Tag Archives: liturgical abuse

Sign of Peace at Mass

Recently, the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments published a Circular Letter entitled “The Ritual Expression of the Gift of Peace at Mass” (July 8, 2014).  Pope Francis approved and ordered its publication. The letter deals with the question of the Sign of Peace resolving the question whether the Holy See would move the Sign of Peace to an earlier part in the Mass; a question bantered around by liturgists for years. As a note, the Eastern Churches place the Sign of Peace before the Eucharistic prayer; I am speaking about the Western Church here.

At the 2005 Synod of Bishops on the Eucharist, the synod fathers raised the question of the moving of the Sign of Peace because of the perceived disruption of what the Sign of Peace  has become. Pope emeritus Benedict XVI noted in his Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Sacramentum caritas (2007), stated:

“[D]uring the Synod of Bishops there was discussion about the appropriateness of greater restraint in this gesture, which can be exaggerated and cause a certain distraction in the assembly just before the reception of Communion. It should be kept in mind that nothing is lost when the sign of peace is marked by a sobriety which preserves the proper spirit of the celebration, as, for example, when it is restricted to one’s immediate neighbors.”

The Church made the decision to leave the Sign of Peace where it is. The Letter explains:

In the Roman liturgical tradition, the exchange of peace is placed before Holy Communion with its own specific theological significance. Its point of reference is found in the Eucharistic contemplation of the Paschal mystery as the “Paschal kiss” of the Risen Christ present on the altar as in contradistinction to that done by other liturgical traditions which are inspired by the Gospel passage from St. Matthew (cf. Mt 5: 23: “So if you are offering your gift at the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift”).

The ritual gesture needs to cohere with the theology. The Church makes a crucial distinction that we need to be aware of: the sign of peace at Mass refers to the Risen Christ’s gift of His peace, it is paschal in nature. The fitting-ness of this rite is placed just before the moment when Jesus will feed His people with His own Body and Blood in Holy Communion. Jesus Christ is our peace, and only from Him is our peace known, lived and an invitation to our conversion. The sign of peace, as a minor rite in the Mass, must reflect this divine gift and not distract us as we prepare to receive that gift of Christ’s peace in the Holy Eucharist. The exchange of peace in many places is done with a superficial and sentimental bearing no mind to who is before us.

 Too often the sign of peace is a breaking of contemplation, a turning away from the Eucharistic Lord present before us on the altar; too often the focus is on the person and community.

Now with the Circular Letter the application of the rite calls for the need to be reverent and sober in the exchange of a sign of the Lord’s peace. It gives “practical guidelines. . .to better explain the content of the exchange of peace and to moderate excessive expressions that give rise to disarray in the liturgical assembly before Communion.”

Moreover: “If it is foreseen that it will not take place properly due to specific circumstances or if it is not considered pedagogically wise to carry it out on certain occasions, it can be omitted, and sometimes ought to be omitted. It is worth recalling that the rubric from the Missal states: ‘Then, if appropriate, the Deacon of the Priest, adds: Let us offer each other the sign of peace.’”

The Sign of Peace, therefore, is not required at Mass. The Holy See is clearly concerned that this optional rite has become the occasion for all sorts of problems and distractions. The Letter lists “abuses” that we must “definitively avoid”: singing a song of peace during the exchange of the sign of peace, people moving around the church to exchange the sign of peace with others, the priest leaving the altar to give the sign of peace to the faithful in the pews, and the not uncommon practice of using the sign of peace at special Masses such as weddings or funerals as an “occasion for expressing congratulations, best wishes or condolences among those present.”

The faithful accustomed to a more free manner of the sign of peace will say that “this is a key moment of connection with others at Mass, it helps to focus on what we are doing, I like saying hello to my friends, and meeting new people,” or some such thing. At a local parish the people are now waving at each other, which is yet another problem. While all of these things are good, they are not fitting in the praying of the Mass. Let me say decisively, we are not under attack from Rome; we are asked to consider what we are doing, why we are doing it, and to be coherent in liturgical practice and tradition.

