Husband won't shake hands in church


#1

My husband is non Catholic but goes to church with me every Sunday. When it comes to the peace exchange, he will only shake hands with me and no one else. I believe he is afraid of catching germs. This leaves me in an embarrassing situation and I tell people he has a cold (which is a lie most of the time). I don’t really know how to handle this…I told him he can wipe his hands afterwards with one of those antibacterial wipes but he still won’t budge. :whacky:


#2

My husband is not a fan of this either. But they do have a point after taking a germ class I certainly can understand. Me I just take my chances. But to each his own.


#3

Do not feel you have to apologize for him or take responsibility for his actions. He’s a grown-up. If anyone asks you why he won’t shake hands, tell them truthfully, “I’ve asked him, and I’m still not quite sure. He’s just not comfortable with it.” To follow-up questions: “If you need more answer than that, you’re going to have to ask him.” Or, “It’s not you. I’ve asked him…he seems to just not be comfortable with it.” Any answer is fine, as long as it is as charitable as possible and you would be willing to give it in his presence. If you’ve been lying to cover for him at his request, I’d give him a heads-up that you’re not comfortable with it, and maybe run your replies past him. In any case, people only need to be reassured that he has nothing against them. After that is done, change the subject.

Other than doing your best to field direct questions gracefully, it’s probably best to just drop it. When we welcome a non-Catholic into our churches, hospitality should be the watch-word. They should have to respect our rules, but they shouldn’t be forced into any more participation than what they are comfortable with.

We are a large and ancient church with a long and sometimes too “interesting” past. Many stories about us, true and untrue, circulate in the non-Catholic world. Many outside the church have strong feelings about us, good and bad, fair and unfair, some passed down for generations. Our mysteries lay claim to a cosmic importance that is unparalleled. In other words, we can be intimidating. Overwhelming, even. It is not too much to ask to give non-Catholics permission to participate only to the degree to which they are comfortable, as you would any other guest under any other circumstances.

And BTW…there are lots of Catholics married to non-Catholics who would give their eye teeth if their spouses would consent to join them at all, let alone every week. Sing praises and gratitude for that one! :thumbsup: After all, you don’t know to what degree his participation is a trial by fire, something that he only does because of how much he loves you!


#4

He does not HAVE to shake hands. Shaking hands is only ONE sign of peace. A verbal hello, a nod of the head, even a smile, are all signs of peace.

Me, I don’t shake hands either–not because of germs, or because of attitude, but because my hands are my livelihood and now that I’m in my 40s they are also extremely sensitive. I don’t think that Jesus particularly wants me to have to wear splints, take NSAIDS, or have expensive treatments at the sports medicine clinic because some otherwise wonderful person grips too hard for me. I smile, I nod, I even do a little wave, I enthusiastically proclaim, “Peace be with you”. . .and after maybe one or two puzzled looks, most people are just fine with it (especially up here in the frozen north in flu season).

As long as your husband is in church and doing his best to love God and his neighbor, does it really matter what other people might think about him not shaking hands in an optional ritual which doesn’t even REQUIRE shaking hands? :slight_smile:


#5

This brings to mind the middle aged lady at our church that dips her hands in the holy water fonts and than shakes your hand…haven’t figured this one out yet!!!


#6

[quote=Celeste88]My husband is non Catholic but goes to church with me every Sunday. When it comes to the peace exchange, he will only shake hands with me and no one else. I believe he is afraid of catching germs. This leaves me in an embarrassing situation and I tell people he has a cold (which is a lie most of the time). I don’t really know how to handle this…I told him he can wipe his hands afterwards with one of those antibacterial wipes but he still won’t budge. :whacky:
[/quote]

He is a non-Catholic going to mass? God Bless him!
Stand behind his decision and do not lie or makes excuses.
The Catholics around him should be proud that he is there. No one has to shake hands, just a sign of Peace. In Japan they bow.


#7

[quote=Tantum ergo]He does not HAVE to shake hands. Shaking hands is only ONE sign of peace. A verbal hello, a nod of the head, even a smile, are all signs of peace.
[/quote]

The lady of Asian descent next to me today pressed her hands together, bowed her head towards me, and wished me the peace of Christ. Her beautiful children all did likewise. It didn’t strike me in any way odd (maybe from my karate background) and I returned her and her children’s greetings in kind.

