ASK FATHER: Holding hands or the “orans” position during the Our Father. Wherein Fr. Z rants.

From a reader…


Over at the Fishwrap (aka National Schismatic Reporter) there is a question today about hold hands during the Our Father.  As you might guess they reference liberals who are probably unreliable.  What say you?  Is hand holding forbidden in the Novus Ordo?   How about in the Tridentine Mass?

I’ve written about this several times, so I’ll brush some frost off an answer from the ice-box  (easily found using the search box on the side bar) and add to it.

First, I’ll remind you that I had a POLL on the subject.  Let’s just say that, when it comes to hand holding during the Our Father, for both men and women NO was the overwhelmingly dominant choice.  HERE

There is no specific prohibition against holding hands during the Our Father, or any other time at Mass for that matter, either for the Novus Ordo or the TLM.

However, there is also no provision to ask or invite people to do so.  Were a priest or anyone else to do so during Mass he/she/? would commit a grave liturgical abuse.

Priests can’t just make stuff up and impose things because they think it is meaningful.

For those who don’t care to partake, the hand holding thing – which I hope will soon vanish – is a seriously irritating invasive aberration.  The aforementioned POLL shows that most people don’t like it and want to avoid it.

That said, if people spontaneously desire to do this, hold hands, I cannot see any problem with it.

“But Father! But Father!”, some of you libs are bleating from the depths of your sclerotic hearts, “You can’t have it both ways!  You legalists are all alike.  So can you hold hands or not?  See?  you are caught in your own trap. HA!  You try to crush the spirit!  Especially the spirit of Vatican II! Why? Because YOU HATE VATICAN II!”

Friends, don’t expect libs to be logical.  Lib logic is sort of like a bag full of cats: its always on the move but who knows what’s really going on in there?  We, on the other hand, filled with compassion and common sense just want what the Council Fathers of Vatican II would want: follow the books faithfully.  That’s the true spirit of Vatican II: be faithful, apply common sense and avoid stupid.

Hence, I can say… No, people should not hold hands during the Our Father… unless they do.

How do we square that circle?

I can picture spouses holding hands… each others, that is, and not just little junior’s to keep him from opening a nearby lady’s purse.  That’s a good reason to hold a child’s hand during Mass by the way.  Also, moms and dads, when you have babe in arms, hold their hands down firmly at the moment of Holy Communion!  Please?  Father doesn’t need their curious help.  But I digress.

So, no, don’t hold hands … unless…

I can picture myself with a Mass kit on a crate with candles in the London Underground during the Blitz.  As I say Mass, horrible booms tremble through the ground and echo in the tube tunnels as bombs rain down from German airplanes.  Loose tiles fall and children cry.  People who have never met are holding hands.

I can picture myself saying Mass just after an announcement that a terrorist group lit off dirty suit-case nukes in Washington DC, Chicago, and LA.  People flood to churches out of fear, grief and anger, looking for direction and solace.  At the Our Father they spontaneously reach for each other’s hands.

I can picture myself saying a Requiem Mass for five teens killed in a car accident. Their classmates and families hold hands.

I can picture an asteroid… well, you get my drift.

Congregations of total or near total strangers might be spontaneously driven sincerely to hold hands in some circumstances.

But – and perhaps it is a lack of something on my part – I cannot see this hand holding stretch exercise across aisles, for example, as a regular practice as anything other than contrived sentimentalism which distracts us from the transcendent nature of God Almighty and the meaning of the petitions in the Our Father.

Yes, the Our Father is a series of petitions, which are easily recognizable especially in the way that the Gregorian chant format provides the text and melody in the Roman Missal.

A 3rd c. allegorical depiction in the Catacombs of Priscilla of the praying Church, hands in the orans position. This is NOT, as some loony feminists claim, a fresco of a female priest.

On a related note, during the Our Father the faithful are not to use the so-called “orans position” (“praying position” with hands extended, open), which is the proper hand position of the priest celebrating the Mass.  Even worse is when they hold that position after the Our Father through the (Protestant) addition that follows.  The orans position is reserved for a certain liturgical role (read: priest – not even deacons).  That position of extended hands is not appropriate for the lay faithful in the pews.

We must not mix or confuse liturgical roles.  Lay people have their own dignity without trying to jazz them up by – and how condescending is this? how clericalist? – allowing them to do what the priest does.  That’s the worst sort of clericalism and it is always used by libs, isn’t it?  The subtle message given, when roles are purposely confused for the sake of “active participation” or “getting the laity involved”, is really “You aren’t good enough on your own, so I’ll let you do something that I can do.”   Grrrrr.  But I digress.

So, I repeat: I am unaware of a prohibition of holding hands during Mass.  Spontaneous hand holding? Fine.  It must never be invited or imposed by someone with a microphone anywhere near the altar or by anyone in the pews.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

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

    But in every parish in my diocese the norm is hand-holdings and the orans position, and often a combination of the two. How can everyone be wrong? I think much of this tradition had its origins in protestant praise and worship concerts. Might this be another example of Protestantism influencing Catholicism; with priests endorsing the protestants rather than their own Catholic traditions. Ecumenicalism run amok ?

  2. G1j says:

    I just searched the previous posts on this very issue earlier this morning. We had this very occurrence at Mass last evening. Unfortunately it WAS instituted by our new parochial vicar. He asked that we all hold hands, “In Unity”, and proceeded to grasp the hand of the deacon and altar server, behind the altar, as we prayed the Lord’s Prayer. I’m praying for him and all of our priests.

  3. AvantiBev says:

    It has never been imposed on me even when I travel out of my traditional, Latin Mass parish. I take a daily dose of biotin and have grown some lovely strong fingernails. Capisce?

