Sunday, May 03, 2009

Pre-Mass "Ice-Breakers" Revisited

I've posted this before, but after today's Mass, I need to post it again.

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. Great questions and observations but I think the real strength of your argument comes in point #8, "forced gregariousness". Those who are penitant or griefstricken or even simply shy people are made even more outcast by this type of commoraderie during a Mass. No different than during the present-day sign of peace. Unfortunately, I think this too would fall on deaf ears.

  2. I read that some Canadian bishops asked their Dioceses to stop sharing the Chalice due to the Swine Flu outbreak. Funny thing, there was no mention of stopping the ridiculous handshake of the "Meet and Greet' at the beginning of Mass, nor the equally ridiculous handshake at the Sign of Peace.

    It's possible a lot of Novus Ordo Catholics are at risk of getting the Swine Flu.