QUAERITUR: Our Father hand holding – Fr. Z rants

Holding hands Our FatherFrom a reader:

At Mass Saturday evening, the gentleman in the row in front of us came all the way down from his seat next to the center aisle to my husband and me sitting next to the wall aisle. He wanted to hold hands with us during the Our Father and I instinctively clasped my hands tightly and shut my eyes. I know he thought I was rude, but I couldn’t help myself.

QUAERITUR: Where can I find the instruction which the Holy Father gave concerning NOT holding hands during the Our Father? It had something to do with false intimacy and the fact that our unity comes not from handholding but from partaking together the Blessed Sacrament in Holy Communion.

There is no specific prohibition against holding hands during the Our Father, or any other time at Mass for that matter.  However, there is no provision to ask or invite people to do so, and were a priest or deacon to do so during Mass he would be committing a grave liturgical abuse.  Priests can’t just make stuff up and impose things because they think it is meaningful.

The hand holding thing – which I hope will soon vanish – is for those who don’t care to partake, an invasive aberration.

Again, if people spontaneously desire to do this, I cannot see any problem with it.  I am picturing myself with a Mass kit on a crate with candles in the London Underground during the Blitz, and, as I say Mass, people who have never met are holding hands has the horrible booms resound through the ground and echo in the tube tunnels.  I am picturing saying Mass just after an announcement that a terrorist group lit up dirty suit-case nukes in Washington DC, Chicago, and LA.  I am picturing an asteroid… well, you get my drift.

Congregations of total or near total strangers might be spontaneously driven sincerely to hold hands in those circumstances, but – and perhaps it is a lack of something on my part – I cannot see this hand holding stretch excerise as nothing but contrived sentimentalism which distracts us from the transcendent nature of God Almighty and the meaning of the petitions in the Our Father.

Having vented, I repeat: I am unaware of any prohibition of holding hands during Mass.  Spontaneous, fine.  It must never be invited or imposed from someone with a microphone anywhere near the altar.

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113 Responses to QUAERITUR: Our Father hand holding – Fr. Z rants

  1. oledocfarmer says:

    I think this practice was condemned in a letter written under the signature Hannibal “The Cannibal” Bugnini himself. The letter issued from the CDW c. 1976.

  2. skull kid says:

    This happened over Easter in my parish. The priest invited everybody to hold hands during the Our Father. A lady next to me extended her hand, but I kept my hands clasped. She looked a bit miffed. To show there was no ill-feeling, I offered her the sign of peace when invited to do so. It is treating the congregation like kids.

    This hand-holding thing is, as you say Father, sentimentalism and distraction from the nature of God and the petitions of the prayer.

    It just seems like novelty for novelty’s sake. I sighed when I saw another priest in my parish adopt the ‘Father Trendy’ pop-star style wrap-around-the-face microphone device thingy. It’s just more and more about the priest trying to act the performer for the bored congregation who have no idea what the point of the Mass is.

  3. irishgirl says:

    I don’t hand-holding, either. It’s too distracting.
    I want to be focused on Our Lord on the altar instead.
    One of the reasons I go to the TLM exclusively.

  4. youngcatholicstl says:

    Back in the early 90’s, when the hand-holding thing was really starting to take off, I remember the woman in the pew in front of us actually reaching into my mom’s pocket to grab her hand. Needless to say, we never sat near that lady again at church.

  5. jasoncpetty says:

    That’s the most cringe-worthy, liturgically mixed-up part of the English OF. The ancient English of the Our Father juxtaposed with hand-holding; and, as an added, creepy bonus, everyone in the orans position–but only for this part of the Mass! And then a little higher for the doxology, “’cause that’s when we’re really praying, see”?

    Why just do the orans-thing there? What, are you not praying the rest of the Mass when you have your hands down? How utterly ridiculous.

  6. patrick_f says:

    The hand holding thing has always bothered me – Simply because the people who seem to be proponents of it…are aggressive about it, in my experience…and will go out of their way to hold your hand….

    I think the problem we have here – Is because the Faith isnt taught unified, catholics themselves arent unified…and are searching for ways to show that unification – They dont understand the true, deep union that is in the Eucharist, union of ourselves because of Christ present there, but rather, they only see the congregational union

    Our Faith Begins and Ends with the Eucharistic presence of Christ , the true presence, body blood, soul and divinity – Teach that better, then you see lots of problems go away, Call it a hunch

  7. TNCath says:

    While there is no prohibition against it, hand holding and/or the orans position among the laity is nonetheless become annoying practices in so many places. What I find so weird about it is why is it the “in thing to do” only during the Our Father and not the Gloria, Credo, Sanctus, or Agnus Dei? Regardless, the whole idea is childish and distracting from prayer.

  8. Andy Milam says:

    Amen. That is all I have to say.

  9. digdigby says:

    “The man is happy who loves and does not seek to swap love in return.”
    -Brother Gilles, Companion of San Francesco

  10. cheyan says:

    Why just do the orans-thing there? What, are you not praying the rest of the Mass when you have your hands down? How utterly ridiculous.

    Given that I have been at parishes where everyone was told that “the pastor has requested that we use the ancient orans prayer posture instead of holding hands during the Lord’s Prayer” (I think once it was “the diocese has directed us to…”, too), I suspect it’s all about wanting to discourage hand-holding and thinking “well, we have to have something to do with our hands, and we all must be doing that same exact thing” and picking a convenient replacement. It’s the same attitude that leads to “everyone should stand after the Lamb of God and remain standing until everyone has received communion”: “if you’re doing anything different from the rest of the class everyone else in church, you’re trying to draw attention to yourself, and that’s bad!”

  11. RickMK says:

    I heard one time somewhere that this practice came from Alcoholics Anonymous.

  12. amicus1962 says:

    The most that the Congregation for the Sacraments and Divine Worship ever said about holding hands during the Our Father is found in Notitiae 11 (1075) 226: “The prolonged holding of hands is of itself a sign of communion rather than of peace. Further, it is a liturgical gesture introduced spontaneously but on personal initiative; it is not in the rubrics.” There is no explicit prohibition against this spontaneous practice in the Notitiae. However, Sacrosanctum Concilium also said that “Therefore, no other person, not even if he is a priest, may on his own add, remove, or change anything in the liturgy.” (Sacrosanctum Concilium, par. 22 § 3) This same statement was repeated in Sacram Liturgiam, Tres Abhinc Annos and in Inæstimabile Donum. It has been argued that as long as the practice is done spontaneously and on a personal level, we cannot do anything about it. I disagree. The practice of holding hands during the Our Father has become so widespread and common that it has assumed the appearance of a legitimate liturgical gesture that it falls under the prohibition mentioned in SC par. 22 even if done spontaneously and on a personal level. This illicit practice has so permeated and deformed our liturgical worship that in Masses in my diocese where there are permanent deacons, the deacon would extend his hands out in the orans position during the Our Father, illicitly mimicking the gesture of the priest, who doesn’t seem to mind. Unless the CDW updates its Notitiae and issues an explicit prohibition against this practice, it will follow the path of Communion in the hand.

  13. BaedaBenedictus says:

    I wouldn’t mind going to the Novus Ordo if I didn’t have to worry about these shenanigans.

    My father is now a Baptist, having left the Church in the 70s. When he goes to a NO with me and endures girl altar boys and loud chit-chat before and after Mass and tons of “Eucharistic ministers” and aggressive hand-holding during the Pater Noster and all that glad-handing before the Agnus Dei, it drives him crazy. He leaves Mass seething. He knows what Holy Mass is supposed to be like, and this ain’t it. He tells me it is heartbreaking for him because it takes him back to when the disintegration of catechesis and the liturgy destroyed his Catholic faith in the early 70s.

    He’ll now only go to the EF with me.

