Sunday, January 25, 2015


This Kiss of Peace at Mass?
Or this Kiss of Peace at Mass?
Over at the Praytell blog there is a discussion about something Pope Francis did in the Philippines, which one of my commenters picked up in a thread I had earlier.  It was the Mass with priests and religious in Manila's beautiful cathedral, that has a fence, I mean, an altar railing and has not undergone a wreckovation at all.

The Mass with the Holy Father was stunningly beautiful. But then, as is His Holiness' obsessive compulsive disorder-like style, he broke away from the altar and his MCs after the introduction of the Sign of Peace and went into the front of the congregation to greet individually a number of religious sisters in wheel chairs.

It was of course one of his spontaneous gestures that caught the MCs off guard and certainly gives validation to us 1970's types to continue to make the Sign of Peace into a horizontal love fest of sorts with the priest leading the way. In fact in some places the Sign of Peace is accompanied by a song, such as "Peace is Flowing Like a River" or "Let There be Peace on Earth and of Course let it begin with me." In effect it becomes the "Liturgy of the Sign of Peace."

Of course Praytell loves this papal novelty and throw back to the 1970's. But they forget and sometimes we do too, that Pope Francis in other less than OCD-like ways does some tradtional things too at Mass which take forethought to do, such as Intinction for the Deacons at Mass who receive Holy Communion and at those rare times when Pope Francis distributes Holy Communion to some in the congregation. Praytell would never use that to extol this pope's liturgical progressiveness or the forethought that it takes to celebrate the Baptism of the Lord liturgy in the Sistine Chapel at the historic altar ad orientem.

I had two comments at Praytell on this subject one of which was similar to the paragraph above but deleted, which is any bloggers right, since when we comment, we enter the living room of the host who can kick us out if he wishes. But another comment seems to have remained and it is this:

While I embrace a sober sign of peace and that the words that the priest says to the congregation prior to it, “The peace of the Lord be with you always” should suffice as his sign of the peace to all present, I can see the priest exchanging the sign of peace with those nearby and for special occasions to others in the congregation like the pope did in this video. But it does seem novel at a papal Mass. 

But when a priest does go to the congregation, he has to be selective and could be showing preference for some people over others, whereas the greeting “The peace of the Lord be with you always” is to all. But I have seen priests (have a good friend who does it) go throughout the congregation trying to share with everyone. It seems a bit clerical to me though and really extends a symbolic gesture into a literal act.

What I don’t particular care for is for popes to model a liturgical gesture that is not necessarily codified and not explain it. For example Pope Benedict modeled in what some saw as a retro way, the traditional altar set-up, kneeling for Holy Communion and a retrieval of papal regalia from another era and never really explained why or codified it although he knew people were following his example.

I think Pope Francis does the same thing but in a 1970′s sort of way, which of course is retro too, what he did at the Sign of Peace and the washing of the feet of women on Holy Thursday and with no real explanation or codifying of it.

But then I read a subsequent comment by Jordan Zarembo who is a faithful commenter there but prefers the Extraordinary Form of the Mass and explains his reasons for it in a very cogent way when he comments.

This is what he wrote about the topic which is excellent:

S. pax domini sit semper vobiscum / P. et cum spiritu tuo (or vernacular analogue), with an immediately following recitation of the Agnus Dei, is all that is needed at the vast majority of Masses. 

The five minute handshake, hug, and chatter that is the Sign of Peace at Sunday Mass at many parishes is not the pax that the celebrant in persona Christi is offering to the congregation. The liturgical pax is of Christ’s outpouring of infinite agape to humanity in and through the sacrificial banquet. This point in the Mass is not the time for an extended two-hundred-person lovebomb. Demonstrative behavior can wait for coffee hour.

A therapeutic approach to Mass has destroyed the intellectual focus and ritual sobriety of the summit of Catholic life. Pseudo-psychotherapeutics have absolutely no place at Mass. The priest is not there to roll a couch out for you. If a person comes to hear Mass with the mindset that he or she will receive emotional validation not from the abiding presence of Christ in his body, blood, and divinity, but rather a feeble emotional affirmation from other persons, he or she has lost an understanding of the very sacramental reality of the Mass.

