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April 17, 2006


Bob Lozano

Thx for the post & thoughtful discussion. However, ...
Changing from standing to hand holding during the Lord's Prayer would be an alteration or addition of something provided for in the liturgical books and thus would be at variance with the law.
Is "hand holding" really a posture that's distinct from "standing"? I'm not so sure - after all, you could be holding hands while sitting, kneeling (though that might be a little awkward!), or whatever.
There's a good Q&A distributed by Zenit here (look at the second question).
Just food for thought ...


Look in "Sacramentum Redemptionis". I think that hand holding is addressed there, specifically.


So can I hold my wifes hand? When I sit can I wrap my arm around my childs shoulder? When I pray do my fingers have to piont up? When showing a sign of peace do I shake hands or hug?Can I give my wife a kiss during the sign of peace?

Call me stupid but I don't get it. Sorry

Scott W.

The problem is that these novelties is that they become entrenched and cause lots of pain when the inevitable unentrenching comes. On several occasions I've been to parishes where everyone holds hands to the point that I had people actually grabbing at my folded hands. Eventually, the bishops have to crack down and people feel deprived for losing something that should not have been there in the first place.


Thank you Jimmy and Scott. We (in the pews) shouldn't using the orans posture either. We're not the priest.


I agree with you, Mr. Lozano, in correcting Mr. Akin. He mixed the postures of the Mass (standing, sitting, kneeling) with the gestures in the Mass.

Holding hands and the "orans" (hands out while praying) are gestures that are never prescribed, in the GIRM, for the laity to use during the Mass. Other gestures are prescribed for the laity at times. Various gestures, including "orans," are prescribed in the GIRM and rubrics for priests.

Mr. Akin is correct in saying (and showing that Canon Law says) that what is not prescribed is proscribed (forbidden). That pertains to what is used and worn -- and to what is said and done (including one's postures and gestures).

Unfortunately, Zenit's usually excellent Fr. McNamara, has been wishy-washy on this point through the years. I have explained to him by e-mail more than once how he sometimes gets weak illogical, but I have not yet been to convince him. He sometimes will not firmly put his hand down and say, "Enough already! You're not allowed to do that -- period!" He reluctantly gives in sometimes, such as on allegedly spontaneous hand-holding (which is never really "spontaneous"), "orans," using a "Hail Mary" to close the Prayer of the Faithful, etc..

But, Reidtgang, why did you ask those questions about what you "can" do? You can read the GIRM for yourself on the Internet. You can look at the rubrics in your parish's sacramentary yourself. The new GIRM (with adaptations for the U.S.) is at http://www.usccb.org/liturgy/current/revmissalisromanien.shtml
It's best to read the whole thing, because not all facts about a given subject are necessary presented in one place. Sometimes you have to pull them together from two or three places.

My quick answers to your questions (though Mr. Akin may disagree on one or more) are:

1. So can I hold my wifes hand?
You should not, because you are at Mass for a different reason, and hand-holding is never prescribed.

2. When I sit can I wrap my arm around my child's shoulder?
Yes, if doing so is necessary as part of caring for your child. [This is from common sense, not from liturgical rules.]

3. When I pray do my fingers have to point up? The GIRM does not mention this. Therefore, one would follow age-old customs, which allow for hands/fingers to be held together (e.g., pointing up, interlaced, cupped) in a manner that is comfortable to the individual.

4. When showing a sign of peace, do I shake hands or hug? Can I give my wife a kiss during the sign of peace?
Unless the bishops of your nation have prescribed a specific way, you will have to interpret the GIRM's words reasonably on this point. They say:
"82. The Rite of Peace follows, by which the Church asks for peace and unity for herself and for the whole human family, and the faithful express to each other their ecclesial communion and mutual charity before communicating in the Sacrament. As for the sign of peace to be given, the manner is to be established by Conferences of Bishops in accordance with the culture and customs of the peoples. It is, however, appropriate that each person offer the sign of peace only to those who are nearest and in a sober manner."

God be with you.


It's the grabbbing at strangers' hands which needs the correction, not holding your wife's hand.

But those seeking novelties will not want to hear nuance.


Tim J.

The problem with the hand holding is that it can be (often is) an active intrusion on the way other people pray.

Let's say I have always prayed the Our Father with my hands folded in front of me. Let's say that this has "worked" for me and that I'm somewhat attached to doing it this way.

