QUAERITUR: priests extending hands at the time of ordination

From a priest reader:

Fr. Z,

Easter Greetings in the Lord.

I am writing with a question for you, or any other knowledgeable priest, to answer.

Last spring I attended two priestly ordinations.  The first was in the extraordinary form, the celebrant was Cardinal Hoyos, and the priests in attendance, after laying on of hands all congregated on one side of the sanctuary and extended the right hand during the consecratory prayer following the laying on of hands (we were vested in surplice and stole).

The second ordination was in the cathedral of my home diocese ….  It was, of course, in the ordinary form.  During this ordination, after the laying on of hands, the concelebrants similarly congregated in one area of the sanctuary, but during the consecratory prayer, the bishop was the only one who extended hands (in the "orans" position) while we (vested as concelebrants) stood with hands folded – NOT EXTENDED.  A priest acquaintance of mine, a member of the Institute of Christ the King (they who have taken to calling themselves "Canons"), was surprised that we were not extending hands during this moment of the ordination.

I subsequently asked the MC about it and he assured me that such is NOT done in the ordinary form.  For the life of me, I cannot remember what happened at my own ordination, but I am not satisfied with his assurance.

Could you shed some light on what ought to be done?

Timing is of the essence as we are on the cusp of our next priestly ordination.

My my!  It seems as if we have a bit of an emergency on our hands… so to speak!

Frankly, Father, I am not sure about this.  I have a clear recollection of extending my hand also during ordinary form ordinations to the priesthood as the bishop speaks the prayer.

As I am not at home at the time of this writing, and do not therefore have access to my liturgical books, I cannot advise.

Therefore, I call for the help of readers.  Anecdotes are great, but citations are what we really need.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. chadstei says:

    The Ceremonial of Bishops # 532 says:
    Next all concelebrating presbyters and all other presbyters, provided they are vested with a stole worn over an alb or over a cassock and surplice, lay hands on each of the candidates, in silence. After the laying in of hands, the presbyters remain on either side of the Bishop until the prayer of consecration is completed.

    The Ceremonial is silent on if the presbyters have thier hand extended or not.

  2. FrGregACCA says:

    I have a copy of “The Rites of the Catholic Church, Volume II”. This is a study edition, published by Liturgical Press, under Pueblo Books imprint. The relevant rubrics, from “Ordination of a Priest” follow:

    Page 43: The heading is “Laying on of hands” “20. Then [after the Litany of the Saints and concluding collect by the bishop, after which the deacon says, “Let us stand”] all stand. The candidate goes to the bishop and kneels before him. The bishop lays his hands on the candidate’s head, in silence.”

    Page 44: “21. Next all the priests present, wearing stoles lay their hands upon the candidate in silence. After the laying on of hands, the priests remain on either side of the bishop until the prayer of consecration is completed.”

    Next heading is “Prayer of Consecration”. Rubric 22 reads: “The candidate kneels before the bishop. With his hands extended over the candidate, the bishop sings the prayer of consecration or reads it aloud.”

    There is no mention here of priests also extending their hands during the prayer of consecration.

  3. CDN Canonist says:

    The “De ordinatione Episcopi, Presbyterorum et Diaconorum,” 29 June 1989, states the following:

    131. Electis ante ipsum genuflexis, Episcopus, dimissa mitra, dicit, extensis manibus, Precem Ordinationis.

    There is no mention of concelebrants extending their hands during the prayer of consecration.

  4. TNCath says:

    I found the same information as presented above. Nonetheless, at all the ordinations I have attended over the years, the concelebrating priests have always extended their hands while the bishop sings or recites the prayer of consecration.

  5. FrGregACCA says:

    TNCath: According to an unofficial translation of the rubrics of the Old Rite I found online, it is specified that in the Extraordinary Form, the priests do indeed extend their hands. Therefore, this is obviously a holdover; however, appropos “reforming the older liturgy,” this action COULD be interpreted in such a way so as to obscure the fact that it is the bishop alone who ordains. Perhaps this is why it was eliminated in the new rite.

  6. Fr. Guy says:

    It had been done at one time even in the Ordinary Form. However, sometime during the 1980s (but I can’t remember when) this was changed so that only the bishop extends hands. But, at one time it was still the norm for all the priests present to extend their right hand while the bishop extended both hands. Like so many things, it simply got changed.

  7. Maureen says:

    If the rubric isn’t spelled out, wouldn’t hand position be determined by custom, the bishop, or fittingness? (I mean, clearly you’re not supposed to extend the middle
    fingers only….)

  8. Mark says:

    In a filioquist sort of way, I think that a group of presbyters also extending their hands during the ordination makes sense for diaconal ordinations, but not necessarily presbyteral.