  14. Paul_S says:

    While not directly on point, the following quaeritur is raised in the second typical edition of the GIRM (CDW, A. Bugnini, secretary):

    QUERY 2, as to paragraph 112:

    In some places there is a current practice whereby those taking part in the Mass replace the giving of the sign of peace at the deacon’s invitation by holding hands during the singing of the Lord’s Prayer. Is this acceptable? REPLY: The prolonged holding of hands is of itself a sign of communion rather than of peace. Further, it is a liturgical gesture introduced spontaneously but on personal initiative; it is not in the rubrics. Nor is there any clear explanation of why the sign of peace at the invitation: Let us offer each other the sign of peace should be supplanted in order to bring a different gesture with less meaning into another part of the Mass: the sign of peace is filled with meaning, graciousness, and Christian inspiration. Any substitution for it must be repudiated: Not 11 (1975) 226.

    See also EWTN, Colin B. Donovan, STL.

    Large pdf of the original Notitiae article, for those who can read Latin (see the bottom of page 2)

  15. Henry Edwards says:

    Actually, I assume the point of the orans position is for the people to hold their hands up like the priest does. Hey, we’re all priests in our own way, doncha know? (Vatican II, the priesthood of all believers, and all that.)

    So, holding hands instead would be the doctrinal corrective . . . Hey, we’re just ordinary folks, aren’t we?.

    But, thankfully, I noticed neither at daily OF Mass this morning. Nor, of course, at Sunday EF Mass yesterday.

    I wonder whether we can thank Benedict for this also, that these silly things are on the wane in many places.

  16. The root cause of the hand-holding rests, I think, in an anomoly within the rubrics themselves. I wrote about it here: http://www.canonlaw.info/liturgysacraments_orans.htm.

    The rubrics should be changed so that the PRIEST folds his hands during the Pater noster. Everyone will follow suit in short order.

  17. ContraMundum says:

    Some families hold hands during grace. I think the custom somehow jumped from grace before meals to the Our Father.

    I never hold hands during the Our Father. Either it will be somebody I don’t want to hold hands with, in which case I will be annoyed and distracted, or it will be a cute girl that I do want to hold hands with, in which case I may not be annoyed but will definitely be distracted.

    I’m sure there’s plenty of material for someone to do a master’s thesis on how such things get started. A couple of months ago I was visiting my former parish (I moved out of state), and the priest, a good, holy priest who probably spends at least 10 hours/week in the confessional and makes extensive use of Latin even in the English-language Masses, really shocked me by leading the congregation in the Pledge of Allegiance about 3 minutes before the beginning of Mass. There are places where that is appropriate, like the beginning of a Knights of Columbus meeting, but I can’t think of a good reason for associating it with the Mass; even if one wants to take note of a special patriotic day (4th of July, etc.), that should take the form of prayers TO GOD for the country.

  18. Banjo pickin girl says:

    There seem to be more and more “orans people” at my otherwise orthodox NO parish. I am also seeing more people, especially children, imitating the priest and holding the hands at shoulder height, palms out. Why they would be praying in a posture that is specifically forbidden for deacons I don’t know. I am also seeing the forward sweeping motion during “and also with you.” This all comes from the charismatics I’m sure. They are very big on physicality during Mass. Next we will have people falling down in the aisles “slain in the spirit” whatever that means. This horrifies most converts from semi-liturgical groups like the Methodists.

    I do my Benedictine thing and clasp my hands and keep my head bowed.

  19. JKnott says:

    “Dominus noster Christus veritatem se, non consuetudinem, cognominavit” Tertullian

    Just plain drippy sentimentalism until, as one reader pointed out, the handholder gets angry with if you don’t clutch away. In a local parish, all of the 6 women altar servers, 1 little boy, lectors, and deacon are called up on the altar at the Pater and,with the priest, hold hands around the altar. It’s a real ring-around-arosie affair. Are people just as eager to go to Confession regularly?

  20. Lepidus says:

    I thought posture was dictated by Church law. Basically, if the applicable documents don’t call for it or don’t allow it as an indult, it is by definition banned.

    Yesterday, I saw this whole thing taken to the extreme (again). It was First Communion. (It’s too much work for the priest to have a special First Communion Mass like when I had mine 30-some years ago. Now it’s at EVERY Mass.). Anyway, after the Presentation of the Gifts, the priest calls the kids up into the sanctuary. (I’m OK with that. They can kneel in front of the altar like I did as a server). But NO; they STAND behind the altar next to the priest during the Eucharistic Prayer and then he asks them to join hands with HIM during the Lord’s Prayer. (What’s that about “doing the red”, Father?)

    What really gets me is some of the parents who let their kids screw around all during Mass, even the consecration, but when it’s time to hold hands they make sure that everybody is doing that – like its the only important part.

    I have never done it and never will – at least until I read that it is required (not just allowed) in a formal Church document.

  21. Fr. Basil says:

    \\Why just do the orans-thing there? \\

    Assuming the Orans position during the Lord’s Prayer is a custom followed by all the Antiochian Churches: Orthodox, Syriac, Assyrian, Melkite, Maronite….

    The faithful of the different churches also use it at other times.

  22. Chris Garton-Zavesky says:

    ContraMundum:

    Would that be why people treat the Mass as a “community meal”?

  23. acroat says:

    In 2000 my right arm was in a sling after surgery. A man to my right grabbed my arm and yanked it in the air. It resulted in a second surgery and a year off work to recover. Now I consider it assault!

  24. paglia says:

    Several years ago a letter from our Bishop was left in the back of the Church for all to read in which he addressed the hand-holding/orans posture. He asked that everyone do the hand-holding thing and assume whatever postures everyone else was assuming in a spirit of community/unity.

    Like I said – it was several years ago so I don’t remember exactly what was said but it was clear that we were all to be hand-holders/raisers/wavers in this diocese.

    I have been feeling guilty and confused ever since as I can’t bring myself to do it. Our priest told us that if the Bishop says it then it’s simply ‘rabble rousing’ to do anything else.

    (Like you said, Fr. Z, spontaneous and sincere gestures are an entirely different matter. The weeks following Hurricane Katrina in our flooded and gutted church were weeks of some sincere hand-holding. )

  25. Centristian says:

    “I cannot see this hand holding stretch excerise as nothing but contrived sentimentalism which distracts us from the transcendent nature of God Almighty and the meaning of the petitions in the Our Father.”

    Contrived sentimentalism; precisely. That’s all but the hallmark of modern Catholic public worship, I’m afraid. I do not, personally, see anything liturgically appropriate in this habit that some have, but liturgical appropriateness ceased to matter a long time ago in most parts of the Church, of course. This is the sort of thing that replaces traditional practices and postures when traditional liturgy is replaced by “smiley face” liturgy, when the high Roman art of liturgical celebration in the Latin Rite is all but lost and replaced by some vague and lame sense of “gathering ’round, together”.

    When, furthermore, the sentimental habit of some is imposed upon or expected of all worshippers at Mass, it becomes particularly obnoxious. Turning an aberration into a rule is not a surprise, any longer, but it’s still maddening when it happens, at least to any who don’t buy into “smiley face” worship.

    I think that if a husband and wife or a family choose to do this amongst themselves, alright. I still don’t see the point of it, but whatever. Only do not, then, please, extend your hands to those of us sitting to either side of you who are not part of your familial unit, in an attempt to compel us to participate in your family’s practice of making a public spectacle of yourselves. The rest of us are not interfering with your practice of making public worship personal and peculiar, please extend to the rest of us the courtesy of allowing us to make our personal prayer corporate, cooperative, and liturgical by worshipping as tradition expects us to.

  26. pseudomodo says:

    to Amicus1962:

    It is customary when giving a partial quote on something that you use those three little periods at the end so that people who read this will know that you are not quoting the entire paragraph for whatever reason. ;)

    This is fromEWTN via Colin B. Donavan:

    Concerning holding hands in the Eucharistic Liturgy the Congregation for Divine Worship in Rome responded as follows:

    QUERY: In some places there is a current practice whereby those taking part in the Mass replace the giving of the sign of peace at the deacon’s invitation by holding hands during the singing of the Lord’s Prayer. Is this acceptable? REPLY: The prolonged holding of hands is of itself a sign of communion rather than of peace. Further, it is a liturgical gesture introduced spontaneously but on personal initiative; it is not in the rubrics. Nor is there any clear explanation of why the sign of peace at the invitation: “Let us offer each other the sign of peace” should be supplanted in order to bring a different gesture with less meaning into another part of the Mass: the sign of peace is filled with meaning, graciousness, and Christian inspiration. Any substitution for it must be repudiated: Notitiae 11 (1975) 226. [Notitiae is the journal of the Congregation in which its official interpretations of the rubrics are published.]

    repudiate [r??pju?d??e?t]
    vb (tr)
    1. to reject the authority or validity of; refuse to accept or ratify Congress repudiated the treaty that the President had negotiated
    2. (Economics, Accounting & Finance / Banking & Finance) to refuse to acknowledge or pay (a debt)
    3. to cast off or disown (a son, lover, etc.)
    [from Latin repudi?re to put away, from repudium a separation, divorce, from re- + pud?re to be ashamed]

    Sounds like a prohibition to me.

