Friday, February 28, 2014

Holding Hands

Today I would like to talk about our posture and gestures during the celebration of the Mass.   The General Instruction of the Roman Missal directs us on what we should be doing during the different parts of the Mass.  This document is important for the simple fact that we can truly worship in unison throughout the entire world.

What is the GIRM?

The GIRM is an acronym for the General Instruction of the Roman Missal. It is the handbook for how to celebrate the Mass. While it’s not the only resource, most questions about the Mass can be answered by the GIRM.

It covers such things like the structure of the Mass, its elements and parts; postures, processions and gestures; silence and singing; liturgical furnishings; the role of the deacon, liturgical ministers, and laity, and much more.

The GIRM provides instruction for how to celebrate the Mass throughout the world. That’s why you can walk into Mass anywhere in the world and recognize certain elements . . . no matter the language, no matter the cultural norms.

Why is the GIRM important?

This sums it up: “Liturgy is a prayer like no other. It is the source and summit of our life as Catholic Christians. So let our words and actions, our prayers and music, our worship spaces and liturgical furnishings and art, be worthy of the profound mystery we celebrate.”(

Now, what does the manual directs us to do when we pray the Our Father during Mass?  Well, we are to stand, but nowhere is it explained that we are to hold hands.  Hence, the proper posture that we ought to hold is to stand and pray.  Since there is no direct explanation that we are not to hold hands, it is generally accepted to allow individual church traditions to be continued in regards to holding hands while we pray the ‘Our Father’.  It is not condemned but neither is it condoned.

While holding hands is allowed please don’t go doing acrobatics just so you can hold the hand of the gentleman in the other pew or to go on tapping the lady’s shoulder that’s standing next to you when she doesn’t extend her hand to hold yours.

Personally, I would like us to refrain from doing extraneous gestures that are not specifically spelled out for us to do in our official Manual on how to properly celebrate Mass.

God Bless


  1. Excellent, Nathan! I too like to pray the Pater Noster more traditionally. The modern practice of hand-holding during that part of Holy Mass dates to the1970's. I remember as a Lutheran someone in our youth group, who was very charismatic, was encouraging everyone to hold hands during the Lord's Prayer - as if this is what communities were doing all over the place. We moved from that church to another part of town (physically) and in my new Lutheran church none of that was going on. I did not encounter it again until I became a Catholic in the late-80's. I'm not sure who started it, but pretty sure about the timing. In the extra-ordinary form of Holy Mass, during Low Mass we kneel and in the High Mass, we stand - no hand-holding.

  2. It's kinda of like a pet peeve of mine. For some reason it really bothers me.

  3. So Nathan, find yourself a place which offers the Extra-Ordinary Rite (Traditional Latin Rite) - I can virtually guarantee you, no hand-holding there! As for me, it used to bother me more than it does now. It's unnecessary, but while it can be a distraction to my prayer, it does have a certain quality of communal prayer... after all, it is the "Our Father" not the "My Father." :-) I still don't do the hand-holding, but I don't let it "get to me" like I used to. I also, more often than not, participate in Holy Mass according to the Traditional Latin (Extra-Ordinary) Rite, where it is still done the way it's been done for well over 1000 years (nearly 2000!).

  4. Finding a place to go which offers the Extra-Ordinary Rite is not a very practical thing for me to do. You see, I live in northern Maine where the closest place would be a 3 hour drive, one way.

    I see what you're getting at about the communal aspect of the "Our Father" BUT the Mass itself is the greatest expression of communion anyway which makes holding hands during the Pater Noster to be superfluous and redundant. Those who stretch and do contortions to hold the hands of their neighbor tells me that they don't have a real grasp of what the Mass truly is.

  5. My comments disappeared, so if they reappear and this is a duplicate, my apologies.

    Our priest addressed this nonsense when he became our pastor about 7 years ago. He said it was neither required nor necessary to hold hands at that point in the Mass, and that the sign of peace is actually where we were to interact with each other. He discouraged the hand holding but would not actively stop it. He said that people should not be offended if others would not hold hands.

    I do not hold hands in Mass a the "Our Father." In fact, I fold my hands and look straight at the altar indicating that I will not hold hands. I have taught my children to use their "prayer hands" and not hold hands during the Mass. I have also actively discouraged hand holding in teaching my second grade (First Communion) RE Class the "Our Father."

    It seems to me that it is mostly those individuals who are much older than me and my husband and their families that are still clinging to this silliness. I believe that very soon many of these post Vatican II innovations will fade away.


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