Garnered some years back while blogging on the sign of peace question.
Begin with Bob K.:
Sometimes it is good for Christians to reach out . . . and communicate with each other. The MASS is as good a time as any and better than most to do so.
It is when we GATHER TOGETHER to worship and celebrate the Transubstantiation and our gathering of power from the spirit . . . .
If we can’t talk to each other (whom we see and know and who are standing right next to us), how can we talk to the Lord (Whom we . . . have not seen or cannot see) or to the world (whom we are to evangelize)?
At that time of [mass], I make it a point to talk to those near me — the wheel chair kid, the three African-Americans who always sit in the last pew, being shy [in] an all-white congregation, older women I know who are widows, and some teenagers who rarely come — in each case to make them feel welcome.
The logical moment to greet each other is when entering one’s favorite pew and finding another “regular” there, or if I’m there and the regular comes in after me.
That’s when I greet folks, but I don’t shake their hand because it’s not a natural gesture in that spot — the person kneeling or sitting, or walking in to sit or pray.
To the regular lady in the pew in front of me, I kneel and whisper in her ear as she sits in the pew. I find out how she’s feeling because I know she has a heart problem. She tells me a few of her aches and complaints, including about her husband in the pew with her, who she says doesn’t show her any compassion.
I wave hi across a section of pews to friends as they come in. That’s normal “greeting” and wishing-well time.
Why can’t a bunch of bishops realize shaking hands in the middle of mass after being cheek to jowl with everyone for 25 minutes is not natural? What do you think a survey in church would disclose about hand-shaking?
My physician daughter shrugs aside the germ question, saying, “Just remember to wash your hands as soon as you get home.”
But what about passing a neighbor’s germs on to another? Saying, “I’m sorry but I’ve got a bad cold,” and pointing to your throat will work once in a while, but every Sunday?
How about wearing a sign that says, “UNCLEAN” or “UNSOCIABLE”?
The problem’s not too bad in parishes that haven’t been brain-washed too long by a liberal pastor. But for parishes that have been, the only solution is: Avoid them. I’ve been in some that had enough empty pews to allow enthusiasts to kiss-hug-shake everybody in reach, then scramble church-wide for more fellow enthusiasts or victims. It usually took up to five minutes before the church settled down.
The worst are churches where everybody is expected to hold hands and daisy-chain across aisles, etc., during the WHOLE Our Father. As someone who had to attend one too many rallies during the sixties where we had to pretend we were all one downtrodden race, hold hands, sway in rhythm and sing “We shall overcome,” I have a strong aversion to this.
Looking straight ahead and holding on to the pew with a death grip doesn’t always work. I’ve had a bright young thing give me a sharp rap in the ribs to let me know this kind of thing isn’t tolerated.
Give me the celebrant who knows the whole greeting of peace is optional and skips it, Save me from the celebrant who, contrary to Vatican directions, leaves the altar and parades down the middle aisle, handshaking both ways. [Bob was right on both counts.]
I’m not hard line on this, though, Why don’t ushers just greet Mass-goers and ask, “Kissing or non-kissing?” and wave us to the appropriate pew?
At last, Nancy:
I enjoyed your writing about “shake time.” In many non-Catholic churches, “prayers and concerns of the people” is an integral part of a church service. Parishioner participation in the issuing of those concerns sometimes becomes quite senseless (and long-winded), especially when issues are brought up that are out of the realm of the purpose for prayer.
Thus spoke the people. A few of them anyhow.