  9. “TNCath: According to an unofficial translation of the rubrics of the Old Rite I found online, it is specified that in the Extraordinary Form, the priests do indeed extend their hands. Therefore, this is obviously a holdover; however, appropos “reforming the older liturgy,” this action COULD be interpreted in such a way so as to obscure the fact that it is the bishop alone who ordains. Perhaps this is why it was eliminated in the new rite.”

    Maybe to show fullnes of the Priesthood too?

    Now I have seen this in our Diocese, where the new priests at that point “concelebrated” with the bishop, who at that time was the Great Raymond Burke, so…like others have said, I believe it comes down to personal preference of the bishop, MC, or customs of the diocese.

    I dont know the rubrics as well as others, could it be more definated in something that relates to concelebrating?

  10. Fr B says:

    I regret that I can’t find a chapter and verse citation on this, but when I was preparing for my own ordination I distinctly recall reading somewhere that in the Ordinary Form the priests present could extend their hands during the prayer of ordination if such was the local custom. The replies of the other posters make it quite clear that the rubrics certainly don’t demand this.

  11. Patrick says:

    These are interesting questions; my ordination is coming up next month and I had just presumed (along with the MC) that the priests would keep their hands extended after the “laying-on” until the end of the prayer. Question, though – should the laying on of hands be done in silence or can a suitable song for the Holy Spirit be sung?

  12. Chicago Priest says:

    In the Rites of Ordination of a Bishop, of Priests, and of Deacons (Second Typical Edition), First Printing, July 2003, the rubrics for the ordination of priests states:

    #112. Through the laying on of hands by the Bishop and the Prayer of Ordination, the gift of the Holy Spirit for the priestly office is conferred on the candidates. The following words pertain to the nature of the reality effected and are consequently required for the validity of the act: “Grant, we pray, Almighty Father, … may they instill right conduct.” Together with the Bishop, the priests present lay hands on the candidates to signify incorporation into the presbyterate.

    (in the actual order of the rite:)

    Laying On of Hands and Prayer of Ordination

    130 The Bishop lays his hands upon the head of each of them, without saying anything.

    After the Bishop has laid on hands, all the priests present, wearing stoles, lay hands on each of the elect, without saying anything.

    After the laying on of hands, the priests remain alongside the Bishop until the end of the Prayer of Ordination, in such a way that the faithful may have a clear view of the rite.

    131 With the elect kneeling before him, the Bishop puts aside the miter and with hands outstretched, he sings or says the Prayer of Ordination: “Draw near, O Lord, holy Father, almighty and eternal God, author of human dignity…. God for ever and ever.” All answer: Amen.

    THEREFORE: In reading the rubrics, the Bishop is explicitly required to extend his hands – there is no mention of the priests around him.

    Which begs the question: whether or not they CAN extend their hands (since it was done so in the past, and is not explicitly forbidden by the current rubrics)?

    Is silence “permission”? Or is explicit mention of The Bishop (and no one else) “suppression” of priests extending hands?

  13. Fr. Totton says:

    This seems to be a matter of interpretation (unless somebody can produce documentary evidence which is more clear). If I were in a position to interpret, I would say the fact that the priests, after having lain hands on the candidates, remain in a position near the bishop until AFTER the consecratory prayer, it would tend to favor the priests also extending a hand (as is done in the extraordinary form). Nevertheless, not being a bishop, nor one charged with making such an interpretation, I will leave that to competent authorities.

    However, I do find it interesting, and perhaps a bit, shall I say, ironic? – no, too strong a word – that the priests seem to have more role in the ordination rite in the EF (extending hands and such – which is the posture of concelebrants in the consecration of the Novus Ordo).

    If the omission (not explicitly stated) is a correction, then good, but, for the sake of clarity, the rubric should be more explicit.

  14. CDN_Canonist says:

    Chicago Priest,

    The USCCB Bishops’ Committee on the Liturgy addressed a similiar question. It can be found in the August, 2002 BCL Newsletter, available here:


    The Secretariat for the Liturgy has recently received inquiries concerning the use of the use of the manatergium in the ordination of a priest. The broader questions suggested by this practice provide the opportunity for an examination of a general principle in the reading of liturgical law, namely, that those elements which have been removed from a liturgical rite in the course of the reform are to be considered suppressed and may not be introduced into the sacred liturgy.