I can't pray that way and also hold the hand of the person next to me. I also can't pray that way without ignoring those who are holding hands and want to hold mine. This leads to confusion or hurt feelings... not what we really need during Mass.

My main gripe is that hand holding causes people to annex my hands, which I happen to be using.


Is "hand holding" really a posture that's distinct from "standing"?

Can anyone think of any situation where standing equates hand-holding?

People attempting to hold hands with others during the Our Father is very much a focus on the horizontal community at a moment when we should be focused vertically towards God in heaven.

Jimmy has discussed this before here with a link from an article by Dr. Ed Peters.

Take care and God bless,


Sorry I linked to the comments after the post.


I'm with Tim and Scott with this one - it is intrusive and disruptive. Some years ago we had an ebullient pastor who *insisted* on hand-holding during the Our Father; this led me to (1) sit in the emptiest part of the church so no one was near enough to touch me and (2) eventually switch to another parish altogether - a Byzantine Rite parish where nobody even noticed when I was there or not. (I eventually switched back, after Father Huggybear's departure.)

Another thing worth considering - abuse survivors (sexual and otherwise) often don't like to be touched - they have far too much experience of people who won't keep their hands to themselves. The enforced intimacy of handholding (and it is an intimate gesture) does them no favors. So unless you *know* that handholding is welcome to your friends or pewmates - please keep them to yourself.

Fr. Stephanos, O.S.B.

People who insert "ad libitum" un-prescribed hand-holding during the Our Father, but never make the REQUIRED bow at the words "By the power of the Holy" during the Creed, are backwards and upside down.

It's really odd to me that most people seem to hold hands during the Our Father, but almost none of them bow during the Creed.

Bob Lozano

Inocencio, I wasn't equating standing to hand-holding. Quite the opposite, I was saying it's independent. It was only a small point of logic to consider.

Having said that, I do think that for the reasons that several folks have mentioned "aggressive hand holding" can definitely be an intrusion. The "aggressive hand holders" bug me too - it can easily be an intrusion into thoughtful, reflective prayer at the most crucial point in the Mass.

So there's no doubt that's a problem and should be stopped.

Now I have been to some communities where groups here and there may hold hands, but plenty of other folks in the congregation are deep into contemplating the mysteries (or at least seem to be!)with their hands in front of them, by their sides, behind their backs, whatever. And that combination seems reasonable (as well as the obvious one where no-one is holding hands).

Bob Lozano

Btw I meant to add that the "no one holding hands" is my own preference as well. Thx


I used to be an ardent hand-holder until I realized that not only isn't it in the rubrics, but I found it actually distracting to the flow of the Mass itself. Last summer at a family reunion with my siblings, we attended our childhood parish which is BIG on these huggy-bear gestures (the Sign of Peace took 20 minutes!). Anyway, at the Lord's Prayer I closed my eyes and clasped my hands in prayer (the way I always do), and my sister actually HIT me for not taking her hand. (note that she's 55 years old, not a child) And afterward my "unfriendliness" was the topic of conversation for two days. My gentle explanation of the rubrics of the Mass fell on deaf ears.


Fr. Stephanos, O.S.B.


If your sister fails to bow during the Creed and you hit her for it, you can come to my confessional.

Bob Lozano

Fr. Stephanos-
Great offer!

Now a quick question. When the celebrant is reverencing the consecrated elements during the consecration, is it ok for members of the congregation to bow their head (while obviously continuing to kneel)at the same time? It seems reasonable, but I don't really know.


Bill Q

A couple of years ago, I was evaluating essays by sixth-through-eighth graders at our parish school, The students were asked to discuss the parts of the Mass that were most meaningful to them. (I remember one kid writing that the Liturgy of the Eucharist was one of the most important parts of the Mass to him.

Anyway, I was amazed to see how many listed the hand-holding during the Lord's prayer as one of the high points of the Mass for them. They loved that it was a reminder that we are all one community and so forth. The problem is that not one of them said anything about the importance of the Lord's prayer itself -- it seemed like the prayer was a non-essential part of the hand-holding ritual -- they'd have been perfectly happy singing "Kum Bu Yah."

If the even noticed the prayer, all they got was the possessive adjective at the beginning of the prayer."'Our' -- that means there's an 'us!' We! Weeeeeeeeeeeeee!"

