Holding Hands

My own posture for praying the Lord’s Prayer is hands together, palms up. I don’t know where that got started, but if I’m by myself at Mass, that’s what I do. When I sit next to my wife, we hold hands. If a parishioner offers to hold hands, I generally accept. We had a parishioner submit a question to the parish question box recently about holding hands during the Lord’s Prayer. I was asked to explain:

Why do some parishes hold hands during the Our Father and others do not?

It’s a matter of local custom. Some observers have noted that holding hands during prayer was a practice of many groups in the charismatic movement (1970’s) and from there, it seemed to spread not only to Catholic charismatic groups, but people in circumstances of intense or intentional worship: retreats, home Masses, and parishes with a special apostolate (like our campus ministry focus here at STA). Obviously, something clicked, because holding hands is now a fairly common posture during the Lord’s Prayer in American parishes.

The Church has no official position on the practice. It is not given in the rubrics, nor is it forbidden. At STA, some people hold hands, and some do not. For the former, it has spiritual meaning. For the latter, they know they are not obliged in hand-to-hand contact, and are free to make any gesture they wish—or none at all.

I’ve never been in a parish where it was an official expectation. I’m sure people feel a bit of pressure both ways, depending on the surrounding practice. If I were put in a position to institute or ban the practice, my choice would be to decline, either way. Some of my liturgical colleagues see it as a problem. I dissent from that. I was in one parish once where a new parishioner thought it should be more widespread than it was. I counseled her to go easy on it.

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About catholicsensibility

Todd and his family live in Ames, Iowa. He serves a Catholic parish of both Iowa State students and town residents.
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13 Responses to Holding Hands

  1. John Drake says:

    This article

    http://www.canonlaw.info/liturgysacraments_orans.htm

    is a canon lawyer’s very interesting analysis of the “orans” position of the priest and offers a pretty surprising conclusion!

  2. Todd says:

    For a canon lawyer, he has a pretty decent argument. I wouldn’t disagree.

  3. RP Burke says:

    In my diocese, the official position for the Lord’s Prayer is “orans,” and so handholding is officially discouraged.

    In fact, as such progressives as Archbishop Weakland pointed out, handholding at Mass is a foreign influence from Protestant evangelism, where, without our concept of the Eucharist, they continue to seek an outward sign of unity. It has always given me the creeps.

  4. Mike says:

    It has always given me the creeps.

    How very sad.

  5. FrMichael says:

    I smashed this custom when I arrived at my current parish. Far from causing discord, it made me a folk hero of the male parishioners, who weren’t too keen on the infantilizing hand holding.

    Real men don’t hold hands, except in an NFL huddle.

    • Anne says:

      My husband holds my hand…

      Michael,
      Although I’m not a proponent of holding hands during the Lord’s Prayer,I find your answer very troubling.

    • Jimmy Mac says:

      You obviously have no experience as a biological father or you wouldn’t make such a ridiculous statement.

      Did your father never hold your hand? His father’s?

      More’s the pity for you.

  6. Mike says:

    I smashed this custom when I arrived at my current parish. Far from causing discord, it made me a folk hero of the male parishioners, who weren’t too keen on the infantilizing hand holding.

    So they prefer an infantilizing dictator like you? How pathetic.

  7. FrMichael says:

    “Infantilizing dictator”– I like it!

    I simply asked the preexisting liturgical and catechetical establishment of the parish to justify the practice of hand holding. When they could not, I eradicated it. Not hard to implement when the grown men of the parish were quickly onboard with the program.

    Ditto with the clap-happy in-the-aisles Sign of Peace being converted to a more sober greeting in line with the liturgical moment of the Mass.

    • Harry says:

      Clever, Father. But is it also possible that you already had your mind made up to “eradicate it” and no answer they gave could possibly satisfy you?

    • Jimmy Mac says:

      YOU eradicated it! And do you wonder why people are rejecting rampant clericalism more each day?

      Who in the heck are YOU to assume this authority on how people worship together?

      You need to stop having your underwear starched.

  8. Ray MacDonald says:

    I hold hands with my wife and I doubt that any cleric will be able to “smash that custom.”
    As for the sign of peace no point obsessing over whether it’s “happy clappy” in my parish. They get rid of it at the first opportunity during cold and flu season.

    • Harry says:

      Imagine, holding hands with your wife while praying. I guess by Father Michael’s definition, neither your or I are “real men.”

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