  4. greenlight says:

    I can’t remember the last time I was at an OF Mass that both of these things did not occur. In some parishes it seems to be the norm and in others it’s maybe just one or two people. My entirely unscientific impression is that very few have any kind of agenda and the vast majority do it (especially the orans position) because Fr. Soandso told them it was okay years ago and they’re probably thinking everyone else is doing it wrong. It’s so widespread, with so much inertia, that OF priests, even the ones trying to get it right, are reluctant to lay down the law. There may be a little notice in the bulletin once every couple years but that’s it. And since so much of the liturgy, from the music on down, has been framed as a matter of personal preference, no one wants to be the one to stand up and tell the other side what’s right and what’s wrong.

  5. Cafea Fruor says:

    I’m blessed to live in a diocese where this is a rarity.

    The bishop of my mom’s diocese, however, told everyone that they must hold hands during the Our Father. *shudder* So whenever I go to Mass when I visit my mom, I just fold my hands in front of me and close my eyes when the Our Father approaches A) so I don’t have to see everyone holding hands (like nails on a chalkboard to me), and B) so I can’t see anyone trying to get my attention to hold their hand.

  6. MGL says:

    I believe it was Ed Peters who pointed out that the easiest way to remedy the widespread use of the orans positron by the faithful (and consequent temptation to extend this to hand-holding) would be to change the rubrics so that the priest said the Our Father with his hands joined. After all, the orans position is used by the priest when he’s praying on behalf of the whole congregation, whereas in the Our Father we are all praying on our own behalf. So, if I remember his reasoning correctly, we all–priests and faithful alike–should be praying the Our Father with our hands joined.

    I have been attending the astonishingly excellent Divine Worship of the Anglican Ordinariate for a couple of years now, but it was only this morning that I noticed that the “Peters Correction” has been implemented in their rubrics: the priest prays the Our Father ad orientem with his hands joined. Very few of the faithful–mostly Novus Ordo refugees–adopt the orans position, and no-one holds hands. Brick by brick!

  7. Animadversor says:

    Your mention of British people holding hands with strangers brought to my mind the photograph here. True, the people depicted herein are not strangers, yet one of them, at least, does not seem to be entirely thrilled by the exercise.

  8. Nan says:

    Ugh. Makes me crazy. I try to sit out of reach and, thankfully, am usually able to. I’m in a parish with space and nobody pays much attention to what others are doing.

  9. Pingback: Father Z: On Holding Hands During the Our Father – Lisa Graas

  10. LDP says:

    I am genuinely flabbergasted that such corporate cobblers occurs in the Catholic Church. I could be wrong, but perhaps here in England, where people are stereotypically quite reserved, such mumbo jumbo has never caught on. Occasionally at Mass I see a young couple and their children holding hands or shoulders during the Eucharistic Prayer, and I find that really rather touching, but what is being described here, well, frankly, what a joke. Ignorance for me truly was bliss, until I chanced upon this article. I naively assumed that such behaviour never made it out of the 1970s alive. Sorry folks! Those in the picture above appear worryingly close to breaking out into the ‘Hokey Cokey.’ But then I suppose with modern liturgy, that’s what it’s all about.

  11. joekstl says:

    We hold hands during the Our Father through the doxology. There is no direction to do so. Those who do not wish to hold hands are free to not to do so and no one disrespects them for that choice. We do extend hands across aisles. [Sentimentalist exihibitionism.] And the Our Father is always sung on Sundays.

  12. Gerhard says:

    Horrible Hand Holding (“HHH”) is the only communion Protestants have during their meetings. Holy Communion is our visible concrete sign which unites us to God and each other in a real, not just symbolic way, even if we do not “feel” united. HHH is the triumph of Fickle Feelings over substance. The use by laity of the orans position confuses the ministerial priest-hood with the “priest-hood” of God’s chosen people. With it, inevitably, comes the incredibly silly use of other gestures, such as the congregation returning “something” (it looks like an imaginary suitcase) to the priest when the folks reply “And with your spirit”, and everyone extending their right hand to “pray over” the “Happy Birthday” blessing/ditty/clapping victim who answers the “altar call” (deliberately and maddeningly) before the final blessing. Blech!!!!

  13. Fr. Kelly says:

    Back when I used to still say my Masses versus populum, I remember a very strong impression that this universal hand-holding had on me.

    Looking across the altar with Our Lord, Sacramentally, Substantially Present Body, Blood Soul and Divinity in front of me, I would see rows of people facing me and holding hands – sometimes even stretching across the aisle, as Fr. Z so eptly reminded us.

    The scene pressed into my consciousness the playground game “Red Rover”, when we would line up opposite each other in two lines and the one”sent over” had to run and try to break through the opposing line.

    If there is unity being signified, it one of opposition and defiance, with the priest and Our Lord on one side and the congregation on the other.

    Not the peace-filled image that ought to be presented at that time.
    These lines appear more like battle lines than they do a peaceful sharing of the Love of Christ.

    Having made the switch to ad orientem celebration, this distracting image no longer assails me, and, incidentally, the incidence of this hand-holding is greatly reduced now that people are able to focus better on the altar and its Occupant rather than on me as observing their activity.

  14. Kathleen10 says:

    This behavior is transmitted by the Prottie Virus, and it breaks out after exposure to Prottie Churches or priests who have been infected with Prottie Theology.
    These same people who hold hands with their family members, oohing and cooing love to each other during the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, are the very same people who gaze at their shoelaces or the ceiling tiles if you extend your hand to them at any point. I intensely dislike the orans position as I now do the sign of peace when people put their hands up as a priest does to “bless” others. All Prottie nonsense.