  27. ContraMundum says:

    Chris Garton-Zavesky:

    Yeah, that kind of thinking was probably involved at the beginning.

    Let’s keep in mind that 99% of people probably have no idea about this whatsoever, they just see other people doing it and assume that that’s what they’re supposed to be doing now.

  28. amicus1962 says:

    “And if priests do not assume the orans position during the Our Father, laity will not imitate it.” Excellent article, Dr. Peters. However, I have been to many Masses where the priest did not extend his hands in the orans position but everybody else did anyway. I don’t think the laity will stop just because the priest is no longer doing it. The practice of holding hands has taken on an importance and prominence in our modern liturgical worhsip that nothing short of an explicit decree prohibiting it followed by extensive catechesis will kill it.

  29. Shellynna says:

    I close my eyes and clasp my hands as soon as we start to move into the Our Father so people nearby know right away that there is no point in approaching me for hand-holding. I also try to be more available for the sign of peace (although that really shouldn’t be overdone), just to mitigate any hard feelings. I vividly recall one sign of peace during which a nearby woman looked at my outstretched hand with distaste; said, “So now you want to hold hands”; and turned away without even a “Peace be with you.”

  30. TomG says:

    I blame it all on them charismatic prayer groups.

  31. I was once a minion in an RCIA class, when the Deacon and Deacon’s wife told us it was the “most meaningful” part of the Mass – the hand-holding… My favourite moment was the time at the Our Father where I went into my usual “hands-clasped in prayer, head-bowed, eyes closed” posture, when I felt something weird in front of me. I opened my eyes and the two people had reached in front of me to hold hands. I realized their “symbol of unity” was in actuality excluding me from the Body of Christ. I actually accidentally laughed out loud, confusing everyone around me.

    My question is: Why do people force this false rubric on us, when there are so many others no one ever does: beating the breast at the mea culpa, bowing during the Creed, nodding the head at the Holy Name, etc. I don’t blame people for wanting to worship with their whole selves, and hand-holding can help in that, but the Church gives us plenty to do during the Mass without having to add silly things…

  32. amenamen says:

    I wonder if there really is a secret book of rubrics for things like this. If it were really a “spontaneous” gesture, I would expect to see a lot of variation in how it is done. But it seems that people follow a well-defined ritual in this, and in many other liturgical innovations (and I am not sure if “innovations” is the right word, because they seem to have acquired a patina of archaicism by now). I have encountered people who express genuine surprise and amazement when they visit a parish that “leaves out” the rituals they have been taught to use, such as holding hands during the Our Father and the Libera Nos.

  33. kab63 says:

    I don’t seek to hold hands & I don’t care for the entire practice. However, did a woman just refuse to hold hands with another human soul who sought her out? Are your rubrics so strict that you would deny 30 seconds of compassion to a fellow Christian who made such an effort to reach out to you? Who knows this man’s story, his intentions, & his spiritual needs in that moment? Shame on your lack of charity.

  34. amenamen says:

    The secret book of rubrics seems to be enforced more strictly than the actual rubrics in the Missal. A person guilty of a violation of the Norm of Hand Holding is liable to accusations of a sin against charity.

  35. benedetta says:

    I do not do this because there is no way possible for me to hold hands with everyone else. To hold the hands of those nearby or my own family only would not seem right in the light of such an ineffable reality which extends to all people.

    I don’t know what it means to hold up one’s hands during the Eucharistic prayers. Have observed that this becomes more and more pronounced as if someone were cupping something and the hands are lifted higher and higher with each successive prayer.

    To me there is something about the grasping with our hands at these times that seems to fall short of what we are praying and what is truly intended for us.

    Why is it that some in the congregation feel that their part is to sing the “Through Him, With Him, In Him…” in the NO?

    It’s not possible to discover the “rules” behind all of these. But if no one teaches against these then what could be wrong with receiving communion on the tongue if one so wishes.

  36. ContraMundum says:

    That sounds like the next Dan Brown novel: The Book of Secret Rubrics.

  37. BLB Oregon says:

    At our parish, the altar servers are taught “We’re not going to get into what the private devotions of people in the pews ought to be, since it isn’t your business to correct anyone else, but at the altar we do only what is prescribed, and no more. Therefore: No hand-holding or taking the orans position during the Our Father when you’re serving. Keep your hands folded, just like for the rest of Mass.” It is suggested they do the same when they are not serving, so the habit is automatic when they do.

    Having said that, my feeling is that while I’m not too keen on holding hands during the Our Father, it isn’t an abuse, so I’ll hold hands with a fellow Catholic who wants to hold hands. I figure that baptism (or even an interest in the Faith) constitutes introduction enough, putting the question into the category of “Although I am free in regard to all, I have made myself a slave to all so as to win over as many as possible.” (1 Cor. 8:19)

    By the same token, I think those who don’t seem to want to hold hands ought to be left alone by those who do, on the assumption that so many find the practice distracting, intrusive, or both. Besides that, some can’t afford to get sick. Why ask for someone to apologize for choosing to refrain from an optional practice?

    With hundreds of millions of Catholics in the world, a willingness to be accomodating where you can and grateful for accomdation when you can’t seems de rigueur. In any case, surely rash accusations don’t fall into the realm of charity!

  38. BLB Oregon says:

    “That sounds like the next Dan Brown novel: The Book of Secret Rubrics.”

    To rob a thought from Fiddler on the Roof:
    “May the LORD bless and keep Dan Brown….far away from us!!”

  39. pookiesmom says:

    Why does this Blog make me laugh until I cry!?! Then all the dogs start to bark…!

  40. Consilio et Impetu says:

    Holding hands during the Our Father has become commonplace, but it is an illicit addition to the Liturgy. Clarifications and Interpretations of the GIRM [“Notitiae” Vol. XI (1975) p. 226] explains: “. . .holding hands is a sign of intimacy and not reconciliation, and as such disrupts the flow of the Sacramental signs in the Mass which leads to the Sacramental sign of intimacy with Christ and our neighbor, Holy Communion.”
    The ultimate origin of holding hands while praying is Alcoholics Anonymous, not ancient Church practice, so it has no legal standing in the Mass. Poorly led Charismatic Prayer Groups adopted the practice but that doesn’t make it right. Horrible Catechesis during the Post Conciliar years are much to blame for most of the illicit/invalid nonsense introduced in some parishes and dioceses.
    I prefer the orans posture by the Priest/Bishop celebrant alone as a sign that he is leading the congregation in prayer.

  41. John UK says:

    jasoncpetty wrote, 9 May 2011 at 9:57 am :
    That’s the most cringe-worthy, liturgically mixed-up part of the English OF. The ancient English of the Our Father juxtaposed with hand-holding; and, as an added, creepy bonus, everyone in the orans position–but only for this part of the Mass!

    No disrespect intended, but should not that read “American OF”? Mercifully (or perhaps I have merely led a very sheltered life) I have not encountered the practice this side of the Big Pond.

    Kind regards,
    John U.K.

  42. mcdawson says:

    According to a 2003 Adoremus article, the USCCB sought to have Rome approve their ICEL Sacramentary in 1999, which provided the option of the congregation assuming the orans posture during the Our Father. Interestingly, the Holy See rejected that Sacramentary after it was replaced by the new Roman Missal. The 2002 GIRM makes no reference to the orans posture, but notably, the posture of the congregation is not one of the items that the GIRM permits a bishop to change sua sponte (see GIRM 387).