It seems to me that should be reason enough to dispense with the hand-holding.

Unfortunately, it will take priests saying, "Let's stop doing this" to effect a change, and most priests seem unwilling to or uninterested in doing that.

Fr. Stephanos, O.S.B.

Those who are kneeling are offering a sign of reverence that is already greater than a bow of the head.

The "hierarchy" of the liturgical signs of reverence from "least" to "greatest" would be as follows.

(1) Bow of the head only (at the name of Jesus, etc.).

(2) Slight bow of the body (from the waist)--this kind of bow is specified for the priest as he speaks the words of consecration;

(3) full (or deeper) bow of the body (from the waist) required of all during the words of the Creed "by the power of the Holy Spirit he was born of the Virgin Mary, and became man"; this is the kind of bow the priest also makes when reverencing the altar at the end and beginning of Mass;

(4) kneeling or genuflection;

(5) prostration, i.e., lying face-down on the floor.

Brian Day

"...but never make the REQUIRED bow at the words "By the power of the Holy" during the Creed, are backwards and upside down."

OT: This is one of the areas where I prefer the Pian Rite. Everyone kneels at the words of the Incarnation. It's very obvious if you don't follow the prescribed gesture.

Bob Lozano

Fr. Stephanos, thx for the clear explanation. Bob


Bill Q is on the right track. Holding hands during the Our Father is widely thought of as a sign of "community," and this is why it is out-of-place at Mass. Our moment of community during Mass comes when we all share in the substantial presence of our Lord's flesh in the Blessed Sacrament. That's why we call it "communion." By inserting another gesture for communion, we risk losing our sense of the real presence, and this is evident today. This lack of belief in the real presence is perhaps why holding hands has become so prevalent. One even sees it on televised Papal liturgies. Amazing.

This reason alone, for me, trumps any discussion of "personal space" or mode for praying. This could be a true teaching moment for our bishops, but they seem to be afraid to address it.

Tom K

I am not a fan of hand holding during the Our Father, but our Pastor is very pro hand holding. He will join hands with the altar servers, lector, whomever is there at the time. He expects all to do the same. If fact about two weeks ago he stopped before we stated to say the Our Father to let the congregation know that "the children have no problem doing it (holding hands)..".

Scott W.

Bill Q is on the right track. Holding hands during the Our Father is widely thought of as a sign of "community," and this is why it is out-of-place at Mass.

Right on, and while I'm not going to call it a conspiracy, there is certainly a faction pulling for community aspect over the sacrificial. By downplaying the sacrifice, it leads to the thought that it does not matter who's doing the consecration--a layman, a woman, a trained monkey...

J. R. Stoodley

Our priest actually inserts something like "and now let us hold hands and pray as Jesus taught us" before the Lords prayer and leaves the sanctuary to where the music people are to hold hands with them. Then everyone, including the few other people who in a seeming act of disobediance kneel during the Eucharistic Prayer, holds hands.

I generally do not refuse because I fear that the offence and confusion brought about (especially since these are mostly people who probably never heared of the GIRM or any such thing) would override the benefit of not holding hands. I am still torn about this, since I do not want to be disobediant. I also have practicle reasons to not have the priest hate me, for instance because I work at the parish (or rather campus Catholic center) Also I generally try to sit in a crowded area in the back so as not to be so noticeable when I kneel. If I sat up front, the only place that is not crowded, I fear I would look like I was protesting and trying to draw attention to myself when I kneel. Is it certain that hand holding is forbidden in all circumstances?

There are also other reasons not to hold hands, like if you are sick. That's why I so hate the pressure to hold hands, it doesn't even make sense from the point of view of those who don't give a darn what comes out of "Rome".

Unfortunately the only other parish I can easily get to is run by a Jesuit who has said things about me being "attractive" and looked at me in ways (and I am male) that makes me even more hesitant to go there.

Fr. Philip N. Powell, OP

As a deacon at a university parish Mass, I watched in horror as a pious young man desperately clasped his hands together during the Our Father and his neighbor, an elderly "Newman Center Dropout," began louding snapping her fingers under his nose! He ignored her. She snapped louder. He ignored her. Finally, she just grabbed his arm and squeezed for dear life. She came to me afterward FURIOUS that these right-wing brats weren't being taught proper social skills to foster community. I patiently explained that forcing anyone to assume a posture at Mass was directly antithetical to the notion of community--"forced community" is sometimes called "prison," or "high school."

