handshake of peace" in general, I generally try to avoid it, as it does disrupt and feels rather more like a social greeting rather than preparation to receive Our Lord in Holy Communion. A bow of the head seems more sedate, and closer to the traditional "pax" shared among the clergy.

pax Christi,

Anonymous said...

Recently I read an article describing the 'Kiss of Peace" or the 'Handshake of Peace" as a gesture of reparation with one's neighbor. That got me thinking of it in a totally new light. That we are to reconcile with our neighbor before approaching the altar with our offering.
Personally, I am more comfortable in my own reverent and private prayerful mindset, but perhaps that is a self-centered attitude. Or not? Perhaps being part of the community/congration by responding and singing fully is sufficient?
Or is it better to be forced to remember that at Mass, it is not all about me and my worshipping, but it is us and our worshipping?
I personally LOVE the Angus Dei and do not like being jerked out of it, but it's not about what I want.....
Yet, I can certainly see where more of us need to get more reverent and remember that Mass is not a social event.
feedback appreciated..

kiwiinamerica said...

Father, I believe you are now a card-carrying member of what has been called the "Reform of the Reform". Welcome aboard. The Holy Father has written extensively on how the liturgy should develop "organically" and with great respect for tradition and it's clear that the advent of the Novus Ordo did not respect such development. By publishing Summorum Pontificum I believe he wants to use the EF as a point of departure from which the liturgy can once again develop.

I hope I live to see the day when we have a Mass in which the Liturgy of the Word is largely as it is now, in the vernacular, with two readings (Old and New Testament) as well as the Gospel while the Canon of the Mass is said in Latin and ad orientam as in the EF and Holy Communion is distributed on the tongue only and kneeling, where possible.

I'm not sure if this is what the Pope has in mind and we may never get there in my lifetime but that's what I'm praying for.

Viva Cristo Rey!!

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

To feedback from Fr. McDonald,
Your points are well taken and in fact the sign of peace is meant to be a "sacramental sign" of the Peace of Heaven, where no one is a war, there is perfect harmony and eternal reconciliation with God and our brothers and sisters. The Mass is but a foretaste of this. Of course, the whole Mass is a foretaste of this, not just the moment prior to our immediate preparation for Holy Communion.
At our school Masses, I've seen how the Sign of Peace can really get out of control with the children, so what I've done in the past is to ask them at the sign of peace to close their eyes and think about war and violence in the world and God's desire that we be at peace and peaceful. I ask them to think about those who are angry with them or have hurt them and vice versa. Then I ask them to ask God to help them to be at peace with everyone and to forgive and be forgiven. Then I ask them to open their eyes and to symbolize the Peace of Heaven by shaking one person's hand. But you know what, the next time I ask them to share the sign of peace, thinking I've taught them how to do it properly, they go wild again! On top of that I really shouldn't use the Mass to catechize children or make a point, the liturgy should do that and I'm not sure it is doing a good job of that at our Sign of Peace as it is currently expressed. Pope Benedict has indicated a willingness to study moving the actual sign of peace after the General Intercessions at the time of the collection and transition to the Eucharistic Prayer, but I haven't seen any movement in that regard.

Anonymous said...

Hi. I'm a new parishioner at St. Joseph's. I have mixed opinions on the "handshake of peace." I think it takes attention away from the holy Euchrist. But, I think it's a nice tradition to do. Is there a way we can do it earlier in the mass, or after everyone has received the host? I just think while Jesus is present, we should be in a prayerful state, but that there IS a place for the handshake.

Gene said...

The handshaking, hugging, and all the other "hail fellow well met" stuff makes Mass seem more like a Kiwanis meeting or Southern Baptist picnic. What in the H... were they drinking in Rome back in '62?

Templar said...


Easy. On the subject of intinction, when do we start? We're ready. We're past ready. We're eager.

On the subject of the Hand Shake, I'm done with it. Whether the Priest invites it or not I will no longer break my focus and concentration; I will remain as I pray the Pater Noster, head bowed, eyes closed, and hands together in front of my chest.

If you can find a way to get some kneelers up there for the intinction line that would be very much appreciated too Father. ;)

Anonymous said...

The handshake of Peace is so distracting that often I found myself worrying who I sat next to and when it was coming absolute dread took over my thoughts. It should propbaly be suppresed as many I know feel exactly the same way.

Anonymous said...

Fr. MacDonald you are a breath of fresh air! I was beginning to despair that the Age of Aquarius would never end!

The Sign of Peace is very disruptive in its current location in the mass. People move and roam about. They drag it out into the Agnus Dei disrupting it. And the worst offenders at my church (in West Central Georgia)? The ushers, who seem to believe they must personally shake all 400 hands of the congregants... And don't get me started on the lack of bowing at the Incarnatus, or the laity raising their hands in the Orans position. And besides getting a weird look while genuflecting when exiting the pew, you might get a purse in the face or worse! People are in a hurry to get to lunch, don't get in their way with your acts of respect for the Lord in the Tabernacle!

Deo Vindice