Peace, BCDW, and other Liturgical Finickisms

Rock reported last night on one of the truly profound issues of our times. Apparently, lots of liturgical prelates and committees had been quizzed on this by folks disturbed at the thought that omitting the Sign of Peace might actually be–horrors!–a liturgical abuse.

And, elsewhere, the committee clarifies the place of the Kiss of Peace at Mass, apparently having received “received numerous questions concerning [its] omission” by priest-celebrants in the US.

“The Order of Mass makes clear that the invitation to exchange a sign of peace is given ‘if the occasion so suggests’ (ex opportunitate),” the response says. “The Priest may, for example, omit the sign of peace when an exchange of a sign of peace would be difficult in the light of the physical condition or arrangement of those present, or if it would present a health danger.”

At the same time, the clarification emphasizes that “the sign of peace should never be omitted due to the personal preferences of the Priest,” citing the General Instruction of the Roman Missal’s exhortation that “in planning the celebration of Mass, [the celebrant] should have in mind the common spiritual good of the people of God, rather than his own inclinations.”

This strikes me as sensible in the best of the Roman way. The physical sign of peace is omitted if it’s a serious bother for the people. The finicky priest is to put up with it.

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Todd and his family live in Ames, Iowa. He serves a Catholic parish of both Iowa State students and town residents.
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9 Responses to Peace, BCDW, and other Liturgical Finickisms

  1. Liam says:

    I am all in favor of clarifying when the finickiness of a celebrant should give way to liturgical norms. Too many lone rangers in the past, and we don’t need more of them from another direction.

  2. Gavin says:

    “or if it would present a health danger.”

    I REALLY wish people would think about their germs before grabbing someone else’s hand or shaking hands with someone else. I’ve had to lecture my choir countless times that if they are ill to just say so at the peace or Pater Noster. I’ve been to one church where they actually skip the sharing of the peace during cold/flu season. What a novel idea!

  3. Anne says:

    Gavin, this kind of thinking confuses me.
    Why is it so important to be extra careful of germs when at church than it is in other situations? We don’t know who or what germs could be on the money we exchange, on the trains , plains, taxi cabs we ride on etc. When introduced to someone in a social sitituation do you refuse to offer your hand because it’s the flu season? I’m not saying that it’s impossible to catch something at the sign of peace or from the cup, I just think this is just not the problem that it’s made out to be. How do we know if the hands of the priest or EM’s are as clean as they ought to be? Maybe we should do away with both forms during the cold/flu season and everyone could make a spiritual communion!!….???

  4. Gavin says:

    If I meet someone new, and I am sick, I will tell them such and not shake their hand. Look at how bad an epidemic can get on, say, a cruise ship. In church people can (depending on the parish) get packed in pretty good, more so in my choir, so it’s not unreasonable to think that people can wind up spreading disease from excessive physical contact. The key word is excessive. Naturally, the priest has to touch the communion to distribute it. But why bother risking contamination through things like handshakes and hand-holding (particularly that one)? The sign of peace is an important liturgical action, but does it mean that someone is not in communion if they simply nod at someone instead of a handshake, hug, and gossip? Anyway, the priest DOES wash his hands prior to communion (I hope). I don’t know the medical details for if this helps, and I would assume that many priests may wash their hands with soap & water before Mass. Actually, there isn’t much inter-personal touching in the Mass (I hope). There’s the peace, the Pater if people hold hands… and not much else that I can think of.

    Perhaps the cup shouldn’t be distributed during cold season! This is a perfectly logical idea! If you share a cup with someone in any other situation, what do you say first? “Don’t worry, I’m not sick.” Often we KNOW people are ill and yet we continue sharing the cup. And as for Extraordinary Ministers, they probably should NOT perform their duties if they are ill. I know it would terribly inconvenience people to have Mass last longer than the precious 55 minutes, but I should hope being spared from disease would be worth it.

    All I’m saying is that if I’m ill, I make a point to avoid spreading illness to others. Is it so much for a parish to try to do the same?

  5. Liam says:

    Btw, people with respiratory illness should not be singing. Period. A good choir director makes that abundantly clear to his or her singers.

    And people who are vulnerable to easily spread illness can validly restrict/limit their attendance at Divine Liturgy during times when risks are high. No need to be scrupulous on that point.

  6. Brendan Kelleher svd says:

    To one and all who write, comment on liturgical topics – read the General Instruction, carefully, and with the aid of a responsible commentary. Also read the ‘rubrics’ which are not aways in coherence with the General Instruction.
    Sometimes I wonder if people in the USA, or other English speaking countries, who write in about all these possibly genuine, but oftimes perceived liturgical abuses ever take time during the Eucharist to listen to the Word of God or to actually pray; and don’t tell me they are so distracted by all the abuses that they are too distracted to pray
    I have a senior colleague here in Japan, he’s been here nearly fifty years, who regularly applies what he calls “Mission Rubrics”; never seen them in print, but he just smiles and says he was told he could use them many years ago when he was first ordained.
    Here we apply commonsense, so if you are celebrating a Funeral Mass or a “School” Mass, particularly in the latter case where you can have upwards of 1300 to 1400 present, with only a handful of Christians scattered among them, you know from experience that attempting any form of a ‘Kiss of Peace’ won’t work, so you move on to the rest of the Eucharist. I will desist from mentioning some of the adaptations I have learnt from senior colleagues during my own thirty some years here.
    And pass the word to the Generation X priests, whom Andrew Greeley calls the “Young Fogeys”, they would probably never fit in or survive on the “foreign” missions. We can manage quite well without you.

  7. Fr. Tom (Gen X) says:

    Wow, I am amazed. “We can manage quite well without you”? I can offer nothing but thanks for your service to the Church and to God’s people in the missions… that is a charism which I would find quite challenging. (Not that it’s a bed of roses over here, either.) But with that kind of dissrespect to your brother priests, I sure am glad I’m not in your order.

  8. John Heavrin says:

    Well said, Fr. Tom.

    On the vigil of Thanksgiving, I offer my deepest gratitude to you and to all men, of whatever location or “generation,” who daily take up the cross of the priesthood.

  9. Brendan Kelleher SVD says:

    Whoops, I’ve offended a Generation X priest. As an occasional surfer of some of the blogs written by younger priests I have been struck by the presumptiousness and pretentiousness of what I have read there.
    Witness and ministry to the Word, to the Good News is not helped by blog writers who seem to imply that they have a better grasp of the Gospel than the generations of priests from before and after Vat.II, so negating not just some excesses that occured but also much good that was done. Since liturgical adaptation, (omitting the Kiss of Peace when deemed inappropriate), let me just remark that, for the many hundreds of Japanese Catholics I have known over the years, including many older than myself, a liturgy in the vernacular has finally allowed them to participate in the liturgy and pray during it with understanding. Also liturgical celebrations in the vernacular speak directly to the non-Christians who often attend weddings and funerals, and have been the occasion for some to want to know more about the Christian faith. In time the Church will be enriched by newer liturgies that are not Latin, Roman, or European centered, but we will probably have to wait for a few more generations for that to happen, such is the way the pendulum seems to be swinging in the West. It will require a crossing over, an opening to other possible cultural expressions of the Gospel that don’t sense in the writings of Generation X priest. No disrespect, just an honest reflection based on experience.

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