21 November 2008

Moving Peace? YES!

Pope pondering change to Mass liturgy

VATICAN CITY (AP) — A high-ranking Vatican official says Pope Benedict XVI is considering introducing a change to the Mass liturgy.

Cardinal Francis Arinze, who heads the Vatican office for sacraments, says the pope may move the placement of the sign of peace, where congregation members shake hands or hug.

Arinze told the Vatican newspaper L'Osservatore Romano in an interview published Friday that the pope has asked bishops to express their opinions and will then decide.

Under the change, the sign of peace, which now takes place moments before the reception of communion, would come earlier. Arinze said the change might help create a more solemn atmosphere as the faithful are preparing to receive communion.

Properly done I have no problem with the exchange of peace where it is now. However, the exchange is rarely, if ever, properly done. In my seminary days, we had a Dominican sister who came to the conventual Mass everyday. She took the exchange of peace as an opportunity to make lunch dates, ask for class notes, or just casually visit.

There was a friar--no longer with us--who went away to do his summer Clinical Pastoral Education and came back convinced that we were all body-hating celibates who needed to loosen up. He took the "kiss of peace" quite literally, laying big wet kisses right on the mouths of the nearest friars. Needless to say, he found himself without pew-neighbors very quickly.

Then we have all of the gymnastic contortionists, the Hugger-Back Slappers, the "V" for Peace throwers, and the "Party All the Time" marathon runners who sprint around the Church high-fiving everyone.

All of this jumping around, socializing, chit-chatting is disruptive to the solemnity of that moment in the Mass when we need to be most aware of both our unworthiness to receive the Lord and His grace in making us worthy to do so!

Moving the exchange of peace to either right after the rite of penance or the general intercessions makes the most sense. In the Episcopal Church, Rite II, you have the general intercessions, confession/absolution, and then the peace. The peace concludes the liturgy of the Word.

Expect a great deal of oppositon from "Spirit of Vatican Two" types. They like the peace where it is because by the end of the consecration prayer, folks are starting to get way too serious and way too focused on the Lord in the sacrament. Since they hold that the Lord is primarily (if not only) present in the assembly, they want to break up any potential lingering over the solemnity of communion and forcefully remind us that "community" is what communion is all about--thus, the need for a great deal of noise and motion and distraction right before taking communion. This is also the reason for singing during communion, standing rather than kneeling during and after communion, and rushing head-long into the closing prayer.


  1. The reason we have peace is because Christ has made that possible. I can see the logic for its modern placement as you do, but it's so abused now, it's not funny. I would be tempted to place it, along with the Our Father, after the closing prayer and before the dismissal.

  2. I have come to HATE the sign of peace (not as much as the goofy hand holding at the Our Father) and think it should just not be done.

    But at least if it was moved it would not be so disruptive.

    At this point I will take any little crumb thrown my way....

  3. yes, but as I asked at another blog...which peace is moving?? the greet as neighbors or the greet as friends peace? we have two. (which I have NEVER understood)

    and I must admit, my 5 year old (mildly autistic) son really likes the break just then....course he also pouts if someone forgets to shake his hand....

  4. Anonymous6:38 AM

    As if they would follow it here anyway. Sheesh.
    It is amazing what a little sneezing and coughing can do to help people not get so huggy with you. :0)
    I am glad that they are talking about it but I doubt seriously anyone where we are will consider it seriously when he, the Cardinal, does finally say something. It is long over due, just no one here listening anymore.

  5. The "sign of peace" needs to be suppressed, not moved.

    As you noted, the happy-clappy types don't like being "way too focused on the Lord in the sacrament." People, you can NEVER be "too focused on the Lord in the sacrament."

    I'm starting to not participate in it at my parish. I simply fold my hands in prayer, concentrate on Him, and wait it out. No one has questioned me on this yet. If someone does, I'll tell them.

    At that point of the Mass, when we're SECONDS away from uniting with our Eucharistic Lord, we need NO DISTRACTIONS to our Union with Him.

    And wherever it might be in the Mass, it reinforces the idea that The Mass Is All About Us. That's why it needs to be suppressed, not moved.

  6. I'm no theologian or liturgist (OK, I'm a closet armchair liturgist ... who isn't?), but it seems to me that moving the kiss of peace to before offertory makes not only common sense but biblical sense (cf. Matt 5:23-24).

    Shouldn't one reconcile with his brother before even bringing his offering, instead of right before approaching The Giver and Receiver of his offering?

  7. Anonymous12:10 PM

    i think it should be at the beginning. The very beginning. To greet one another in fellowship and love and remember our obligation to help others...

    So right after the sign of the Cross at the beginning.


  8. Thank God! I've felt for many years that the sign of peace should be outright suppressed in its current form. It's extremely distracting and, I would say, changes the entire perceived meaning of the Mass. It's amazing how a 30 second break in the sacrifice can change that sacrifice into a meet and greet Sunday brunch. To regain the sense of the sacred, either move it or suppress it!

  9. PLEASE, Holy Father, move it!

    I cantor at our diocese's Shrine. It drives me CRAZY that as I start the Agnus Dei, (with the Fracture), the congregation is still chatting away, visiting and making plans for after Mass, then many look at ME like how dare I interrupt them!

  10. My understanding of the Peace is that it is an opportunity to reconcile with one's brother and sister before approaching the sacrament.

    The Eucharist is not only our personal communion with Christ, but also our corporate communion with others locally, and with the church universal.

    The Peace is not a meet and greet. It is an opportunity, and obligation, to make right with your neighbor (quite often your family with whom you attend mass). I believe the current placement makes sense. However, clarification needs to be expressed in the homily.

    The peace (in my protestant church) is done at the very beginning. Which I believe is a mistake because it is not connected with reconciliation whatsoever. It is merely a time to catch up on "how ya been since last week."

    Either as a bridge between the liturgy of the word and liturgy of the Eucharist; or as part of the offering or Eucharist makes sense.

  11. Anonymous9:16 PM

    Thank God for Pope Benedict! I hope the Sign of Peace does get moved! People are usually still socializing well into the Agnus Dei. They probably don't realize how horribly disrespectful they're being... but it's horribly disrespectful any way, and it pains me to see it. :(

  12. Anonymous8:23 AM

    I encourage Father Philip Neri's thinking over this issue. Restore the sense of the sacred at that moment (and every moment) of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. Joel, your thinking makes sense to me, except doesn't it seem highly unlikely that brothers who have fallen out of accord with one another would be sitting in proximity to one another at Mass?

  13. Similar to the Sacrament of Penence, there are some assumptions made at the beginning of Mass. In Confession, it is assumed that you are already sorry for your sins prior to entering the confessional or you would not be there.

    The lack of peace prior to the introductory rites of the Mass is a bit of a problem and the symbolism is lost in most parishes in my opinion. Move it to the beginning with an introduction of bringing ourselves to the Holy Sacrifice without dispute or anger toward one another. A teaching moment!

    I have 23 other hours of the day to hug and shake hands, this hour is for the Lord.

  14. In the Maronite Rite the sign of peace comes immediately after the Offertory. It reminds me of Our Lord's command to leave our offering at the altar, make peace with our neighbour and then make our offering.

  15. Anonymous5:34 PM

    Also, in the Maronite liturgy, the peace comes from the altar, to the priest, to the deacon and then to the people.
    There is a specific gesture; one passes on the peace by putting the hands over your neighbor's joined hands. Very dignified and the symbolism is much more evident than the meet and greet at the typical suburban N.O.