Simple Catholic Snapshots:
- It is a common practice, but not universal, to hold hands when reciting the Our Father during Mass
- Some people hold hands, some do not.
- Some people want to hold hands, some do not.
- Below, I’ll briefly list some pros and cons of this practice.
- At the end, please take the informal SimpleCatholicTruth poll and see how you measure up with other SCT readers.
Simple Catholic Truth:
This post will probably be met with a variety of emotions. I’m not sure what that majority response will be, hence my motivation for writing in the first place. I can hear the chants of “Absolutely YES” from this side of the aisle, and the “NO, Never!” cry’s from that side.
And of course there will be some number of “what is he talking about?” and “who cares?”
I admit I am leaning one direction but I’ll hold my personal opinion so as not to influence the readers or the poll at the end of the blog. Yes, that’s right, after I summarize the pros and cons, I’ll present a simple three-question poll asking you the reader to give your opinion. Don’t worry, they are not essay or fill-in-the-blank type questions – you’ll just need to quickly select one answer.
The Mass is central to our lives as Catholics. This Liturgy of the Eucharist is a celebration – of the life and death of Jesus Christ. In the Mass, through the Eucharist, heaven literally touches earth once again and we are given the most intimate encounter with God possible. We become “one flesh” with our Lord. This is absolutely incredible and we must always strive to understand the SimpleCatholicTruth of this most precious Sacrament.
To support our discussions, and without getting too distracted with the history and Sacramental effects, let me just list an outline the four parts of the Mass.
- Penitential Act
- Glory to God
- First Reading
- Responsorial Psalm
- Second Reading (on Sundays and solemnities)
- Gospel Acclamation
- Profession of Faith (on Sundays, solemnities, and special occasions)
- Universal Prayer
- Presentation of the Gifts and Preparation of the Altar
- Prayer over the Offerings
- Eucharistic Prayer
- Holy, Holy, Holy
- First half of prayer, including Consecration
- Mystery of Faith
- Second half of prayer, ending with Doxology
- The Lord’s Prayer
- Sign of Peace
- Lamb of God
- Prayer after Communion
- Optional announcements
- Greeting and Blessing
At this time I only want to point out that there are two primary elements of the Mass, namely the Consecration and Communion. Arguably, everything else is secondary and should point to or support these two components. Notice that the recitation of the Our Father (Lord’s Prayer) is between the Consecration and Communion.
With that as the intro, let me get right to the issue at hand, that is, should we hold hands during the Our Father? I’ll present some highlights in quick bullet form but if you prefer, you can skip to the poll at the end of this blog.
Arguments in Favor of Holding Hands during the Our Father:
- The Our Father is the prayer of the entire assembly and not only a priestly prayer or prayer for the celebrant. Therefore, the Our Father is an opportunity for the congregation to project a unity of congregation.
- There is nothing in the General Instruction of the Roman Missal that prohibits the holding of hands during the Our Father. [Note: The General Instruction of the Roman Missal (GIRM)—is the detailed document governing the celebration of Mass of the ordinary form of the Roman Rite of the Catholic Church.]
- General Instruction on the Roman Missal does include language on “The Duties of the People of God” that can be taken to support the holding of hands practice:
“95. In the celebration of Mass the faithful form a holy people, a people whom God has made his own…They should, moreover, endeavor to make this clear by their deep religious sense and their charity toward brothers and sisters who participate with them in the same celebration…Thus, they are to shun any appearance of individualism or division, keeping before their eyes that they have only one Father in heaven and accordingly are all brothers and sisters to each other.”
“96. Indeed, they form one body, whether by hearing the word of God, or by joining in the prayers and the singing, or above all by the common offering of Sacrifice and by a common partaking at the Lord’s table. This unity is beautifully apparent from the gestures and postures observed in common by the faithful.”
- Holding hands is an appropriate way for most American Catholics to relate to their fellow parishioners in a culturally recognized manner. Hand holding, an intimate gesture which normally Americans reserve for their loved ones, is therefore appropriate in Mass and during the Our Father.
Arguments Against the Holding of Hands during the Our Father:
- During the Mass, we have two important moments: the Consecration and Communion. It is in Communion where we find our unity – that is where we join ourselves to Christ and in Christ, through the common priesthood of the faithful.
- Holding hands is a distraction from attention due the Consecrated Body of Christ. We as Catholics are united by receiving Holy Communion, not by holding hands.
- The practice of holding hands while praying the Our Father comes from the Protestant world. This is not to say that we should avoid practices from Protestant services, quite the contrary. Many Protestant worship services are sincere, holy and powerful. That said, Protestants do not have the Real Presence of Christ. They do not have real and valid sacramental Communion that joins them with God. Therefore, they use a gesture of holding hands as a moment of communion. It’s a wonderful act of unity they perform, but Catholics have something more powerful and divine that unites us that we should always remember.
- There is nothing in the General Instruction of the Roman Missal that indicates that we should hold hands. During the Mass, gestures and actions are regulated by the Church to promote proper understanding and universal execution of the worship service. This is why there are particular moments during the Mass when we kneel, parts when we stand, parts where we sit, etc. – and nowhere in the GIRM does it say that we should hold hands when we pray the Our Father.
- Not everyone wants to hold the hand of the person next to them due to either liturgical or medical preferences. Under the guise of proper liturgy, imposing it on them creates a moment of discomfort to the detriment of prayer, piety and reflection.
So there’s a quick look at both sides of the issue. As you can see the Church has not come down absolutely on either side. You can travel around the country and the see the practice in various forms of enthusiasm. At this time it seems like through silence, the Church at least allows if not encourages the holding of hands. Beyond that it is a personal choice. Which leads me to the poll.
I’m interested where you all come down on this practice. Please take about 30 seconds to answer these three simple questions. Of course, if you would also like to leave a comment, that would be even better. Let’s see how the results and comments turn out and then a little later I’ll reveal my position.