  15. Gratias says:

    Holding hands is my main reason for attending Novus Ordo Mass only when unavoidable. It is one more step in the Protestantization of the Catholic Church. The embolism of for Yours are the Power and Glory is also Protestant and firmly enshrined in the Bugnini Mass.

  16. benedetta says:

    I don’t see any harm in hand-holding, or even the orans thing, which, given the times just to me seems like serious pleading in prayer before God, and well we should, given so many things continuing — but I would say that it would be an unfortunate moment of disturbing intolerance and hypocrisy if anyone were to permit congregational hand holding but shame or otherwise question anyone who wished to receive our Lord, as it were, with a kiss, whilst kneeling…?

  17. Joy65 says:

    Couldn’t priest just explain from the pulpit that these 2 actions are not proper and shouldn’t be done? That would help a lot to clear up the confusion.

  18. DavidR says:

    Well, yes they could. But that assumes that the priest has a spine.

    Good luck with that.

  19. tradition4all says:

    I’m going to play devil’s advocate here.

    “The aforementioned POLL shows that most people don’t like it and want to avoid it.”

    To be fair, “most people” here means “most readers of this blog.” Within the Church in America, that’s not a very representative sampling.

    I grew up in a parish were holding hands and crossing the aisle were the norm. Where does the concept, “When in Rome, do as the Romans do,” enter into this? Does it? It was the custom in that church to do that. I don’t know that anyone declined to do so, other than me a few times, but if they did, it would have been perceived as, “This person isn’t following the local custom.”

    As for the hand-holding distracting from the petitions, I’m not sure about this. How is the fact that I’m holding hands with someone supposed to distract from the words I’m saying in unison with others? Unless the idea is that I’m grossed out by holding hands. I think that an Our Father recited by the entire congregation out loud in their native tongue more forcefully impresses the petition on the mind of the congregation than having the priest recite the prayer alone in a foreign language. That’s my impression, if the point is to really have the congregation focus on the petitions as such.

    Lastly, I often go to a very traditional Novus Ordo, celebrated “ad orientem,” where the priest is so traditional that there isn’t even an invitation to exchange the Sign of Peace. Here are two things I have noticed:

    1.) Some people (usually members of the same family) hold hands during the Our Father. They do this spontaneously. It’s what they were brought up doing, and they likely miss doing it as part of the parish’s standard practice.

    2.) When the parish has a visiting priest who doesn’t know the local custom, he often invites the people to exchange the Sign of Peace. I have seen at least one congregant smile very widely at this: At last, we get to exchange the Sign of Peace.

    Which is all to say that a lot of the comments here are subjective. They consist of observations and impressions that a good number of American Catholics don’t share. In themselves, I find a lot of the subjective anti-handholding comments in this thread no more dispositive than other subjective positions that one could offer in defense of the practice.

  20. WmHesch says:

    Quite frankly, before the Council the “Orans” posture wasn’t a particularly priestly gesture. Has nothing to do with Protestantism, in fact it has a history of venerable and consistent use among Catholics.

    For example, members of the Franciscan family (priests, religious and laity professed in the 3rd order or associated with the Confraternity) had/ have a series of prayers in honor of the 5 wounds that were traditionally said after Vespers.

    I’m not sure why trads are so fussy and reticent to use the “orans” posture at all.

    Praying the rosary during Mass also isn’t envisioned by the rubrics haha

  21. Chris Garton-Zavesky says:


    “Trads” usually like the orderly ritual of worship directed at God. The orans posture for the laity insists on a posture which is specifically PROPER to priests being adopted by those who aren’t priests. That’s not the same as genuflecting at the “Et incarnatus est” — for this is a right gesture for all right-thinking Catholics, not just priests.

    As to the Franciscans honoring the 5 Wounds of Christ, you yourself observe that it was done after Vespers, not during Mass. Our priest commenter here (not our host) has already answered your thought on this point, by saying that the handholding reminds him of a game of Red Rover: an enemy line to be traversed if we are capable.

    When the distinction between priests and non-priests is maintained, vocations to the priesthood blossom. When not…. not.

    As to the praying of the Rosary during Mass, may I refer you to Pope Pius XII’s Mediator Dei. He makes some thoughtful and fitting distinctions.

  22. Lepidus says:

    Maybe I’m missing something, but I thought posture was regulated to the extent that you do what written and do not need a specific prohibition against other things. Does that mean I can stand on my head instead of my feet? All it says is to “stand”. Last week’s homily was so great I “spontaneously” felt like giving Father a round of applause (kind of like they do for the kiddie choir after communion).

  23. WmHesch says:

    There are no prescribed postures for the laity at High Mass, and therefore it is perfectly licit to have an “orans” posture or to hold hands at the Pater Noster in the traditional rite.

  24. billy15 says:

    While my pastor says he sees nothing wrong with the faithful using the Orans position during the Our Father, and has even encouraged it (outside of the celebration of Mass), he thinks the hand holding is silly but won’t tell anyone not to. He said there’s nothing in the rubrics that call for such a thing to happen, and he’s the opinion that the reason people started doing it is because people saw that Coca-Cola commercial in the 1970’s with everyone holding hands. On that last point, I probably agree…

    So we can blame Coca-Cola for all our troubles.

  25. Kerry says:

    If “Unity” could be achieved by holding hands, it would need doing but a single time. And during the “Sine of peace”, (what Relevant Radio host Father Know it All calls, “the Holy Wave”), the Most Blessed Sacrament is on the altar. Excepting the Roman custom for the Priests and Deacons, waves and handshaking is unseemly and a too much focus on oneself.

  26. majuscule says:

    I have attended more EF low Masses than high Masses so my view may be skewed… I was surprised today at a Solemn High Mass to see some people holding hands during the Pater Noster.

