Sign of Hypocrisy?
“His palms are sweaty, knees weak, arms are heavy. There’s vomit on his sweater already, mom’s spaghetti. He’s nervous, but on the surface he looks calm and ready…”
This is an excerpt from prolific rapper Eminem’s Oscar-winning song ‘Lose Yourself’ from the movie 8 Mile. The lyrics provide insight into the psyche of the protagonist, Rabbit, as he prepares to enter the battle of his life.
I imagine these words could also depict the inner turmoil of some Catholics as they await what has become arguably the most dreaded part of any mass: the sign of peace.This rite was reintroduced to masses post Vatican II Liturgy reformation and meant to signify love and harmony amongst congregants in the community.
The irony is that contrary to the name, this is the least peaceful moment ever.
Is there any more awkward moment at church?
It has surpassed the telltale flush of those who are embarrassed by not having anything to pony up during the offertory.
As a Catholic, I have witnessed the discomfort firsthand. In the moments after the painful exchange, you can almost hear the internal dialogues floating by.
“Woyyyyy. I didn’t want to shake mate’s hand uh.”
“Choops. Just so?”
“I don’t know where the person’s hand come from.”
On Saturday night before Palm Sunday, I sat in front of two women who did their best to avoid eye contact during the whole bit. Undeterred, I extended my hand and a dazzling smile. We’re going to be peaceful whether you like it or not damnit!
Of course not everyone is offended by the gesture. Some embrace it heartily. We have all seen those pseudo-politician types moving along the pews shaking every willing or reluctant hand in sight; reminiscent of working a campaign trail. Or the person who is not just satisfied with a paltry, limp shake and goes in for the bear hug. Once, and thankfully only once, there was a full on tongue kiss. Could you be any more loving?
This is no arbitrary gripe.
According to the Catholic News Service, “In 2005, members of the Synod of Bishops on the Eucharist adopted a formal proposition questioning whether the sign of peace might be better placed elsewhere in the Mass, for example at the end of the prayer of the faithful and before the offering of the gifts.”
Pope Benedict XVI asked the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Sacraments to consider the request. The congregation in turn asked the bishops conferences worldwide to consider the placement of the rite, “with a view to improving the understanding and carrying out of this gesture.”
In 2014, the congregation ruled that the sign of peace would remain as is, but, “if it is foreseen that it will not take place properly,” it can be omitted. But when it is used, it must be done with dignity and awareness that it is not a liturgical form of “good morning,” but a witness to the Christian belief that true peace is a gift of Christ’s death and resurrection.”
In other words, if you don’t mean it, don’t do it.
Because let’s be honest, many flee mass after vowing to love thy neighbour and disappear into their vehicles with no intention of uttering a word to those they just celebrated with.
Hypocrisy at its finest.