Handshaking is a Western custom, there are many others. :slight_smile:


#8

Our priest at Mass made a point of Jesus making a statement with touching the leper, and with the law of Moses where he was asked to fulfill after he was healed.
He said lepers wern’t just banned from social life, but from the life of the Church as well.
Jesus could have healed the leper with His word, but like the priest said, Jesus made a point of touching him, and it was forbidden to touch lepers.
I’m no fan of the sign of peace myself, I think it’s false and forced upon us, when I shake hands it’s with my heart and not my head.
But if someone offers me their hand, I take it, leper or not.

Believers after-all will drink posion etc and it will not harm them…


#9

Well, I’m with your dh. My dh isn’t Catholic either, but none of us shake for the sign of peace and we don’t hold hands for the Our Father either. Maybe instead of shaking hands, you could take that moment to share a kind word with your dh? Most people assume you’re “busy” and move on pretty quickly rather than interrupt.

**To avoid the “odd people” issue, I usually take the time during the sign of peace to give each of my children a little pat on the back for being good in church or a quiet reminder to behave, maybe a kiss on the top of the head, ect… It’s clear we are “busy”, but we give nice smiles and acknowledging nods. So far, so good - I think anyhow. ******
During the Our Father we just face forward and keep our eyes on the cross.


I don’t do this because of germs or anything like that though.


**I do it because we have found this practice to be an interuption to the Mass for our kids. We have a fairly set custom of “keep your eyes and mind on the cross” and “your hands and heart in prayer” (hold hands in “prayer position” in lap when sitting/standing or on pew in front of you when kneeling) - this keeps the children from being distracted by the going ons of parishoners and keeps their hands from getting into trouble.:wink: **


**I don’t know why, but the sign of peace and/or the our father used to be the beginning of the end of a pleasant Mass for the longest time until we started this practice.:confused: **


#10

Ever think that some of us just don’t like to touch others…?

I don’t shake hands, touch, hug or have any physical contact with other people if I can get away with it. It just makes me uncomfortable. I do the ‘slight bow’ routine unless its a very close friend or a member of my family. I don’t see a problem with it. :thumbsup:

On a side note…what the heck is wrong with the people who try to ‘snatch’ my hand for the our father. It ticks me off to no end when someone I don’t know tries to grab my hand when i’m praying (traditional folded hands)… :mad:


#11

Actually, shaking hands during the sign of peace drives me crazy. I really dislike it. Especially when I witness someone coughing and sneezing during the entire mass, only to enthusiastically offer his or her hand to everyone around them. Little kids who insist on shaking hands with every adult in sight drive me nuts too, especially given I know their little hands probably aren’t the cleanest around.

During flu season, I am especially cautious. I usually stick my hands in my pocket or coat pocket and smile, say peace be with you, etc. Some people are rather insistant with their hand offering and will stand with it held out until you grasp it. So far I haven’t actually shaken my head or refused someone like that, but I really prefer not to shake.

My husband is one of those super-friendly types who loves shaking hands and all of that, so I actually really bother HIM in terms of not being as enthusiastic. Since he’s busily pumping everyone within arm’s reach, they instinctively want to shake mine too, which just…doesn’t do anything for my personal preference, lol. :slight_smile: It bothers me that he’s so willing to shake every stranger’s hand because then it ups the germs for me. (I am absolutely convinced that I got bronchitis from mass this past fall while pregnant. It was after someone forcibly grabbed my hand and afterward I observed he was hacking up a lung the entire duration of mass.)

I just don’t think a sign of peace HAS to be a handshake. I can smile, nod, wave…whatever…and still be sharing a sign of peace.


#12

I don’t like it when non family members touch me so I never shake hands in church if I can help it. If my husband ever apologized for me there would be major fireworks as soon as we got home. :cool:


#13

[quote=Rob’s Wife]Well, I’m with your dh. My dh isn’t Catholic either, but none of us shake for the sign of peace and we don’t hold hands for the Our Father either. Maybe instead of shaking hands, you could take that moment to share a kind word with your dh? Most people assume you’re “busy” and move on pretty quickly rather than interrupt.

