US cATHOLIC attacks the Bishop of Covington. Wherein Fr. Z rants.

holding hands Our FatherOur liturgical disputes have, I think, lined up between two parties: those who have a correct understanding and those who have a defective understanding of “active participation”.

Correctly understood, the “full, conscious and active participation” desired by the Council Fathers is rooted in our baptismal character, which makes it possible to receive graces and the other six sacraments.  “Active participation” is first and foremost an interiorly active receptivity to all that God is offering.  This interiorly active receptivity requires the person to make acts of will to stay focused and attentive to the mysteries of the sacred action.  This interior receptivity at times manifests itself outwardly in physical expression, especially in the words people speak as responses, prescribed prayers recited in common during the liturgical action, certain gestures such as kneeling or standing of making the sign of the Cross, and at times walking in procession, as in the case of going forward to receive Holy Communion.  In fact, reception of Holy Communion by a baptized person in the state of grace is the most perfect form of “full, conscious and active participation”, for its is the perfect harmony of the interior and the exterior of the person’s active receptivity.

On the other hand, some people – liberal liturgists for example – think that active participation means doing things, such as carrying stuff, clapping, singing every word of everything that could be sung, moving about, etc.  They are abetted by clerics who think they are “empowering the laity” and helping their “active participation” by surrendering their own proper roles as clerics to any number of lay people.  Liberal liturgists talk of baptism as the foundation of “active participation”.  They see baptism as conferring rights, especially the right to do things during the liturgical action.

This defective understanding of “active participation” leads to terrible consequences for our Catholic identity and our liturgical worship.

The first way in which their false notions of “active participation” (saying everything and doing stuff because it’s my right) distort our worship is that, if some participation is good, then more participation is better.  The more people get to carry more things, and the more everyone sings more notes, the more people are thought to be “participating”.

The flaw in this approach will be obvious to everyone with half a brain.  There is only so much that can be sung or carried.  The processional Cross can only be so big and only so many people can carry it at once.  The ditties can only be so long, until people grow fatigued and the guitarist’s fingers bleed.  The big puppets can only be so high before they can’t be carried.  There are only so many clay beakers available and only so much sacramental “wine” to be distributed before other problems manifest.

When you have a correct understanding of “active participation” (the will to unite oneself interiorly and receive what is being offered), you can always pray with more intensity, long the more for the graces being offered, ponder more earnestly the mystery we encounter.

On the other hand, you can only clap your hands for so long.  Therefore, what happens in the next logical move is that lay people have to start doing what the priest does and, if possible, where the priest does it.   The distorted and defective notion of “active participation” eventually leads to the false conclusion that people have rights to carry things, say what the priest says, do what the priest does.  Thus the herds of “eucharistic ministers” even when they are not really needed, the demand for “the cup”, the sense of empowerment to accept this rubric but not that, or this prayer or pericope, but not that.  Hand-holding, entirely outside any traditional liturgical practice of the Church, becomes a right.  Because why?  Because we’re baptized, damn it!  We are the empowered laity who have the right to do what we want to for the sake of “active participation”.

And as sure as the night follows the day, when a bishop or priest apply a corrective to their defective practices and distorted notions, they raise cain because they have fallen into the trap of thinking that, just because they are baptized, they have the right to do as they please.  They subsequently protest against their priests and bishops with the same techniques as those who habitually create class conflicts.  They use even Marxist or Alinskyite tactics of protest against the troglodyte traddy types who trample their baptismal rights.

The next thing the liturgy rights activists will begin to do is “Occupy Mass”. We have seen forerunners of this in, for example, the case of women who stand up during ordinations or activists who wear rainbow sashes during Mass.

A good example of this liturgy rights activism popped up on the site of the extremely liberal US cATHOLIC, penned by their perennially wrong Bryan Cones.

They are staging a nutty over there about the liturgical law issued by His Excellency Most Rev. Roger Foys for the Diocese Covington. HERE.

Among the issues addressed by the bishop is the liturgically bizarre and often liturgically abusive aberration of prompting people to hold hands and wave their arms around during the Our Father of Holy Mass.

Let’s have a glance with my emphases and comments.

Bishop of Covington: Stop holding hands!
Tuesday, November 29, 2011
By Bryan Cones

So after all my drama about the new texts (still don’t like them), [And this was all about him?] I was going to take a break from writing about the liturgy.  [sigh… if only writing it made it so …]

And then a bishop goes and does something silly (thank you, PrayTell). Like order the daughters and sons of God [like] not to hold hands during the [like] Lord’s Prayer at Mass because it’s not in the third edition of the General Instruction of the Roman Missal (GIRM). You can read the decree here.

First, I want to ask The Most Rev. Roger Joseph Foys, D.D., by the Grace of God and the Favor of the Apostolic See, Bishop of Covington: Are you completely out of your mind? [I have been tough on some bishops who took a stand against Pope Benedict’s Summorum Pontificum, but this just snotty.] What harm does this practice possibly do? And how would you like to be the poor pastor who has to enforce your stupid rule? And it is stupid.

Foys’ argument is that, since no one can change the liturgy, and the book says only the priest extends his hands during the Lord’s Prayer, no one else can do it. (And obviously the book says nothing about anything as profoundly human as holding hands.)

This is wrong for all kinds of reasons – – one of which is the general canonical rule that what is not explicitly forbidden is permitted. [There are a lot of things that are not explicitly forbidden but which for reasons of decorum and common sense we should not do.  I’ll leave the visuals out for the sake of the same decorum.] There is nothing in the law that forbids people from holding hands or extending them as the priest does, so as long as they aren’t hitting their neighbors or otherwise distracting them, [That is part of the problem: it is, in fact, a distraction.] I can’t imagine the canon lawyer who would argue the bishop actually has the authority to prevent a baptized person from doing so in the liturgy, unless they were spinning around like Wonder Woman or something.  [More aptly, perhaps one of those dancing hippos from Fantasia.]

But beyond reading the law, Foys completely misses the pastoral dimension of the liturgy – – as most rule-minded bishops do – – and the people are telling all us liturgists [Ooooo… he’s a liturgist.] something by holding hands during the Lord’s Prayer. They see the Lord’s Prayer as an expression of unity–“their” part of the prayer. [Is that, in fact, what the Lord’s Prayer is about in the context of Mass?  It is “their part“?  It belongs to them?  The Mass cannot be divided into priest’s parts and people’s parts.  Just because, for example, the priest is the only one to pronounce the consecration, that doesn’t mean that people don’t participate in that prayer by an act of will even though they don’t say a word or move their arms about.  It would be as if to say, “If I don’t get to say or do something, it isn’t mine.”] Which should also tell us that they don’t feel like the rest of the liturgy belongs to them (even though it does). So even if the Lord’s Prayer isn’t exactly the high point of the Liturgy of the Eucharist liturgically speaking, the people are telling us it is. Doesn’t that count for something? [So, effectively, liturgy is about making people feel good about themselves and what they get to do?  No… in fact.. what they have the right to do!]

The most ancient Christian prayer posture is the “orans” position – – hands extended – – the priest assumes when he proclaims the “presidential prayers.” And at one time, everyone in the assembly used it. [I think it would be good to see some evidence for that as a liturgical posture for the laity. And you can read THIS.] But, like so much liturgy, it has been clericalized, so much so in fact that a bishop is insisting only the ordained make us of it during Sunday Mass. I’m for no holding hands during the Lord’s Prayer, and instead all of us extend our hands when the priest does, since the same GIRM says that, as much as possible, the people and the priest should share the same posture. Any takers?

If not, then I think we can let God’s people hold hands if they want to.

Thumbs DownYou know… I don’t like that article.  I don’t think you should like it either.   I noticed at the bottom of the page there were “thumbs up” and “thumbs down” buttons.  I’m just sayin’ …

The problem here is really not about whether or not people should hold hands during the Our Father.

The real problem is a mentality which can be teased into two strands.  First, there is a defective notion of “active participation” which devolves into an endless spiral of people thinking they have to do more in order to participate at Mass until there is no longer a distinction between what priests and people say and do.  Parallel to this is a defective understanding of rights.  This manifests itself in open protest against bishops who try to promote liturgical norms, or who try to correct abuses.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

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

    What the congregation does is not simply hold hands, or use the orans, but an odd mix of the two that for some reason includes raising them at the end, together — the opposite of what the priest does, because for the concluding doxology after the Lord’s Prayer, the priest has his hands folded together.

