I have a church issue of sorts. Every Sunday when I go to mass, everyone shakes hands before Mass starts in order to “greet” one another. Later, during the Lord’s Prayer, everyone holds hands. Although I’m not enthusiastic about these practices, it is now a potentially dangerous issue with me. Since I have become ill, I have a compromised immune system. Sharing germs via hand shaking, much less hand holding is well documented. I am not sure what to do about this somewhat new practice in the church. Am I being too sensitive, or, as my friend admonishes me, resistant to change?
Loves God, But Not People’s Hands
As you refer to the service as the mass, I assume you are talkin’ about being Catholic. I mention this because I have plenty of experience in these practices. When I went back to my hometown parish in Northern California, I was surprised not by the hand holding, but people’s insistence in creating a giant hand-holding chain that crisscrossed across the aisle. It looked like people seemed to think it was poor behavior to not participate in this giant chain of parishioners. I thought only a double amputee would be forgiven for not participating. Also, you have left out the hand shake by the greeters before you actually enter the church. Where this custom originated, I have no idea. Nor do I know how many other types of religions favor “personal contact”. However, it seems like you are in a silent minority, as loads of people seem to love this touchy-feely part of mass. I venture to guess that your local priest would be unreceptive to changing this practice to accommodate a tiny minority. I have observed a number of ways some folks avoid an unwanted touch. Some fold their hands in front of them in a prayer-like position. Others cross their chest with their arms. Still others step out of the church during touching times. In sickly times, when our church sounds like a dang TB clinic, I will hold a handkerchief in my right hand and wave it in a friendly fashion to nearby eager hands. It’s an imposition to church goers who are not comfortable with all the human contact, but as the touching seems to be now deeply imbedded in the mass, the minority non-touchers need to just cleverly adapt. However, don’t let your irritation distract you from the real reason why you are there.