    See http://www.adoremus.org/1103OransPosture.html

  43. skull kid says:

    John UK – hand-holding is happening in Ireland – just last Sunday in my own parish, where a trendy priest has introduced it on special occasions like Easter. At least it’s not every Sunday.

  44. Consilio et Impetu says:

    The following explains the origin of the Orans position, in which the priest intercedes during the liturgy on behalf of all. In the last couple decades this posture of praying with hands extended and lifted upwards has become a popular prayer posture for many laity, especially in the Charismatic Renewal.
    The Orans position (Latin for “praying”) or some variation of it, was common to almost all ancient religions as an outward sign of supplicating God (or if a pagan religion, the gods). Consider what we do when we plead with someone. We might put our arms out in front of us as if reaching for the person and say “I beg you, help me.” This seems to be a natural human gesture coming from deep within us – like kneeling to adore or to express sorrow. Now, turn that reach heavenwards and you have the Orans position.

    The ancient monuments of Christianity, such as the tombs in the catecombs, often show someone in the Orans position supplicating God, to show that the prayers of the Church accompany the person in death.

    The liturgical use of this position by the priest is spelled out in the rubrics (the laws governing how the Mass is said). It indicates his praying on BEHALF of us, acting as alter Christus as pastor of the flock, head of the body. It used to be minutely defined in the rubrics, which now say only, “extends his hands” or “with hands extended.” Priests understand what is meant (from observation and training), and although there is some variability between priests basically the same gesture is obtained from all of them by these words.

    In the rubrics the Orans gesture is asked principally of the Main Celebrant, but on those occasions where either a priestly action is done (Eucharistic Prayer) or prayer in common (Our Father) all the concelebrants do it.

    It is never done by the Deacon, who does not represent the People before God but assists him who does.

    Among the laity this practice began with the charismatic renewal. Used in private prayer it has worked its way into the Liturgy. It is a legitimate gesture to use when praying, as history shows, however, it is a private gesture when used in the Mass and in some cases conflicts with the system of signs which the rubrics are intended to protect. The Mass is not a private or merely human ceremony. The symbology of the actions, including such gestures, is definite and precise, and reflects the sacramental character of the Church’s prayer. As the Holy See has recently pointed out, confusion has entered the Church about the hierarchical nature of her worship, and this gesture certainly contributes to that confusion when it conflicts with the ordered sign language of the Mass.

    Lets take each case.

    Our Father. The intention for lay people using the Orans position at this time is, I suppose, that we pray Our Father, and the unity of people and priest together is expressed by this common gesture of prayer. Although this gesture is not called for in the rubrics, it does at least seem, on the surface, to not be in conflict with the sacramental sign system at the point when we pray Our Father. I say on the surface, however, since while lay people are doing this the deacon, whose postures are governed by the rubrics, may not do it. So, we have the awkward disunity created by the priest making an appropriate liturgical gesture in accordance with the rubrics, the deacon not making the same gesture in accordance with the rubrics, some laity making the same gesture as the priest not in accordance with the rubrics, and other laity not making the gesture (for various reasons, including knowing it is not part of their liturgical role). In the end, the desire of the Church for liturgical unity is defeated.

    After Our Father. This liturgical disunity continues after the Our Father when some, though not all, who assumed the Orans position during the Our Father continue it through the balance of the prayers, until after “For thine is the kingdom etc.” The rubrics provide that priest-concelebrants lower their extended hands, so that the main celebrant alone continues praying with hands extended, since he represents all, including his brother priests. So, we have the very anomalous situation that no matter how many clergy are present only one of them is praying with hands extended, accompanied by numbers of the laity.

    So, while we shouldn’t attribute bad will to those who honestly have felt that there was some virtue in doing this during the Mass, it is yet another case where good will can achieve the opposite of what it intends when not imbued with the truth, in this case the truth about the sacramental nature of the postures at Mass and their meaning.

  45. PeterK says:

    I’m not a handholder either. reminds of some Protestant practice. could someone also please explain why people pray with their hands open with the palms up? reminds me of how many Muslims pray

  46. priests wife says:

    We Byzantine types wouldn’t even think to do this (we have different problems)- the kiss of peace isn’t in the rubrics either- only for priests and deacons together

    A person used to all that hand shaking and holding coming into our parish would think we are a cold people…until they are ushered into the coffee room after Liturgy and are slapped on the back in welcome, seeing both men and women doing the double kiss on the cheeks, etc.

  47. Jayna says:

    At the church I used to go to, no one was told explicitly to do it, but the celebrant always held hands with the deacon(s) and the altar servers, so it’s just as bad as telling the congregation to do likewise. And at this church, people literally would stretch out into the aisles (even the central aisle) and hold hands. I haven’t seen that happen anywhere else, but nor have I ever been to a church in the US at which at least families and friends didn’t hold hands. On the bright side, I don’t get nasty looks anymore if I don’t hold the strangers’ hands on either side of me.

  48. Mom of 3 says:

    This happens a lot on Sundays at the otherwise pretty orthodox NO parish that I go to.

    EVERYONE uses the orans position during the Our Father. Most families do a hand-holding-orans combo. Then during the doxology, everyone imitates an Emmy award. They also use the orans position every time they say “and also with you” and do the Emmy imitation every time they say “we lift them up to the Lord”.

    Also, our Bishop wants us all to stand from the great amen until the last person is served communion. Then we can either kneel or sit for reflection until the closing prayer. This has resulted in a liturgical train wreck of sorts. Most people don’t know why they stand after receiving communion and therefore they don’t know when they are supposed to kneel or sit or even why they kneel or sit. So each week it’s a slow progression of folks kneeling when they think it’s the right time. Instead of praying while they’re kneeling, they watch the priest clean up. When he sits, they sit. So to avoid getting bopped in the nose by the person in front of me, I just sit down for reflection until the closing prayer.

    It is also worth noting that it’s a rarity to see anyone strike their breast during the Confiteor or bow during the creed, even though it’s written in the missalette to do so. I think it’s mainly because people don’t know why they do what they do during mass, and so they follow a “monkey-see monkey-do” policy.

  49. Centristian says:

    I don’t know if it’s worth pointing out that some people haven’t got hands and arms to extend to others in their pew. In an age of hyper-sensitivity to the feelings of others, should not this practice, which can only exclude amputees and make them feel awkward and unable to participate in the gesture, be shunned as insensitive?

  50. Nathan says:

    Thankfully, I’ve only encountered situations where I’ve felt like I’ve been forced to hold hands at Holy Mass very occasionally. For the most part, when I’ve kept my eyes closed and hands folded, no one has seemed to mind, and I’ve tried to be cordial during the “sign of peace.”

    What gets me going, though, is the attitude of “forced fun” on the laity. This applies to the “you abolutely must NOT KNEEL after Holy Communion” edicts I’ve come across, to the “you aren’t participating if you aren’t singing every single note of that Marty Haugen song we substititued for the text of the Mass” exhortations from (usually) music directors making “commentary” for the Mass.

    One of the great things about being Catholic is the idea of the dignity of the faithful. As a baptized Christian, attending Holy Mass outside of a liturgical role (server, member of the choir, or even usher), Holy Mother Church has not laid an obligation on me to do anything at Holy Mass other than to pray and actually participate (i.e., inwardly) according to my state. Who are these people to tell the faithful that they all have to be little automotons and then treat the faithful as if they were all in first-grade PE class or circle time?

    Of course, we all have the obligation to treat each other with charity, and I pray that, when I go to an OF Mass, absolutely no one notices when I don’t do what the majority of folks do, such as holding hands during the Pater Noster. And I will hold hands if necessary to prevent scandal or acrimony. Please just don’t get up front and tell me that I absolutely must do what the liturgical “experts” have come up with for me to have forced fun.

    In Christ,

  51. Joseph-Mary says:

    Shall we even mention the pandemonium that breaks out in the novus ordo at the ‘sign of peace’ that is hugs, crossing aisles, reaching over 2 pews and etc.?

    And the pandemonium that breaks out after Mass is over.

    They leave me, along with the music that would be okay in any protestant church, wishing so much we could again have a TLM in our town. I long for that.