    In a responsum ad dubium dated 1978 (See Notitiae 14 (1978) 301-302, no. 2), the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments was asked whether the manner of incensation described in the 1962 Missale Romanum could be used in the Missale Romanum of 1975. The response was in the negative, and included the comment:

    It musty not be forgotten that the Missal of Pope Paul VI has, since 1970, supplanted the one called improperly “the Missal of Saint Pius V,” and completely so, in both texts and rubrics. When the rubrics of the Missal of Paul VI say nothing or say little on particulars in some places, it is not to be inferred that the former rite should be observed. Therefore, the multiple and complex gestures for incensation as prescribed in the former Missal are not to be resumed.”

    By extension, it may be safely stated that no rite described in a pre-conciliar liturgical book may be introduced into a post-conciliar rite. The suppression of the pre-conciliar rite includes the suppression of all texts and rubrics included in that rite. In the case of the manitergium, its use was suppressed with the promulgation of the 1989 De Ordinatione Episcopi, Presbyterorum, et Diaconorum. One should bear in mind the words of the Council Fathers in Sacrosanctum Concilium, no. 22§3: “…no person (other than the legitimate authority), even if he be a priest, may add, remove, or change anything in the liturgy on his own authority.”

  15. CDN_Canonist says:

    I’d also echo the following observation by Fr. Edward McNamara, liturgy columnist at Zenit:


    He states: “Usually the missal and other liturgical documents say what is to be done and not the reverse. Therefore the fact that nothing is written against a practice does not mean that it is automatically permitted. Indeed, since Church law generally follows the principles of Roman law, and not Anglo-Saxon common law, the presumption is that what is not expressly permitted is forbidden.”

  16. I think there may be another element. We know that through history it has been possible, though rare, that a priest who was not a bishop could ordain… at one time. But that is decidedly not the case today. Today priests do not ordain.

    One might argue that the raised hand gives the appearance that the priest is doing something that he cannot actually do. In that case whatever gives the appearance that he is participating in the ordination in the consecratory prayer ought to be avoided.

  17. Michael Garner says:

    I think there is some confusion. The priests in the extraordinary form only keep their right hands extended with the bishop before and while he says the prayer Oremus, fratres carissimi. This is one of the prayers preceding the actual ordination prayer. They don’t extend their right hand during the actual prayer of ordination.

  18. Mark says:

    There are a few salient cases in the records of a non-bishop priest (usually an abbot) being given permission to ordain, indeed. Based on what we’ve clarified about doctrine today, this would surely have been invalid but, heck, in the past they tried baptism with beer, and this wouldnt threaten apostolic succession as they werent ordaining bishops or anything like that.

    A priest without a bishop clearly cannot ordain others, and a bishop clearly doesnt need other priests present to ordain.

    But I’d be open to considering the idea that the priests WITH a bishop as primary celebrate may “participate” in it in some dependent mediatorial way, especially during the ordination of deacons, ala the Filioque or Co-Redemption.

  19. Mitchell NY says:

    That ad dubium from 1978 is what needs to be surpressed or overturned…As a lay person reading it, it becomes so clear that the intention was to suppress most of the tradition of centuries past. Was all of this for the “good of the faithful requiring it” which I read somewhere ! What an attack on the ancient rite, blatant and hurtful. No wonder the clergy of that time were bewildered and confused…

  20. yesir says:

    The 1978 dubium is null and void because of GIRM #42, which is new to the 3rd typical edition:

    42. The gestures and posture of the priest, the deacon, and the ministers, as well as those of the people, ought to contribute to making the entire celebration resplendent with beauty and noble simplicity, so that the true and full meaning of the different parts of the celebration is evident and that the participation of all is fostered.52 Therefore, attention should be paid to what is determined by this General Instruction *** and the traditional practice of the Roman Rite*** and to what serves the common spiritual good of the People of God, rather than private inclination or arbitrary choice.

  21. David says:

    CDN Canonist, don’t too attached to the 1978 dubium. A strict interpretation of it would lead, for example, to the absurd conclusion that the celebrant, after the consecration, could licitly hold his hands any way he sees fit, including the University of Texas “Hook’em Horns” position (since it does not positively say how they are to be held) but he dare not keep the “canonicals” joined lest he be introducing a usage from the former rite.

    Yesir, that is interesting and a sign of hope and good sense.

  22. yesir says:

    Indeed, if one strictly interpreted the superseded 1978 dubium, when the GIRM says to genuflect, one could make any gesture BUT the traditional way of genuflecting.

  23. Chicago Priest says:

    Yesir –

    EXCELLENT cite – thanks for the heads-up on IGMR #42. Such a high level promulgating document!

