Should Catholics Hold Hands During the Our Father? Take the Poll!

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.

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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.

Introductory Rites

  • Entrance
  • Greeting
  • Penitential Act
  • Glory to God
  • Collect

Liturgy of the Word

  • First Reading
  • Responsorial Psalm
  • Second Reading (on Sundays and solemnities)
  • Gospel Acclamation
  • Gospel
  • Homily
  • Profession of Faith (on Sundays, solemnities, and special occasions)
  • Universal Prayer

Liturgy of the Eucharist

  • Presentation of the Gifts and Preparation of the Altar
  • Prayer over the Offerings
  • Eucharistic Prayer
    • Preface
    • 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
  • Communion
  • Prayer after Communion

Concluding Rites

  • Optional announcements
  • Greeting and Blessing
  • Dismissal

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.”
    and:
    “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.

Blessings

Tom

 

Please Spend a Moment and Take This SimpleCatholicTruth Poll…

Do you regularly attend Mass?

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Do You Hold Hands During the Our Father?

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Do You Think We Should Hold Hands During the Our Father?

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12 thoughts on “Should Catholics Hold Hands During the Our Father? Take the Poll!”

  1. Nice article Tom. I wish you had “maybe” or “other” choices in your poll. I have heard a lot about this issue and was surprised the first time I heard it was controversial. Surprised because in my 30 years as a Protestant I never ever saw this. Not once. So it was a uniquely Catholic thing in my perspective. I am not sure if the argument that it’s from Protestantism is true. It was at least not my experience. Saying the our father itself was not a regular thing for us either. I came from evangelicalism so perhaps it’s part of the more liturgical protestants but I’m not sure.

    In my opinion, whatever is not prohibited in the GIRM is allowed within reason and I think this is an appropriate expression of our One Holy Catholic Faith.

    In Catholic Theology we always talk about the importance of joining the physical with the spiritual. We kneel because it’s a physical sign of our spiritual position. We use water and incense and candles and icons to unite ourselves with spiritual truths. I see the same thing in holding hands in the our father. It is a physical sign of what we are proclaiming. It is a visual sign of our communion. It moves the communion of persons from our spirits to our bodies making our entire person united with those around us.

    So I like it. I think it magnifies the Eucharist and those gathered around and it is one of those things that drew me into the Catholic Church. It shook my worldview from a spiritual walk of individuals to one of community.

    1. Hi Jon,

      Your perspectives as a convert are so valuable. Thanks for sharing.
      Re: the question question options…I’m not a skilled pollster so I just wanted to keep it simple to start with. Perhaps if we continue this thread, some new questions could be added that might be better formed. Until then, it certainly will be fun to see the results develop.

      Blessings
      Tom

  2. I, too, wish your poll had other answer options. I like to hold the hands of my loved ones or close friends, but am reluctant to hold the hands of those who may sit beside me but that I don’t know. The only reason for my reluctance is simply because I do not know that person’s preference and do not wish to force my preference on another.

    1. Sandy,
      Yeah, now I wish I would have included a few more options about holding hands such as yes, no, family only etc. As I mentioned to Jon, I might add a new question or refine the question in a couple of days.
      That said, your comment is exactly what I was referring to when I mentioned that this practice can be a significant distraction. In your case, you choose to hold hands in Christian solidarity, but are uneasy because you feel like you are forcing your view on your neighbor who might disagree. In my opinion, the beauty of the Catholic Church is the authority granted to it to set standards of worship. In this case having things unsettled is a distraction. I wish we had more clear guidance.
      Stayed tuned to SCT for a new question or two.
      Blessings
      Tom

  3. I like the holding of hands to be a part of ‘one body’, the bride of the church and as brothers and sisters under God, our common Father. Also, we do not hold hands during communion which may be a distraction. Also, for those who live alone or are suffering, this allows them to hold hands with another person and not be alone as we are ‘one body’. How special it is to hold the hand of someone you do not know, and have that moment together.

  4. I do not like to hold hands during the Our Father for four reasons: 1) I prefer to stay close to the Latin rite of the Mass where it is me and my Creator with the priest worshipping my God; 2) I have arthritis in my hands and do not want to have to deal with holding someone else’s hands and having to pull away should I have cramping or pain–also, you get germs holding hands especially if the person beside you has a cold; 3) I believe all this “camaraderie” with other worshippers takes away from the “holiness” of my worship of God; 4) I do not want to “follow” the Protestant way of doing my service because after all, mine is the true religion–and just because other people feel we have to bring the worship of God to the modern era does not mean we should change our way of worship to please them. We should never forget that God’s ways are not our ways, the moment you have an “exchange” with another person, the distraction from your connecting to God gets lost. I grew up and studied the Roman Catholic Latin Mass, and if you understand it and study it, you will not even want to attend the “modern mass”. Unfortunately, I had to compromise going to the “modern mass” because I want the people I live with to go to Mass. However, I choose the church that is more closer to the traditional than the modern where they even have dancing, etc. But that’s another topic. Thank you.