  52. Chatto says:

    John UK – I was going to say the same. I’ve never encountered this in England, and I’ve been to some ‘trendy’ Masses! At my first Mass in the US, they did the hand-holding thing. I can’t remember whether there was a specific instruction to do so, other whether everyone just did it.

    St Augustine of Canterbury, pray for our preservation!

  53. Lepidus says:

    One interesting thing is that the pro-hand-holding people talk about it as a “family” gesture. One priest, in non-verbally recommending it called the Our Father the “family” prayer. However, nobody has ever given an explanation then why the congregation would raise their hand higher (like the priest) during the Doxology.

    I don’t know if this is a valid explanation, but I once heard a priest describe the fact that HIS hands are raised at this point and others is that he is acting like a funnel and collecting everybody’s prayers and raising them to God. May not be 100% correct, but I like the analogy – AND it makes hand holding / orans seem kind of silly for the congregation.

  54. Midwest St. Michael says:

    Good grief, I don’t even like to hold hands spontaneously for opening prayer at faith studies, prayer meetings, etc. etc.

    I don’t know why – maybe it’s just me – but when somebody (usually one who is a “leader” type) says, “Why don’t we all hold hands and pray the Our Father?” – I just cringe and inwardly ask “Do we have to?”

    Please do not ask me to hold hands at Holy Mass during the Lord’s Prayer. My head is bowed, my eyes closed, and my hands are clasped in front of me. Is there anything wrong with this?

    MSM

  55. teaguytom says:

    In my previous parish this was very common, as well as the priest doing the “touch down prayer position.” Even if I have to attend a different parish, I refuse to outstretch my hands. I keep them flat together with the thumbs crossed.There are a couple theories on the net that speculate where the hand holding and orans in modern times came from in our liturgy. The most common and believable is that it was a practice picked up by members of the Charismatic Movement from Pentecostalism. You see it all the time with Pentecostal preachers on TV like Peter Poppoff and Benny Hinn. The crowd holds hands or outstretches them with eyes closed in some meditation like prayer.
    The orans position may have been common in the ancient church and hand holding common in a time of fear like Fr Z mentions, but bringing back ancient practices or copying heretical sects isn’t proper to the Latin Rite. Stick with what the rubrics state and if the rubrics say nothing, follow the former practice that was mentioned. Don’t insert unmentioned acts. The liturgy isn’t ours to tinker with. We already saw what happened when The Consilium of Bugnini tinkered with the mass. We got a cut and pasted mass that was not linked to our tradition.

  56. Dave N. says:

    In my travels around the U.S., this practice seems pretty firmly entrenched and I don’t think it’s going away anytime soon. While I’d really prefer not to, I know for a fact that such a refusal to hold hands can be perceived as petty or uncharitable, or even “holier-than-thou,” regardless of the non-hand-holder’s excellent rationale and good intentions—and I don’t think such perceptions are really very helpful to “the cause” in the long run. When in Rome….

  57. Jim Dorchak says:

    What strikes me is that it is a loss of the Universal Church or the CATHOLIC Church since we are no longer Universal in our actions and prayers. If you go to one Catholic church you see it one way and at another Catholic Church another way. I find it creepy. (hey am I really in a Catholic Church?)

    Another example of this slight of hand is where the faithful have been prompted to stand at the LAVABO as opposed to standing after “may the Lord accept the sacrifice at your hands ….. ect. ” I remember for 40 years standing at the end of that prayer, and now it has been changed here in SC. What is interesting is that not all Catholic Churches in South Carolina have followed suit.
    I’m curious….Have others out there seen this change or is it just here in South Carolina?

    So what is CATHOLIC and what is catholic? What are we to do?

    Jim Dorchak
    http://qm2ss.blogspot.com/

  58. Will D. says:

    I changed two years from grudgingly holding hands to keeping my hands folded in front of me during the prayer. I’ve never had anyone give me static for it. Certainly, I’ve never had anyone try to force me to hold hands. I find it hard to believe that so many parishes are infested with people that are so invested in holding hands that they impose themselves on each other.
    And in any case, is holding hands with somebody for a minute or two such a great imposition? No, it’s not in the rubrics. Yes, it’s silly. Offer it up for the poor souls.

  59. Marc says:

    There should never be any hand holding at Mass, unless Kumbaya is being sung. Only then is it appropriate.

  60. Marc: And since Kumbaya should simply never be sung…

  61. Marc says:

    LOL…I was bringing a little levity to the conversation! I agree whole heartily…but I would go even further: “Kumbaya” should never be sung at Mass or outside of Mass!

  62. DetJohn says:

    I dislike hand holding during the Our Father. In the Archdiocese of Los Angeles it is rampant. Most that I have talked to about it believe that hand holding and praying with uplifted hands is mandatory. Most of my Sunday’s are at Eastern Rite parishes. Hand holding is heavy among the Maronite parish. There is even some outstreatched hands. I have also seen some hand holding at Melkite services. In any case, I do not do it. I especially don’t like or get it about the “Touchdown Jesture”(as Joe of St. Therese calls it) when saying “Thine is the Kingdom and the Power and
    glory.” In March, I attended mass at three parishes in Boston and no hand holding and only a few out stretched or upheld hands during the mass.

  63. contrarian says:

    This is an awesome thread.

    The original post mentions that due to an impending cataclysmic event and or a post-nuclear holocaust, the Our Father might spontaneously lead to hand-holding.

    To which I respond: meh.

    It’s so nice to know that there are others out there who cringe at the thought of doing this. I’ve also been in parishes where I had to opt out of the congregation-wide chain-link prayer. I felt like a jerk, even though the thought of joining in would have made me throw up a little bit in my mouth.

  64. Brad says:

    The problem for me is that when someone forces me to hold their hand and I must capitulate, I feel the sensation of a hand in mine and that stimulus makes me think about the stimulus and then I catch myself thinking about myself thinking about the stimulus and the Pater Noster is over and I have not prayed the prayer one whit. satan has triumphed in the way he can triumph over me.

    It may have been St. John Vianney who said that the people at Mass must always be asperged and incensed (no pun intended), otherwise demons will be among us in the pews and will be free to lean their weight on our thoughts. And since we don’t do those steps anymore…

    Side note, not to play one up with everyone, but it is Monday and all…

    I’m sitting Mary side in third row from front at the outer aisle. No one is in prior rows. All four altar girls (…), already holding hands, walks down the steps like a centipede at me (20 feet). The lead girl has her arm fully extended toward me. It is all in slow-mo. My hands are already clasped and my head is down. Because of the 20 feet, the prayer is in progress and the girls are still coming. I look up, horrified. I have one second to spare. I take one palm and make a halt sign, but keep my palm at belt level so, hopefully, the packed house won’t see my rebuff. The lead girl looks amazed and hurt. I feel utterly sinful and uncharitable. The human centipede stops next to me. All the altar girls are in a random spot in the aisle now. I slay myself in my conscience and miss the Pater Noster. satan wins.

    I notice too that the hindu hand posture of touching one’s forefinger to one’s thumb (hail, shakti, goddess of death!) is now being added to the solo orans position by an adult male altar server. Gotta love my town! It’s called kundalini rising, CA, if anyone wants to come visit.

  65. Midwest St. Michael says:

    I have waited for a long time for somebody to do this on a thread about “hand holding” and such….

    So, here goes! A rousing rendition of “Put your hand in the Hand”!

    Come on now, everybody join in…..

    Put your hand in the hand of the Man
    Who stilled the water;
    Put your hand in the hand of the Man
    Who calmed the sea.
    Take a look at yourself
    And you can look at others differently
    Put your hand in the hand of the Man
    From Galilee.

    My momma taught me how to pray
    Before I reached the age of seven;
    When I’m down on my knees
    Thats when I’m closest to heaven.
    Daddy lived his life, two kids and a wife
    Well you do what you must do;
    But he showed me enough of what it takes
    To get me through, oh yeah!

    Put your hand in the hand of the Man
    Who stilled the water;
    Put your hand in the hand of the Man
    Who calmed the sea.
    Take a look at yourself
    And you can look at others differently
    Put your hand in the hand of the Man
    From Galilee. Oh yeah!