    Since it was a special occasion it may be that they were merely “visiting” and more familiar with the OF (where they did it).

    I never use the orans position. When we had a deacon he explained that he was not allowed to imitate the priest. If he was not to do it why would I?

  27. Philmont237 says:

    I used to try to sit next to cute girls at Mass for the sole purpose of holding their hand during the Our Father. Yes it was creepy, but I know that I wasn’t the only person to do so.
    The last time I held hands during the Our Father with a stranger was my senior year of college. I wasn’t looking and grasped the hand of the male student sitting next to me. Instead of an index finger, I grabbed the sitches where his finger should have been! I let out an audible gasp and dropped it right there. I still get squeamish when I think about that.
    Before my wife and I had kids, we would hold hands throughout the whole Mass, except during the Our Father just to make a statement.

  28. papaefidelis says:

    Whenever I find myself at a parish where I suspect hand-holding will be the expected norm, I fold my hand, bow my head, and close my eyes at the “Praeceptis” (or whatever adlibbed banality might take its place). This has worked so far. When the hand-shaking hootenanny follows, I hold my hands behind my back and graciously nod my head. In my normal parish, this optional rite is omitted (Deo gratias!).

  29. Volanges says:

    Even in the liberal school where I took liturgy courses the priest who taught the course on the Mass said that we shouldn’t be holding hands during the Lord’s Prayer. I’m thankful that I haven’t experienced that in any parish where I’ve been in recent memory.

  30. Charles E Flynn says:

    I regret that I do not recall where I read that the use of the “orans posture” by the laity during mass constitutes an inappropriate advertising of what we would assume to be personal relationships.

  31. Matthew says:

    If I wanted to be a Protestant, I’d sign up. I don’t so no orans posture, no hand holding and I’d be much happier if we could simply say Amen, and Alleluia rather than singing it so frequently.

    The good sisters in Ireland taught me to pray with my hands folded in prayer and my thumbs making a cross. It has worked these many years I’m not going to start waving my hands about when I pray.

  32. pannw says:

    The embolism of for Yours are the Power and Glory is also Protestant and firmly enshrined in the Bugnini Mass.

    Several years ago when I first became aware of the Didache, I was surprised to read that the Apostles had taught the Our Father with that part added to the words we have recorded in scripture from Jesus. This is assuming the Didache is authentic and I think it is. There, it is recorded simply as “for thine is the power and glory forever.” My problem with it being included is that those who are prone to use the orans position, which I despise, make it even more awkward by lifting their hands up over their head during it. Cringe inducing… and then I feel so guilty for the judgmental feelings I have, namely that it just seems so contrived and I start feeling like the proud man thanking God he isn’t like that sinner over there. Ugh.

    And hand holding I despise even more. My nonCatholic husband refuses to go to Mass with us when we are on vacation because he despises the touchy-feely nonsense so much. Well that and a bad experience with what he calls a hippie visiting priest at a parish we went to while on vacation several years ago, but that’s another story. Mainly he doesn’t want to be touched by strangers. Thanks be to God we have a parish where few do it and they are mostly tourists. (To the consternation of the occasional visitor,) we don’t even do the sign of peace. Deo gratias.

  33. Vincent says:

    Precisely right LDP – over here we call it ‘charismatic’! (that’s the kind of thing talked about in hushed tones…). The only time I’ve seen anyone holding hands (other than young couples finding petting each other more interesting than Mass) at the Our Father has been my Aunt and Uncle when over from the US. Not something we do, fortunately. I mean, the sign of peace is bad enough. Talk about awkward!

    I suspect part of the reason we’re more conservative as well is because the dominant Protestantism is Anglicanism, which is really a corrupted Catholicism and as a result is commonly the same (in form) as the Novus Ordo anyway.

  34. pelerin says:

    LDP and Vincent say that holding hands at the Our Father has not caught on in England. He/she has obviously not visited a parish where I attended Mass a couple of weeks ago! The Priest asked for everyone to hold hands as he linked up with the altar servers. I was very surprised and do not know whether this was a one off or whether it was the norm there. I felt very awkward particularly as I had a very painful hand at the time but thankfully as I was the only one in that pew I was able to stare straight ahead and not join in.
    As Vincent says ‘the sign of peace is bad enough’ and on one occasion it led to my having to visit hospital for an x-ray as I was in such pain after a crushing handshake delivered at the sign of peace.
    We seem to copy America in so many ways – please don’t make the hand holding at the Our Father normal in England otherwise I shall have to find a pillar to hide behind – except of course when I am able to attend the EF.

  35. oldconvert says:

    To add a secular take on this: Queen Elizabeth always wears gloves when shaking hands (which she has to do a lot of) because hands are a really, really effective source of contagion of infectious diseases. Certainly I’ve never had as many colds as in the years attending OF Masses and having my hand grabbed.

    Doctors have also been advised to avoid shaking hands with patients for the same reason (doctors have been advised to “bump fists” but I can’t see that catching on even in the OF!

  36. Fallibilissimo says:

    I’m not a fan of the “holding hands” thing but why would it be considered a grave abuse rather than a small, even unwarranted, change when the priest (or whoever) invites people to do so? Are there any tests we can use to discern the difference between a grave abuse vs a slight one?

    Btw, on the fresco, it was immensely frustrating to read brain numbing news reports of “proof of female priests in the early Church”. It was worthy of the “fake news” epithet.

  37. oledocfarmer says:

    I think there was an opinion/advisory from the CDW (c. 1977?) in which this practice was reprobated….the reason being that the hand-holding suggests that the apex of unity among the faithful is the Our Father, when in fact the faithful are most united at Communion.

  38. oledocfarmer says:

    As an aside, at a Mass in Charleston many years ago, a grand old lady (from the Battery) was asked to hold hands during the Our Father. She unforgettably responded, “I don’t do that sh!t.”

