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Posted December 8, 2011

What is happening to the kiss?

By Father Eugene Hemrick

When dioceses notified parishioners to keep a distance from each other at the kiss of peace because of the swine flu, I began to wonder about the future of the kiss.

As word of a pandemic spread, it was as if all kissing was forbidden. Even the French took precautions to avoid the traditional cheek-to-cheek kiss.

And, too, the business world is now requiring employees and employers to attend sexual harassment sessions that counsel: better not to kiss, no matter the circumstances.

Are we entering an age in which any kind of kissing is suspect?

To answer this, let's look at its many sides.

The "baccio della morte" is one kiss you definitely don't want to receive because it indicates you are going to die at the hands of the mob.

In Scripture, the betrayal kiss of Judas reflects deceit and hypocrisy.

Kisses like these are demeaning and without value.

On the other hand, a proper kiss is heavenly. Take, for example, Pope John Paul II kissing the ground upon entering a country as a sign of respect and gratitude.

How often did our mother kiss a painful bump we received to acknowledge she also felt it and was trying to make it go away?

Then there is the life-changing kiss. "He kissed me and now I am someone else" by Chilean poet Gabriela Mistral.

British poet Robert Browning pictures a kiss as a sigh: "What of the soul was left, I wonder, when the kissing had to stop?"

Irish writer Samuel Beckett would point us to all the warm, loving kisses we received throughout life: "All those lips that had kissed me, those hearts that had loved me (it is with the heart one loves, is it not, or am I confusing it with something else?)."

The lingering power of a kiss is played in a heart-wrenching song in the movie "Casablanca": "You must remember this, a kiss is still a kiss, a sigh is just a sigh; the fundamental things apply as time goes by."

Most important of all, a kiss is imperative to our spiritual life.

Mary Magdalene washes the feet of Christ and then kisses them out of love for Christ.

No matter the present suspicions surrounding a kiss, it will always have a future because of its divine origins.