Glad-handing in the middle of Mass, #3: Catholics being Christians — glad-handing pro and con but mostly con

In response to #1 and #2 of this brief series, faithful readers chimed in, March of ought-six.

Bob K., with a brighter view:

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 teen-agers who rarely come — in each case to make them feel welcome.

It’s hard to argue with that, though we must cringe at his saying we “celebrate the Transubstantiation.” Priest celebrates the mass, not we.

Reader D. didn’t argue with his making people feel welcome, but offered a corrective.

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.

D. has more:

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?

But most seem to like it. Depends on the congregation, but it’s borne out by the sometimes rampant enthusiasm here recorded. And yet not so or not clearly so, as many seem relieved to have only to return a small smile with head nod.

Bob O., a veteran newsman and thus prone to skepticism and colorful expression, mixes irony and stand-offism with his commentary, beginning with “the germ question.”

My physician daughter shrugs [it] aside, 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”?

Depends where you go for mass, he said.

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.

Depends too on the priest.

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.

He has a solution:

I’m not hardline on this, though, Why don’t ushers just greet Mass-goers and ask, “Kissing or non-kissing?” and wave us to the appropriate pew?

A good use of ushers and usherettes!

Vernacular: the cause that won hands-down

More serious than glad-handing in the post-council reform (and more successful) was the all-church changeover from Latin to, in our part of the world, English. The centralized planning and execution here was enough to make a statist weep with envy.

The world over, Catholics got used to mass in everyday language. It became part of the worldwide social engineering taking place — change by design, not by natural influences, not organically, as explained and favored by then-Cardinal Ratzinger.

Vatican II celebrated the freedom of the children of God, but it did not work that way when it came to liturgy. Latin, declared by Pope John XXII on the eve of the council as a very good thing and by the council itself as “to be preserved” had to go. Latin went. Rebels were marginalized. Only decades later did Latin return with church authority’s blessing.

So it went, change dictated from above for our own good by people who knew what was best for us. My friend M., in his last year before ordination as a holy Jesuit, complained. He had enough trouble believing in the mass in Latin, he said. Now (in the mid-1960s, he spoke) the mystery would be severely lessened. He was not happy.

M.’s problems would sound strange to those of today who see in the mass essentially a church-sponsored, Scripture-referenced celebration of unity with each other. M. had to believe in transubstantiation. Who now uses the word? For him in the mid-60’s the bread and wine became the body and blood of Jesus in substance, while accidents (of breadness, etc.) remained.

The priest held the host (unleavened bread) and believed he held the body of Christ. Some few could hardly do it and would stutter at the “words of consecration,” barely able to say them, making painfully sure they got them right.

After Vatican II a whole new mass developed. This liturgy of the future, vernacularized, would be as much communicating with people as with God. The priest would face them, look at them, saying the sacred words. He would be a presenter, a presider (horrible word). The mass would be more pew-sitter-friendly.

My friend saw the mystery dissolving away, and with it his belief. This happened. Mass is now something in which we celebrate unity with each other. As for the mystical and mysterious, that’s a happy memory, fast fading from Catholic consciousness.

Glad-handing in the middle of Mass: Father John tries to put not-so-glad-handers at ease

A “Catholic New World” reader put it to Question Corner priest Rev. John Dietzen, in December of ought-five:

I’ve had my arthritic fingers crushed. I’ve had parishioners blow their nose and then offer their hand to me. . . . I’m tempted to isolate myself in back [of church]. . . . [T]his . . . scenario is unnecessary and superfluous.

Neither is it required, but more about that later.

Father John, calling up an an old liturgical reformer’s argument, says this scenario is not new. They did it this way in the middle ages and, yes, in New Testament times. Late middle ages, the “kiss of peace” was for priests only, but now (for, say, 40 years?) it’s “prescribed.” (Not clear about that, but more later.)

A “sign of peace” is currently called for. There are “deep roots” here, Fr. J. continued. Handshake, embrace, or kiss may not be “the perfect” sign of peace, but it can still carry a message we need to understand if we are to celebrate the Eucharist together as Christ intended.”

Which implies, of course, one worries, that before 40 years ago we were not celebrating the Eucharist as Christ intended? For 20 centuries? Say it isn’t so, Father.

“Arthritis got you down?” he asks. Just look at the mass-goer next to you and without extending your hand say, ‘Peace be with you.’ “No one will be offended,” he adds. But it’s not that easy.

Handshake declined, in the manner of the germ-phobic TV detective Adrian Monk — who often has some quick explaining to do, as to the black man who did take offense — “you will be sharing a moment of the Mass that can be most prayerful and precious.”

Ah. When had been the last time Father John attended a mass in a pew?

As for “prayerful and precious,” how about the codger, arthritic or not, who has found the peace of Christ all by himself — or thinks he has — including a resolve to be nicer to people, and has to shatter it with a forced smile and nod not just to those on either side of him but to many others, some of them reaching over several pews to get to him?

A problem to stump Question Corners throughout the land.

Glad-handing in the middle of Mass, first of a series

Reader: “I am most put off by glad-handing. The other day I shook hands with the same woman twice. The ushers even shake hands of those with aisle seats during the Agnus Dei.”

Sometimes feverishly. People wave all over the church, seeking waves back, like a Facebooker looking for likes.

Great for ball games and other sports, but possibly eliminating or weakening any spirit of devotion that one has even momentarily been blessed with.

Shake rattle and roll? Hardly.

Shake hands with all your neighbors, and kiss the colleens all, as in the Donegal song? No.

Shake with fear for the judgment to come, you unrepentant sinner? No.


It happens at mass after the Our Father, during which you may have held hands in a show of solidarity against Satan or watched others do so.

It’s SHAKE TIME, a solidarity-gesturing to beat all — or maybe a violating of sacred silence by turning to another, hand out, extorting response or being extorted.

My friend Jake (not his real name) intends to bring his cell phone with him and threaten to call 9-1-1 the next time he is approached while trying in his clumsy, antedated way to commune with the Almighty.

I am working to dissuade him.