A Hand Shake

I was so busy bouncing around on the clouds yesterday that I forgot to mention 1 other thing that made me Smile.  That planted a Beaming Smile on my face.

A Handshake.  Not just any handshake.  A very specific one at a very specific time.  During the Rite of Peace.  When we are to give a Sign of Peace.

Why was this so Special, so Noteworthy? 

For two reasons. 

  1. It was from a Lovely Older Couple with Enchanting Smiles.
  2. Because it doesn’t happen very often!

Allow me to elaborate on No. 2.

For a while now this has really gotten under my skin.  This and a few other things that I will address later, for this precise Post, I will focus on the Handshake. 

Let me begin by relating WHY we have it.  Briefly.

The sign of peace in the Roman Rite significantly placed before Eucharistic communion is a particularly expressive gesture which the faithful are invited to make as a manifestation of the People of God’s acceptance of all that has been accomplished in the celebration and of the commitment to mutual love which is made in sharing the one bread, with the demanding words of Christ in mind: “If you are offering your gift at the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go; first be reconciled with your brother, and then come and offer your gift” [(Mt 5:23-24) Catholic Doors Ministry].

Very well, now we know that the Sign of Peace benefits us greatly if just to give us an opportunity to Symbolically, via the person closest to us, reconcile with our “brother.” Also,  it is a way of saying to those standing in one’s proximity that the peace of Christ is truly present on the altar and also with all men (Cardinal Francis Arzine). 

To be exact and concise, in the General Instruction of the Roman Missal it clearly states:

The Rite of Peace follows, by which the Church asks for peace and unity for herself and for the whole human family, and the faithful express to each other their ecclesial communion and mutual charity before communicating in the Sacrament.

Next, HOW should we implement this Sign of Peace:

Each person offers the sign of peace only to those nearby and in a dignified manner. The faithful may say, “The peace of the Lord be with you always.” The response to this is, “Amen” (Catholic Doors Ministry).

The other part of the How, literally, how we do it, handshake, kiss, hug. Well that part is decided upon by the “Conferences of Bishops in
accordance with the culture and customs of the peoples” (General Instruction of the Roman Missal). 

So that there is no confusion, the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops site states:

Sign of peace. Before communion, we share a sign of peace with those who are standing near us. By our warm handshake or another friendly gesture, we express our unity in Christ. Through our mutual forgiveness and love, Jesus brings his peace into the world. 

Handshake or another friendly gesture.  One may be tempted to say that we can all just nod and smile.  Well, we could, if that’s the custom that has been designated in our Archdiocese.  But, seeing as how we were “allowed” to forgo the handshake due to the H1N1, and afterward were told that we could once again shake hands.  Isn’t it quite clear?  In our Region, our Archdiocese, we Shake Hands. 

That being said, let us move on to a few concerns.  More specifically to those that many of us may have observed in Our Parish:

Q: I have a concern with those who give me the Sign of Peace. Half of them simply put out their hand, looking elsewhere, making no eye-to-eye contact as if it is just a meaningless ritual. How do I deal with that?

A: While smiling, you can try holding on to their hand, not letting go, until such time as they will turn around and make an eye-to-eye contact with you. Before long, they should get the hint that when you give someone the Sign of Peace, you look at the person (Catholic Doors Ministry).

And here is another concern.  This past Winter we were hit with the H1N1 Virus.  Because of that, our Archdiocese consented that we not Shake Hands, so that we could avoid Transmission.  Well, it seems that many people must still be wary because they just sort of look your way, have a forced smile on their face and nod. 

Now, I understand that there may be some individuals who may not like to be touched or that may have been victims of sexual abuse and therefore touching could be very traumatic.  I understand that.  But I Dare to say that in our case, that may not be the issue. 

No, in our case it seems people may have forgotten the Why we have the Rite of Peace and see it more as “just a meaningless ritual.” 

Furthermore, I want to voice the feelings that maybe others, like I, have when we stretch out our hand and we get that Forced Grin and a nod.

There is a feeling of being stigmatized.  This may sound extreme, but think about it.  Why won’t you shake my hand, am I disease-ridden?  Do I repulse you in some way?  Did I do something wrong and therefore am now an outcast?  I am not worthy of even meriting a handshake?  Is there something wrong with me? 

There is that feeling of Rejection.  One is left with one’s hand open, in the air…rejected.  Even a tad humiliating.

We are being deprived of that moment where we can make Peace with our “brother.”  We are being deprived of that symbolic reconciliation.

And finally, if we say, “The peace of the Lord be with you always.”  It’s nice to hear the “Amen” which means in very laymen terms “so be it,” “truth,” “it is so.” 

Amen is a derivative from the Hebrew verb aman ‘to strengthen’ or ‘Confirm.’  [Liturgically, it means,]  May it so be done as the priest has prayed (New Advent).

Or even better, maybe the Grinner should be the one to part their lips and say, “The peace of the Lord be with you always.”

Having Ranted…now perhaps you have better insight as to why this couples Hand Shake was so Meaningful.  😉

Let’s not deprive others of this Gesture, shall we?

Oh, and Peace Be With You All… 

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