  2. BV says:

    Why… you are correct Father! There are indeed thumbs up and down buttons. And they work too! Just sayin’…

    I don’t know what more I can say. No matter how much I read about this stuff, I jsut keep shaking my head (in the side-to-side motion). This reminds me of a certain woman who used to frequent my parish’s old “young adults ministry” events. One evening a group of us were out at a restaurant after and event, somehow she brought up how she feels women should be priests, and the church changed the bible to make it seem otherwise, etc etc etc… one once she told us about a parish she like to go to because they took abotu 15 minutes or so in the middle of mass for the sign of peace, as everyone walked all over to shake hands, embrace, etc… and the priest would walk around too… * sigh * I and the Catholic Apologist who gave the talk and joined us for dinner (or was it his wife?) tried to explain to her, politely, why that was wrong… but she just felt it should be that way everywhere!!! * double sigh *

  3. Luke Whittaker says:

    “If not, then I think we can let God’s people hold hands if they want to”

    Ahhh…NO. Because the Mass is not about US but rather about the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. Our attendance therein is about our individual and willful (interior) “Yes” as the people of God and not some effeminate meal that we share together as a people who said “Goodbye” to Jesus long ago.

    And to those who raise their hands as a symbol of how they give God the glory and the power and the…well you get the idea…I ask you to consider whether or not you interiorly allow Christ to suffer in and act through you as he wills or not. It is, at least in my own opinion, this interior desire to give Jesus freedom of movement in our lives that is central as our response to the Creed that we recite.

    “All things that the Lord hath spoken we will do, we will be obedient” (Exodus 24:7). It’s easy to loose sight of the real meaning of the Creed until we look back at the first creed that was spoken by the People of Israel in response to God’s Law. Our reception of Jesus in the Eucharist is our bodily and spiritual means of consenting to that “Yes, all that the Lord has said we will do” in our lives.

  4. Tradster says:

    Raising arms and, even worse, holding hands are a direct result of the nearly total feminization of the NO Mass at all levels (priestesses would make it complete). If anyone gave a fig about the dearth of males in attendence they would drop these things in a heartbeat. But, no, the agenda matters most. So sad.

    And that writer needs to issue a public apology for the insulting language hurled at a bishop. But when does Hell freeze over?

  5. Midwest St. Michael says:

    “Foys completely misses the pastoral dimension of the liturgy – – as most rule-minded bishops do – – and the people are telling all us liturgists [Ooooo… he’s a liturgist.]”

    What was that old joke? How can you tell the difference between a liturgist and a terrorist? You can negotiate with….*which* one? (Terrorist)

    “…rule-minded bishops…”

    This reminds me of the story Fr. John Hardon told about a phone conversation he had with a bishop. Fr. Hardon had given a series of conferences in the bishop’s diocese. Apparently the bishop had taken issue with some of Fr. Hardon’s teachings – to which Fr. Hardon tried to explain what the Church teaches on said teachings and where you can find it. (i.e. official Magisterial documents)

    The bishop replied to him, “Father, all you are concerned about are the rules.” To which Fr. Hardon replied, “Bishop, I do not know if you realize what you just said to me, but that is the greatest compliment anyone has ever given me.”

    The bishop hung up on him.


  6. HeatherPA says:

    Sigh. When I see these kinds of articles it always makes me think of the Pharisees when Jesus was teaching in the Temple. I hope the author makes a good confession this weekend.
    We have a young, holy priest at our parish thankfully. Our family moved there right when he did. We didn’t know the priest before him. Apparently, there was a rather large shake up when our priest came in. He implemented Adoration, First Friday, First Saturday, cut the music drastically, and restored the precious metals and statutes over these past two years. For daily Mass we have Holy Hour beforehand (hasn’t caught on too much, but a few of us are always there) and we have the Kyrie, Sanctus, Mystery of Faith, and Agnes Dei sung in Latin at Daily Mass and during Lent. I am hoping that the Pater Noster will be added this year or next, at least for daily Mass. This caused big rumpus at first. There were letters to the Bishop. He also didn’t bring back the sign of peace when the swine flu thing was over, but someone wrote to the Bishop and he made our priest add it in again. Some people hold hands and some don’t during the Our Father. Our family does not. I think that our diocese order is to have “hands outstretched”.
    Right at this point we are doing well with the changes, and our priest has a beautiful chant voice and is clearly thrilled with the new Missal. Hopefully we will get our new Bishop soon (ours is retiring), and he will order some changes that are reverent.

  7. thefeds says:

    Somewhere around the time that Benedict XVI was installed as Pope, he commented that perhaps the Church would need to go through a time of pruning, in order to produce better fruit in the future, along with being a somewhat smaller but more Faithful Church. What upsets me the most about the author of this article is that he is in essence trying to change the Church from one that is One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic, into a church that more resembles a disintegrating fractious protestant church. I would have much more respect personally for the author and the rag that published him, if both parties would just admit what their agenda is. Keep fighting the good fight, Fr. Z!

  8. asperges says:

    “How do you solve a problem like Maria?
    Many a thing you know You’d like to tell her
    Many a thing she ought to understand
    But how do you make her stay And listen to all you say?
    How do you keep a wave upon the sand?

    When I’m with her I’m confused Out of focus and bemused
    And I never know exactly where I am
    -Unpredictable as weather -She’s as flighty as a feather
    And now she can’t even hold hands…”

    (Ex libris “Sonus Musicae”)

  9. pelerin says:

    One of the commenters on the site linked to states that ‘There is nothing that brings her closer to God than holding hands during the Our Father’. I find this incredible and sad.

    The last time I saw holding hands at the Our Father was a group of youngsters on their way to the World Youth Day in Spain who were led to encircle the altar and hold hands there. They were not children but young adults and they looked extremely self conscious at this. I could not help noticing that during the Gospel they all remained seated on the floor for some reason. I know we were all packed in like sardines but that did not stop others from standing for the Gospel.

  10. a catechist says:

    One more reason to love Iowa: a stranger wouldn’t hold my hand if I were bleeding to death in public! Not once has someone tried to hold my hand during Mass.

    God bless this bishop and all the pastors who love us enough to have high expectations.

  11. Mom2301 says:

    Ugh. Is it just me or does it seem like no liberal minded “journalist” or “writer” can put together a coherent sentence. Worse yet their arguements always end up sounding like playground taunts.

  12. Mom2301 says:

    a catechist — Where are you in Iowa? Must not be in the diocese of Dubuque. In my Iowa parish people will literally grab your hand if you do not offer it to them and the priest must wander the aisle shaking every hand he can reach. Maybe I should move across the diocesean line!

  13. jesusthroughmary says:

    It’s participatio actuosa, not participatio activa.

    ACTUAL participation in the essence of the liturgical action, not mere external busy work. But to Brian and his ilk, the Kingdom is not in the dark of buildings confining and not in some heaven light years away, but here in this place where we are gathered and all are welcome.

  14. dominic1955 says:

    Finding errors in that article (and the whole magazine, every issue I’ve ever had the displeasure of leafing through) is like finding water in the sea, to paraphrase what I think St. Thomas More once said.

    Why is it that these horrid publications are allowed to spew their lies and errors without hardly a peep from the ecclesiastical authorities who could at least clearly state that this rag is NOT Catholic and the opinions contained therein in no way constitute anything resembling actual Catholic doctrine or praxis. It would really be that simple and would really take any bit of wind they do have out of their sails. As we know, the people in the pews are too often so ignorant of how to tell if something that calls itself “Catholic” can be trusted or not. I would think it would be imperative to withstand the claims of these wolves-in-sheep’s-clothing if for no other reason than to protect the simple.

  15. That’s an insult to Maria in the Sound of Music. She did almost all her flibbertigibbeting outside Mass, and the worse thing she did was come in late for the Hours while not doing a complete job of trying to be decorous.

    Re: the liturgy, it doesn’t belong to me or anybody else except the Bride and Her Bridegroom. My body and soul belongs to God, all my thoughts and actions belong to God (except the sinful ones), my voice belongs to God when I sing, the very concept of music belongs to God, and every atom of every piece of matter in my parish church belongs to God. I’m part of the action, yes, but it’s Our Father’s house and not mine, except insofar as I’m His adopted daughter. I’m part of it, by God’s grace; it’s done for me, which is profoundly humbling; but it’s not all about me. It’s an honor and a privilege — it’s a grace — just to be there. I want to come into Mass and become like Him, not for Mass to be more like me.

    If I “owned” Mass, you wouldn’t like it at all. To live inside one single sinful human’s head is to be imprisoned, whereas living perfectly in Jesus makes even bodily prison into perfect freedom. Changing that to living inside a crowd of sinful human heads just makes it into a prison by committee.

  16. cumecclesia says:

    A great analysis, Father. So much of the crisis in the liturgy in recent decades is all a matter of a defective mentality regarding “active participation” and one’s “rights.” The major problem lies in that such a defective mentality is the guiding force behind the liturgical practices of so many parishes. Anything we try to teach the youth about the Sacrifice of the Mass, the Eucharist, the priesthood and interior prayer can be erased in a single Sunday of one’s observance of Mass at a typical parish these days.
    The Traditional Mass fosters the correct approach to liturgy that will benefit the Novus Ordo immensely. So, we can take heart in and must continue to encourage the slow but steady growth of offerings of the Traditional Mass across diocesan parishes.