KUDOS TO  Jordan Zarembo!


Gene said...

I think we should just turn down the lights and have a make-out derby and be done with it.

Daniel said...

And that's why I don't sit next to Gene.

Fr. Michael J. Kavanaugh said...

A public blog is not a living room. In no living room in which I have found myself has the owner of that space ever said, "Michael, you are welcome to listen to the conversations here, but I forbid you from speaking or responding to anything you hear."

Blogs are public spaces. This is why, Allan, you are required to post the standard disclaimer on your blog homepage.

To the question of the sign of peace, in none of the seven parishes to which I have been assigned, nor in any of the dozens and dozens of parishes I have visited, has the sign of peace ever been racous or distracting or even loud.

Jdj said...

Indeed, thank you Jordan Zarembo. He must have a lot of intestinal fortitude to stick with Pray-Whine...

Gene said...

Kavanaugh, not distracting to you, maybe, but there are many with finer and more devotionally oriented sensibilities than your's, thank God.

Cletus Ordo said...

I once had the displeasure of being in a parish that, for lack of a better way to say it, had a lousy priest. At the time, he was the only priest in residence and more than a few had problems with him. Once a fellow was discussing him with me and referred to him by his last name only--let's call it "Jones". He then said to me, "You notice I didn't call him 'Father Jones' because I don't consider him a priest."

Well, that's just plain wrong. You can disagree with any priest as much as you like, but they are still ordained priests and we owe them no less than the respect that office holds. I think some of us have gotten so caught up in our self-righteous indignation that we have forgotten that there is a big, thick, fat line that stands between the lay and ordained.

With that in mind, I apologize to you, FATHER Kavanaugh, on behalf of those who will not. You are a priest and I acknowledge that.

Fr. Michael J. Kavanaugh said...

Gene - I know this concept will be lost on you, but mass isn't about you and what you (or "many" others) may find distracting.

George said...

The following are considered abuses (Redemptionis Sacramentum)

introducing a "song of peace" to accompany the rite;
the faithful moving from their places to exchange the sign of peace;
the priest leaving the altar to give the sign of peace to some of the faithful;
availing of the rite to express congratulations, good wishes, or condolences.

Anonymous said...

EVERY TIME....EVERY TIME at the sign of peace, I kiss my wife and tell her that I love her. In case you missed it....EVERY TIME.

EVERY TIME during the Pater Noster (I was once an altar boy.) I hold my wife's hand.

I'm sure Jesus will get back at me some day.

Anonymous said...

Well said Cletus Ordo. While I would never excuse Gene's behavior, I will offer in way of explanation, that he is "challenged" and, bless his heart, his mind is stuck in his urinal jokes and in junior high.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous, holding your wife's hand, something between you and her only, is very different from making a hand-chain of multiple people and, in some cases (as has happened to me), forcing other people to hold your hand when they'd rather keep they're hands joined. I doubt Jesus will be getting back at you, ever. But He might well get back at those "liturgists" who made hand-holding during the Our Father a prominent, and often quite distracting, practice. :)

Jody Peterman said...

Fr. Kavanaugh or Fr McDonald,

Didn't Bishop Boland tell the Priest of this Diocese that they could no longer leave the altar to handshake all over the Church, in part, because of the distraction it was causing, or because of Rome's clarification? I've heard both. It certainly had become quite at an event at St Johns by the late 90's/early 2000's.

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

Yes, when the new GIRM came out in 2002 we were told to follow it and the sign of peace sobriety was encouraged by Bishop Boland.

Anonymous said...

Isn't there delicious irony that the person who asserts the desirability of "finer sensibilities" on this thread laments the refusal of the blog owner to post his urinal humor on another thread?

Delicious indeed!!!

Anonymous 2 said...

Without something like the sign of peace, what is to prevent me from attending Mass without ever acknowledging my neighbor at all? In fact, very often the sign of peace is the only time I do acknowledge my neighbor as a person other than as a mere physical presence that is just around me. I generally experience it as a transformative “opening” to the other person. To do this seems to be good theology because it seems to symbolize and indeed instantiate the second part of the Great Commandment.