  39. Marion Ancilla Mariae says:

    Another commenter (above) mentioned praying the Rosary during Mass.

    I’m not sure, but I’m surmising that this old custom was a carry-over from back in the day when the Catholic Church was publicly despised in nations where a Protestant majority held sway. Because of anti-Catholic law and customs, there weren’t many priests or churches. And most employers were Anglican (U.K.) or of some other Protestant denomination (U.S.) while many of the employees were Catholic Irish, Polish, Italian, German, etc. It was common for the employers of apprentices and domestic servants to *require* their employees to attend the same Sunday services as their employers, and if they refused, they might lose an otherwise good position. And oftentimes, it was the same requirement everywhere else they might apply for a job.

    The employees and employers didn’t sit near each other, of course – the employers often had a private booth near the front of the church, with their seats in it, and their name inscribed on a plaque attached to the swinging door giving access to the booth. That way the well-to-do could enjoy the service in privacy, without being gawped at by their inferiors elsewhere in the congregation.

    But they knew who was there, and who wasn’t there; their own employees or church functionaries reported the attendance. Therefore, much against their will, the Catholic employees did attend these Protestant services, but so as to distract themselves from the words being spoken, they prayed the Rosary in silence throughout. I believe that trying to get the Catholics to stop praying the Rosary during the service became more trouble than it seemed worth to the Protestants, so the Catholics got away with it. The employers were willing to settle for their showing up and behaving respectfully.

    Evidently, this praying the Rosary “during church” became customary among many of the Catholics, and the reasons for it being lost and forgotten, their descendants continued to do so even when attending their own Catholic Mass.

    (I could be wrong.)

  40. scottygal says:

    I link my arm with my husband’s and fold my hands during the “Our Dather”. I read some time ago a remark by a commenter that really impressed me. The observation was that holding hands makes the prayer horizontal. Folding one’s hands with fingers pointing to Heaven makes it vertical.

  41. AnnTherese says:

    I think that what’s in your heart as you pray is far more important than your stance. Jesus taught us how to pray, giving us the Lord’s Prayer. He didn’t tell us what to do with our hands.

    Dotting every “i” and crossing every “t” in following the liturgical rules at Mass doesn’t really matter if we can’t say ever a kind word about people who think differently than us.

  42. pelerin says:

    I once read on a Catholic blog the writer’s impression of the orans position when done by anyone in the congregation. He wrote that it looks as though the person is holding a giant beach ball! Ever since then visions of colourful beach balls appear every time someone in front of me does the orans position. And no this never happens to me when the Priest does it.

  43. The Masked Chicken says:

    Dear WmHesch,

    You wrote:

    “Quite frankly, before the Council the “Orans” posture wasn’t a particularly priestly gesture. Has nothing to do with Protestantism, in fact it has a history of venerable and consistent use among Catholics.”

    No, that is a simplification. The orans position, biblically and historically, was used whenever the Holy Spirit was invoked, either directly or indirectly (since the Old Testament theology of the Holy Spirit was, somewhat, muddy). It was used, extensively, in the early Church during charismatic or ecstatic prayer, among both priests and laity, as a way (I think) of opening the hands to receive the, “dew,” or light rays (depending on what analogy one were using) from the Holy Spirit, but to my knowledge, it was never used inside a Mass setting by the laity – only outside of it. I see no historical support for this being used within a Mass by laity. Protestants, believing in the priesthood of believers, sometimes adopted the position for the laity within their worship services, but the current use of the orans position by the laity during Mass was a novelty introduced by Catholic Charismatics during the late 1960’s. Unfortunately, scholarship was defective in the early days of the Charismatic Renewal, which by that I mean that they had no idea what they were doing. They saw the references for the orans position in Scripture and just used it, universally, when they were praying, whether appropriate to the venue or not.

    It is true that some religious communities used the orans position in communal prayer outside of Mass, as did the early Christians, but there was no spontaneous movement for the laity to use it during Mass, as during the 1960’s, because there was a greater respect for the separation between ordained and lay then there is, today. The use of the orans position among the laity, today, is, in my opinion, poison fruit from the misapplication of what Vatican II taught in its document of Ecumenism.

    The Chicken

  44. Legisperitus says:

    pannw: Thanks for mentioning the bit about raising the hands above the head, which makes a distracting gesture (“giant beach ball”) even more distracting. If such people would simply make the “orans” gesture in the rubrical way, with the hands no farther apart than the shoulders, it would at least not be such an irritating attention grab.

  45. JohnRoss says:

    “On a related note, during the Our Father the faithful are not to use the so-called “orans position” (“praying position” with hands extended, open), which is the proper hand position of the priest celebrating the Mass. Even worse is when they hold that position after the Our Father through the (Protestant) addition that follows. The orans position is reserved for a certain liturgical role (read: priest – not even deacons). That position of extended hands is not appropriate for the lay faithful in the pews.”

    Father, I’m a Melkite Catholic, and our Church and most other ancient churches of the Middle East always use the orans posture during the Our Father. (Syriac, Coptic, Melkite, Armenian.)

    No hand-holding though. My Melkite pastor says the customary Latin practice of prayer with folded hands comes from the gesture that a vassal gave his feudal lord as a sign of submission.

  46. Imrahil says:

    Dear MGL,

    only that the priest does say the our Father on behalf of the whole congregation. It is an integral part of the Eucharistic Action and not only, as some have wrongly assumed, a personal preparation for Holy Communion (which it also is; it’s the only that’s wrong).

  47. Julia_Augusta says:

    I went to 2 Masses in Paris: Gregorian Mass at St. Francois Xavier and Latin Mass at Notre Dame de Consolation (SSPX). Absolutely no hand-holding or any kind of touchy-feely nonsense!