  17. Mr. P says:

    Wow…just wow…I don’t even know what to say…about the guy who wrote this article.

  18. Rich says:

    I think those thumbs up-thumbs down buttons deserve an ACTION ALERT that has a permanent place at the top of the WDTPRS blog for a couple days. I’m just sayin’…

  19. Re: the devotional position of holding hands while praying, there’s nothing wrong with that as a devotion. Everybody has different ways of approaching God, and I can readily believe that some people find it helpful to have a tangible reminder of God’s presence within their loved ones or among their fellowmen — right at hand, as it were. Traditionally, a lot of people prayed their family Rosary awfully close together, for example.

    It is likely that many of these people process through touch, at least some of the time, which is no more unnatural than to process God’s presence through beautiful sights or sounds.

    I suspect also that part of the reason the hand thing came on so strong, is that contemporary American Catholic practice has eliminated many of the more ancient ways to occupy one’s hands during Mass. One is not to flip through a hand missal and move ribbons about. One is not to say the Rosary. One is not to press one’s hands together fully in prayer. One is not to beat one’s fist or tap one’s fingers against the chest, or clutch medals, or do pretty much anything of a hand nature. Some of these things are deprecated, others just aren’t done or taught; but it’s just gone. Modern life does not particularly encourage holding hands or dances done with hands clasped, or other sorts of normal touching; so a lot of people are probably touch-starved and sensory-deprived because of it.

    In place of all the ancient hand occupations, we have only a few things left: making the Sign of the Cross, finding one’s place in the hymnal, folding one’s hands (if you were even taught to do that — some aren’t), and blessing yourself with holy water (if you were taught that).

    My theory is that holding hands during the Our Father has excessive tactile appeal to many tactile people, because they just aren’t taught to do the many other tactile signs associated with Catholicism, or have been discouraged from doing them. (Excessive devotion to pets may stem a little from this also.)

  20. Jacob says:

    a catechist (2 December 2011 at 12:56 pm):
    You just need to know where to look in Iowa to find holding hands. :D

  21. Archicantor says:

    Father, regarding your query about the historical evidence for the use of the orans position by the faithful, these words from Jungmann’s Mass of the Roman Rite (I, 239) might be a good place to start:

    “It was an understood norm in olden times that the people followed the motions of the bishop or the priest when he said the prayers and, in general, in all the rest of his deportment, so that like him they stood with hands uplifted and facing east.”

    FOOTNOTE 29: “That the faithful also raised their arms while praying is manifest from the frequent depiction of the orantes in the catacombs. Literary evidences from the 3rd to the 5th century are assembled in Quasten, Mon., 174, note 4, in the commentary on Ambrose, De sacr., VI, 4, 17. It is precisely this passage from Ambrose that shows that the lifting up of the hands (following 1 Tim. 2:8) was observed by the faithful especially at worship. Cf. also Chrysostom, In Phil. hom., 3, 4 (PG, LXXI, 204). In Switzerland it was still customary in 1500 for the faithful at High Mass to pray with arms outstretched from the Consecration to the Communion.

    “In the Orient, in the Egyptian liturgies, the bodily posture of the worshipers, especially at service, was carefully regulated by continuous directions from the deacon. Right after Dignum et iustum est the deacon ordered them to stretch out their arms [Gr. chars.] Petásate, Brightman, 125.”

    Brightman = Liturgies eastern and western I (1896).
    Quasten = Monumenta eucharistica et liturgica vetustissima (1935-7).

  22. catholicmidwest says:

    If people want to participate fully in the mass, there are ways to do this:
    a) prepare to go to mass by making yourself familiar with the Collect, the Readings, the Psalm and the Antiphons. They do change everyday.
    b) stop surfing through the mass; get a good missal and follow along
    c) pray

    Better yet, do all three.

  23. Daniel Latinus says:

    US Catholic [sic] is published by the Claretian Fathers, and has long (for at least thirty years) been a vessel of snarky heterodoxy. I seem to remember that a rather prominent member of another religious community, an editor of a prestigious journal published by said community, was ordered to step down because of a tolerance for less than orthodox opinions in a journal published by a community that was supposed to be committed to the Church.

    Maybe something like this needs to happen to the Claretians.

  24. Yeah, but the problem is that art history’s interpretation of orans position frescoes has moved on, while the Church is still stuck with the results of someone’s temporary thesis from fifty years back.

    Art history is about research and best guesses. A lot of this stuff got treated in the Sixties and Seventies and Eighties like it was holy writ, by people outside the field who didn’t know bupkis about the issues, even as the field was busy wrangling and changing its mind every five minutes. Nowadays, even as people outside the field claim we can’t possibly even know what the Bible really said (roll eyes here), the people outside the field still seem to think this outdated stuff is holy writ. It’s discouraging.

    Personally, I think it would be more entertaining to base our liturgical practices on ancient Christian graffiti. You bring the red paint and the scratching tools, and I’ll point out the church walls that need it! :)

  25. Athelstan says:

    Ed Peters, canonist extraordinaire and sometime visitor hereabouts, had a good overview of the orans issue archived here at his website. Peters notes that the orans position may be inappropriate not only for the laity at that point of the mass, but for the priest as well:

    The first thing to notice here is that, with the problematic exception of the Our Father, the orans position is prescribed for the priest only when he is praying aloud and alone as, for example, during the Opening Prayer, the Prayer over the Gifts, and the Post-Communion Prayer. When, however, the priest is praying aloud and with the people, for example, during the Gloria or the Creed, his hands are joined. In other words, a priest praying aloud and on behalf of a then-silent congregation is clearly exercising a leadership role. The orans posture being used then cannot occasion congregational gestural imitation because the people are silent at that point in the Mass.

    On the other hand, when prayers are being said aloud by the priest and people, the fact that the priest’s hands are joined during such prayers occasions — if anything by way of congregational imitation — the traditional gesture of joined or folded hands that is common among the laity at Mass in the West.

    It is true that there is some evidence that the orans position was used, even by some laity, during the patristic era, as the Jungmann cite above notes (though it may be equivocal in establishing how widespread the practice was), though it tells us little of *when* it was used. But it certainly was not used in the Roman Rite or its related rites for over fifteen centuries, and that should, as Peters contends, caution us against it. With such limited and equivocal evidence, the resurrection of this rubric, doubtfully employed in the same manner as by these ancient Christians, smacks of the kind of antiquarianism condemned by Pius XII in Mediator Dei. You can’t just cherry pick ancient liturgical practices, especially on such limited evidence, and drop them into the liturgy. The mass has organically (and very slowly) evolved over the centuries, and it can and will evolve in the future – but that’s not what is going on here.

    I don’t blame those who have taken to do it out of ignorance of all this. But priests and liturgists who have encouraged this ought to take a hard look at their role in encouraging it in light of these concerns. And yes, that includes Bryan Cones of U.S. Catholic.

  26. Veronica says:

    I want to share a good explanation about the holding of hands at Mass

    Before I knew better I attended several parishes that not only allowed it, but encouraged it. Thank God through my studies and learning more about my faith I came to understand the reason why we shouldn’t hold hands during Our Father.

    Now, I’m an extrovert and don’t mind holding hands with strangers but since I learned this is not in te rubrics I just don’t do it and focus on directing my attention to the Father. I don’t feel less connected with the people in the parish. But my husband is an introvert and he absolutely despises to be forced to hold hands with people he doesn’t know personally. Worst of all of you ask him to hold hands with other man that probably feels as uncortable as him. So he feels that holding hands with strangers is an invasion to his privacy and his personal space. Why is some people trying to force on everybody this gesture that first, is not on the rubrics, and second can make some people uncomfortable? I don’t get it.

  27. PeterK says:

    “so as long as they aren’t hitting their neighbors or otherwise distracting them” and that is my problem with the handholding and the sign of Peace. neighbors force someone into doing something that they don’t want to do or are uncomfortable doing. for example during the Sign of Peace I limit myself to shaking hands with one person, not the 1/2 dozen or more others who have their hands out. The same goes for holding hands during the Our Father. in that case it is very much a Protestant evangelical activity in my mind. I want to focus on the words of the prayer and not with holding hands with someone else

  28. ContraMundum says:

    Personally, I don’t even like holding hands around the dinner table for grace, but I grin and bear it when visiting friends who have that tradition.

    Look, if people within their own families want to do this, I don’t see a problem. They just need to know it is not a liturgical action, any more than a husband putting his arm around his wife during the homily is a liturgical action. Based on appearances, though, (1) many people seem to think that it *is* a liturgical action, and (2) they exert pressure on unwilling strangers (like me), which can be enormously distracting and offensive.

