QUAERITUR: fingers together after the consecration

From a seminarian:

In the Tridentine Rite of the Holy Mass, the Priest, after touching the Sacred Host, would then henceforth not seperate his fingers from the manner of keeping them together (thumb and index fingers). He would also keep his hands sixteen inches apart.

My question would then be: is this still permissible in the Novus Ordo or has this been suppressed? Any clarification you could give me would be helpful as I will be Ordained in a few years.


I am not so sure about the 16 inches thing.  I believe that the point is to keep your fingers over the corporal in case some particle might drop.  It would drop onto the corporal.

It is certainly okay for the priest to hold his "canonical digits" together in the Novus Ordo after the consecration and to keep them over the corporal.  As a matter of fact, I think he ought to.

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  1. I’m inspired by such when I see priests keep their fingers together.

  2. Jim says:

    There are some western rites of the Church, e.g. the Dominican and Carmelite, that instructed the priest to hold is arms out in the form of a cross after the consecration. I think it is clear from these examples that a priest would not be irreverent if he were to extend his arms more than 16 inches after the consecration.

    I sense that there are some people who think that being more scrupulous is the same as being more reverent. This is certainly not the case, though it is understandable in our current times when no one has scruples about anything. We musn’t be careless with the Blessed Sacrament, yet we musn’t go to extremes either.

    With regard to keeping the fingers together, I am told that, after speaking to a liturgical conference in St. Louis, MO, Archbishop Malcom Ranjith was aksed by a local seminarian about the practice with regard to the Novus Ordo. The archbishop stated that he believes the gesture to be legitimate in the Novus Ordo.

    So let’s just keep our fingers together and not worry about whether or not they’re exactly above the corporal. We could drive ourselves nuts with this stuff. The rubrics are strict enough; just follow them.

  3. LCB says:

    When, and why, was this changed?

  4. Andrew, UK and sometimes Canada says:

    This is an interesting one. I’ve seen some priests who celebrate both rites who keep their fingers together in the EF but not in OF. Can’t work out why, since the priests obviously understand the theology.

    Interestingly, I had always thought this would be one of those little bricks the Pope Benedict would use but, as far as I can see, he hasn’t.

    I also know Byzantine Rite priests do not practice this even though they touch the “host” at some point, although I’m not clear enough on the moment of Consecration in the Divine Liturgy to comment on this. In fact, the Byzantines touch the Sacred Species quite rarely, Communion being distributed on a spoon, and perhaps have the better practices here.

  5. Genna says:

    In the EF the priest used to keep thumb and index finger together from the Consecration to the second ablution. I was told as a child that this was so the fingers which were touching the Host should not be defiled – and only the priest distributed Holy Communion in those far-off days.
    At one NO parish I attend, the priest doesn’t do this and also lays a hand on the heads of non-communicants who want a blessing. I find this rather off-putting.

  6. I have witnessed many priests holding their thumb and first digits together following Consecration in the Novus Ordo. We get many visiting priests and bishops at Grotto and of the many Masses I have photographed prior to the EF, I noticed this thing with the fingers early on.

    I think it is one small element out of many that says, “Sacred” or “Holy”. It is humbling to witness because it is a reminder that IT IS the Body of Our Lord Jesus Christ, not some representation.

    I say, go for it Fathers, even in the OF if your sensibilities lead you in this direction (what is not disallowed is allowed, eh?).

    You never know what impact it may have on those whose attention is directed to your fingers during Mass by their guardian angels, the way mine was early on. All of these small cues work together to convey a simple message to the faithful. It is the Lord!

  7. Herbert says:

    I have observed many times that some priests celebrating the Novus Ordo are not careful in the handling of the sacred species. Here I am talking about the Philippines. There is also this super large host that it is huge and i am afraid that breaking it to small pieces will create much fragments. I also wonder why here in my country the chalice veil is no longer used and sometimes wooden bowls are used for distribution of communion. I am a bit disturbed to see these wooden bowls. It looks undignified, the utensils used at the common table is more dignified than wooden bowls. In fact we never use wooden bowls in any kind of meal because it is porous. And I wonder why it is used for communion. {sigh…} I guess it would redound to seminary training. Some Priests were trained to become more of a social worker than pay attention to the celebration of the sacraments.