    Why do people think they need to innovate anything in the traditional Mass?

  48. Nan says:

    Seems like an appropriate response to me!

    One of the reasons mom cited for leaving the church was touching strangers, which I interpreted as objecting to the sign of peace. The church was tiny and always full, with another mass in the school gym.

  49. mlmc says:

    thanks Fr Z for the posting on the orans position. It has always bothered me b/c it seemed to be the laity imitating the Priest. I have always noted that it is most commonly used by those who face the “temporal-biological” resolution sooner than most. I am not a fan of hand holding either- but do so with my wife b/c she desires it & out of respect for her wishes I do so. If, on the rare occasion, I attend Mass w/o my wife I do not hold hands. Our deacons, who are recently ordained NEVER hold hands & I ascribe it to good formation by the diocese.

  50. Broggi66 says:

    I don’t believe it is related to Protestantism. In fact, the first place I saw the orans position used was at Mass in Italy in 1993. I kept trying to figure out why they were doing it. My future husband told me they were taught that way. In the NO church that I attend now in the US, it’s much more of a free for all. Some people do the orans position. Some people hold hands with their families only and never across the aisle. Some people just fold their hands in front.

  51. The Masked Chicken says:

    Dear JohnRoss,

    That is interesting about the Eastern Rite churches. I know that the Eastern Church has a greater appreciation for the Holy Spirit than in the West (at least, until recently). I will go back and look at the Eastern Fathers to see if I can find when this tradition began.

    The Chicken

  52. majuscule says:

    Speaking of raised hands–I saw this at the end of a TLM and I was wondering if it may have come from the charismatic movement: when we sang the Salve Regina one of the women raised her hands above her head. I am not certain but I don’t think she is new to the TLM. I have not seen that before.

  53. pelerin says:

    majescule – perhaps she was merely stretching?!

  54. Danteewoo says:

    When my daughter and her husband were first married, they held hands at Mass EXCEPT during the Our Father. Now they hold babies. If anyone tries to hold my hand during the Our Father, I might respond with the left jab of peace.

  55. RobS says:

    I’ve learned to sit way in the back corner when I attend daily Mass at the parish in my home town. During the Our Father, certain parishioners actually try to form a circle, reaching across pews and aisles, facing inward and turning their backs in some cases to the altar, the tabernacle. I challenge anyone to come up with a more inappropriate posture given the words of that prayer.

  56. bsjy says:

    Instead of the traditional doxology, our hand-holding parishioners sway and sing:
    I’d like to buy the world a home and furnish it with love,
    Grow apple trees and honey bees, and snow white turtle doves.
    I’d like to teach the world to sing in perfect harmony,
    I’d like to buy the world a Coke and keep it company.


  57. opinionated says:

    Fr. Z,
    Please consider using the term ‘Leftist’ in place of ‘Lib’ where appropriate. In this culture of name- calling, there remains is a significant distinction in terms here that seems worth preserving.
    Thank you for being a priest!

  58. gracie says:

    A while ago I was at a Mass where there were two of us in a quite long pew, myself at one end and a man at the other end. The Our Father comes, I start saying it and suddenly my hand’s being grabbed. I thought I’d go through the roof for a second. I hadn’t seen the man approaching me and had no idea he was there next to me when he did it. The man had transversed the entire pew to get to me. He didn’t establish eye contact, didn’t see if I was up for holding hands – nope, he just grabbed my hand and held on. Because we were in a public space, my fall back position was to do nothing and just get through it. The experience has a silver lining – it gave me a chance to go over what happened and to decide that the next man who tries it in this way will be told to let go of my hand. If he won’t do it, I’ll shake it off. Let *him* be embarrassed.

  59. Marion Ancilla Mariae says:

    I’ve had experiences similar to yours, Gracie (immediately above).

    In parishes in which I’ve learned that the people are bound and determined to hold the hands of everybody, come h#ll or high water, I’ve been known to choose a spot at the very end of a pew close to an exit door. Then, when it’s time to recite the *Our Father*, to slip out into the vestibule and say my prayer out there. Then when all the hand-holding is over, to return to my seat.

    Once in my home parish, a person seated next to me made a grab for my hand. I pulled away from her grasp, and whispered “I’m terribly sorry, we don’t hold hands with strangers in our parish. But I’d like to shake hands with you during the Handshake of Peace.” So that worked out OK.

    It doesn’t seem on to me to behave in a hurtful way toward people who reach for my hand. After all, they mean well, and are almost certainly ignorant of the rubrics. Now that I think about it, when visiting a hand-holding parish, it might be, for me, more charitable to just “suck it up” and hold hands with a complete stranger for a few moments. No harm done, and no distractions, puzzlement, or hurt feelings as a result. Coming from a New England family, I find the very idea of holding hands with strangers abominable, but I think of the words of the Apostle Paul: ” We who are strong ought to put up with the failings of the weak and not to please ourselves. Let each of us please our neighbor for the good, for building up.” (Romans 15:1-2)

    (Once again, I could be wrong on this.)

  60. Gerhard says:

    Dear AnneTherese: have you ever tried riding a bike forwards in a straight line while looking towards one side? If you have not, please don’t try! Chances are you will end up going into the ditch. A person’s interior disposition naturally follows his physical disposition.

  61. DetJohn says:

    The orans position is only restricted to the priest celebrant during the Mass. I don’t believe there are restrictions outside of the Mass. One can maintain any posture they want.

    At yesterday’s Mass, we were not asked to hold hands. The Deacon had all stand and take an orans position to greet the Holy Spirit. Another oddity was the applause at the end of the Homily. All of this from a parish that just announced, in it’s Parish Bulletin, that “Eucharistic Ministers are now Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion (EMHC)”
    Maybe all is not lost.