So, I think I disagree with Jordan Zarembo and agree with what Father McDonald wrote first about a “sober sign of peace.”

And yes, Cletus Ordo, I agree – well said.

Paul said...

Hand holding. Ugh. Will the chain be unbroken? Will the parishioners in the pews be mimicking (or adding to) the priest's hand gestures?

"Sign Of Peace". Anything but with all the noise and shuffling about.

Peace? How about reverent silence?

Православный физик said...

Oh the Sign of Peace, how I don't miss thee :)

Gene said...

Referring to PI by his last name does not imply that I do not consider him a Priest. In fact, I do consider him a Priest, albeit a poor excuse for one, and understand fully that God, in His inscrutable wisdom, uses him in persona Christi. Calling people by their last names is a type of cultural slang or convention with no particular implications regarding their function.

Gene said...

On a further note, the use of the last name in reference to Mikey should be no problem, as it is in keeping with the minimalist, revisionist, progressivism of Kavy and his ilk, not to mention with the casual, de-constructionist, humanistic orientation of the OF which he loves. So, Kav and others, there you have it.

Anonymous said...

Holding hands before communion is a "declaration of independence" of Jesus in the Eucharist, a defiant gesture that we can achieve unity among us without Christ, the only one able to do affect this.


Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

While I am no fan of handholding in prayer, it is borrowed from Protestant popular piety, I don't believe for a moment that the laity do it as an act of defiance. I think they do it precisely because they experience unity in The Lord .

Cletus Ordo said...

That's fine Gene. I wasn't necessarily accusing you of not considering Fr. K a priest. I was only expressing my dismay that you or anyone on this blog would not treat his office with the respect it deserves. In the case of priests, I think we can look at them more deeply than mere people with a "function". These are men who have given up the worldly life to pursue a vocation.

Anonymous said...

"EVERY TIME at the sign of peace, I kiss my wife and tell her that I love her."

My wife and I have NEVER shook hands, embraced, kissed or touched each other in any other way at the sign of peace. Because that moment is for us both to receive the peace of Christ from Him (via the priest in persona Christi), not for us to exchange anything between ourselves.

Gene said...

FR, I think they hold hands because they simply do not know any better, have not been taught any better, and because everybody else does it. You grant the laity a far greater theological understanding than they, in fact, possess. Catechesis does not exist in most places.

Gene said...

And, please tell me why anyone would want to follow anything having to do with protestant piety…especially if they understand the meaning of 19th century protestant pietism. We will all end up like the Methodists who are, without question or equal, the absolute worst product of the Reformation and protestant piety…as well as its logical conclusion. Christ have mercy!

Anonymous said...

There is also the comment by Jesus that whatever you do to others, you do to Him. Maybe when I hug my wive, or another of my "neighbors", I am hugging Christ....

Some people here almost seem to have an aversion to touching or being touched. I don'd think of Jesus being like that. Do you?

Unknown said...

Indeed, Joe P. I don't miss it either.

I don't know how Byzantine Catholics do things, but in my Orthodox parish here in Macon, we usually just greet one another as we come in, whether by shaking hands, hugging, or a deferential nod. Mostly, however, we tend to just wait until after the Divine Liturgy, because there is no sense of 'late' for most of the Liturgy, so it's more practical to wait until after anyway.

(And input here from Joe P would be appreciated)

As a result, I'm slightly perplexed by Anon 2's suggestion that an instituted sign of peace is somehow superior to just letting people do as they please in regards to greeting their 'neighbours' (or, as he put it, 'acknowledging' them).

To me, the entire ethos of the modern Roman Rite appears to be one of micromanaging the laity. The sign of peace is evidence of this micromanagement, in my opinion. Even the 'revived' Tridentine form has taken on this ethos in some places, much to its detriment.

Sadly, this element seems to be bleeding into Greek Orthodox churches in the United States, some of which have (probably unintentionally) let quasi-lay rubrics develop wherein everyone does the exact same thing at the exact same time.

Paul said...

