“I’m not sure I’m ever going to be able to give the sign of peace again.”



I had another conversation with my seminarian buddy… (I’m in black, he’s in red):

“I’m going to mass just now for what seems like the first time. Well, it is the first time since I actually became aware of where I am and what is happening on the altar. Actually I’m terrified. Say a little prayer for me! And thank you for opening my eyes to the fact that I am the ACTUAL crucifixion and the ACTUAL resurrection – not just a re-enactment of the last supper.

I was praying for you throughout Mass today. So…I’m dying to ask…how was your experience of Mass today then now that you know what’s really going on?!

Mass today… Just like we discussed, I put myself at the foot of the cross with mother Mary, Mary Magdalene and John. But I kept having to get up, sit down, get up, kneel down, get up….. And I kept having to respond to the priest which was interrupting my concentration.

I felt Jesus very clearly during the consecration enter my heart, and I was not afraid of being at the foot of the cross with the others – His Mother etc. and also my parents and the rest of the congregation. I understand now that there is no separation between the church militant and the church triumphant during Mass. None at all.

NONE at all! You’re absolutely right. Someone commented on the book of Revelation on your blog post – absolutely correct, the Lamb is adored for ever in the heavenly liturgy as one standing as if slain. This is WONDERFUL news Clare. Wonderful news. I would say, also, that the ‘having to respond’ thing is a frequent comment of those who go a bit deeper into the spirituality of the Mass – responding is somehow ‘inclusive’ on one level, but on another, it misses the point. I don’t think responding means you are participating more fully – in many cases, you participate less fully by responding because you don’t get the chance to pray.

…And then, as we were all standing there at the foot of the cross, contemplating this intimate declaration of love between God and mankind, alongside Christ’s grieving mother, someone taped me on the shoulder and with a big grin wanted to shake my hand!


It was totally out of place. I dropped to my knees instead. I’m not sure I’m ever going to be able to give the sign of peace again.

The way I look at it is this – I’d really rather not, but that’s because my understanding of the Mass is very different from those for whom the sign of peace is more significant. I suppose, I tend to do it on auto-pilot and I don’t move from the spot I’m in unless it would cause misunderstanding.

If you believe the Mass is a re-enactment of the last supper the sign of peace is great! It totally fits into place with what the disciples would have been doing – chatting and socialising round the dinner table. Before today I was a hugger and a kisser at the sign of peace! But now I cannot think of a more inappropriate gesture at that’d point in the Mass. What it achieves is to take ones attention away from the foot of the cross and instead directs it at each other. It’s nothing short of diabolical. At the most intimate part of the Mass – seconds before we receive the risen Jesus in holy Eucharist, the focus switches onto MAN. Surely it makes much more sense to have it at the beginning of Mass – the natural time to greet each other.

Seriously – if you are standing at the foot of the cross, would it be appropriate to smile and offer mother Mary a hand shake?!? When did people start doing this anyway? Who’s crazy idea was it? Whoever put this in place either did not understand what is happening at mass, or they deliberately wanted to move the focus away from Christ.

I don’t know where handshaking comes from. In the Roman Rite, the Kiss of Peace was done in two ways – at Solemn Masses between the clergy, in hierarchical order and soberly, whilst amongst the people a white disc called the ‘Pax Brede’ was passed around for each individual to kiss and hand on – they did not greet each other and certainly did not shake hands.

I’m going to have to look into this…”

21 thoughts on ““I’m not sure I’m ever going to be able to give the sign of peace again.”

  1. When the modern sign of peace was first introduced in the 1960s in my (English) parish we air-kissed the person on either side of us. I left the Church for a long time and by the time I came back discovered that it had turned into a handshaking scrum, which I have always felt, as you now do, to be unsuitably human-centred. The Church of England has a better way of doing it, after the intercessory prayers, just before the offertory, although the racing round the church and hugging is even worse.

    I just do it, because not to seems unfriendly or worse, but I confine it firmly to one or two people in my or the next pew and I refuse it if the priest has begun the ‘Agnus Dei’. We have the Vatican’s authority for restricting it in this way and frankly it’s the fault of priests that it’s been allowed to get out of hand.Just occasionally I find myself at a Mass where the priest doesn’t invite it (as he is entitled to do)- this would usually be if a dozen people are scattered over a large church- and even so people will defiantly go and do it. I think it appeals to those many Catholics who think the Mass is about ‘us’ and who have forgotten, if they ever knew, about the Sacrifice of the Mass.

    Good luck with the catechesis!

