"Is the peace hand shake at Mass a mandated ritual or just a pious devotion?"

By Paul Dion, STL
January 20, 2008

Last week we asked you if it was appropriate to hold hands during the recitation or the singing of the "Our Father", the "Lord's Prayer" during the Holy Mass. This question was brought to us by one of you and we appreciate it very much. We have to admit that it made us think of a related question that we decided to challenge you with this week.

Close upon the heels of the "Lord's Prayer" is the invitation to share with one another some sign of peace. Some of you more "experienced" Catholics will remember the kiss of peace that took place during a "Solemn High Mass" which had three priests in the sanctuary. The Celebrant, the Deacon and the Sub-Deacon. Remember that?

If you remember that then you remember that after the "Pater Noster" there was a moment when the three of them exchanged gentle hugs. Through the years, this "kiss of peace" migrated to the congregation of the faithful outside the sanctuary. It is expressed as it is these days and as we experience it at every single celebration of the Holy Mass.

Here in the United States there are many ways of expressing this wish for the Lord's Peace to one another. The most common seems to be the hand shake.

The Burning Question is: How do you feel about this ritual? Does this part of the Mass touch you in a special way? Is this a mandated ritual during the Mass or is it, like the hand-holding during the "Our Father" nothing but a pious devotion?

Post your comments below.

Or CLICK HERE to view the answer to this Burning Question.


  1. I don't mind the practice, but if I had a choice, I don't think it is necessary, and indeed, the Mass does not require it, and it is not mandated. This is obvious since many priests even omit the practice on weekdays. I don't think there is any harm in exchanging handshakes to my left and right... but, I am definitely disturbed by the disproportionate time that is given to this practice in at least some hispanic communities. There is no warrarnt for getting out of the pews and hugging and shaking hands with everyone within a 15 foot radius. It is such a distraction. When contrasted with the way in which the Eucharist is reverenced, in my opinion, the people seem to be given more attention than God Himself. I believe these priorities are upside-down.

    God Bless,

  2. The exchange of some sign of peace is mandated as a part of the ritual. It's in the GIRM. The handshake is not. I will leave your plea for restraint stand as I agree with your opinion concerning the excessive running around. Liturgists counsel against it.

  3. Judy Judy1:14 PM

    I guess any sign of peace is OK, right? A nod, a wave of the hand, the peace sign? It doesn't have to be a hand shake.

  4. The sharing of God's peace within us as a sign of unity preparatory to receiving the Eucharist is a mandated part of the ritual. Any culturally appropriate Catholic sign of peace is OK

  5. Is the Richard Nixon "peace" an appropriate Catholic sign?


  6. I didn't vote for him, so "no" it is not. :-)- Thhhrrrr

  7. I hate the Handshake of Peace. I wish everyone peace--it goes without saying. I find it disruptive to talk to a stranger during Mass. It seems forced and contrived. I am hoping they do away with it at some point. The Mass seems to be going "old school" lately--hoping we get rid of this!

  8. Lisa:
    See above. The handshake is not mandated. Nothing more than a nod and a wish of Christ's peace is mandated. The handshake, the Nixon peace sign, the running around, is, in my view and that of the official liturgists, not proper. Propeer is a slight bow and a smile with the words, "Peace of Christ be with you", usually shortened, for the most part, to "PEACE."
    This has been mandated as a way to remind us that we must be at peace and on amicable terms with our neighbor before approaching the altar of God. There's nothing wrong with that. It's the running around that is out of line. Furthermore, the people involved in the service of the altar should not leave the "sacrarium," the elevated part of the church where the altar sits, to "wish" the members of the congregation "peace."