I think the hand-holding and the mimicking of gestures has a long-term effect of eroding the sanctity and authority of the priesthood and of Christ's Church: "See, we can inject something and do as the priest does with little or no objection. So, why not have female priests -- why not let anyone be a priest? Why let a bunch of stuffy, old, out-of-touch men, stop what our hearts tell us."

Marc said...

To add to what Flavius says, I have been to the Divine Liturgy where a sign of peace is exchanged after the priest says, "Let us love one another do that with our whole minds we may confess..."

In that parish, which is very small and has a rotation of priests, it is clear that this is something that has happened organically.

Greek Orthodox parishes in America have definitely been influenced by lay Roman Catholic practice--with the inclusion of kneeling being the main thing.

Thankfully, it doesn't matter if everyone does his or her own thing. So, at my parish, some people kneel, some stand, others bow deeply.

Anyway, most people aren't aware of the canons forbidding kneeling. And they aren't aware of the problems that pietism has caused over the last couple centuries. They just do what everyone else does... They don't have an agenda.

Gene said...

Anonymous, so…when I make love to my wife I am also making love to Jesus? Wow! Cool…some theology you have there.

George said...

From what I've read about it, in the Divine Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom, the exchange of the peace occurs between the scripture readings and the Eucharistic prayers. The priest announces, "Let us love one another that with one accord we may confess..." and the people conclude the sentence, "Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, the Trinity, one in essence and undivided." The Kiss of Peace is exchanged by clergy at the altar, and in some churches among the laity as well (exchanging of peace among the laity is not a universal throughout the Orthodox Church but a re-introduction of what was common in the early Church liturgy).

Your observations that the "sign of peace" is something that has happened organically in Orthodox churches, and also that parishes have definitely been influenced by lay Roman Catholic practice, make sense. It is important to acknowledge though that some kind of sign of peace or "kiss of peace" was something that was part of the Eucharistic celebration in the early Church.

Marc said...

There are two points that should be mentioned:

First, just because the "early Church" did something does not mean that it should be done today.

Second, generally speaking, there is a separation of men and women in Orthodox Churches with the men on the right side and women on the left side. So, the "kiss of peace" would not generally involve the sort of displays that you all are lamenting here.

Unknown said...


Yes; but in Russian (whether ROCOR or OCA) churches nothing is exchanged between the laity at that point. My parish has one cleric, so there is no kiss of peace, either.

Marc—I didn't mean to suggest there were ulterior motives or something. I was just offering a comparison.

(I should probably note that I, being a former ROCOR attendee, am considered 'reactionary' by some non-Russian Orthodox, but that's another beast altogether.)

One other thing: in Orthodoxy, a bishop may, at his discretion, modify the Liturgy in response to the needs of his diocese. It's why there are two forms of the Divine Liturgy. It's why there are slight differences in the Liturgy if one travels. The idea of a universally exact-same liturgy is somewhat foreign to Orthodoxy.

Anonymous 2 said...


Thank you for your response to Flavius. I infer from it that I was thinking along the right lines. I trust, too, that your explanation will help to dispel some of Flavius’s “perplexity” regarding the “Sign of Peace.”

John Nolan said...

The so-called 'sign of peace' is neither one thing nor the other. Shaking hands is not a liturgical gesture and saying 'peace be with you' is not a colloquial form of greeting. According to the GIRM the correct formula is 'Pax Domini sit semper tecum' to which the reply is 'Amen' - yet this implies that one person offers the peace and another receives it, which isn't what happens in practice.

Still, of all the irritating things about the Novus Ordo it's not the worst. On the rare occasions I attend the vernacular Mass there is always something new to put one in bad humour. Like the lay reader who having read the first lesson announces portentously 'The Responsorial Psalm. The response is ...'

Fortunately there is now an EF Mass only fifteen minutes away. Just to walk in and see those cards on the altar lifts the spirits.

George said...

True. From what I've read, in the early years of the Church men and women were separated. I do not know at what point in time that practice ended.
"First, just because the "early Church" did something does not mean that it should be done today." Is that not a big point of contention for some today.
Archaeologism anyone?

"To me, the entire ethos of the modern Roman Rite appears to be one of micromanaging the laity. The sign of peace is evidence of this micromanagement, in my opinion."

I'm not sure what you mean by "micromanagement".