    When I was a child, I was taught that it was *very important* to close my eyes while praying. I’m not sure why this was emphasized so much; probably to keep me from being distracted. But since I was taught at about the same time about God telling Moses, “Thou canst not see my face: for there shall no man see me, and live,” I concluded that if I opened my eyes during prayer I would see God and die. Along similar lines, I (and I think most other children) came to understood “amen” as meaning “over and out” in prayer.

    A grown-up should no better than this. Closing the eyes does not make the prayer sound louder to God. God knows when your prayer is over, though we each probably need some way of signalling a dignified end FOR OUR OWN BENEFIT. And holding hands during the Our Father doesn’t supercharge the prayer.

  29. dad29 says:

    Another way to understand “actuosa participatio” was given by a liturgical scholar-priest of my Archdiocese. He said that ‘[AP] is, at its core, conforming oneself to Christ in self-sacrifice to the Father.’

    In the Beatitudes, Christ painted a picture of Himself as ‘poor, meek, one Who mourns, merciful, clean of heart, a peacemaker, and one Who suffers.’

    And we arrive, then, at the “rights” matter. One Who is “meek” may well have rights, but they are not self-determined; they are determined only by God (albeit they can be known by man). Man does not ‘create’ rights; they exist in natural law, which includes obedience. Ideally, that obedience is from ‘meekness.’

  30. contrarian says:

    The comments in red by Father Z were way too nice. This article was so far off that it can’t even properly be called ‘wrong’. It’s just…weird.

    Where to start? Why bother, really.

    Though I think this is my favorite line:
    “And at one time, everyone in the assembly used it.”
    This argument is used a lot by the silly season crowd, and to justify all sorts of nutty practices. Tell you what, silly seasoners. Let’s have it your way. Let’s ‘go back’ to what the ‘ancient church’ believed about, oh…morality, gender roles, Church discipline, law, doctrine, the supernatural, sin, and much else besides. You can have have your hands to heaven in the process. Though I don’t think you’ll like whatever else you get.

    Just sayin’…

  31. benedictgal says:

    Pray Tell has also thrown a major nutty over this. As far as I am concerned, Fr. Ruff lost all credibility with me when he started hurtling major salvos against the corrected translation of the Roman Missal. In my response to many of the nonsensical remarks on that blog, I wrote that the blog was a haven for dissension. I believe I’ve been banned from Pray Tell.

  32. paterscotus says:

    Along similar lines I’d like to see an orthodox bishop (or two) take on the widespread practice of people presenting themselves for “blessings” in the communion line. It’s not a part of the liturgy either and can lead to abuses, despite it’s “warm and fuzzy” feel when little children are involved. I changed my tune on this practice (as a parish priest) when a young, smiling couple – unmarried and cohabitating – came up week after week for their “blessing.”

  33. Nathan says:

    Father, you are very perceptive in pointing out the misperceptions with “participation” and “rights.” And, like most here, I am of the opinion that hand-holding during the Our Father at Holy Mass is something to be avoided.

    There are, though, a couple of nagging questions that keep poppping up in my mind, mostly because of a number of years dealing with the tender mercies of the liturgists during the 80s and 90s. First, when is a dioscean bishop’s liturgical directive a legitimate issue of obedience and when is it an abuse of power? While I like Bishop Foy’s approach, how does it differ from the directives from earlier decades (thankfully corrected by the Holy See) insisting that the Faithful refrain from kneeling for Holy Communion because the USCCB said we’re supposed to stand? Or pastors telling us we absolutely cannot kneel after Holy Communion “until everyone is fed.”

    Second, there seems to be, in the Roman Rite especially, a dignity that the lay faithful enjoy in the liturgy, exemplified by the omission of rubrics for the laity from the TLM Missale Romanum, and how is that distinguished from the misdirected concept of “rights” that we moderns are tempted to put on our role in the Sacred Liturgy?

    My feeble attempt to answer both, perhaps as a starting point, would be that the lay faithful should be allowed at Holy Mass to do what “has always been done.” Kneeling for Holy Communion is a practice of centuries, hand-holding is a modern innovation. Another way of approaching it could be something along the lines of “pray at Holy Mass as you will, as long as you don’t violate decorum or force someone else to be uncomfortable.” Finally, could the line between legitimate liturgical directive and abuse of power be in unreasonably limiting what the larger Church allows and has always allowed?

    Just a couple of (disjointed) thoughts.

    In Christ,

  34. germangreek says:

    “So after all my drama about the new texts (still don’t like them), I was going to take a break from writing about the liturgy. And then a bishop goes and does something silly.”

    Ahh, so that’s why we need a married clergy! If the Bishop of Covington had raised little children, he would have learned that when one of them has a temper tantrum, he has to give in and do what the child wants.

  35. I have a solution I’ve bandied about for some time:

    Parishes should begin offering two sorts of liturgies on Sundays, with the vigil included:

    1. Mass, celebrated very carefully in accord with the rubrics, without the mood music, without the “we get to do something” junk–just Mass. Ad orientem etc.

    2. A happy-clappy prayer service with lots of hand-holding and innovation galore; but no Mass and–importantly–no communion. It would need to be explained, this doesn’t satisfy the precept.

    Now, I’m only half serious, but I offer this for consideration. It’s as much as saying, “fine–you want all that stuff? It’s deeply meaningful and life-giving and so forth? No problem! But because it doesn’t fit with the Mass, then we have Mass; then you can have the stuff you find most meaningful.

    In actual practice, this is what I’ve done where we had a particular prayer someone wanted as part of a Mass; I wanted to eliminate it; I was told that would be awful; so my solution was, OK; then we’ll end Mass, the priest and servers will leave, and y’all can stay and do your special prayer. After all, my objection wasn’t that what they were doing was evil–only that it didn’t belong in Mass.

    Of course, I see dangers: we’d have folks who would stop going to Mass, and just go to the praise-and-worship service. Maybe it’s too dangerous; what do you think?

    Fr. Z's Gold Star Award

  36. benedictgal says:

    I just posted a reply on the US “Catholic” site and pretty much told Cones and his supporters that they needed to engage in humble obedience. I also suggest that Cones read all of the authoritative liturgical documents before he makes any pronouncements.

  37. Luke Whittaker says:

    In the words of His Eminence, Cardinal Raymond Burke, “If we err by thinking we are the center of the liturgy, the Mass will lead to a loss of faith. Unfortunately, too many priests and bishops treat violations of liturgical norms as something that is unimportant, when, in fact, they are serious abuses.” The outrage over the liturgical decrees put forward by The Most Rev. Roger Joseph Foys is just a sign that the decrees have hit home with the right people. When their ire is no longer raised they will come to appreciate the value of humility.

  38. jflare says:

    As offered by me to US Catholic (I hope):

    Oh my, we do have some trials and tribulations with the Church’s choices!
    You know, I remember when the whole holding hands effort began: I was midway through high school. I never quite decided what I thought of the practice. I became (more) aware of the teen-aged girls’ near unceasing need for chatting with their closest friends and holding hands a lot, but never decided if I thought it a good idea. ..Not until the umpteenth time in which I “had” to offer my somewhat sweaty palm to a no-so-eager teenage girl who had the misfortune to get stuck sitting beside me! Almost like going on a blind date and discovering you’re each..not entirely thrilled to be there. Not quite the example of passionate Catholic unity…..

    You know, I don’t begrudge the teen-age girls their harmless bit of communion, nor do I mind the respectable church ladies that some of them grow into. On the other hand, I, myself, am not capable of being an excited teen-age girl, nor a respectable church lady. I am only capable of being a decent church gentleman. I hope we men all aspire to being thus.

    Now as for rules, it may be that the GIRM doesn’t explicitly forbid hand-holding. ..But neither does it explicitly forbid me from offering my personal blessing to every person in the front row after I receive communion. ..Does it?? Even so, I doubt I’ll see a breakout of THAT, simply because we aren’t going up there to offer blessings; we’re going to receive communion. So maybe we can agree that something need not be explicitly forbidden to be none-the-less immensely foolish?

    I agree with need to foster union in the Church though. about this: When the Our Father comes along, how about if we all fold our hands and say it in Latin? Surely we can’t be in communion with our Church more than by offering our prayers in the tongue our grandparents and great-great-grandparents used? They did offer their Pater Nosters during High Mass now and then, didn’t they? I’ll bet at least SOME of them are now in heaven, praying with us. I wonder if they think we’re being foolish right now?

    You know, this would be especially good because we can avoid some of the conniptions over the new translations. That’s good. ..Isn’t it?

    So how about it? How about if we offer the Pater Noster from now until Pentecost next year? See how well it works.

    Any takers?

    (Let’s see how long it takes them to delete this….)

  39. Suburbanbanshee et al:

    I grew up in the Archdiocese across the river (Cincinnati), and had the opportunity to attend (or endure, if you will) a wedding at the Cathedral Basilica of this diocese two years ago. This particular decree is best understood in context.

