Yesterday I was at Mass at a parish I don’t typically go to and it was really quite nice. The music was beautiful. In fact, the choir was so good that I found myself listening to them instead of praying. But I refocused. The sermon was strong and relevant.

But just after the penultimate moment where the bread and wine become the body and blood of Christ and prayer should be at its most solemn, we took a break. A big one. At the sign of peace, the crowd just erupted in conversation. We had people crossing the aisles to speak with friends. The priest paraded down the aisle like a politician at a 4th of July parade, grabbing hands with parishioners, and laughing. Everybody was talking and laughing so loud that I felt like we were in an auditorium just waiting for someone to sing the Star Spangled Banner and say “Play ball.”

I mean, when did the sign of peace become the seventh inning stretch for Mass?

I’m sure everyone there believes in the real presence of Jesus in the Eucharist but we’re just not acting like it. At all.

Pope Benedict has said the sign of peace at Mass “has great value,” but he has also called for “greater restraint” to ensure that it does not distract.

According to CNS, Pope Benedict has asked, “the competent curial offices to study the possibility of moving the sign of peace to another place (in the Mass), such as before the presentation of the gifts at the altar. To do so would also serve as a significant reminder of the Lord’s insistence that we be reconciled with others before presenting our gifts to God.”

To me, the sign of peace as it was at that Mass served as a massive distraction. And moving the sign of peace might be the way to go but also, I think, instructing Catholics again on the Real Presence and the reverence which should be shown might be even more important.