Reverence and respect should inform with an order-oriented" attitude. Not everyone has the reverence and respect which is to be desired.

What you see as micromanaging others see as a necessary thing in order to maintain a certain reverential decorum and a respectful external expression of the acknowledgment of our fellow community of believers in the communal aspect of worship. I accept this as part of the current order and liturgy of the Mass. If it were done away with, I would accept that also.

Respect for a teacher and the learning process demands order and orderliness in the classroom. Respect for other drivers demands and ordered system of traffic management.

Unlike animals and other forms of living organisms, human beings possess a rational intellect to understand, know and appreciate what order is and why it is good. Order after all comes from God, who brought all, and ordered all things into being and existence, and brought order to all that exists. There is a certain order in the social structures of man and in the Roman liturgy( which allows for change of course) and this is in some way a reflection (though imperfect) of the Divine Will.

Unknown said...

Anon @ 1129 said Some people here almost seem to have an aversion to touching or being touched. I don'd think of Jesus being like that. Do you?

Yes, I do 'have an aversion to touching or being touched'—what of it? Jesus may not be like that, but that is inconsequential, as I am not Jesus.

Gene said...

I agree with Flavius about our touchy-feely culture. It has absolutely nothing to do with Christ or love of fellow man. It is phony intimacy, manipulative pseudo-affection, and unctuous controlling behavior.
Keep your hands to yourself. By law, any unwanted touch can be construed as assault.

Marc said...

Flavous, please forgive me for writing in such a way as to accuse you of suggesting ulterior motives. While I was not trying to accuse you of saying that, I definitely wrote my comment in such a way as to give the impression that I was accusing you. I'm sorry for doing so.

Православный физик said...

In Byzantium (Ruthenian style) we don't exchange the sign of peace as parish has one cleric, and the altar servers do not exchange the peace. Plenty of pleasantries before and after Divine Liturgy though.

Let us love one another, so with one mind we may profess...The Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit, the Trinity, one in essence and Wisdom, let us be attentive...Creed is sung...

It seems to me, for better or for worse, the laity exchanging the sign of peace in the Roman Rite doesn't quite fit the sobriety and reserve nature of the Roman way. It has always felt out of place, even the greetings before Mass felt out of place...because of the theological emphasis of the Roman Rite on the Sacrifice of Calvary made present.

George said...

Joe Potillor
It certainly doesn't fit sobriety and reserve nature of the Vetus Ordo which is why it is not a part of the celebration of that rite. It is there in the Novus Ordo and I have gotten to where I accept things as they are. If it were done away with it would not bother me at all.

Tony V said...

I agree with Fr MJK that a blog is not a living room but a public space. It's one thing to block comments that are libellous or obscene, but Pray Tell routinely blocks comments that deviate from the 'party line'. I've found in particular that when objective evidence is given that counters (or disproves) an incorrect assertion that's made in a post or in a comment from a ‘regular’, it’ll evaporate.

Two examples:

(1) This post ( features a video in which the speaker makes a number of howlers, including the assertion (14:35) that hand missals containing translations of the Mass were forbidden until 1877 and that up till then they were on the Index of Forbidden Books. (I’ve heard this canard repeated in similar form by other liturgical modernists.) However, with the internet and digital libraries it’s no longer so easy to slip these porkies by a gullible public. I posted links to several vernacular missals (English and German) showing imprimaturs and publication dates well before this supposed watershed, as well as links to versions of the Index published before 1877 which (surprise) did not list any missals or missal translations. Where do you think my comment ended up?

(2) More recently (, a comment (no.45) claimed that ‘the critique leveled by traditionalists against the Mass of Paul VI, that it is a product of liturgical historians and represents a break with the “organic development” of the liturgy, could be leveled against 1962, 1570, the Gelasian Sacramentary, ApTrad, and all the other early Church orders, i.e. the whole liturgical tradition.’ Again, I provided a link to a published critical edition of the Gelasian Sacramentary, available on Internet archive and Google Books, and provided the page number where the Sursum Corda and Canon began, pointing out that this 8th century text is almost exactly the same as that of the 1962 missal. Again, where do you think my comment went?