    I had NEVER noticed that before, or at least never put \’2&2\’ together. Perhaps this is what is meant by Benedict XVI in hoping for a mutual attraction/influence/enrichment of the two forms? Here it is in the Latin:

    42. Gestus et corporis habitus tum sacerdotis, diaconi, et ministrorum, tum populi eo contendere debent ut tota celebratio decore nobilique simplicitate fulgeat, diversarum eius partium vera plenaque significatio percipiatur et omnium participatio foveatur.52 Attendendum igitur erit ad ea quae a lege liturgica et tradita praxi Ritus Romani definiuntur, et quae ad commune bonum spirituale populi Dei conferant, potius quam ad suam propensionem aut arbitrium.

    I heard of the Dubium, and was stymied in responding because it technically is \’logical\’, but for example, something as simple as this becomes interpretive:

    IGMR #124 After doing these things, the priest goes to the chair. Once the Entrance chant is concluded, the priest and faithful, all standing, make the Sign of the Cross. The priest says, In nomine Patris et Filii et Spiritus Sancti (In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit). The people answer, Amen.

    So as the paragraph reads, how DOES one \’make the Sign of the Cross\’?

    1) Forehead, breast, left shoulder, right shoulder (Latin rite)?

    2) Cross on the forehead, cross on the lips, cross on the breast (Gospel proclamation)?

    3) Cross on the forehead, cross on the lips, cross on the breast, then Forehead, breast, shoulder, shoulder, kiss crossed fingers (Hispanic/Mexican/Filipino-style)?

    4) Forehead, breast, right shoulder, left shoulder with three fingers together, repeat (Byzantine/Eastern-style)?

    Back in the mid-late 90\’s, I remember hearing at St. John Cantius that the OF Solemn High Mass at 11am was interpreted thus: what would the mindset and praxis of the Fathers of Vatican II be when celebrating the Holy Mass? In other words, based on their training and practice, how would they have followed the rubrics of the OF? I may be wrong, but the gut instinct I had was that Mass should be celebrated as \’conservatively\’ (that is, minimally divergent from traditional practice, being a conservationist of the treasures, so to speak) as possible, staying close to the source rather than drifiting away from traditional praxis.

    As a priest, I want to be careful and conscious of how I celebrate Mass in the mind of the Church, not inserting my own personality and preferences in either direction.

    Thanks for letting me post my thoughts on this subject of liturgical law and practice!

  24. “By extension, it may be safely stated that no rite described in a pre-conciliar liturgical book may be introduced into a post-conciliar rite.”

    Fr. Tim Finigan has pointed out the difficulties of this statement from the CDW:

    “But we must be consistent. The Ritus Servandus of the 1962 missal specifies the following:

    Tum Alba induitur, caput submittens, deinde manicam dexteram brachio dextero, et sinistram sinistro imponens.

    [Translation] Then he puts on the alb, lowering his head, then putting the right sleeve on his right arm and the left on his left.

    “The General Instruction of the Roman Missal (n.336 in the latest edition) says one or two things about the alb but says nothing whatsoever about which sleeve you should put onto which arm. But we know that if something specified in the old rite is not specified in the new rite, it must not be done.

    “Therefore when celebrating Mass in the new rite, priests must put their alb on back to front. So don’t let me see any of this old-fashioned, stick-in-the-mud, Lefebvrian, crypto-fascist ‘putting your alb on the right way round’ rigidity!”

  25. Jeff Pinyan says:

    I would say it should not have been eliminated from the revised rite, for the reason stated in the Decree on the Ministry and Life of Priests from the Second Vatican Council:

    Priests by virtue of their ordination to the priesthood are united among themselves in an intimate sacramental brotherhood. In individual dioceses, priests form one priesthood under their own bishop. […] Each one, therefore, is united in special bonds of apostolic charity, ministry and brotherhood with the other members of this priesthood. This has been manifested from ancient times in the liturgy when the priests present at an ordination are invited to impose hands together with the ordaining bishop on the new candidate, and with united hearts concelebrate the Sacred Eucharist. (Presbyterorum Ordinis 8)

  26. Supertradmom says:

    “Usually the missal and other liturgical documents say what is to be done and not the reverse. Therefore the fact that nothing is written against a practice does not mean that it is automatically permitted. Indeed, since Church law generally follows the principles of Roman law, and not Anglo-Saxon common law, the presumption is that what is not expressly permitted is forbidden.” Wow, and can we apply this to other things? At an ordination last week, the congregation clapped after the introduction and acceptance of the candidate (now priest). I had never seen that before and I have attended many NO ordinations. Is it too much of a change of subject to ask if that is in the usual rubric? I hate clapping in Church at all and it seems superfluous. At the ordination last week, all the priests laid hands on the new priest, as did those at the ordination I attend last year at this time.

  27. Jeff Pinyan says:

    The rubrics include a show of appreciation/approval from the congregation towards the newly ordained priests. See the bottom of page 174 here.

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