    The practice of holding hands completely across the pew, even clear across the aisle, during the Lord’s Prayer, has been the norm in this part of the States for many years now, to the point that when one does not participate in the love fest, one is quite conspicuous. I believe that His Excellency is objecting less to people holding hands who are on familiar terms and seated next to one another, than he is to the practice of forcing it collectively on others against their wishes. They all think it has a certain romance to its appearance (as is, IMO, the practice of Communion from the cup), but in fact it’s just a passive-aggressive way of being a nuisance with a big smile on your face.

    The (over)reaction of Bryan Cones is another sign of the desperate gasps of a status quo that is dying away, and none too soon. Nothing he, or others of his ilk have done, has stemmed the tide towards the recovery of the sacred.

  40. pseudomodo says:

    “There is nothing in the law that forbids people from holding hands or extending them as the priest does, so as long as they aren’t hitting their neighbors or otherwise distracting them.”

    He must have forgot Notitiae 11 (1975) 226.

    [1975? During the reign of Pope Paul VI? Imagine! Read THAT.]

    Fr. Z Gold Star Award

  41. sunbreak says:

    So, Cones thinks it’s stupid to have a rule not to hold hands. I say it’s stupid to be in a church situation where you are pressured to hold hands. I have had a person deliberately walk up to me from another pew for the specific purpose of holding hands during the Our Father. I have had some guy almost yell at me in church during this time saying “we’re supposed to hold hands”. Yuck. I won’t repeat what I wanted to say to that guy. I absolutely hate the practice and will not attend a parish that has this practice. The whole hand holding thing reminds me of being a child playing “ring around the rosy”. It does not make me feel closer to the people around me – instead I feel like my space is violated. If a family wants to hold hands among themselves, I don’t care. I just think it’s ridiculous that people have invented all these extra things to do during the liturgy.

  42. Margaret says:

    My first attempt at addressing the woman who felt “closest to God” while holding hands was deleted by the mods as an “attack.” Sign. Touchy mods. It seems to me snark is permitted in one direction but not the other. I’ve made a second attempt at a reply…

  43. mike cliffson says:

    Let’s Daven while praying. Like ?

    Fr. Z's Gold Star Award

  44. contrarian says:

    Fr. Fox,
    That seems like a pretty good idea to me. I worry, though, that the silly seasoners would make the argument that they were being treated like second class citizens. That they were being denied the Mass and the Eucharist in what for them was the only ‘meaningful’ form of worship. Though, at the same time, if they did find hands-holding, und so weiter, that meaningful, they shouldn’t mind doing double duty any given Sunday, nes c’est pas?

    I say try it.

  45. Stu says:

    They are big on deleting negative feedback over there. I’m anxious to see if my criticism, using the authors own words will pass muster.

    In response to posts critical of this article being deleted by the moderators…

    I want to ask the author, Mr. Cones, Are you completely out of your mind? What harm does it do for people to openly respond to you in this forum possibly do? And how would you like to be the poor moderator who has to enforce your stupid standards for posting? And they are stupid.

    One would hope this comment can stay since I have used the authors own words. :)

  46. Andy Milam says:

    I posted over there and mentioned a few buzz words, like participatio acutosa, participatio activa, liturgical law and extraordinary…

    My post was deleted.

    I haz sadz…… Not so much.

  47. The Egyptian says:

    [There are a lot of things that are not explicitly forbidden but which for reasons of decorum and common sense we should not do.]

    You mean like just happening to, by accident, inadvertently whacking Mr Cones in the mush while assuming “the position”

    holy liturgical bat crap.

  48. tioedong says:

    Let me leave my bitter reply.
    So here am I, alone and laying my burdens and prayers on the Lord, and suddenly you interrupt to hold my hand and wish me peace. The rest of the week, you don’t even say hello.
    What’s wrong with this picture?

  49. Brad says:

    Any article written by an adult, let alone a testosterone-American that begins, “So after all my drama…” I immediately stop reading, thinking I have mistakenly stumbled into a conversation between two 13 year old schoolgirls via their text messaging about some boy. Sorry tween girls, no offense.

    Actually that applies to any sentence that begins with the word SO or contains the word DRAMA in its cheesy sense.

    By the way, is that flag thing…thing…draped across the window an unholy mockery of The Father’s rainbow, i.e. not all 7 colors are present? I have mentioned that abomination before.

    Apologies if it is somehow legit.

  50. Paulo says:

    I felt that I had to report from south of Equator, where I am right now. Brasil is the land of hand-holding during the Lord’s Prayer! It goes across the aisle, in a chain, from front-to-back, at least in my adoptive parish for the month. I hope father Z brings back the Sign of Peace thread: lots of active participation there too…

  51. Trad Catholic Girl says:

    The Egyptian,

    It’s too bad that Fr. Z can’t give a 2nd gold star – I loved your comment (and really needed the laugh)!

  52. catholicmidwest says:

    Fr. Martin Fox,

    That’s an interesting idea, but I think you might be right. I’m a convert; used to be a protestant. Protestants have all kinds of meetings and events, and people do pick and choose amongst them, although the regular church members usually also show up faithfully Sunday after Sunday like clockwork regardless of their other church activities, even if the lukewarm ones don’t no matter how you arrange it. [Meaning the ones who consistently pick and choose are usually the ones that often skip Sundays too.]

    I have often wondered why Catholic churches don’t have more events-bible studies, sledding trips, prayer gatherings, christmas parties, community suppers, talks and lessons and such in addition to Sunday masses-and I’m starting to wonder if the reason you’ve given might not be the real reason these things aren’t done It’s very sad all the way around when people are so loathe to put in time at the church that they will only come down to the property once a week. After being Catholic for 26+ years, cradle Catholics still confuse me.

  53. catholicmidwest says:

    Also, many Catholics like devotional music. So do I, but it’s not liturgical music. I don’t know why there can’t be a place for each kind, and I don’t know why we have to cram all of our education, music tastes, community behavior and everything into 45 minutes a week! It’s kind of a manic attitude, if you want to know the truth. And it may be part of what this hand-holding thing is about.

    The Catholic Church should be a larger part of the lives of Catholics. If we want that to happen, we have to find out a way to make the physical contacts occur to make it happen. That probably means being willing to show up more than once a week or getting a bit creative about once a week. So how can that be done and still preserve Mass-going behavior? Can we set things up Sunday afternoon? Do we set some things up so so they segway into Saturday night mass? Do we do after work “fast food potlucks” so people don’t have to do dishes? How can we get this done?

    [A fast food potluck is when everybody stops at the fast food joint of their choice and brings 10 servings of something, anything to share. And then you pray together and then eat together and then talk a bit and pray again and then go home. Nobody does dishes. Everybody gets some rest and doesn’t have to think about work for a little while.]

  54. ContraMundum says:


    I totally agree. But to crack down on the “blessings” will require a good deal of education. They are so widely practiced that almost no one is aware that there is any problem with them. And the education must do something to make people who are not properly disposed to receive Communion a bit less obvious so they do not feel a need to join a line — except for the Confession line.

  55. fxkelli says:

    “There are a lot of things that are not explicitly forbidden but which for reasons of decorum and common sense we should not do.”

    The problem with that particular line of logic is that decorum and common sense are subjective. After that it becomes an issue of preference and cultural norms. There may be facts that support our preferences but that’s true of any point of view. It’s all about the facts we select and omit.

    Since this is an issue of preference the ideal would be to look into peoples hearts and see what motivates their positions, but that’s really something better left to God Himself. We could reference the gospels to see how Jesus might handle these issue, but I don’t think we would find much there. That being the case we might just file this discussion under the file “preferences and cultural norms” and give it’s proper priority in our spiritual walk.

  56. dominic1955 says:

    I like Fr. Fox’s idea, but it should be even more pointed. People who would purposefully skip Mass and think they are doing just fine with their little prayer service were probably self-excommunicate anyway. If not, then they would hopefully come to their senses enough to know that even if they like all this happy-clappy stuff, real religion is what we had been doing back in the day and what really. No sense in coddling these people, draw a line in the sand already.

    I set before you life and death, choose life…

  57. Springfielder says:

    I agree completely with catholicmidwest!

    My heart is in the traditional Mass. I do not need to be entertained with guitars or bands etc or distracted from the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass with handshakes and hugs. When are we going to go back to actual worship of Jesus Christ in the Eucharist?

  58. jhayes says:

    pseudomodo quoted: “There is nothing in the law that forbids people from holding hands or extending them as the priest does, so as long as they aren’t hitting their neighbors or otherwise distracting them.”

    And said :”He must have forgot Notitiae 11 (1975) 226.”

    That reply in Notitiae only says that holding hands during the Our Father isn’t a substitute for giving the sign of peace afterwards. It doesn’t say you can’t do both.

    Doesn’t say anything about orans or other raised arm positions:

    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.