  62. Suburbanbanshee says:

    Marion Ancilla – Saying the Rosary as a Mass meditation was a custom in many Catholic countries. Rich or literate Catholics often had various written books of meditations for use during Masses, while everybody could use the Rosary as a bookless meditation method. And they did it for centuries.

  63. Nan says:

    My doctor is retiring. He hugged me.

  64. Nan says:

    Not all Eastern Catholic Churches are middle Eastern. I haven’t seen that in the Rite of St John Chrysostom whether Byzantine-Ruthenian, Russian Orthodox or Greek Orthodox, but they follow Greek tradition.

  65. DetJohn says:

    Dear Mr. Ross,
    You say that at the Melkite Parish that you attend and most other Ancient Churches of the Middle East always use the orans posture. Since 2006, I regularly attend Melkite and Maronite liturgies, on occasions I attend Chaldean, Coptic and Armenian liturgies. It has been my observation that most parishioners use the orans posture, definitely not all do.

    Some hand holding has crept into the Eastern Churches. I attribute that to many Eastern Rite Catholics having children in Roman Parish Schools. Some require that if the child goes to a Roman School the child also has to attend the Mass at the school’s Parish…. A particular Roman Parish in my area has an abundance of Melkites, Maronites and Armenians residing in their area.

  66. Grant M says:

    Old convert: good point about hygiene. Living in Jakarta, I can emulate millionaire Laszlo Carreidas when he met Tintin and friends while in transit in this very city, and announce coolly: “I never shake hands: it is extremely unhygienic.” Then give a dignified bow, as they do in Singapore.

  67. sunbreak says:

    Fortunately, my parish doesn’t do either the hand holding thing or holding up arms during the Our Father. Most parishes do. If I go to these other parishes I try to sit far away from other people so I don’t get attacked by the hand holders. I have sometimes been tempted to leave for the bathroom to avoid having to hold hands. The hand holding thing seems ridiculous to me – it reminds me of kids playing ring around the rosy.

  68. yatzer says:

    Somewhere in the mid-80s we got a new priest who informed us that we’d all be holding hands within a year. There was no reason; it was just because that’s what we’re going to do. Not me. He held hands with the altar servers and indicated us to follow. I kept moving farther and farther back to escape and finally left altogether. It seems creepy to me. Eventually, a long time later, I found my present parish, which offers the TLM. I find really friendly people there, without the commanded hand-holding. The forced intimacy just really, really bothers me.

  69. Sixupman says:

    The words of the TLM are so compelling, there exist no requirements for distractions. The NOM words are so weak, they leave a void which require to be filled with distractions, activity and even entertainment [dance Masses, et al.].

  70. cwillia1 says:

    In the Byzantine Divine Liturgy, the deacon stands to the right of the royal doors before the icon of Christ and raises both hands during the Our Father. What the laity do varies. I think the difference in what deacons do in the two rites is significant for what the laity should do during mass. In the Divine Liturgy the people, meaning everyone or the cantor or the choir, sing or say the Our Father and this is the tradition. I think the NO is incoherent and confusing on this matter as Peters points out.

    The orans position in private prayer is part of apostolic tradition as is standing, facing east, kneeling with the hands lifted and prostration. What we do with our bodies during prayer matters. Yes, God knows what is in our hearts. But we are embodied creatures who communicate with our bodies as well as our words. If you pay attention to instances of prayer in the scriptures very often reference is made to how people are praying. For example, there is Mark 11:25 where Jesus says “when you stand praying……..” When we pray collectively, what we do with our bodies matters as well. That is why hand-holding and orans at mass is a real issue.

  71. tradition4all says:

    “He wrote that it looks as though the person is holding a giant beach ball!”

    One thing to watch for in these discussions is that such subjective impressions are just that: subjective. If you want, you can compare perfectly legitimate practices to similarly ludicrous things. It just takes some imagination. I once say a Protestant minister — a former Catholic — mock the customs of breast-beating and receiving Holy Communion on the tongue. Of course, as repeated by him out of context, these practices did look kind of silly. One could come up with a comedy routine comparing a priest’s gestures at Mass to a referee at a football game making calls. So what? If the Orans posture is problematic, it isn’t because one can imagine someone catching a beachball while doing it. If so, that would apply to a priest doing it as much as to a layperson.

    Also, several people here have basically implied that hand-holding is a bad thing in any case and no one should ever do it, it’s so unhygienic. Now, a lot of us shake hands as a matter of course when meeting people. If I were reading this thread, I might get the impression that the people who wrote those posts, who might be the only traditional Catholics I ever read about, are hypochondriac fanatics who will take one thing they dislike in one context and extrapolate from that to condemning it in all contexts; no moderate argument is ever strong enough. It’s silly. Who here is going to say that kissing a prelate’s ring or receiving Holy Communion on the tongue is unhygienic and likely to spread disease? I’ve often seen people at Mass who had a cold excusing themselves from the Sign of Peace, with a wave or some such thing. I have done so myself. No big deal. Objections should address realities, not straw men.

  72. Marion Ancilla Mariae says:

    To those concerned about the unhygienic aspects of shaking hands or holding hands: As long as you don’t have open cuts or sores on your hands or fingers, and if after the encounter you refrain from putting your hands or fingers anywhere near your face (no touching or scratching the eyes, nose, mouth, or anywhere on the face), and then after Mass, you go into the restroom and give your hands a thorough wash with plenty of hot soap and water, scrubbing every surface of your hands and fingers for at least 30 seconds. Or if soap or hot water with which to wash aren’t available in the church, then to carry a small (3 oz.) TSA-approved bottle of hand sanitizer, and use that (privately) after the encounter. Use plenty of the sanitizer and scrub every surface of your hands and fingers.

