GIRM 82: The Rite of Peace

Few rituals of the reformed liturgy have attracted as much criticism as the Rite of Peace. What does the GIRM have to say about it? Let’s read:

82. There follows the Rite of Peace, by which the Church entreats peace and unity for herself and for the whole human family, and the faithful express to each other their ecclesial communion and mutual charity before communicating in the Sacrament.

As for the actual sign of peace to be given, the manner is to be established by the Conferences of Bishops in accordance with the culture and customs of the peoples. However, it is appropriate that each person, in a sober manner, offer the sign of peace only to those who are nearest.

This last sentence is an addition from the 1975 to 2000 editions. It’s a bit of a curiosity, but I know other Catholics feel differently.

I could envision a lengthier sign of peace would be appropriate in an intentional community–a religious order or a parish with a strong bond–or on a special occasion, such as a retreat or pilgrimage or other spiritual event. It should be enough for the national conference to oversee this, and for the local bishop and pastor (whatever level seems appropriate) to make a determination. That said, I realize that introvert visitors to such a community or at such an event find a lengthy peace to be tedious. One would think the judgment on where to land is well placed with sensitive pastoral leadership.

However the sign of peace is conducted, let’s realize two things. First, it cannot be lawfully omitted from the Mass. And second, clergy and parishioners (supporters and detractors alike) must be better formed as to the reasons for it. And what are those reasons? Look to the first paragraph above. “Peace and unity” for people within the Church and outside of it. A shared expression of both communion and charity. In my thinking sobriety is not quite as important as sincerity. Unfortunately, it might also be true that communities that resist the Peace are probably most in need of it, and those fairly comfortable with it are often living it in the life outside of the Mass.

What do you say?

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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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13 Responses to GIRM 82: The Rite of Peace

  1. Liam says:

    The sign of peace cannot be lawfully omitted – in the sense of the greeting and dialog between presider and congregation. But the invitation for a further gesture being made within the congregation can be lawfully omitted: in the Missal, it is clearly optional. And, given what I am about to say, I can’t say I’d raise a strong objection about the fact of that being optional; I would, however, say that a pastor or presider had better have spent a lot of time in understanding what his community’s consensus about the Pax rite is before proposing making any changes to it (knowing, of course, that most priests would find that a pretty tall order to fulfill).

    My main concern is that we understand that the peace we are signing about here is not peace as the world conventionally understands it – a mere absence of active conflict. It’s not Hallmark greeting card peace. It is a costly peace, a peace born of blood. This is where neither glad-handing nor avoidance hit the mark.

    What kind of sign best conveys the kind of peace we ARE signing about? I have to say that the handshake strikes me as weak. Maybe a Friend (Quaker) or a member of another Peace Church might offer a good suggestion about how to engage in a non-trivializing approach? In my own heart, the image that comes to mind is choosing either someone I’ve hurt or a stranger to behold in mutual contemplation for a pregnant pause and silent prayer. The somewhat hackneyed (but still vital) sentiments of Emily’s soliloquy in Our Town – a call for us to see, to *behold*, the people we are inclined to pass over too quickly – strikes me as part of the first bricks on the road towards peace-making in the image of Christ.

    • Liam says:

      I should clarify what I meant by “pass over” – what I am trying to convey is our tendency to objectify both loved ones and strangers. In the case of people we know well, our library of knowledge will tend over time to create blindspots that obscure the reality that we never fully know the Other – and we have to work hard to remember that they are subjects, not objects. And for strangers, our ignorance does the same, just in mirror inversion.

    • Liam says:

      To drive the point further: the most interesting time in a relationship is the courting phase (which I would apply not only to romantic relationships, but all relationships that develop over time). When our appetite and curiosity is aroused, and our ignorance is an invitation to greater intimacy. It is in this phase, when our cognitive blindspots can be de-activated a bit by our curiosity. If we allow that to happen, it is a rich place to be.

      Peace can be seeded in such a place and perspective.

  2. Todd says:

    Actually, the GIRM’s new (2000) sentence strengthens the notion that there is more to this rite than the priest/deacon invitation and response. I don’t think that some sign that can be delivered to “those who are nearest” can be lawfully omitted.

    I do think this rite would benefit from a serious and far-reaching consultation. Resistance to this, as well as the embellishment in some corners needs to be taken seriously. It might also be that resistance to Peace needs to be examined very seriously–not unlike the resistance to the English MR3.

    It’s the kind of thing that we should be doing instead of crapping around with a crappy translation. Like we’re going to get a serious discernment on liturgy in this climate …

    • Liam says:

      Let me clarify: I was talking about the actual rubric in the Missal, as opposed to the GIRM – the entirety of 128 is made conditioned on it being “appropriate” – that said, there is nothing to keep the people from offering a sign even if the invitation was not vocalized….

      127. The Priest, turned towards the people, extending and then joining his hands, adds:
      The peace of the Lord be with you always.
      The people reply:
      And with your spirit.
      128. Then, *if appropriate,* [emphasis added] the deacon, or the Priest, adds:
      Let us offer each other the sign of peace.
      And all offer one another a sign, in keeping with local customs, that expresses peace,
      communion, and charity. The Priest gives the sign of peace to a deacon or minister.

      • jonoshea1 says:

        The Latin in the text you just cited (pro opportunitate) is the same phrase as that used for incensing the altar (i.e., it’s done when it is suitable). The phrase is also translated identically in the rubrics of the new translation. It’s interesting to me how strongly the Order of Mass indicates this action is optional, while every indication in the GIRM at the very least implies that it isn’t. You’d think they would have worked out this kink one way or the other when the third Latin edition was published.

  3. Todd says:

    I checked the Order of Mass this morning in the new Roman Missal. I don’t see the option at all. Some sign is exchanged. It doesn’t have to be a smooch, a hug, or a handshake. It can be as hands-off as need be. But lawfully, it cannot be omitted.

    I have to wonder about what it means that so many otherwise well-meaning believers strain to justify their avoidance of this rite, or look deeply to see something that’s just not there. That so many want to avoid it: maybe they need it more than anyone else.

    • Liam says:

      That’s most interesting: I wonder if this was a “correction” from the “final” version? I don’t have access to a sacristy, and hand missal editions have been hard to get (dioceses have been snapping them up to give their priests, and print runs have been running out) so I don’t have one yet, and I am relying on published versions of what was approved.

  4. Jimmy Mac says:

    Google translate simply says: for opportunities.

    • Liam says:

      Can’t tell if you were joking or serious, but in case of the latter: I am trying to figure out what text Todd has in the missal proper that he is referring to; one of the problems is that there are so many versions floating around. Given Jonoshea’s comment, I suspect my issue remains unresolved.

  5. Pingback: Our Avoidance of Peace « Catholic Sensibility

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