    1. Hi Irene,

      Thanks for taking the time to share your thoughts. Let me take each in your numerical order:

      1) Yes, many people prefer the Latin form (the Tridentine or Traditional Latin – TLM) Mass. Some people grew up with that form and are resistant to change and others genuinely feel the Latin form is more holy or spiritual. In either or any case, it is wonderful that those Masses are still available. For anyone interested, you can search this site (http://www.ecclesiadei.org/masses.cfm for a TLM in your area.
      2) Many people prefer to not hold hands because of health related reasons such as yours and that is reasonable. We all should be accommodating to those that indicate that preference without judging them to be anti-social or snooty. Actually, a person that has a cold or flu etc. is begin very Christian and doing us a favor by avoiding contact.
      3) This “distraction factor” is my biggest issue with the practice of holding hands. At this point in Mass, I am trying to focus completely on Christ on the altar and I find hand holding contributes to me thinking more about the people around me that Christ. I understand the appeal of promoting the unity of the body of Christ, I just feel this is not the appropriate time.
      4) Here I would disagree with you to some extent. If an element of “Protestant” worship style results in bringing me closer to God, then by all means I want part of it. I have great respect and admiration for my many Protestant friends’ spiritual life including their worship services and music. That said, I feel they lack the intimate encounter that we have with Christ in the Eucharist and I don’t want anything to interfere with that intimacy. It’s true that we are blessed to be members of Christ’s one true Church, but I think God can also use (modern) Protestant liturgical practices to promote the Good News.

      One final point: we are so fortunate that our Bishops provide Masses that contain a diversity of musical and language and cultural elements while ensuring that the Sacred nature of the ancient Mass is preserved. With these wonderful options, we can choose whichever of these Mass forms best serves our own personal faith journey.

      Again, thank you for your honest and candid commentary.

      Blessings
      Tom

  5. It isn’t appropriate if someone would like to hold my hand at the Mass, not least touch me when all that I would like to do is be focused on the Lord my God. I would not like to be rude and at the same time to me it is a matter of purity and personal choice. I belong to God. I give myself to God completely in all that I am and have. It is impossible to be immersed in the Mass when a person would like to hold my hand, or even sit very close to me when I would just like to focus on God. I am attempting to give all of myself to God in that moment, and in turn receive the Holy Eucharist. I do not need things like my human weakness and tendency to want to focus on and tend to other people getting in the way of things like that. When things like that occur, it becomes entirely distracting–not least when they push their way into my physical presence like they deserve to be there. I do not know what their intentions are or what they are like, and because they do not seem to be thinking about whether or not it is a threat or an issue to a person like me, it only further serves to exacerbate and call into question things like that preliminary issue of not knowing what they would truly like to be focused on–God or me. The world is already enough of a battlefield without me feeling like I need to cover myself and defend myself in the middle of Mass! Would they truly like to love God with all of their strength, or instead would they like to be focused on whether or not I would like to give them my hand? It is disconcerting. When a person would like to interrupt that communication with God that I would like to be in or continue, or believes that they are possessed of a right to hold my hand under the guise of charity and camaraderie, and then gets offended and would not even like to offer me a sign of peace — which, in Carmelite convents, is likely a nod, perhaps something like a small bow, and entirely normal and entirely seen as living in peace and community — I find that things like this only serve to highlight the lack of respect for one another in the presence of the Living God and therefore the lack of true unity, and instead the presence of alienation, (likely covered by what seems like human blindness–I can see that I am holding hands with my community, and so we are united? versus, I can see that all of us would like to receive Holy Communion in a state of grace, and so all of us are united? What about the Angels and Saints in Heaven that are also present? Would we like to alienate them by not holding their hands? Or rather wouldn’t we like to welcome them into our celebration by continuing to fix our gaze on Christ?) …. Whereas, if one would like to focus on being in communion through just that – the Holy Eucharist, then nothing like that would occur.

    1. A Little Soul:
      Thanks for sharing your thoughts. As you can see from the poll and the comments, people’s opinions are varied on this matter. I wish the Church was more clear on this matter since it would clear up many reservations. However, it is clear that the holding is allowed. Keep in mind that the holding of hands is not mandatory. If you feel that it is a distraction, or a violation of your personal space then by all means don’t hold hands. I don’t think it is rude to not hold hands and I hope you also will reach that conclusion. If you don’t want to hold hands, then simply hold your hands in a posture of prayer and I’m sure everyone next to you will immediately understand with no hard feelings.
      Blessings
      Tom

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