Priest coming down from the altar for sign of peace?!

A few days ago I was at a daily Mass in a very small chapel inside my school. At the sign of peace, the priest walked down (well, not really “down” per se, since the room is flat, but you get what I mean) from the altar to make the sign of peace with the entire congregation. (All 7 people. :P)

I was really suspicious of this when I saw this, is this allowed or no?

I think with small numbers, it is ok.

At University, my priest comes up to us when we make the sign of peace.

The priest must remain in the sanctuary , and on special occasions, the priest may offer the sign of peace to a few of the faithful near the sanctuary !
I think this would qualify as a special occasion.

I don’t think this would qualify as a special occasion, per GIRM 154.

  1. Then the priest, with hands extended, says aloud the prayer, Domine Iesu Christe, qui dixisti (Lord Jesus Christ, you said). After this prayer is concluded, extending and then joining his hands, he gives the greeting of peace while facing the people and saying, Pax Domini sit simper vobiscum (The peace of the Lord be with you always). The people answer, Et cum spiritu tuo (And also with you). Afterwards, when appropriate, the priest adds, Offerte vobis pacem (Let us offer each other the sign of peace).

The priest may give the sign of peace to the ministers but always remains within the sanctuary, so as not to disturb the celebration.*** In the dioceses of the United States of America, for a good reason, on special occasions (for example, in the case of a funeral, a wedding, or when civic leaders are present) the priest may offer the sign of peace to a few of the faithful near the sanctuary.*** At the same time, in accord with the decisions of the Conference of Bishops, all offer one another a sign that expresses peace, communion, and charity. While the sign of peace is being given, one may say, Pax Domini sit semper vobiscum (The peace of the Lord be with you always), to which the response is Amen.

A daily Mass is not a “special occasion” unless it just happens to be a ritual Mass or perhaps a memorial Mass. Unfortunately, the paragraph here is vague on that, but I don’t think what the OP has described necessarily qualifies as a “special occasion,” absent further information.

For more:
ewtn.com/library/liturgy/zlitur137.htm

-ACEGC

Well, perhaps the feast of All Souls counts as a special occasion?

No, he is not even to leave the altar let alone the sanctuary. He may exchange the sign of peace with the person to his immediate right and his immediate left.

Matthew that is not what the GIRM excerpt that was posted just said. Is it possible that maybe the people he came down to exchange the sign of peace with could have been going through something extremely troubling like the loss of a child (miscarriage) or something wondrous (pregnancy after a long bout of infertility) that maybe not everyone needs to know about it or does yet. Just a thought- if it was an everyday occurrence probably not - but if it was the only time then maybe we should be charitable and assume that maybe something is going on that we do not know of.

For instance I usually sit in the front and at my last Mass my priest did come during the sign of peace and say goodbye. For all of the times that we had that were difficult it was fitting and special and between us.

His Eminence Francis Cardinal Arinze says exactly what I said. The purpose of the Sign of Peace is not for those reasons. The celebrant is not to abandon Our Lord on the altar.

And it is an opinion but please look at the GIRM and please tell me that is not what the GIRM says.

The rubics are clear.“for a good reason, on special occasions”…It does not limit special occasions to "ritual Mass or Memorial Mass. Those are examples. Here is another.
Any time our youths participate ,as a group at Mass, that is indeed a special occasion.

[quote=Catholic Answers]People cross the aisles to exchange the sign of peace, ushers go up and down the aisles extending it to people in each pew, and the priest seems to go romping all over the Church. Should this happen?

				It is appropriate “that each one give the sign of peace only to  those who are nearest and in a sober manner.” “The priest may give the  sign of peace to the ministers but always remains within the sanctuary,  so as not to disturb the celebration. He does likewise if for a just  reason he wishes to extend the sign of peace to some few of the  faithful” (72; cf. GIRM 82; IGMR 154).

[/quote]

Emphasis in underline is mine.

From: catholic.com/library/liturgical_abuses.asp

How lovely that you have the opportunity to experience a small, intimate Mass on a weekday. What a blessing! I only get to attend Mass a few times a year as my husband is forced to work on weekends, and we have only one vehicle and no public transport.

I attended afew week day Masses many years ago in a Monastery in a converted livingroom as they were too poor to heat the chapel except on Sundays, and the celebrant did do around and do the sign of peace with every (we were all standing just steps away from him on the same level). It was very moving.

Perhaps taking a moment to contemplate what an incredible privilege you had to experience a small, intimate Mass when so many go long months without any Mass at all might take the sting out of any possible unintended small gaff the Celebrant might have made? If he was moved to share the sign of peace with a small number of people, who are you to judge?

I was going to add that we don’t know from the OP’s post if the deacon, EMHCs, and altar servers were also left up at the altar which would have been correct and therefore would not have left Christ alone on the altar which was His Eminence’s main concern.

I wouldn’t quibble with the priest offering the sign of peace to seven people!

Once my wife and I were visiting a priest in another state. I asked him Saturday what time Mass was on Sunday. He said, “what time would you like it?” Turns out we had a Mass in a side chapel with only the three of us present. He did leave the altar to offer the sign of peace to us, which again, I wouldn’t quibble with, as there was no one else.

Then again, at uni we just have a very small chapel…and that there is no more than 10 people who is able to the weekday mass

It is certainly commendable for a priest to do that in a small group mass. He doesn’t have to but if he wants to, it is highly appreciated. Can’t see it is prohibited.

What does GIRM stand for?

General Instructions for the Roman Missal.

By that logic, everything becomes a special occasion. When everything is special, nothing is. When we overuse some liturgical action (that originally was only very seldom used, on the most solemn occasions) it no longer highlights the special occasion that it was meant to.

-ACEGC

As per your request I had a look at the sign of peace in the GIRM (1). I found this at No. 82 page 26, which says:

As for the sign of peace to be given, the manner is to established by Conferences of Bishops in accordance with the culture and customs of the place. It is, however, appropriate that each person offer the sign of peace only to those who are nearest and in a sober manner.

(The emphasis is mine.)

I checked the US edition of GIRM (2); it says the same as the English and Welsh version.

The Congregation for Divine Worship and The Discipline of he Sacraments’ Instruction, issued under the authority of His Holiness Pope Blessed John Paul II and signed by His Eminence Francis Card. Arinze (Prefect) and the Most Rev’d Msgr Domenico Sorrention (Secretary), Redemptionis Sacramentum (3) reinforces the point at #72.

The Priest may give the sign of peace to the ministers but always remains within the sanctuary, so as not to disturb the celebration.

(The emphasis is mine.)

While it may only be technically an opinion, I believe the opinion of a cardinal carries great weight, especially when that same cardinal was the Prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments.

(1) Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales (2005) General Instruction of the Roman Missal. London: Catholic Truth Society.
(2) United States Catholic Conference (2003) General Instruction of the Roman Missal. Washington, DC, USA: United States Catholic Conference
(3) vatican.va/roman_curia/congregations/ccdds/documents/rc_con_ccdds_doc_20040423_redemptionis-sacramentum_en.html (accessed 7th November 2010)

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