    If you do all these things, you should be fine.

    Sign me,
    Worked in a M.D.’s office, with patients coming in with all sorts of contagious colds, flu-like symptoms, and some utterly repellent, very communicable conditions that I won’t mention here. And we were taught by the M.D. how to avoid getting sick after handling the patients’ paperwork, the pen and clipboard they used, the counter they leaned upon, and the insurance cards they handed to us.

    The methods described above worked like a charm. Never fell the slightest bit ill even once.

  73. chuckharold says:

    And we wonder why people are leaving the Church in droves? If something is not forbidden it is permitted! Holding hands during the Lord’s Prayer came about years ago by who knows what cause. I have always heard priests say that that way we can pray “as one.” OK, no big deal. In our parish, 500 at most weekend Masses, there are a few people who don’t want to do that and everyone respects their wishes. During flu season, most parishes dispense with the common chalice. All of these kinds of things are not very important. What is important is what just happened on the Altar. Sometimes the “rants” should be saved for the important things.

  74. JohnRoss says:

    DetJohn I’ve never seen hand holding in the Eastern Catholic parishes I attend.

    However, I visited an Antiochian Orthodox Church in Tennessee where I saw people shaking hands and hugging Novus Ordo style during the Divine Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom. I found that odd. Thankfully, I haven’t experienced that in any Byzantine-rite Catholic parishes.

    But you have the ritualized hand clasping and kissing your fingers in the Syriac rites and in the Coptic rite.

    Nan, I used the caveat “Middle Eastern” because I have never seen the orans position used by laity in Slavic Byzantine churches, both Catholic and Orthodox.

  75. JohnRoss says:

    Our rite retains a lot of Jewish influences. The posture in the Melkite usage of the Byzantine rite probably has more to do with that than it does with anything related to the modern Charismatic movement. I know people who can’t stand the Charismatics but still do the orans during the Our Father.


  76. MGL says:

    Dear Imrahil,

    While it’s certainly true in the EF that the priest prays on behalf of the faithful–and it may still be technically true in the OF–the waters have been greatly muddied by the fact that we all now join in. I’ll refer you to Ed Peters’ argument here (which I can now find since I’m not on a tablet). Quoting from his concluding paragraph:

    If … the orans position in Mass has come to symbolize priestly prayer on behalf of the congregation instead of prayer with it, then the rubrics should no longer call for the priest to extend his hands during the Our Father as if he is praying on behalf of the congregation. He should instead be directed to join his hands as he does for all other prayers said with the congregation. And if priests do not assume the orans position during the Our Father, laity will not imitate it. If the rubrics for Mass are changed to direct the priest to join his hands during the Our Father, priestly gestural symbolism will once again be consistent through the entire Mass, and the orans issue will probably resolve itself rather quickly.

    It’s interesting that the clerics in charge of formulating the Anglican Ordinariate’s Divine Worship missal seem to have taken it upon themselves to remedy a large number of defects and abuses that had become apparent in the Novus Ordo in the forty-plus years since its promulgation. This one, as I initially wrote, was so subtle that it escaped my attention for around two years. I suspect I would have noticed immediately if Divine Worship was celebrated versus populum, but thankfully that was another defect they chose to remedy!

  77. Genesispete says:

    No one touches Genesispete’s hand during the Our Father ! And Genesispete doesn’t hold his hands in the “Orans” position either! Father Z lays the smack-down on heresy and Genesispete respects that! Rock on Father Z and All Glory and Honor to the Lord our God forever and ever Amen !!!

  78. Imrahil says:

    Dear MGL,

    While it’s certainly true in the EF that the priest prays on behalf of the faithful–and it may still be technically true in the OF–the waters have been greatly muddied by the fact that we all now join in.

    That is, actually, all I am saying, replacing “may still be” with “is”.

    Just that the waters have been muddled doesn’t mean a change which people may suppose to have occurred but which hasn’t should be presumed to actually have occurred, pace Dr. Peters.

    Also, that People do something, perhaps even just because they don’t know better, is rather peripheral to the issue. So, taking the important signification out of the imagery that the priest prays for the people and on behalf of them, just to make sure that they don’t make a mistake in their own liturgical gestures, is too much payment for too little reward.

  79. Richard A says:

    Therefore, AnnTherese, your stance isn’t important at all?
    We are enjoined to take every thought captive for Christ, a two-thousand year project with regard to the liturgy that a huge segment of the Church has decided wasn’t all that important after all, right?

  80. Mary Jane says:

    EF-goer here. I would never hold hands during the Our Father, even if I was at an OF parish where that was “the thing to do”.

    A possible solution: if you find you’re getting the “evil eye” for refusing to hold hands, the solution is to – at the precise opportune moment – feign a sneeze into your hand, then, without “wiping it off” and in the spirit of participation, outstretch it for your eager neighbor to hold. I can almost guarantee that’ll solve the problem. ;-)

  81. Michael_Thoma says:

    As a Malankara Syriac, the peace is done in the Traditional manner, flowing from the priest/altar/gifts, to the Deacons, to the laity and passed to everyone. One places their hand into anothers for a brief moment and makes the Cross afterward, not at all a gab fest or break in the Liturgical act. As to the orans – almost all Eastern laity Ive met do orans for the Our Father, but NEVER in the priestly high and wide manner – indicative of leading or representing those behind the priest, always low and tight – just above waist and in a receptive manner. I’ve only seen Latin laity do the priestly manner of orans.

  82. Kate Evans says:

    (((dr_mack@yahoo. com))) … restored my relationship and my boyfriend came back to me…

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