Well, for 8 months now, I’ve been spoiled by the reverent and reserved atmosphere at Assumption Grotto in Detroit. While I was at Midnight Mass there, I had taken my mother to 4:30 Christmas vigil Mass right near the condo where it is easier for her since she is frail.
At Grotto, our priests do not invite us to extend a sign of peace, rather he extends it to us, we return it, then he continues on in the Eucharistic Prayer. I grew affectionately attached to this and did not miss the sign of peace at all. We socialize more extensively outside of Mass than I’ve ever experienced in any other parish, so there is no loss on our part, to not extend a hand during the Mass.
Well, at this other parish, which was my childhood parish - one I’ve attended for most of my 43 year life, I couldn’t believe the sheer chaos that took place. It had not changed, rather it was me, who took up a different environment, then came home only to be shocked by the practice, as if seeing it for the first time.
When the priest invited us to extend a sign of peace, as always, I receive the hand of anyone immediately near me. I figure that since the priest asked us to share it, it would not be charitable if I avoided or ignored an extended hand. That was all fine, but it is what happened next. This whole process should have taken no more than 15-30 seconds, but it lasted for at least 5 minutes. As the celebrant did something on the altar to facilitate the many vessels to be used for the large crowd, it turned into the biggest mid-mass social I ever witnessed. You could hear conversations taking place all around the church, and laughter, and many of the things I heard being exchanged around me, had nothing to do with the Mass. People were joking with each other and talking about what happened yesterday or about others - all the while our Lord lay on the altar. It was so very offensive.
I’ve been tempted to send my former pastor a gentle letter, but one that lets him know how it made me feel to stand there amidst the mid-mass social while Jesus lay on the altar. He is a good and fine priest and maybe he has grown immune to the chatter, I don’t know. But it just put the nail in the coffin for me that this whole thing - the sign of peace - needs to be reigned in somehow.
I don’t want to see this thread end up in another quarrel over removing the sign of peace or moving it, etc.
I write this thread wanting to know if anyone else notices this, or to ask others to tune in more and see if they notice it happening their parish.