Liturgical order in Mass is important in the worship of God. I have come to worship the Trinity; not to be distracted.

Cardinal Marx “consecrates” a dog cage for Mass

Cardinal Marx consecrating a dog cage

The Cardinal-archbishop of Munich, Reinhard Marx, 60, and a member of the Council of Cardinals, was motivated to “consecrate” this dog cage. I am using quotes because I really do not think this liturgical act is a true consecration of an altar upon which the eucharistic sacrifice may be offered. What the cardinal does is to offend a theological foundation of beauty, truth, goodness and unity. The sacramentality of the Church is wounded. Where is the lex orandi, lex credendi, lex agendi in this act? How would you explain this contraption to a child who wants to know about the Mass? Is this the fruit of the Second Vatican Council? Is this what we mean by a hermeneutic of continuity? My head hurts with this liturgical abuse…

All this silliness makes me think of J.R.R. Tolkien when he wrote,

“…the spirit of wickedness in high places is now so powerful and many-headed in its incarnations that there seems nothing more to do than personally refuse to worship any of the hydras’ heads.”

Praying for the abbot in the Eucharistic Prayer at Mass?


Frequently do I go to places where certain liturgical practices catch my attention because of the novelty of what is said and heard. We always need a deeper understanding, a profound appreciation for the prayer of the Church as expressed in the sacred Liturgy. Some will say that canon law, particularly liturgical law, is the bad side of the Good News. As Catholics we are part of a Church; as Catholics we are not independent of sacred Scripture, sacred Tradition and the sacred Magisterium; as Catholics we follow a guided companionship on a journey to a deeper communio with the Triune God. We are not Marlboro people; we are, in fact, sheep in flock called to the Holy Synaxis, to the holy in-gathering of a people in Christ, or simply, Church. We have a good shepherd in Jesus and in His successors, that is, the bishops, and we follow the teaching authority of the Christ and His vicars.

This is a long introduction to a question as whether or not priests of monastic communities ought to name the abbot in the Eucharistic Prayer. There seems to be some confusion over this seemingly small, trite matter. It is not small, and it is not trite. We have an ecclesiology, and we have a liturgical practice that ought to be followed because we live our Catholic lives in communion with others. Abbots are minor prelates; they exercise their pastoral authority and power in their monastic community and not in a diocese, and by extension to the dependent priories. An abbot ought not employ the attitude of having a mitre and a crosier so that  you can do whatever you’d like, whenever you’d like, etc.

Can a priest commemorate Abbot X (or even the abbess if in the context of a woman’s monastery) along with the pope and the bishop in the Eucharistic Prayer at Mass?


The General Instruction of the Roman Missal gives four titles that may be named in the Eucharistic Prayer: “The Diocesan Bishop, or one who is equivalent to the Diocesan Bishop in law, must be mentioned  by means of this formula: together with your servant N., our Pope, and N., our Bishop (or Vicar, Prelate, Prefect, Abbot)” (no. 149). Each of these offices are  “equivalent to the Diocesan Bishop in law” by virtue of their appointment to act on behalf of the Supreme Pontiff within a particular area.

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“The Western Mass” — now really…..

Clearly the liturgical formation of seminarians in the Archdiocese of Vienna is pretty bad if what is protrayed here is true. Gloria.TV exposes yet another example of how some trash the sacred Liturgy under the guise of making it accessible to the people: “The Western Mass.”

The celebrant was the rector of the Vienna Cathedral, Father Anton Faber; AND, according to Father Faber, the Cardinal-Archbishop Christoph Maria Michael Hugo Damian Peter Adalbert Graf von Schönborn, OP, approves of the way Father Faber celebrates the sacred Liturgy.

About the author

Paul A. Zalonski is from New Haven, CT. He is a member of the Fraternity of Communion and Liberation, a Catholic ecclesial movement, and an Oblate of Saint Benedict. Contact Paul at paulzalonski[at]yahoo.com.
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