  2. I think you’re going to have to offer it up. You can’t turn your back on your fellow Catholics just before Communion without becoming a centre of attention for at best doing something very odd or at worst being thought to be too holy to do what everybody does. It’s like being expected to sing as you go to Communion (at least you’re allowed to give thanks in silence subsequently): like it or not, these are the rules, and those best placed to change the rules are those who observe the ones they don’t like.

  3. I agree that walking around hugging and greeting is inappropriate at that time in the mass. Others can come to that same conclusion if we lead by example, limiting our exchange of peace to those closest to us. I have a great deal of trouble sometimes, maintaining a peaceful and prayerful repetition of “I am not worthy to receive you Lord” as I advance to communion, but I am gradually becoming more and more open to the grace of God in the Eucharist, because I am at peace with everyone around me.

    That isn’t to say that the sign of peace was required in order to achieve brotherly love, but I have to agree with Ttony, that we need to humbly follow what is expected, to the degree that the Church has allowed, so that we don’t draw attention to ourselves.

    We also need to be patient with those whose formation is in the early stages, being witnesses of what is appropriate, by example.

    I often offer the sign of peace after mass, and have stopped walking around to offer peace. A priest in our parish had started walking around for this, but since he isn’t there any more, this practice is slowly disappearing.

    Because you have posted this, I will more confidently urge my fellow disciples to stop walking around; to really consider that we are surrounded by the Church Triumphant, and that there is time after mass for fellowship.

    Others will follow suit in time.

  4. Come to the Maronite Liturgy, “The sign of peace is also different from the Latin Rite. The priest kisses the alter, places his hands on the chalice, then passes God’s peace to the deacon, who then gives it to the acolyte, who passes it to the first person in the pews, who passes it to the next person, an so on. Very rich indeed!”
    I’m sharing this with you so that you will know that the priest extends our Father’s blessing from the altar not us to and from our neighbors. We truly enter this mystery together.

  5. Just wait until you are more deeply into this realization of where you are which will come. Then you’ll wonder about a lot of the trite stuff going on and people not realizing where they are and ask how this happened. But you’re in a really good place and Mass will never be the same again, at least that’s what has happened to me. Also, Marek Selim is right about trying the Latin Mass for the sign of peace stuff but also for knowing that you are at the foot of the Cross. If you care to read my recent post about this, the link is here: https://exmagnasilentium.wordpress.com/2015/01/09/who-applauds-at-the-crucifixion/

  6. If I ever have to attend the Novus Order Mass I stay on my knees and refuse to be distracted by the hugger and the high fivers.i am blessed that we have the Latin Mass freely available in Adelaide South Australia.

  7. Pingback: "I'm not sure I'm ever going to be able to give the sign of peace again." | Christians Anonymous

  8. After nine years of study and consultation, the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Sacraments has told Latin-rite bishops around the world that the sign of peace will stay where it is in the Mass.

    However, the congregation said, “if it is foreseen that it will not take place properly,” it can be omitted. But when it is used, it must be done with dignity and awareness that it is not a liturgical form of “good morning,” but a witness to the Christian belief that true peace is a gift of Christ’s death and resurrection.
    It asked bishops to study whether it might be time to find “more appropriate gestures” to replace a sign of peace using “familiar and profane gestures of greeting.”

    And, it said, they should do everything possible to end “abuses” such as:

    — “The introduction of a ‘song for peace,’ which is nonexistent in the Roman rite.”

    — “The movement of the faithful from their places to exchange the sign of peace amongst themselves.”

    — “The departure of the priest from the altar in order to give the sign of peace to some of the faithful.”

    — People using the sign of peace at Christmas, Easter, baptisms, weddings, ordinations and funerals to offer holiday greetings, congratulations or condolences.

    “Christ is our peace, the divine peace, announced by the prophets and by the angels, and which he brought to the world by means of his paschal mystery,” the letter said. “This peace of the risen Lord is invoked, preached and spread in the celebration (of Mass), even by means of a human gesture lifted up to the realm of the sacred.”

    In our Parish, the pastor has asked us to give each other a “holy wave,” this way there is no kissing and hugging and everyone stays in their place. It works!

    • The practise itself is an abuse. Why would we be pressing flesh at the foot of the cross while Our Blessed Lord chills on the altar? It is really an absurd and awkward practise. One of many reasons I attend the Latin Mass.

  9. Thank the good Lord that I have the Traditional Latin Mass that I attend twice a week and the rest of the week I attend the most reverent N.O. Mass that I have found in my area. At the sign of peace, I acknowledge one or two people and return my eyes to the altar where they belong.