**To avoid the “odd people” issue, I usually take the time during the sign of peace to give each of my children a little pat on the back for being good in church or a quiet reminder to behave, maybe a kiss on the top of the head, ect… It’s clear we are “busy”, but we give nice smiles and acknowledging nods. So far, so good - I think anyhow. **
During the Our Father we just face forward and keep our eyes on the cross.

I don’t do this because of germs or anything like that though.

**I do it because we have found this practice to be an interuption to the Mass for our kids. We have a fairly set custom of “keep your eyes and mind on the cross” and “your hands and heart in prayer” (hold hands in “prayer position” in lap when sitting/standing or on pew in front of you when kneeling) - this keeps the children from being distracted by the going ons of parishoners and keeps their hands from getting into trouble.:wink: **

**I don’t know why, but the sign of peace and/or the our father used to be the beginning of the end of a pleasant Mass for the longest time until we started this practice.:confused: **
[/quote]

Unlike non-Catholic guests, though, Catholics at Mass are all participants, and participate as a unified group. We should always make an effort to participate in the sign of Peace, if possible, just like every other part of the Mass. People who try to extend a sign of peace are not interrupting you. They’re celebrating the Mass. That is of course why you and your kids are there, too. That it might give your kids an opportunity to misbehave isn’t an excuse for skipping it, under normal circumstances. To do otherwise is along the lines of leaving early. It might be much more convenient, but it isn’t kosher.

The problem with trying to experience Mass apart from others is that it is not in keeping with the Church’s understanding and teachings concerning the Mass. There is no “Jesus is my personal Savior” in the Catholic mindset. We are supposed to be celebrating the Sacred Mysteries together. It is supposed to reflect and celebrate our unifed life. We can’t very well do that and also do our best to ignore each other whenever humanly possible.

I want to be clear: This may not apply to Rob’s Wife’s family. I don’t want to mischaracterize or dismiss her method out of hand. Of course smiles and nods suffice, if they are the most the kids can manage without essentially losing control for the rest of Mass. Parents have to make these kinds of decisions all the time. If you can’t bring yourself to touch other people, you can’t. Your brothers and sisters have to meet you where you are. Nevertheless, holding yourself out of the general practice would be the exception, a stop-gap measure you’ll ideally leave behind when you can, not the norm.

I guess I mean to say that if you are not schooling your kids in full participation where possible, including the Sign of Peace, you may be training them to miss one of the main points, (if not the main point) of the entire liturgy. That would be a major case of throwing baby out with the bath water. (Besides, coming from Rob’s Wife, it would knock me over with a feather if that were even remotely her intent!)

PS Holding hands at the Our Father, unlike the Sign of Peace, is not part of the liturgy. There are those who will argue that it is not only optional, but an illegitimate addition to the Mass. It goes without saying that it can be skipped without qualm.


#14

[quote=Eireann]Our priest at Mass made a point of Jesus making a statement with touching the leper, and with the law of Moses where he was asked to fulfill after he was healed.
He said lepers wern’t just banned from social life, but from the life of the Church as well.
Jesus could have healed the leper with His word, but like the priest said, Jesus made a point of touching him, and it was forbidden to touch lepers.
I’m no fan of the sign of peace myself, I think it’s false and forced upon us, when I shake hands it’s with my heart and not my head.
But if someone offers me their hand, I take it, leper or not.

Believers after-all will drink posion etc and it will not harm them…
[/quote]

Eireann, you hit the nail on the head! …and don’t forget Saint Francis who at first, was appalled by a leper he did not want to touch, but the Lord convinced him to kiss him. Amazing what conversion can do. All of us are in need of daily conversion if we truly wish to follow Christ and not just go through the motions.


#15

[quote=Karin]This brings to mind the middle aged lady at our church that dips her hands in the holy water fonts and than shakes your hand…haven’t figured this one out yet!!!