    Put your hand in the hand of the Man
    Who stilled the water;
    Put your hand in the hand of the Man
    Who calmed the sea.
    Take a look at yourself
    And you can look at others differently
    Put your hand in the hand of the Man
    From Galilee. Oh yeah!

    Put your hand in the hand of the Man
    Who stilled the water;
    Put your hand in the hand of the Man
    Who calmed the sea.
    Take a look at yourself
    And you can look at others differently
    Put your hand in the hand of the Man
    From Galilee. Oh yeah!

    Put your hand in the hand of the Man from Galilee
    Put your hand in the hand of the Man from Galilee
    Oh yeah!

  66. Peggy R says:

    Midwest St. Michael,

    Believe it or not, the first summer we were at our current parish in the midwest, when the gospel was about Jesus stilling the storm on the water, at the sign of peace, the pastor did say something about putting our hand in the hand of the man who stilled the water as he invited the congregation to pray the Lord’s prayer.

  67. James Joseph says:

    I have a book from written by an Austrailian press (who is now I bishop I think). He cites ironically enough the Bugnini publication from around 1973, or whathaveyou, ‘Noticiae’ wherein it condemns the practice. I’ll have to look it up.

  68. Grace says:

    Oh, dear. For three years (as long as I’ve been attending the Catholic Church) I have clasped my hands, closed my eyes and put my head down well before anybody could reasonably be expected to grab my hand. However, the priests and the altar servers hold hands, so although Father doesn’t tell us to hold hands, it seems he wants us to do it. So just a few weeks ago I decided I was being willful in refusing to hold hands and that I should do what the priest wants for the sake of unity and harmony. And now I read this thread.

  69. RichardT says:

    Fortunately it’s pretty much unknown over here in England.

    But knowing our luck it will start to catch on just as it starts to die out over on your side of the pond.

  70. Nora says:

    The worst are the Our Father hand holders who, when offered an outstretched hand at the sign of peace use it as a lever to swing one into a full embrace.

  71. amenamen says:

    @ TNCath -“Why is it the “in thing to do” only during the Our Father and not the Gloria, Credo, Sanctus, or Agnus Dei?”

    Why indeed? How do they know when to hold hands and when not to? More evidence that there really is a secret book of rubrics. Where is the Dan Brown who will help us to find it?

  72. Nathan says:

    This has been a good discussion, especially on being charitable for us “don’t hold my hand” types. I wonder, though, has there ever been a discussion among the proponents of the practice that forcing someone to hold hands, especially when it creates a situation where (to quote Brad above) “I feel the sensation of a hand in mine and that stimulus makes me think about the stimulus and then I catch myself thinking about myself thinking about the stimulus and the Pater Noster is over and I have not prayed the prayer one whit,” that it might not be, well, charitable?

    In Christ,

  73. Gail F says:

    When I came to this parish 16 years ago, assuming the “orans” position was all the rage. I assumed that this was from the Charismatic movement, and though I didn’t really have a problem with it I felt very strange doing it. Eventually it became sort of natural and I found myself in the odd position of being in a strange parish while traveling and being the only one in the building doing it! Now the big thing is holding hands. My kids have grown up holding hands during the Our Father and I am in the uncomfortable position of really, really not liking it. I know that it isn’t forbidden but it isn’t exactly okay either. So sometimes I do it and sometimes I don’t. I only hold hands with members of my family, though. I think holding hands with strangers is creepy and I really don’t like attending other parishes where people grab my hands. Our parish does a sort of half hand holding, half orans thing. I am used to it now.

    But what I will NOT do is “extend my hand in blessing.” I refuse to give the Nazi salute and I can’t bless anyone, anyway. My husband always says “I prefer to bless with my LASER EYES!”

  74. Luvadoxi says:

    Nathan, I feel *exactly* the way you do about the “forced fun.” I’ve been Catholic almost 8 years now and I’ve gone from joy and enthusiasm to having anxiety attacks now before Mass (and wishing I could fulfill my obligation at a week-day daily Mass) and going mostly out of obedience. It struck me early on how Catholics in charge seem to treat other Catholics like children. It’s really obvious to someone coming from another tradition. Of course, I *am* from one of the “frozen chosen”–lol!

  75. Luvadoxi says:

    I’ve had people poke my arm when I’m trying to pray the Our Father with hands clasped. I had one lady reach inside my clasped hand and forcibly force them open for her to hold. I kept my temper both times (with difficulty!) and in the first case did make sure to be extra-nice to the man at the Peace–he probably just didn’t know better. And I’ll hold hands with children, mentally challenged folks, and my non-Catholic family members who don’t know it’s not the norm and are just trying to fit in. But at most Masses I just dread the passing of the peace–when it comes, it’s actually not so bad and even pleasant–but the idea of being *required*….and the idea that to participate I must sing dreadful songs, and all the “you must….actively participate” thought police. It literally has given me an anxiety disorder around going to Mass, and I don’t know what to do about it. Thanks so much for letting me vent a little in this thread!

  76. Nathan says:

    Luvadoxi: Persevere, my friend. I entered the Church 31 years ago and went through much of the same. God gives us the graces to keep on going, even when we don’t notice them.

    In Christ,

  77. Luvadoxi says:

    Dave N. said,” While I’d really prefer not to, I know for a fact that such a refusal to hold hands can be perceived as petty or uncharitable, or even “holier-than-thou,” regardless of the non-hand-holder’s excellent rationale and good intentions—and I don’t think such perceptions are really very helpful to “the cause” in the long run. When in Rome….”

    But that’s just it…..”in Rome” we’re not supposed to force others to adopt random feel-good gestures and make others feel like they’re in the gulag….I like what another poster said about each person who doesn’t have a role to play (meaning the regular layperson) being able to pray and interiorly participate without being hassled (my words, not theirs). If someone thinks I’m holier than thou, so be it. People are going to think what they think. There’s no cause. I just want to worship at Catholic mass. If everyone keeps doing these things they become custom, and then eventually law, don’t they? Why should be forced to do something that makes us uncomfortable. We teach kids self-respect by saying they don’t have to let people touch them if it makes them uncomfortable, don’t we?

  78. dcs says:

    Noli me tangere!

  79. Joan A. says:

    Poking my shoulder, grabbing my hands or arm, shaking me, tugging on clothing, pulling on my arm, hitting my forearm, etc. The attempts strangers have made to hold hands during the Our Father are sometimes not far from, and sometimes MEET, the legal definition of assault! I am not joking, that is assault. Now let’s see that clarified in the bulletin.

  80. Luvadoxi says:

    “Another example of this slight of hand is where the faithful have been prompted to stand at the LAVABO as opposed to standing after “may the Lord accept the sacrifice at your hands ….. ect. ” I remember for 40 years standing at the end of that prayer, and now it has been changed here in SC. What is interesting is that not all Catholic Churches in South Carolina have followed suit.
    I’m curious….Have others out there seen this change or is it just here in South Carolina?”

    I think I remember reading once that due to a lack of clarity in the rubrics, it can be either. We stand from the very beginning ( I think the theory being it’s normally not customary to change positions in the middle of a prayer). But I agree it’s a little sudden and uncertain. But the rubrics need to be tweaked to make it clear what they mean.

  81. BaedaBenedictus says:

    Luvadoxi,

    To risk a cliche, I feel your pain! My 5th anniversary of entering the Church was two weeks ago. Certainly it hasn’t been easy for me either. My advice: If you can’t find a NO whose shenanigans don’t cause you such anxiety, look for a TLM. If there are no TLMs, try finding an Eastern Catholic parish near you.

    Failing all of these options, often the earliest Mass on Sundays in many parishes tends to be less irreverent.

  82. Fr. Basil says:

    \\The worst are the Our Father hand holders who, when offered an outstretched hand at the sign of peace use it as a lever to swing one into a full embrace.\\

    The Pax in the West (at least as exchanged among the clergy at Missa Solemnis) has always been an embrace.

  83. BaedaBenedictus says:

    Yes, Fr. Basil. What I do in most cases is clasp my hands together and bow to the people around me, saying “Peace be with you.” Most people don’t seem to mind (perhaps they think I don’t want to give them something!).