  10. I feel very bad for all of you folks who’ve never had the opportunity to be present at a Novus Ordo Mass that was celebrated without music, without the Sign of Peace, but with great prayerfulness & reverence! Wow! The congregation is prayerful & quiet & reverent. But, we can understand all the prayers, readings, etc. because they’re in English. No unnecessary dancing around like at the Tridentine Mass where the servers are forever moving, changing the placement of books, etc. All attention at these Masses is on Our Lord. The priest stands ad orientem, with his back to us. I’ve tried the Tridentine Mass, but for personal reasons, cannot handle the Latin. Too many very bad memories from childhood. But, please remember that not every Novus Ordo Mass is irreverent. There are very faithful, humble, prayerful Catholics who attend NO Masses, too. Just because the Mass is in Latin doesn’t mean it’s valid, as some old priests used to tell us. There were many liturgical abuses back then too. Maybe more because the people in the pew didn’t have a clue what was being said at the altar!

  11. I think there is another way to look at this, more akin to what Alcide Bouchard wrote. Namely, that the sign of peace is there for us to “make peace with [our] brother before approaching the altar.” I don’t see this as at all distracting from the Mass. Remember that the Mass isn’t only the Crucifixion; it is the entire Paschal Mystery. By the time the priest says Christ’s words, “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give to you” we are on the evening of Easter Sunday. At that point, it is entirely appropriate to share the charity and peace of the resurrection with your neighbor.

  12. First I would like to say that I have read a few of your posts and enjoyed your perspective. What I appreciate most really appreciate most is your honesty because that authenticity is beautiful.

    Secondly in your post you argue “would you offer your hand to Mother Mary and smile whilst her son is on the cross?” My question is why wouldn’t you? If Mary is an excellent path towards Christ #totustuus and this is right before the consumption of the Eucharist (God himself), and she is totally human, and it pleases God to respect his mother, AND the mass is not just about you but also everyone in the congregation, AND all the communion of saints in heaven, wouldn’t you want to embrace and share the peace Christ gives you? Sorry for the irresponsibility of that run on sentence question hybrid proposition. In another post about your dream and bad cheese, which I thoroughly enjoyed, you noticed that people are not bringing anything to God anymore when they go to Church. If we are made in the image and likeness of God, would we not want to give whatever we can to our fellow man/woman/child/dude who has an unreasonably sweaty hand? We never approach the Eucharist alone, it is simply impossible. A super solid solution is silent adoration. I think what it does is it acknowledges our humanity because we are note only spiritual beings, affirms our psychology, reaches out to those on the fringes, and can also be seen as John comforting Mary because lets be honest I’m sure he was thinking holy crap I need to do something, the very least I can do is console her.

    If we are looking at “best practice” which is honestly a term I hate but thats a different story, this means when you offer someone peace, look them in the eye and let them know from the bottom of your heart that you wish them the peace of Christ, even if they are “irreverent” and doing a fist bump or something instead of shirking them of to return to your prayer. If you never want to be interrupted during mass then sounds like a monastic religious vocation to me WHICH IS TOTALLY AWESOME TOO!

    I want you to know that I am simply responding and I hope I was not rude in any way. This topic interested me so I thought I would attempt respectfully joining the conversation.


    • Well, I am becoming a secular Carmelite, and Carmelites were originally hermits! So I guess that explains a lot! Ha!

    • I like the perspective of consoling Mary, even now, as her sorrow for souls is still intense. She is agonizing over those who are continually rejecting our Lord’s sacrifice, mercy, love and peace. I also like your reminder of those “on the fringes” around us. We so often assume that those who are at mass have a relationship with Christ, and because of that relationship, they are focussed on Him, when in fact they often are observing us to see if they can find authenticity in us. Chances are that they don’t have any concept of
      how awesome the Eucharist is.
      I have brought others to Jesus (by lovingly speaking the truth) and I have turned them away from Him with displays of self-righteousness or over-zealous, uncalled-for rants about the truth. I have yet to regret extending peace in a loving way to those who don’t yet understand that we are surrounded by heavenly beings at mass. I guess I believe that not only is Jesus distributing communion at mass, but He is also consoling those who are grieving, befriending the lonely, restoring the outcast, offering mercy to the repentant sinner, and reassuring those who are close to despair. He does all this around us and through us if we let Him.

      Irreverent attitudes toward the Eucharist and the Mass do concern me, but
      I regret that at times I have failed to love, because instead of tending to someone’s wounds, I was pointing out their faults.

      These are just reflections with reguard to my own observations and experiences. I lean toward reverence, but the Lord is showing me that our call to love is like walking a tightrope; we must adapt to various circumstances. There are times to extend mercy and there are times to correct in a loving way. Just like Jesus said, we can do nothing without Him.

  13. Pingback: Faith In Our Families blog round-up 2015. Best year yet! | Faith in our Families

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