If I remember correctly hand-holding during the Our Father was introduced by Charismatic Catholics in the 80's, picked up by the LifeTeen crowd in the 90's, and pretty much given official notice by the liturgical cmte of the bishops' conference about that same time. The gesture was discussed in a cmte report. The bishops on the cmte acknowledged the prevalence of the gesture, noted its inappropriateness as a distraction, suggested that folks use the "orans" position instead, rejected that as a confusion of the proper roles of the priest and the lay faithful, and concluded by doing nothing (big surprise!).

I'm afraid the gesture is here to stay. How do I know? Even the very, very tradition-minded students here at the University of Dallas hold hands during the Our Father! Signs of the Endtime!!

Fr. Philip, OP

Fr. Stephanos, O.S.B.

"If your hand causes you to sin, better to cut it off than go to...."

Brian Day

"If your hand causes you to sin, better to... go to a traditional latin Mass." :-)

Jason Cone

I guess I fall into the "torn on the issue" group. I dislike the hand-holding practice for all the usual reasons. However, I've found that refusing to hold hands causes even more disruption and distraction, at least in my parish. I used to bow my head, eyes closed and hands folded in front of me. However, even doing this I have been elbowed, nudged, et cetera, and opened my eyes to the deep frown of my neighbor in the pews. Then, instead of praying, I'm filled with turmoil and anger at the whole situation. Likewise, the person who elbowed me apparently felt strongly enough to frown and touch me in order to force the issue, so it's disturbing them, too (even though I am "in the right" on the issue).

I think a lot of people believe that holding hands during the Our Father is part of the Mass, and that you *should* be doing it. Refusing to do so is seen as disobedience. It doesn't help that our priests and deacons join hands around the altar, too.


I can't remember the last time, if any, when I was expected and/or pressured to hold hands during the Our Father. How common is it elsewhere? Have I just been particularly blessed not to have had to deal with this situation?

Paul Hoffer

The next question to be posed is what the congregation supposed to do when the bishop of the diocese is now requiring the congregation to hold their hands up in the orans position during the Our Father? If we do this, it would seem that we are violating some sort of church law and we don't do it, we are disobeying our bishop. This diocese in question is the Cleveland Diocese. Any suggestions?


and, as circumstances allow, they may sit or kneel while the period of sacred silence after Communion is observed.

I wonder if there is any non-Tridentine rite Mass anywhere that doesn't have singing during and after Holy Communion is received. I long for a period of Sacred Silence, but there is none. My children long for it, and have told me they can barely pray after communion because the singing is so distracting.

Along with hand-holding, this intrusion also detracts from the Real Presence.

J. R. Stoodley

Paul Hoffer,

I am not an expert about liturgical norms, but the general rule is you do not conform yourself to disobediance. If a priest or bishop tells you to disobay the Pope, don't do it.

On the other hand I don't know if maybe the bishop could have gotton some kind of permission from Rome to require such a thing. If the bishop is really in disobediance, you can send a letter I think to the Congragation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments. Check out Redemptoris Sacramentum to conferm that last statement.

J. R. Stoodley

Correction: that's Redemptionis Sacramentum

Fr. Stephanos, O.S.B.

Regarding Paul Hoffer's Question

I have absolutely no problem with laypeople using the orans gesture. The church has never defined it as "clerical only". In fact, ancient Christian imagery's classical depiction of the "Ecclesia Orans" ("Church Praying") is a woman.

In some cultures there are other gestures for prayer. In many, palms together at heart level. Among Vietnamese, the prayer gesture is to fold the arms over the chest.

The orans would be far superior to hand holding.

Is your diocese specifically requiring the orans, or merely recommending it? Is the diocese's statement honest enough to also tell people, in effect, "Quit holding hands, because it's incorrect!"


It is important to follow the rubrics. The "refusing to hold hands" arguments sound a lot like the pharisees to me, though. I would prefer not to hold hands, but refusing to do it doesn't seem right either. Do we want to draw people to the Truth or steer them away because of our personal self-rightiousness? What is the greater good? Do you really think Jesus or Mary would stand there at Mass and refuse to hold someone's hand? We should personally try to be like Christ and leave it to the Bishops to fix liturgical problems.


