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.