    If someone grabs my hand to shake it, then what I do is shake their hand but put my other hand on their upper arm or shoulder, to make it more like a liturgical embrace (I also bow my head in respect). Hand-shaking bugs me—this isn’t a business meeting, this is Holy Mass with my brethren!

  84. Luvadoxi says:

    oops–my last post at 3:21 was quoting Jim Dorchak, with my response following. Sorry for the lack of clarity in my post.

    And Nathan–thank you for your support! :)

  85. Luvadoxi says:

    Good suggestions Baeda–both the Eastern and TLM are pretty far away but I can try an earlier Mass, the “music lover’s mass” (no music). Problem there, there’s an intro. greeting “in order that we not be strangers, turn to your neighbor and introduce yourself.” AAAGHH!!!! Plenty of opportunities here to offer it up. :)

  86. Brad says:

    Nathan, thank you. You are very intuitive and you understand. It has nothing to do with being a germophobe or awkward, both of which I am not. A percentage of us at certain moments of the Mass seem to be disposed to be in a strange, delicate state (I don’t mean that in a boasting, psuedo-mystic kind of way — I am nobody special– but we are at the foot of Calvary, right?) and the intrusion of the physical world through not only the senses but simply an awareness of the body next to us can be detrimental. I don’t think it’s very what, thoughtful? sensitive? charitable? for anyone to forcefully overwhelm someone else’s spiritual and mental state.

    http://dailyrunneronline.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/04/christ.jpg

    All the people here have different expressions. We can all recognize which one we resemble.

    Note the holy woman behind the Virgin’s shoulder, her senses being overwhelmed by the horse.

  87. MarkJ says:

    The year before last in Brussels my family and I went to a parish where the Sunday Mass was so butchered we didn’t dare receive Communion because we weren’t sure it was even a Mass anymore. Anyway, before the Our Father, the priest invited all the children to come up to the altar and hold hands. There were exactly two Belgian children at Mass that day (who ran up eagerly), and our two girls. We instructed our girls to stay put, and then the priest came down and grabbed the hand of one of them… we held on firmly to the other hand, and for a few moments it was a tug-of-war for my daughter (which we won). In hindsight it was very comical, but also very sad. Thank the Lord they have a new bishop in Brussels, who has already provided two parishes to TLM-only religious orders. But he certainly has his Liturgical work cut out for him. He needs our prayers.

  88. “… we held on firmly to the other hand, and for a few moments it was a tug-of-war for my daughter (which we won). In hindsight it was very comical, but also very sad.”

    And in most of the United States, also known as “assault of a minor.” And when it’s one of my children, also known as “just cause for a good old-fashioned country @$$-whoopin’.”

    (For want of a better term, of course.)

  89. Tina in Ashburn says:

    I don’t hold hands during Mass.

    I have observed that where hand-holding during the Our Father is thick in a parish, that these same people pay little or no attention to the Consecration, nor even at a minimum the bow during the Creed’s mention of the Incarnation.

    As with other senseless practices, these things wouldn’t occur if the laity were more firmly [and charitably] directed towards other more pious practices. This craziness occurs because there is a vacuum, and the human heart desires to express itself. But without direction in Truth, expressions become misguided.

    Why do we have out-of-control charismatic demonstrations? The Church took away Sodalities, Novenas, Octaves, Processions…we are left to ourselves with longing hearts, but without firm direction for truer expressions of devotion.

  90. Sacristymaiden says:

    I grew up being told that if we had our hands clasped tightly, eyes closed, and a reverent attitude, we would get “passed by” in the handholding-for-the-Our-Father churches. This has always worked for me. There was always the little addendum that if there was an elderly lady or gentleman or very lonely looking person who really wanted to hold your hand, then it was a work of Christian charity to do so.

  91. BLB Oregon says:

    “Nathan, thank you. You are very intuitive and you understand. It has nothing to do with being a germophobe or awkward, both of which I am not. ”

    The thing is, you don’t have to give a reason at all. It does not matter why you don’t want to do it. While I think it is just as profitable to share where you find edification by not doing as when you tell others where you find edification by doing–perhaps more so, in these times where doing is worshipped so much– if you don’t want to hold hands with someone else during the Pater Noster, you owe no apologies or explanations to anyone.

    “Why do we have out-of-control charismatic demonstrations? The Church took away Sodalities, Novenas, Octaves, Processions…we are left to ourselves with longing hearts, but without firm direction for truer expressions of devotion.”

    There is something to that. Still, the devotions of my childhood were communal, not individual. The only communal rituals done for 100s of years that seem to be in vogue now are the ones done by someone else’s great grandparents, not our own!

  92. JKnott says:

    So after the hand holding comes the “peace of Christ” Rhett and Scarlet thing. Clutch and clinch.
    Who gets the Oscar for the big kiss?
    Very interesting reading here. But in the end, it seems we have become hopelessly protestantized.

  93. contrarian says:

    @Sacristymaiden: “There was always the little addendum that if there was an elderly lady or gentleman or very lonely looking person who really wanted to hold your hand, then it was a work of Christian charity to do so.”

    Yeah–this is a really good point. I think there are times that I not only feel like jerk for not holding hands, but I really am, given the people who want to hold hands with me.

    Something to keep in mind.

  94. James Joseph says:

    @ContraMundum

    Regarding the cute girl dilemma of holding hands with a young lady that you mightfind attractive.

    As much of an aberration as it is…. These are some of my fondest moments.

  95. casey says:

    I will never forget the day a few years ago at our base chapel that the Priest came out and announced that the new Military Catholic Chapel policy was NO MORE HAND HOLDING ! Yipee!
    By the way…that was it, it really ended that day.

  96. amenamen says:

    I’ll tell you something, I think you’ll understand
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JeBm46WJOxQ&feature=related

  97. Generally speaking, the purpose of rubrics (or even the Instruction in the Missal itself, for that matter) is not to say what is NOT done, but what IS done. Holding hands during the Our Father is not called for in the Roman Mass. This is not a matter of speculation or conjecture. You will simply not find it mentioned in the text.

    That being said, where there is need for consolation through human touch, or among those who are familiars, it is one thing, and most likely to be harmless. But to impose it as a norm, by whatever means of cajoling is applied, whether from the priest/celebrant, or persons within the assembly, is another thing altogether, and is simply not acceptable.

    For those occasions when I do attend Mass in the Ordinary Form, it is rarely if ever a problem. It probably helps that I have a missal in both hands at the time. I don’t put it down. (Nobody ever tells me I can’t kneel either, at least not successfully.)

  98. s i says:

    http://www.usccb.org/romanmissal/resources-bulletins3.shtml
    In addition to serving as a vehicle for the prayer of beings composed of body and spirit, the postures and gestures in which we engage at Mass have another very important function. The Church sees in these common postures and gestures both a symbol of the unity of those who have come together to worship and a means of fostering that unity. We are not free to change these postures to suit our own individual piety, for the Church makes it clear that our unity of posture and gesture is an expression of our participation in the one Body formed by the baptized with Christ, our head. When we stand, kneel, sit, bow and sign ourselves in common action, we give unambiguous witness that we are indeed the Body of Christ, united in heart, mind and spirit.

    With regard to the holding hands during the Our Father:

    The Holy See has authority over the liturgy according to Vatican II’s “Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy” #22 and canon 838 of the Code of Canon Law. In a response to a query on the subject, the Holy See stated that holding hands “is a liturgical gesture introduced spontaneously but on personal initiative; it is not in the rubrics” (Notitiae II [1975] 226, DOL I502 n. R29).
    [this is the final word…….it can be debated into oblivion, but that fact remains – ROME SAYS NO! Our obedience is required.]

    The use of this practice during the Our Father could detract and distract from the prayer’s God-directed sense of adoration and petition, as explained in Nos. 2777-2865 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, in favor of a more horizontal and merely human meaning.

    The Code of Canon Law (1983) does mandate: “The liturgical books approved by the competent authority are to be faithfully observed in the celebration of the sacraments; therefore, no one on personal authority may add, remove, or change anything in them” (Canon 826.1). (Note that this Canon repeated a previous mandate found in both Vatican II’s Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy (1963) and the Instruction on the Worship of the Eucharistic Mystery, No. 45 (1967), which was issued to address certain abuses arising in the liturgy after the council.) Therefore, a priest who introduces, mandates, or imposes the holding of hands during the Lord’s Prayer is violating the norms set by the Church.