[/quote]

It is a monastic custom to take holy water on the first two fingers of the hand (symbolizing the union of Christ’s human and divine natures in one person) and then pass that holy water to the monk next to oneself in the exit procession by touching fingers before crossing oneself. The lady may have seen this custom somewhere, but I doubt it. You may want to ask her.


#16

[quote=GeorgeSutton]It is a monastic custom to take holy water on the first two fingers of the hand (symbolizing the union of Christ’s human and divine natures in one person) and then pass that holy water to the monk next to oneself in the exit procession by touching fingers before crossing oneself. The lady may have seen this custom somewhere, but I doubt it. You may want to ask her.
[/quote]

Thanks George-


#17

Im not a fan of shaking hands either, this morning the fella behind me was hacking up a storm… I usually give a sign of a nod and and a smile to ppl beside me or in front of me, they have to instigate it though.

The biggest problem I have with it, instead of a brief and simple sign of peace it has become a social showy interruption in the Mass :frowning: , so I long ago decided I didn’t want to be part of it anymore. So if someone puts out a hand I will reciprocate but I never go looking for it.


#18

[quote=Celeste88]My husband is non Catholic but goes to church with me every Sunday. When it comes to the peace exchange, he will only shake hands with me and no one else. I believe he is afraid of catching germs. This leaves me in an embarrassing situation and I tell people he has a cold (which is a lie most of the time). I don’t really know how to handle this…I told him he can wipe his hands afterwards with one of those antibacterial wipes but he still won’t budge. :whacky:
[/quote]

I have to agree with others and say that you should appreciate the fact that he’s coming to Mass with you. You don’t need to make excuses or apologies to anyone. Maybe you could sit up front and have him sit on the end with only you next to him. Then, it won’t seem so obvious to everyone that he’s not participating in the Sign of the Peace. Perhaps you could also “tone down” the hand shaking. Just shake the hands of the people next to you. Don’t turn around to the people behind you. If you don’t offer a handshake to the people behind you, then attention won’t be drawn to your dh.


#19

[quote=seabird3579]Eireann, you hit the nail on the head! …and don’t forget Saint Francis who at first, was appalled by a leper he did not want to touch, but the Lord convinced him to kiss him. Amazing what conversion can do. All of us are in need of daily conversion if we truly wish to follow Christ and not just go through the motions.
[/quote]

Good post :thumbsup:

For the most part…isn’t it just good manners to exchange the peace…nothing like rejection folks :rolleyes:

yes when one has arthritis or a cold is legitiment but I’d make a statement to the person extending their hand…


#20

[quote=BLB_Oregon]Unlike non-Catholic guests, though, Catholics at Mass are all participants, and participate as a unified group. We should always make an effort to participate in the sign of Peace, if possible, just like every other part of the Mass. People who try to extend a sign of peace are not interrupting you. They’re celebrating the Mass. That is of course why you and your kids are there, too. That it might give your kids an opportunity to misbehave isn’t an excuse for skipping it, under normal circumstances. To do otherwise is along the lines of leaving early. It might be much more convenient, but it isn’t kosher.
[/quote]

At our parish, we don’t do the sign of peace with fellow parishoners because the priests do not initiate it by saying, “And now offer a sign of peace to others”. There is the verbal exchange between the congregation and the priest, but nothing more.

Maybe the reason the approach Rob’s Wife uses works is because it instills the reverence of the Mass in her children. Frankly, I hate the sign of peace when I visit other parishes. It is distracting to me and takes away from the reverence. I think this has to do with my more contemplative nature during prayer, and as such it is a personal preference. I do not think it has anything at all to do with my participation or lack thereof during the Mass. Sometimes, I am so moved in prayer that I say the vocal prayers silently. I am not participating any less as a member of the body of Christ.

Now, I know that I have contributed to the hijacking of this thread :o , and so I also wanted to offer the OP my opinion there as well: so often I get caught up in the little distractions of life that I can’t see the big picture. I don’t know, but perhaps that’s what is happening here too. Remember your job is to get yourself to heaven by getting your husband to heaven. Pray for his soul and his conversion and don’t let pride distract you from that focus.


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