Wednesday, June 15, 2016


Years ago I was subbing at a parish that was in need of a priest to say a Sunday Mass.  I was singing the introduction to the Our Father and then the guitars kicked in and everybody started moving.  I was not sure what was going on at first.  It was if the gravitational pull of the middle aisle had suddenly increased and was sucking people toward it.  It took a few seconds to realize that everybody was scrunching together so that they could all hold hands (at least by the middle of it) during the Our Father.  They stayed there during my next part, “Deliver us Lord from every evil . . .” and then raised their clasped hands high at, “For the kingdom, the power, and the glory are Yours . . .”  after which there was a bunch of shuffling during the next prayers so everyone could get back to a pew.

Nobody seems to know from where this practice of holding hands at the our Father came.  A former liturgist of the Diocese of Cleveland reported however that it began with some group, maybe AA, and from there speed through the Church.  Although a very nice gesture signifying the human unity of the community, I have failed to find anybody who is a serious liturgist who approves of the gesture.  The emPHAsis is just wrong at this point.

A good number of years ago, the same liturgist then introduced the orans position in the diocese to help rid us of the practice of holding hands (because really if we do this, then do we need the sign of peace?)  That seemed to work but messing around with the rubrics tends to have unforeseen consequences.  The priest (and concelebrants if there are any) are directed by the rubrics (red lettering that tells one what to do at the Mass) to pray the prayer with hands outstretched.  The deacon, however, is NOT to do this.  So if you are in a parish where the people pray the Our Father with hands outstretched, technically the deacon is the only one in the room who shouldn’t.

What is directed for the people to do during this prayer?  Stand.  Your arms do whatever your arms do during the rest of the Mass - hang at your side, folded in prayer, feeding your mouth Cheerios, whatever.  Nothing is bad about holding your hands up during the prayer unless you are forcing someone else to do it as being “more correct.”  But if anything, I think a better argument might be that the priest should not raise his hands as it is not a presidential prayer, but that is just an opinion.

So there is the envisioned way of doing it.  If you do it this way at our parish you get a gold liturgical star and can have an extra half brownie after dinner today.  If you do something else that doesn’t bother others who don’t want to participate, you may feel modern and enlightened.  If you are doing something that is distracting from the prayer and placing others in forced labor to do your bidding, I’m sure you can find a job at a parish as liturgist.

(Will that do Fr. O?)


Matt W said...

Promoting a dubious practice (laity using the orans position) to replace another dubious practice (handholding) just causes more confusion, but as the old joke goes: "What the difference between a terrorist and a liturgist? You can negotiate with a terrorist."

Anonymous said...

I do find it pretty amusing that many people now just hold hands WHILE doing the orans. I wonder how long before they start doing the wave.... Oh, well.

Anonymous said...

Oh, that would be strange! (Having everyone merge to the middle!)

I remember when this started when I was a child. We blamed the protestants. Years later my brother's Lutheran girlfriend was annoyed and told us Catholics blamed them for everything.......well, that 95 Thesis did start some trouble. :-)

Whenever I travel I end up next to a family. Next to the dad. (Some male instinct to make sure wife and child are not next to the strangers?) When he raises his hand and I realize he is holding hands with his family I wonder how he would react if I took his hand. I often wonder if he would gladly accept it or if he is thinking "Please, strange lady, don't grab my hand."

I suspect the latter so I just return my attention to the Mass.