The Barely Perceptible Nod Of Peace

The old joke about the difference between a liturgist and a terrorist can be just as true for "our" liturgists as "theirs." I once worked for a man who hated the kiss of peace at Mass so much he'd kneel down in an angry huff resolutely refusing to make eye contact with anyone instead. Which only convinced leftish folk he was in dire need of a group hug, I think. However good his intentions, it just wasn't a good tactic.

I never had a strong opinion about it until I had kids. With them in tow, you learn how disruptive the kiss of peace is where it is. The most solemn moment of the liturgy --when the Lord of heaven and earth has made himself present to us body, soul and divinity-- is suddenly interrupted with handshakes all around.

Our pastor, who is no liturgist but has profound eucharistic devotion, always skips the kiss of peace during masses for the school kids. One day I was at the back of the Church, behind several classes of kids, for the noon mass. Father forgot to skip the kiss of peace and the ruckus that ensued was instructive. The reigning silence and good behavior evaporated into a din of google eyes, silly handshakes and whispered smart remarks from which the young congregants never fully recovered.

When Mass was over he had the kids sit back down and gave them a gently worded but stern talking-to, explaining why he usually skips the kiss of peace for them and insisting, "In this house, the Lord is going to be honored and praised."

All of that is probably a long and unnecessary prologue to the reminder that B16 last year asked for bishops to think about moving the kiss of peace to a more appropriate point in the liturgy, and Cardinal Arinze, Prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship, returned to the matter in an interview Friday. All of which leads Patrick Archbold to offer his suggestions where to place it:
  • Ten minutes before mass.
  • (Kiss of peace) Right before you tell your brother Fredo that you know it was him.
  • Ten minutes after mass.
  • Since those who foisted this on us always make the point that this was an ancient practice, I say we do it it right after we find and slaughter an unblemished red heifer.
  • On Good Friday right after the ol' school prayer for the Jews.
  • Let's not and say we did.
However, if we are going to keep it, why not make it more relevant, you know, for the kids.
  • Chest bump of peace
  • Slap on the butt of peace. The altar boys could ... um ... never mind on this one.
  • The jive handshake of peace.
Actually, my preference is that the SOP is moved to before the offertory and is changed into the barely perceptible nod of peace. That way, at weekday mass, I will no longer have to sit in a pew with a minimum 5 empty pews between me and another human to insure that nobody gets any funny ideas. At five pews distance, you typically get the nod or the muted wave of peace. That is more like it. However, if somebody looks overly friendly, I increase the minimum safe distance to 8 pews and try to sit in their blind spot or behind a column if available. No sense taking chances.

Ideally, would should return to the even more ancient and venerable practice of leave me alone.
He sounds remarkably like my old boss! To me it seems obvious that the kiss of peace should be part of the introductory rite. Christ said to make peace with your brother before approaching the altar. And the proof that is where it belongs comes from the fact that many parishes have taken to adding a spontaneous and liturgically inappropriate "let's all take a moment before we start to introduce ourselves" handshake, which renders the subsequent rite of peace not only disruptive but redundant. Place it where it naturally goes.