  8. Fr. Charles says:

    As I have tried to learn and offer the TLM, I have found myself wanting to bring this practice into my NO Masses. It has been a challenge, though, as many of our “cups” don’t have very functional nodes, the need to manipulate modern ciboria, etc. And then, what do I do about the sign of peace, which I routinely am to give to at least a handful of extraordinary ministers of holy communion as well as the altar servers? Any advice for someone who wants to be more devout?

  9. Margaret says:

    Fingers together is still SOP for priests of Opus Dei.

  10. baymedlevel says:

    Fr. Charles: just say no to giving the sign of peace, then buy new or find new ciboria with nodes. Problem solved.

  11. Brian says:

    Fr. Charles,

    I believe that the “hand shake” or what ever one wishes to call it is not obligatory in the NO; nor are extraordinary ministers. I remember one talk by Michael Davies, in which he said, extraordinary ministers should be an extraordinary sight.

    I would think that it would be more edifying for those assisting at Holy Mass to see the priest keep his fingers together. As we know, one crumb of the Sacred Species is the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Our Lord Jesus Christ.

  12. Mitchell NY says:

    I think a questions to Priests would be “Why not do it” what are the reasons against it? Is is in fact the way it was always done, wasn’t it. And you are here to maintain continuity with the past and not rupture. What explanation could there be? In oreder to break with the past?, Vat II says so?…I would love to hear some of those answers……….

  13. Fr. Charles: what do I do about the sign of peace, which I routinely am to give to at least a handful of extraordinary ministers of holy communion as well as the altar servers? Any advice for someone who wants to be more devout?

    I take it from the “am to give”, you may perhaps be an assistant at the parish rather than the pastor. In that case, work with the pastor for a solution, expressing – if you can – your intention and reasons. I hope you are on a good enough footing that you can do that without there being blow-back as a result.

  14. The priest at my grandma’s parish observes this practice. It is a very fitting sign, showing the importance of the sacred species. He doesn’t offer a public TLM, as far as I know, but he is old enough to have celebrated under that rite.

  15. Fr. Charles, one possibility is that the sign of peace can be given in the traditional Roman way. This is how it’s exchanged at the Solemn Mass in the old rite, where the priest must keep his fingers joined.

    As Bishop Elliott writes in his manual Ceremonies of the Modern Roman Rite:

    “In the sanctuary, the traditional Roman sign of peace may be made in the following way. The one who receives the sign bows. Then the one who gives the sign lays his hands on the upper part of the arms (near the shoulders) of the other; the one receiving the sign clasps his arms, holding them at the elbow. Each inclines the head forward and slightly to the right so that their left cheeks almost touch. The one who gives the sign customarily says, ‘Peace be with you.’ The other answers, ‘Amen’. Then they withdraw a little and bow to one another, hands joined as usual.”

    This does take some practice beforehand…

  16. pdt says:

    Mitchell asks:

    I think a questions to Priests would be “Why not do it” what are the reasons against it?

    Well, it’s not in the NO Sacramentary, so …

    Could it be that there is a sudden call to Say the Black and Do the Red? ;-)

  17. carl says:

    I have seen the auxiliary of my archdiocese keep his fingers together in the OF, and greatly admire him for it.

  18. FrJH says:

    It is good to see that such rubrics are being (re)discovered. I do not know of any specific rubric within the OF which would preclude a priest from keeping the thumb and forefinger joined.

    The exceptionally sad side is that I DO know of at least one dear pastor (now deceased over a quarter-century, requiescat in pace!) who was told in the 1970s in no uncertain terms that he was IN NO WAY to continue to hold his thumb and forefinger together after the consecration.

    Such practice was derided to our pastor’s face (in the words of a prelate now also deceased – requiescat in pace!) as “milking mice.”

    Every day we can be thankful that the collective… whatever… of those years is going the way of the dodo. (One might even say that it arrived via dodos as well… But I wouldn’t want to go there.)

    The downside, of course, is that I don’t know if I’ll be able to replace my burnt-orange shag rug when that day comes. Such carpeting, just as derision of perennial piety via invocation of lactating mice, doesn’t seem to sell very well anymore.

