Wednesday, July 23, 2008

About Pre-Mass "Ice-Breakers"

About the widespread practice of making everybody shake hands and greet each other at the beginning of Mass, a few questions:

1. Is this practice prescribed in the General Instruction of the Roman Missal?

2. Is this a practice of long, uninterrupted standing such that it properly qualifies as tradition? If not, what has changed that makes it impossible for us to continue to do without it?

3. Can it be proven that this practice prevailed during the earliest days of the Church? If so, do the reasons for it that existed then still exist in the present day? If such reasons do not presently exist -- and assuming it really was an ancient practice of the early Church -- what justifies its revival?

4. Does this practice accomplish some purpose or fulfill some need that is not accomplished by the liturgy as presently constituted? If so, what is this purpose or need, and, if it is a genuine necessity, in what way does the liturgy fail to fulfill it?

5. Where this practice prevails, is it mandated by persons who have canonical authority to make changes to the liturgy?

6. Is this practice more or less likely to foster a spirit of reverence and recollection inside the church?

7. What are the assumptions about relations among parishioners that underlie the introduction of this practice, and upon what evidence are such assumptions based? Is there any evidence to support the proposition that making people engage in mutual intimacies will necessarily cause them to form friendships? If there is, what case can be made for introducing this practice to the liturgy, when there are other venues readily available and appropriate for fellowship?

8. Will this practice tend to alleviate the burdens of the introverted, the grief-stricken, and the penitent, or will it tend to add to them? Are the extroverts who tend to advocate this practice specially equipped to understand the violence that forced gregariousness does to the sensitive, retiring soul, or the soul drowning in sorrow? What effect might this practice have on the weak soul who, like the penitent tax collector in the parable, comes to Mass to try, humbly and anonymously, to make his peace with God? What interests outweigh these considerations, and why?

9. Does this practice tend to focus the attention of parishioners upon the worship of God, or does it tend to focus it elsewhere?

10. Does this practice tend to contribute to, or to detract from, the Catholic understanding of the Mass as the actual sacrifice of Calvary, represented on the altar in an unbloody manner? Does this practice tend to increase or decrease our awareness of the fact that at Mass, we are literally at the foot of the Cross?

Just something to think about.


  1. Don't know how widespread the practice is since I have never encountered it or really seen it talked about much in St. Blogs. Could be more of a local thing for now. Though that it how most bad practices start.

    The GIRM of course says nothing about it, but Italian law like how the GIRM is based says what is to be done, not what can't be done.

    There is no tradition to this. Even if it was a practice in the earlier days of the Church - which it isn't - that does not mean it would be allowed. For example here is an early tradition "If any brother, man or women, comes in from another parish, let the deacon inquire as to whether they are married or widowed, a child of the Church or a heretic. Then he may lead them to be seated in the proper place."

    If the practice happens before the Mass starts then it is just something allowed in a prudential manner. There would be no instruction pacifically against it. It is certainly not a rubric for Mass.

    It is all part of the false community that so many liturgists try to invent so that the liturgy is all about us instead of worshiping God. In most parishes this phony act of community occurs during the Sign of Peace in what has become quite exaggerated.

    These type of practices reduce the prayerfulness of mass and are an artificial interuption into it.

  2. Your questions are essentially answers. Can I officially declare you "The Terror of Modernists"?

  3. I can do without them.

    One parish I attended introduced everyone serving at the Mass, and then the cantor said something like, "The other ministers of this Mass are all of you. Take a moment to introduce yourselves."

    How "Spirit of Vatican II" can you get?

  4. If I ever need a lawyer, are you available? Great opening arguments!(pun intended)

  5. I hate the love fest that is the meet and greet before Mass at liberal parish