  59. The purpose of rubrics is not to say what is not done, but what is done. That said, the newly-clarified GIRM does make a few exceptions to this convention. The good bishop highlights some of them in his decree (which makes for great reading). Here’s my personal favorite:

    “366. It is not permitted to substitute other chants for those found in the Order of Mass, for example, at the Agnus Dei (Lamb of God).”

  60. catholicmidwest says:

    And then with all the good “fooling around” out of the way, we’d ought to get down to brass tacks and do the Mass correctly. It’s supposed to be an act of worship and a sacrifice. It’s supposed to be the most solemn and beautiful thing you’ve ever seen in your life. It’s supposed to be something you can’t ever get over no matter how old you get.

  61. fxkelli says:

    “I like Fr. Fox’s idea, but it should be even more pointed. People who would purposefully skip Mass and think they are doing just fine with their little prayer service were probably self-excommunicate anyway. If not, then they would hopefully come to their senses enough to know that even if they like all this happy-clappy stuff, real religion is what we had been doing back in the day and what really. No sense in coddling these people, draw a line in the sand already.

    I set before you life and death, choose life…”

    And this is where it all leads. Excessive legalism. Ultimately this is between man and God. I’ll bet God loves, and even saves, those people who don’t practice “real religion” too.

  62. jesusthroughmary says:

    To respond to Catholicmidwest (2 December, 7:07 PM):

    I agree wholeheartedly. My wife is a convert and her former church, a traditionally minded, conservative Methodist church, shames our current parish (which itself is the jewel of our diocese in many aspects. The spiritual life of that church is 7 days a week, with prayer groups meeting weekly for every age group and state in life, Bible studies, youth groups for all grades that meet 2 or 3 times a week (once for study, once for prayer, and often a third time for fun and fellowship), a Wednesday night dinner and midweek worship service, and the list goes on and on. The church has a nursery that is staffed by volunteers not only on Sundays, but almost all the time whenever there’s something going on at the church. These are things that Catholics, for whatever reason, rarely can figure out how to accomplish in a parish. The parish with a true social life, a true community of Catholics, is rare, and sadly it’s usually liberal and Protestantized. If anyone reading this is a member of a parish with a true community, I’d love to know how to go about it – everything my friends and I have tried has failed.

  63. Banjo pickin girl says:

    jesusthroughmary, The secret, as you have seen is small groups. Let people find their own community among smaller groups of people. My parish is an inner city parish where nobody lives any more. There is a very active youth group, one for the twenties, the KofC is very active, a women’s club (which unfortunately meets during weekdays), various classes in the evenings, Irish class, Latin class, some sit in on RCIA which is taught by the priests only, sewing groups, sewing class, trips, picnics, a large group which prays in front of the abortion mill every Saturday morning and then meets afterward for fellowship, volunteering in the library, etc. There is always something going on. But think small groups of people because that is how you make connections. Every active church I have ever belonged to was successful at small groups. Encouraging people to meet in each other’s homes for prayer is also great.

  64. Father Z, we need to see the CSL’s statement in its context. What Vatican II actually teaches is a prioritization of “participation:”

    “In the restoration and promotion of the sacred liturgy, this full and active participation by all the people is the aim to be considered BEFORE ALL ELSE…” Sacrosanctum concilium 14 (emphasis mine)

    This is simply unsupportable; it endorses experience at the expense of objective truth and revealed religion in the sacred liturgical actions that communicate the Priesthood of Christ in the mysteries of the Faith. This priority, ‘before all else’ is the invitation for every liturgical abuse we have seen over the past 50 years. Like most of Vatican II’s imprecise and ambiguous ‘pastoral’ language, this clause is easily exploitable by Modernists, ecumaniacs and syncretists, who can justify their sacrilege with a reference to Vatican II.

  65. Denita says:

    All I’m going to say is this: I had a very profound experience while attending my EF Mass one Sunday. I had realized that Mass is a SACRIFICE not a SUPPER. Something I would not have done in an OF Mass, I’m afraid.

  66. MQ says:

    I say, allow anyone to hold hands only if they are allowed to do the moonwalk too. Cheers to the good bishop.

  67. Centristian says:

    “The Most Rev. Roger Joseph Foys, D.D., by the Grace of God and the Favor of the Apostolic See, Bishop of Covington”

    Gotta give him points for good form. You seldom see a bishop’s full style and titles as employed on formal episcopal instruments issued rolled out for derision. This guy knows a thing or two about chancery documents. And Wonder Woman. Too bad he doesn’t know anything about liturgy. What is he again?

  68. Deesis says:

    Holding hands during the Our Father and raising hands or extending them as if “concelebrating” are strange customs created in the USA and aped across the Catholic world. At the heart of it is narcissism. The belief that “I” am the centre not Catholic culture. But looking deeper have you ever analysed and examined the exagerated ernestness and sensationalism so central to the drama of the media in the US? The in “your face” sincerety that is insincere? “Entertainment This Week”, “The Late Nite” shows. Behind it is a deep shallowness. The problem is the hand waving and hysteria of being a “Born Again Amway” is the sort of model some Catholics draw on because it is so “kewL” and “with it”. My skin crawls when I see this stuff and I walk for the door!
    There are Catholic “gestures” or prayer and respect that are impersonal and deeply meaningful such as kneeling and making the sign of the cross. Once while living in the US an old man came up and “said let me give you a hug”, I think he actually tried to do it! It was in a small town in South Dakota. I asked do I know you? He said “I saw you at Mass and you know my friends”. “We were at a church meeting together”! (What an intrusion and a violation!) I do not like having people who I do not know or with whom I have no bond take liberties by forcing their needs for shallow intimacy on me! I think this is what many do in Mass. Heart speaks to heart… Mass isn’t a let it all hang out “happening”. It isn’t “hugging” Jesus. It isn’t a “mosh pit”! It demands respect and the ritual of the Liturgy, which no individual manipulates for their own needs is respectful!

  69. Banjo pickin girl says:

    Deesis, It’s in the US because that is where the so-called charismatic movement began. Pentecostal protestantism is what it is. Pentecostals have no valid sacraments and don’t believe in regenerative baptism so they invent things to excite them emotionally, substituting that for real experience. Catholics should have nothing to do with anything that is even tangentially related to it as it involves a denial of what we believe about baptism and confirmation.

  70. Gail F says:

    It wouldn’t let me leave a comment at USC, but it seems to me that getting a reaction like that, from a person like that, means that His Excellency Roger Foys is doing his job correctly.

  71. Shonkin says:

    Father Z is saying what I wish I had read decades ago.
    I first noticed the odd liturgical gestures and so on in the mid-1980’s. A group of people started holding hands, with the people at the ends of the rows extending their arms, hands supine. Soon it spread to whole parishes. Why? Whose idea was it?
    I suspect there were groups — Ultreya participants, parish council members, trendoids, who knows? — who spread this stuff, but no one ever said. It just started happening. This whole hand-holding thing got out of hand. People cough and sneeze into their hands all through the Mass and then want to hold hands during the Lord’s Prayer and shake hands after “The Peace of the Lord be with you.”
    Sometimes I just refrain and tell them, “Sorry, I have a cold.” Some have the audacity to say, “So do I.” Aargh!
    I stopped receiving Holy Communion from the chalice after I got two really bad colds after doing so.
    Hey, folks! The Blessed Sacrament has the ESSENCE of our Lord, but it still has all the ACCIDENTS of bread and wine. You can get sick from viruses that get transmitted by the chalice. If you are sick, stay away from the cup! The grace of the Sacrament is the same! (Maybe they don’t teach that any more. They don’t teach much religion in the CCD classes in any case.)
    Thank you, Father, for talking about these issues.

  72. dominic1955 says:

    “And this is where it all leads. Excessive legalism. Ultimately this is between man and God. I’ll bet God loves, and even saves, those people who don’t practice “real religion” too.”

    There should be a teaching Church between men and God, a Church that teaches how to properly worship God. There was no need for “excessive legalism” when people still thought like Catholics. Legitimate customs and practices develop out of a real and proper “sensus Catholicus” but, unfortunately, this is pretty much defunct.

    God loves Satan too, He saves apostates and heretics as well. Not because of their errors, but in spite of them. Objectively, everyone should practice religion as perfectly as possible because God deserves only the best, even if He is merciful on our faults and shortcomings.