  19. Dahler says:

    I love the practice of conjoining the fingers, but I thought there were some statements (Notitiae…) back in the 70s that said not to substitute the 1962 practices when the Novus Ordo rubrics are silent (like the old incensation rubrics, raising and joining hands before blessings, and all the other cool stuff).

    The GIRM, no. 278 says: “Whenever a fragment of the host adheres to his fingers, especially after the fraction or the Communion of the faithful, the priest is to wipe his fingers over the paten or, if necessary, wash them. Likewise, he should also gather any fragments that may have fallen outside the paten. ” But nothing about keeping them joined (or open for that matter), and if all visible fragments are to be rubbed off the fingers, then there is no reason to conjoin fingers, right? I’m afraid such a utilitarian view is the one currently in force–does anybody have a copy of the Notitiae and know what I’m referring to?

  20. Trevor says:


    I also have a question on older postures in the NO. Can a priest strike his breast at “Nobis quoque peccatoribus” (presumably with the same gesture that’s used in the EF)? There’s no rubric, so would this be an example of the priest altering the liturgy?

  21. Anthony says:

    I remember as an altar boy (10 years ago or so) 2 of the older priests at my parish (OF) kept their fingers together after the consecration. Even as a boy this stuck out to me, and I liked it. Both of those priests also brought the chalice over the to the credence table and had us do the ablution with the water used for consecration. I thought this was so reverent. I also know a newly ordained priest who has taken up this practice as well.

  22. Fr. Charles says:

    Thanks Fr. Z and everyone for your helpful and encouraging comments! For better or for worse I am in a mainstream North American religious community that it is pretty loose liturgically and on the liberal side generally. So I will take it slow…but thanks to your encouragement and prayers I will make an effort!

  23. Philippe says:

    Fr., isn’t this related to a recent post of yours about how to improve the Novus Ordo? Whether compulsory, permitted or not in the NOM, such a practice is definitely a way to “retraditionalize” the Novus Ordo. Quite frankly, my opinion is that it would be preferable to trash the NOM altogether but I appreciate that this is not going to happen any time soon, as you pointed out a couple fo days ago. Reintroducing traditional practices like this one is my view a way – not so much to improve the Novus Ordo (IMHO it is beyond repair) as to gradually move away from it and towards the “Mass of all times”.

  24. Mark Polo says:

    The rubric (at least in Latin, German and Spanish) DOES call for the priest to strike his breast at “Nobis quoque peccatoribus”. The Latin and Spanish rites of concelebration also make clear that all concelebrants should also strike their breasts, not just the one who read this section.

  25. Fr. A says:

    I have never not used “canonical digits” at the Novus Ordo, and since we don’t have the “handshake of peace,” there is no problem in that regard.

  26. father Totton says:

    regarding canonical digits, I would think that unless the rubrics say otherwise (they don’t) it would be meet and just to observe the former practice. I will say I am surprised by the (unwitting) inconsistency of some priests who take great care in purifying the chalice after communion, but pay no attention to purifying their fingers.

    As regards the sign of peace, I don’t shake hands with anyone after having touched the Sacred Host, but if I am assisted by a deacon or a concelebrant we exchange the Peace observing the Roman custom (which resembles, to a degree) the manner in which mediteranean folks greet eachother on initial reunion) f this avoids giving up custody of the canonical digits. Finally, I do bless babies and small children at the Communion rail, and I do so by making the sign of the cross (maintaining the canonical digits) and not by touching them on the head.

  27. Sacristy_rat says:

    Funny, I have access to an early sacramentary that has published in the margin; “It is no longer required that the priest keep his thumb and fore-finger joined”.

    I think…. Wow, some one actually felt the need to have this published?!!!!

  28. Alessandro says:

    As for the “sign of peace” I agree with Samuel J. Howard. Indeed what he call the “traditional roman way” is the form we normally use (Italy)during conventual mass (or any concelebration). Is is a symbolic “hug”, very dignified, and absolutely not secular as the “handshake” thing.

  29. MArk S. says:

    Sacristy rat: Regarding the rubric, “It is no longer required that the priest keep his thumb and fore-finger joined”. When I was an altar boy, I was unusually nosey (I still am, mea culpa!) and I found, in the sacristy safe, some Ordo Missae’s from the “Transitional Mass” of the late 1960’s. Apparently in 1967, the rubric of keeping thumb and first finger together was deemed no longer necessary, and the rubric you quote was officially printed in the bok used by the priest at Mass.