    [The purpose of rubrics is to say what is done, not to say what is not done. That holding hands during the Our Father appears nowhere in the rubrics nor the general instruction, is sufficient to confirm that it is not called for. When it comes to the various postures of the laity, there is a certain freedom for the lay faithful, but remember that gestures actually mean something. They are not arbitrary, and it is not up to the individual to try to change them. We genuflect on the right knee, make the sign of the cross with our right hand, etc. and we fold our hands during the Eucharistic Prayer and the Communion rite. The point here is that the liturgy is not a thing to be modified at the whim of each individual. It falls to the Church (and particularly the Supreme Pontiff) to regulate it.]

  99. albinus1 says:

    I vividly recall one sign of peace during which a nearby woman looked at my outstretched hand with distaste; said, “So now you want to hold hands”; and turned away without even a “Peace be with you.”

    I generally solve that problem by folding my hands and closing my eyes during the Our Father and the Sign of Peace. Burying my face in the Traditional Missal I always bring to Mass with me also tends to discourage all but the most aggressively tactile.

  100. fieldsparrow says:

    I couldn’t catch up on all the comments right now, but this Sunday’s 9:30 Mass was wall-to-wall packed with people because we also had several First Communions. I was squished into the middle of a pew and had to employ two separate kneelers since I am not able to kneel behind both of them. At the point of the Our Father, the people on both sides of me reached for my hands and I kind of made a “sorry” gesture with my head and assumed my usual position of hands folded, eyes closed. I hope they didn’t think I was being horribly rude. But if I hold hands with someone, I am more concerned about whether my palms are all sweaty and whether I’m standing too close &c &c.

  101. benedetta says:

    amenamen, Yes. Not to get overly technical and bogged down with any untoward -isms, but, wasn’t that somewhat erroneous on the youtube caption. Isn’t “wanna” the correct rendering?

  102. EWTN Rocks says:

    This is a great post Fr. Z!

    I clasp my hands during the Our Father while everyone around me holds hands. I find hand holding distracting and intuitively wrong – similar to what someone else posted, almost Kumbaya-like (which I don’t like). People look at me like I’m strange at times because I don’t hold hands (since that appears to be the norm) but it doesn’t really matter to me. Fortunately, I have not encountered an aggressive hand holderer! (I think I just made up word!)

    I find it even more distracting when people mimic the priest’s gestures – I’m almost offended by it (seems disrespectful). Having said this, I know I’m not perfect and can make improvements, and have learned a lot by reading other comments.

    Finally, I had to laugh at the lyrics to “Put your hand in the hand” – thanks Midwest St. Michael!

  103. catholicmidwest says:

    Put your hands in your pockets and shut your eyes. It’s as easy as that.

  104. rcesq2 says:

    I truly detest handholding during the Our Father and force myself to shake hands during the kiss of peace, especially if greeters have been coughing and blowing their noses and don’thave decency to keep their hands to themselves. Call it mortification of the flesh ;<) And how do you reply to someone who gives you the peace sign? Do you flash a sign back? In India you press the palms of your hands together and make a slight bow (the "namaste") – that's so much more civilized. Why not adopt that gesture spontaneously?

  105. Gaz says:

    I thought this holding hands disappeared with the flu pandemic. Obviously there’s no fear any more and no requirement for the extraordinary ministers to do the alcohol hand wipe thing.

  106. L. says:

    I thought that hand holding during the Our Father came from the practice of Protestants in their services; they do this because they lack the Eucharist and have no other avenue to show unity. Regarding hand holding and the orans position by the laity, I suggested to my (very good) parish priest that since fellow parishioners were hand waving and hand holding at different points in the Mass, I was contemplating standing on my head while saying the Our Father since 1. it would be in holy imitation of St. Peter who is said to have requested his crucifixion to be carried out with him on his head since he wasn’t worthy to be crucified in the same manner as his Savior, and 2. the rubrics don’t forbid it. He smiled but did not say much, I think because he thinks I’m too old to do it, but I could, you know….

  107. Therese Z says:

    Love this thread. I go to a fairly sparsely-attended Mass, so when I fold my hands and bow my head, my neighbors (the same people every week) never try to reach for my hand, although once or twice I’ve had a little child next to me come over and want to hold hands. I won’t hurt a child’s feelings, so I do in that specific instance.

    I occasionally attend a charismatic Catholic church and I think they do LESS hand-holding than at my ditsy parish, so I wouldn’t lay this at their door. They do a lot of raised-hand praying, but I see little resemblance to the orans position, they don’t position their hands the same way, turned toward the front, they usually have their palms pointing straight at the ceiling.

    Don’t I remember correctly that the triple cross at forehead, lips and breast was originally the celebrant’s gesture (with the silent prayer) before the Gospel, and that the French laity borrowed it and brought it to the pews? That is a little better reasoning for why people assume the “orans” position during the Our Father, but no explanation at all for the hand-holding. Instead, I agree with others above this comment, that it’s a case of “Kumbaya Creep.”

  108. eyeclinic says:

    Gaz,
    I don’t want to hijack the thread but if I go to Communion, and receive a Host with a dab of hand purifier on it(Don’t laugh, this has happened!) such that the Host looks like but no longer tastes like actual bread(or anything close to it!) and I wretch with nausea, have I received valid matter? I’ve never seen this issue addressed, and we shouldn’t do it on this thread.

  109. Jaycesoma says:

    Some years ago, before I was Catholic, I saw a photo of a young Muslim man praying in the orans position before his parents’ graves. This was described as “receiving the blessings of God.” It was said that Jews also pray in this manner. I began to use the orans position in my private prayers, but am unsure of its appropriateness in public prayer, especially since not everyone is doing it.
    As for holding hands, in winter I sometimes find myself a refugee from the weather in another parish. There is hand-holding, but no one gets aggressive about it. I simply smile at everyone and hope they think I’m too dumb to know what’s wanted.

  110. RichardT says:

    I prefer to stay kneeling after the end of the Eucharistic Prayer, right through until after Communion (it just seems disrespectful to stand when God is on the altar).

    Usually if I stay to the side of the church it isn’t a problem, and it avoids all the nonsense of hand-shaking (and, although I rarely encounter it anyway, hand-holding).

    But, as has been said, some people are very persistent!

  111. Banjo pickin girl says:

    Therese, the orans position is defined as hands out, palms up. It isn’t the same as the hands up to the side, palms forward position of the priest.

  112. Sandmama says:

    I recently attended a Communion mass which featured all of the groping activity mentioned above, and then some. What struck me at this event was the intense amplification of the presider and his musical minions, it was ear-splitting. There was no point during this ‘celebration’ in which it was ever quiet enough, or still enough, to pray. It reminded me of a carnival or airport terminal with booming announcements going off every three minutes.
    We generally fold our hands in prayer and close our eyes during the big community moments, but this doesn’t always stop people who want our ‘active participation’. Wondering how to walk the line between rudeness to these folks and disrupting our own prayers?
    Before you say ‘go Extraordinary Form’, we do, but can’t always.

  113. John Nolan says:

    It’s interesting watching the posture of the congregation at an EF Solemn Mass or Missa Cantata. Some treat it as a Low Mass (as they did pre-V2 when Low Mass was the norm), others adopt OF practices. Few know that you are supposed to stand after the elevation of the Chalice. I was only once invited to hold hands at the Our Father; this was at a school Mass at a Catholic school where I taught over 20 years ago. I told the priest that this was further than I was prepared to go, and stepped back outside the circle.

    I am uneasy at the faithful, who connect to the liturgy in different ways, being dragooned into adopting what others deem to be correct attitudes. In a large church, after receiving Communion, I wander off to a side altar to make my thanksgiving. Hilaire Belloc, attending Mass at Westminster Cathedral, stood for the elevation as was the custom in France, only to be approached by an officious verger who told him he should be kneeling. “Go to hell!” snarled Belloc. “I’m very sorry, Sir” replied the verger; “I didn’t realize you were a Catholic”.