  73. letchitsa1 says:

    I wish our bishop here would follow Bishop Foy’s example. Hand-holding during the Our Father is rampant around here and it can be so annoying, especially when the person next to you will just grab your arm if you don’t proffer your hand like they feel you should. Sadly, though, it may well be wishful thinking on my part. *sigh*

  74. Taylor says:

    Dear Fr. Z,
    Thank you for this article. I think the real problems are 1) an emotions-based DISOBEDIENCE on the part of those who do not wish to honor the GIRM and the intent of the Council Fathers and 2) weak leadership on the part of some bishops/priests. The lay-disobedient need help, AND our bishops/priests need to be good leaders. Why be good leaders? One reason why some lay persons want to do “their thing” may be that they do not respect the authority of the bishop or priest. Why is this? Perhaps it is because, while we owe you/them our respect, they have not yet truly earned that respect. This is a normal human problem. However, when leadership is weak, those who should be led will begin to think THEY are the leaders…and then they begin to set up councils and so forth…

  75. Supertradmum says:

    I think that most Catholics do not believe they are in the Presence of the Living God at Mass. The holding of hands is a silly and meaningless gesture in the Holy of Holies, where one’s attention should be on God Himself, Present in the Eucharist. At one of the most sublime moments in the Mass, one is asked to turn from contemplation in order to hold hands. I have never understood this. Most of the people around me I have never seen before. I shall probably not see them again, or at intermittent times. What is the point? Real charity is feeding the hungry, visiting the sick, taking care of the homeless, visiting the imprisoned, teaching the ignorant, warning the sinner, etc. not holding hands.

    In addition, why all this public display of so-called fealty? It is all so pompous and false, and thankfully, where I am now, people just say “Peace” and nod their heads. I can do that to one person and get on with the reason I am at Mass-to worship the Triune God and give Him latria.

  76. fxkelli says:

    “There should be a teaching Church between men and God, a Church that teaches how to properly worship God.”

    There’s that subjective thing again. Even when church leaders reference the bible, they can disagree. That’s long before we get the part about holding hands, where, to my knowledge, there’s no specific guidance in this area. On the other hand, there is a lot about what’s in one’s heart. We’ll all have to account to God for that one directly, regardless if we worshiped in a church that had a 500 pipe organ, or just a few pieces of bamboo to hit together.

    I find it hard to believe that some poor soul in an underground church in China, or worshiping God in the African bush, should even concern themselves with these issues. I’m not sure why we do either. Getting bogged down in these issues is not essential to our salvation. To the extent that it becomes contentious and divisive, it works against it.

  77. AnAmericanMother says:

    And the ‘hedge churches’ in Ireland had to celebrate under cover of darkness out in the fields (which has had a negative effect on Catholic music even unto this day). And of course in England dear Mr. Byrd frequently went skipping out the back door as King Edward’s accusers of the brethren were knocking on the front.
    But they did the best they could; and we likewise should do the best we can.
    As for the idea that it’s non-essential, consider what is sometimes called “the broken window theory of policing”. If you let the little things (like broken windows and graffiti) go, then bigger things follow because ignoring little things creates a contempt for the law. Similarly, if everyone is allowed to ‘do his own thing’ in the liturgy, respect for the Word made flesh declines and you wind up with giant puppets and so forth (pride in ‘creating’ all these innovations and the desire to ‘one up’ others probably has something to do with it as well).
    “He that is faithful in that which is least, is faithful also in that which is greater: and he that is unjust in that which is little, is unjust also in that which is greater. “

  78. Tom T says:

    There is a Parish close by me run by a liberal Order of missionary priests who normally don`t bother wearing clerical garb or suits even when taking vows. For some reason which escapes me at the moment, my wife and I were forced to attend Mass there which I never do because I know they hold hands during the Our Father and I detest that. This Church is everything Fr. Z described including more extraordinary ministers than they need. The priest sits in the middle behind the alter on a throne with the tabernacle somewhere off to the side and does very little during Mass
    except what he has to absolutely has to do. When we attended mass there for the very last time, my wife and I picked a pew in the very back with only one burly hugh man all the way at the other end of the pew. When it was getting close to the Our Father, I noticed out of the corner of my eye him sliding down towrds me and I purposely ignored and kept my head straight hoping he would vanish, get the body language, senses a growing hostility, God help me, but he kept coming, grabbed my hand and yanked my arm in the air. I was so angry and upset I could hardly concentrate on my prayer. At the end, as is the custom here, he yanked it out of socket high in the air and I screamed allelua and everyone looked at me. I think I scared him as well as my wife and myself it was a combination of anger and relief coming out. He looked at me strangely when we shook hands. I believe he will probably analyze the person next to him before he does that again. Not part of the drill. As I said it was our last Mass there. Never again, even if I have to travel thirty miles. Pax.

  79. Johnno says:

    “Modern life does not particularly encourage holding hands or dances done with hands clasped, or other sorts of normal touching; so a lot of people are probably touch-starved and sensory-deprived because of it.”

    Really? I’d say that modern life these days allows for far too much contact between people, if you know what I mean… Most of the time, anyone who is touch-starved or sensory deprived is usually for all the wrong reasons. But I do get a sense of what you mean…

    I’m for the idea of holding separate prayer and adoration services where the community can celebrate it’s togetherness with the Lord outside of the Mass.

  80. New Sister says:

    @ Nathan:
    I struggle with this question, too — “when is a dioscean bishop’s liturgical directive a legitimate issue of obedience…?”
    I ignore diocesan directives to stand when the norm is to kneel — e.g., during the Little Elevation and Holy Communion. (Thanks be to God, this only becomes an issue when I travel away from my parish!)
    Is this disobedient? I certainly find it so when people continue to extend their hands during the Pater Noster, against the explicit instructions of their pastor… how are my kneeling postures then any different? I even go further than that: I violate the GIRM. Having become more aware of the awesome Presence of God upon the holy altar during the past 3 years of attending the EF of the Mass, I now long to kneel more at the NO Mass — nay, I feel compelled to — e.g., during the Sanctus and Agnus Dei. I sometimes kneel during the Pater Noster, simply to avoid the confrontations that the kiss of peace and hand-holding causes in some places.

    I have come to justify my actions by the approach that you suggest, and that my uncle said he was taught by the good sisters at his school in 50s and 60s, which is to “pray at Holy Mass as you will, as long as you don’t violate decorum or force someone else to be uncomfortable.” In my mind, kneeling while others are standing does not violate decorum in that it does not obstruct the view of others or distract them. Standing whilst others kneel obviously would.

    I would appreciate more on this question of obedience, too, should Father Z be disposed to addressing it. [I’ll try to search the blog for past posts — if anyone knows of a good one, please share!]

    In Christ, through the Immaculata,

  81. Patt says:

    I avoid hand holding parishes since I knew it was incorrect from the start (I read the Rubrics of the Mass). Too bad parish priests did not put an end to it when it began. It is basic Protestant behavior as is the raised hands instead of folded hands. It seems bell ringing, genuflections and so many Catholic things were abandoned to follow Protestant errors. A real shame, so I hope we are headed back in the right direction. I like the new English translation (should I say more correct translation of the Latin). Bravo, and God bless to all priests and Bishops who are correcting the 40 years of errors! Let us not pay heed to hacks like Bryan Cones…

  82. New Sister says:

    @ Tom T
    I have learned the best way to break these unwanted advances is by eye contact and refusal to cave to the hand-grabbing, talking, grinning… whatever it may be. I keep as calm and as pleasant a countenance as I can (NOT grinning), with hands reverently folded, and look at their eyes. When theirs finally meet mine (those who lauch toward you at Holy Mass often do not make eye contact!) , I bow my head and whisper, “Pax Christi tecum.” I do not separate my hands during this exchange, even when they have continued to shove theirs toward me. [it is especially incorrect for men to extend their hand toward women first — I refuse to cave to that!] My experience has been positive — it does not cause offense and I think actually helps convey a more sincere expression of peace, in the midst of what can be a frenzy of people twisting, jabbing and weaving, seemingly to get as many hits as possible in the allotted time.

  83. uptoncp says:

    even if the Lord’s Prayer isn’t exactly the high point of the Liturgy of the Eucharist liturgically speaking, the people are telling us it is.

    And this is to be encouraged?

  84. Tammy says:

    First, I am in total agreement with Fr Z. We need some old fashioned catechesis and obedience on this one. Maybe some of us who are accustomed to being movers-and-shakers in our professional spheres will benefit from the humility of knowing there is nothing more for us to DO at Mass than the homeless guy next to us…it is our time to be mindful and engaged in the Mass without us being do-ers.

    I went to a Mass in southcentral PA and half the city poured onto the altar for communion…they had so many jobs for people, I found it all rather distracting.

    As far as Fr Fox ‘s comments above….I have had the same idea, but I wouldnt go so far as to call the happy-clappy component “liturgy” (although Im sure you know mor than me on this one). When my evangelical friends tell me they would not want to give up happy songs , etc I tell them “In a perfect world, we would have sacred, traditional, liturgical Mass on Sunday with no modernization whatsoever. On Wednesday we could have a Catholic Biblestudy that might start with praise and worship music”. I told my CCD students to never leave the Body and Blood of the Lord for a happy song, you can play CDs of happy songs in your kitchen.