  30. mbd says:

    At least one of the priests who offers Mass regularly on EWTN now follows this practice in the N.O. Mass after having trained in the E.F. last year. It is quite striking.

  31. Fr C. Mark says:

    Dahler, above, is correct. There was a response in Notitiae in the 70’s which stated that when a rubric is unclear/absent in N.O., the celebrant is not to assume the 62 rubrics is to be retained. Unfortunately, I don’t have my library at hand to look up the exact wording. However, I would think that many priests take caution not to use the thumb and index for page turning and the like and retaining the practice of canonical digits might just be the way they do so. The question also arises when it comes to the N.O. rubric which says the preist takes communion “reverently” – I would assume he could then decide the 62 manner of doing so is how he will demonstrate external reverence. Other unclear rubics were clarified in the Cer. of Bishops in the late 90’s.

  32. David says:

    The NO rubrics do not tell the celebrant how to hold his hand/fingers. In the absence of this, it would seem that there is no hard and fast rule and that the traditional practice is fine.
    Following slavishly to the cited dubium would lead to the absolutely ludicrous conclusion that the celebrant could hold his fingers any way under heaven EXCEPT the traditional way.

  33. wsxyz says:

    It only makes sense that, since there is no rubric to the effect in the OF, that one would not assume that the EF rubric is to be followed. How anyone derives therefrom that the EF rubric MUST NOT be followed is beyond me.

    It would certainly be false to attempt to lay an obligation on a priest to keep thumb and index finger together in the OF. How does that make it wrong for a priest to do so willingly?

  34. Jill of the Amazing Wolverine Tribe says:

    Okay, am I the only EM to use “canonical digits?” I am old enough to remember the latin Mass 1st go around. I remembered our nun pointing out “canonical digits” and was impressed then. Flash forward, until last year, Lent, when a particularly beloved supply priest had to retire due to infirmity, he’d aways still used the “canonical digits” and was very fastidious in purifying his fingers afterwards.

    I’ve been an EM for a great many years and when I became one, I always kept the thumb and forfinger together too, and when my hand was at rest over the ciborium, I was always particular to keep thumb and forefinger together while waiting for the next person to receive.

    (I never had the handshake problem as I give Communion LEFT handed.)

    Then this last year, now our pastor, who is a much more, shall I say “casual?” priest. The deacon now assists at the Mass and neither of them seem to have a concern regards blessing people. The pastor leaves the “washing up” to the deacon, doesn’t purify his fingers – and the deacon is clueless as well. At the time for the ablution after Communion he holds the chalice out in his fist to the side. I have to catch and correct EMs who now handle the cups (we had only done Communion under one Species at this Mass before] to take them to the altar and not LEAVE THEM PARTIALLY filled with the Precious Blood. His wife, an EM and a convert, and head of religious instruction, is the worst offender. The pastor is one of the fair-haired boys of the diocese. Our deacon allegedly “trains” the other deacons in the diocese — which is why I see uniformly lax rubrics. I had to privately shove a copy of the GIRM para. 279 to a fellow EM. She’d been given contrary instructions. First by ME (i.e. don’t leave unconsummed Precious Blood on the credence table!), then by the deacon, who waves all Cups to the side. His wife was: “Oh, X, knows, he helps the bishop at his Masses, he trains the other deacons.” [ Yeah, but he obviously hasn’t read the GIRM, and doesn’t have common sense…] Gee, the EM was “surprised” that I was the correct one, i.e. that a deacon didn’t know and a laywoman did. She at least now helps me police “the clueless” EMs. Those brought on to help as EM who are the pastor’s personal friends.

    Frankly, if *I* didn’t throughly cleanse the Communion cups after Mass *no* *one* *would*. At

  35. Karen says:

    This makes me laugh….not really!! The priest takes such care in keeping his fingers over the corporal should any particals from the host fall, and yet have no problem placing the precious body in people’s hands during communion. What about those particles people carelessly leave on their hands, only to be brushed onto the floor for people to step on Jesus?

    Oh how I wish it was mandatory to go back to receiving on the tongue. E.M.’s wouldn’t have to watch like hawks to be sure people are consuming, not to mention the chances of abuse being nearly eliminated!

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