  85. Luke Whittaker says:

    @ fxkelli (I am quoting your words here), “I find it hard to believe that some poor soul in an underground church in China, or worshiping God in the African bush, should even concern themselves with these issues. I’M NOT SURE WHY WE DO EITHER. Getting bogged down in these issues is not essential to our salvation.”

    I would like to suggest that these issues ARE essential to our salvation because, this issue is, at it’s heart, about mistaken theological ideas which can lead to the loss of faith. One of the saddest proofs of this is the lack of belief among fellow Catholics in the real presence of Jesus in the holy Eucharist. Please check your Catechism on the meaning of lex orandi lex credendi for a deeper understanding of this issue (CCC 1124-1126).

    “The Church’s faith precedes the faith of the believer who is invited to adhere to it. When the Church celebrates the sacraments, she confesses the faith received from the apostles – whence the ancient saying: lex orandi, lex credendi” (from 1124).

    “For this reason no sacramental rite may be modified or manipulated at the will of the minister or the community” (from 1125).

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  87. fxkelli says:

    “But they did the best they could; and we likewise should do the best we can.”

    The best we could do should begin with loving God and his people. If that means tolerating that some people hold hands and some people don’t, then so be it. I’m willing to bet that there are plenty of believers on solid footing with God who profit from hand holding during mass. We have plenty 0f really big issues where we need to draw lines in the sand in this sadly fallen world. I can’t believe that this is one of them. BUT, for those who wish to convince other sincere and devout believers that this is an important issue, then at least provide biblically based evidence that this is something that rises to the level of a serious debate.

  88. Luke Whittaker says:

    In the words of our blessed Lord, “Anyone who hears you [Church] hears me; anyone who rejects you rejects me, and those who reject me reject reject the one who sent me” (Luke 10:16).

    “The Church’s faith precedes the faith of the believer” (CCC 1124).

    This isn’t a matter for debate, fxkelli, but rather it is a matter of humble obedience to holy mother Church. This thread is in response to a writer who willfully rejects the authority of his bishop and not simply those who are honestly doing their level best.

  89. franpax says:

    Father, you have not been keeping up. Years ago, about 40, when you and I were much younger, things were simple. We only had ONE Pope. We knew his name, we looked forward to his teachings, he was the Vicar of Christ and was responsible for the Petrine Ministry and most of us, at the minimum, respected the Arch/Bishops as Successors of the Apostles and the only legitimate teachers of the faith when in union with that ONE Pope. Haven’t you noticed that today there are hundreds of thousands of “Popes.” Anyone can be Pope today and there opinions are just as authoritative as that of any decrepit and ignorant old man in the Vatican. Yes, most of us still insist on praying only for Pope Benedict (XVI) at Mass. I am old. I just can’t remember the names of the other Popes. Update my brother. You have missed the big reason for the problems in the Church today.

  90. Deacon John M. Bresnahan says:

    Since women so much outnumber men going to Mass and being involved in parish activities I have been reading books about what drives men away from Mass. And they all seem to agree on one thing–holding hands is one of the major things that drives men away as they consider childish and silly and noone asked their opinion about whether they liked the idea or not. So I hope this bishop’s firmness spreads for the sake of the Church.

  91. Tammy said:

    “As far as Fr Fox ‘s comments above….I have had the same idea, but I wouldnt go so far as to call the happy-clappy component “liturgy” (although Im sure you know mor than me on this one).”

    No, I wouldn’t either; I used the word inadvisedly and didn’t realize it till the comment was posted. I was hoping no one would notice!

    Liturgy is the corporate prayer of the Church, so it applies to Mass, the Divine Office, the celebration of other sacraments and exposition; but it doesn’t include private forms of prayer, whether venerable or risible.

  92. fxkelli says:

    “This isn’t a matter for debate, fxkelli, but rather it is a matter of humble obedience to holy mother Church.”

    That’s one (among many) reasonable opinions for folks in Covington’s diocese to consider. For the rest of us it’s a non-issue, because we’re still allowed to hold hands.

    BUT, if you’ll notice, most of these posts, including FrZ’s blog, itself aren’t following you’re lead. Most of these posts are arguments why this particular practice is a bad idea (with some tortured slippery slope arguments tossed, and only the cursor nod to obedience, after justifying it by way of mind reading based accusations pointed at the dissenters). That sound like a discussion about hand holding, not about obedience. As a matter of fact, the vast majority of these threads start with intellectual discourses as to why one specific practice or interpretation is incorrect and should be changed (also with much mind reading based demonization of the intent of the contrarians). If strict obedience (at least to church decisions) were the central theme, these would be much shorter discussions.

    Ironically, it would be very hard to make this discussion completely about obedience, since the inconsistency of the church across local boundaries just adds fuel to the fire. Most likely because clergy fall victim to same factional flaws and biases that plague the rest of the human race. The hard part is discerning who’s listening to Holy Spirit and who’s just grinding an ideological axe.

  93. jflare says:

    “No, I wouldn’t either; I used the word inadvisedly and didn’t realize it till the comment was posted. I was hoping no one would notice!”

    Um, I DID notice..and thought it completely appropriate!
    I’ve been to a few Masses during which the Mass literally seemed to come to a screeching half for five minutes, during which time many members of the congregation were going hither, thither, and yon. During the same Masses, the choir seemed to me to no-kidding perform–like a rock concert–two or three times.
    I began to wonder if I had gone to Mass or to a Gospel revival meeting.

    Others have been much less..distinct..but still had entirely too much of a community hoedown feel. I’m quite glad to see priests bothering to take the Mass seriously.

  94. Taylor says:

    To love God is to obey God in His Word and in those He has entrusted to care for His Church: that is, to obey the Pope, the Magisterium, and all that they officially teach. To make a willful, personal act of dissent is just that – a personal act of disobedience. Obedience is not an act of opinion; it is an act of compliance. It is also an act of trust in God – in the faith that the Holy Spirit is leading His Church.

  95. Tom T says:

    You have correctly identified the problem in your last paragraph. The problem is decentralization
    of authority, misinterpretations of directives from Rome with some bishops going one way and others going another and in the end leaving it all up to the discretion of the parish pastor. Hence, you have the abuses and liberties that have been taken by some in the celebration of the Holy Eucharist in the Novus Ordo. Perfect example is the recent flap over Communion under both forms. An experiment that was to end in 2005 concerning an indult for exraordinary ministers to purify the sacred vessels after Mass did`nt end. This despite a request by the USCCB to renew the practice to the Congregatio Culto Divino Disciplina Sacramentorum on 9 March 2005 and 7 March
    2006; and the request was for, where there are not enough priests or deacons to purify a large numbers of vessels after Mass. In a letter dated 12 October 2006 wherein Francis Cardinal Arinze Prefect stated he put the whole matter before the Holy Father in an audience granted on 9 June 2006 and recieved a response in the negative. In June of this according to EWTN 23 Sept. 2011, the 3rd edition of the General instructions on the Roman Missal was released which reduced the number of times -14 down to 3 when the chalice could be offered during Mass within the U.S. Church. The Diocese of Phoenix issued a directive to follow the new norms and after an outcry and demands from the pews reversed the directive leaving the matter up to local pastors. This is just one of many examples of the breakdown of the authority of Rome with many others that are obvious such as the open refusal to follow Summorum Pontificum even after the letter Universae Ecclesia. This is not in my view an ideological axe but an actual breakdown of line of authority, clarity, uniformity and outright disobediance by left wing liberal bishops who accepted misinterpretations of Vat II Post Conciliar Documents and decided to do it their way. Slowly this group of bishops are one by one reaching retirement age and being replaced by Benedict XVI with more conservative bishops that say what they mean and mean what they say and follow the norms. Pax.

  96. Luke Whittaker says:

    Do the words, “hold hands now” or “raise your hands in front of you” appear in your missal?

    Let’s not sidetrack the issue when this is simply a matter of following the rubrics of the Mass.

  97. MSgirl says:

    Two years ago my husband and I attended a funeral at a parish in the Archdiocese of Mobile, Alabama. At the Our Father, as I folded my hands, the woman next to me hit me hard on my left arm three times, each time harder than the one before. She angrily hissed, “Deacon **** always held hands at the Our Father. Don’t you think we should, too?” The local custom at the end of Mass is to sing the Salve Regina (in Latin, thank you), which I did. The woman remained silent until the recessional, when she belted out Let Us Build the City of God as loudly as she could. Well, I guess she showed me! Out in the parking lot my husband had to physically restrain me from confronting her. It was a funeral, after all. My arm hurt for most of the day.

    This really is a war. I am bruised (in so many ways. . . ) and tired, but I have lived long enough to experience the new translation of the Mass and to welcome many Episcopalians and Anglicans into the fold with their very own Ordinariate! I never thought that I would see either one. I’m happy, and I hope my pew friend in Mobile is, too. Probably not.

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