Then the king will say to those on his right, 'Come, you who are blessed by my Father. Inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.
For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, a stranger and you welcomed me, naked and you clothed me, ill and you cared for me, in prison and you visited me.'

Did Matthew leave out, "and when you were at Mass you didn't hold hands during The Lord's prayer." ? Why can't you pretend you are holding Jesus' hand?

John you said, "3. When I pray do my fingers have to point up? The GIRM does not mention this. Therefore, one would follow age-old customs, which allow for hands/fingers to be held together (e.g., pointing up, interlaced, cupped) in a manner that is comfortable to the individual.

But right before you said: Mr. Akin is correct in saying (and showing that Canon Law says) that what is not prescribed is proscribed (forbidden). That pertains to what is used and worn -- and to what is said and done (including one's postures and gestures).

Isn't it becoming a custom to hold hands since it is so prevelant? We do believe in the communion of saints. And I've even heard some Catholic apologetics state thet Protestants like to focus and Jesus and me instead of the communion of saints and that's one of the reasons why they don't like to pray to Mary or the saints.

Maybe the devil is working on you at Mass when someone is poking you to hold their hand, or when a baby cries, or the people in front of you are laughing at the choir... Next time you deny your hand to someone during the Lord's prayer, explain to them why after mass.

J. R. Stoodley

If you love me, you will keep my commandments


This is my commandment: love one another as I love you

But no Catholic I think would claim that loving one another is the only commandment, loving God and neighbor is the sythesis of all God's commandments

He who hears you hears me

The successors of the Apostles are the ones with the authority to set ecclesial laws like liturgical norms. Between the GIRM and the Code of Cannon Law, it is clear that hand holding during the Our Father is not licit. Experience also conferms this in many faithful Catholics. Sometimes the letter of the law might be broken for the sake of the spirit of the law, and this is one of the reasons I hold hands when surrounded by those who do.

Probably not wanting to hurt feelings and cause confusion is not a good enough reason though, and I may work up the nerve to start refusing.

It is a good suggestion that we try to tell the people after mass why we would not hold their hand.

As for the idea of developing customs, if a custom is good and licit, like using a particular musical instroment or something like that, then fine. If the custom is bad though, becoming a custom does not make it any less bad (though personal culpability of the individual may well be reduced).

[Thanks innocencio for the tip on making things italic]

Susan Peterson

I know people who feel very hurt when people won't hold their hands at mass. ( I said this in another thread on this subject at this blog.) They think of it as unloving, rejecting of them and of the community. I got them to admit that community could be shown other ways ( pointing out that my husband's Episcopal church kneels at the Our Father but is a very close community otherwise) but they still said "But since this is what we do here, isn't rejecting it rejecting community with us?" I think one should go along if this is what the parish does. It isn't wicked or immoral; it is just a custom. If your conscience really prevents you from doing this (and you can really refrain without thinking self important and self righteous thoughts) well then, try to smile at the people while shaking your head, and make a point of explaining to them afterwards. Even at the time, say "I pray better when I keep my hands together and direct all my thoughts to God" or something like that. You should care, after all, that your refusal hurts others who are not consciously being disobedient of norms but only following the norms in their own parish.

CS Lewis said that the Church of England ought to be able to be a hotbed of charity. Low church folks should be crossing themselves so as not to scandalize High church folks by their irreverence, and High church folks should be refraining, so as not to be scandalizing Low church folks by their idolatry. This was obviously very tongue in cheek, as the situation he observed was clearly the other way around. Maybe we could learn something from this.

Susan Peterson


Yikes! So many things to address! Where to start?

Paul Hoffer of Cleveland, you ask "what the congregation [is] supposed to do when the bishop of the diocese is now requiring the congregation to hold their hands up in the orans position during the Our Father?"

I am familiar with this specific situation. Did your parish not insert into their bulletins, for about ten straight weeks in 2005, a series of articles by the Cleveland bishop (who is now on the verge of early retirement next month) -- a series of articles on the liturgy, containing many good points, but also some horribly wrong things?

In one of the articles, the bishop mentioned that the people could either use the "orans" position or hands folded during the "Our Father." Apparently, some folks complained when he illicitly mandated the "orans" position, so he compromised, instead of countermanding himself. To my knowledge, though, he didn't tell the pastors to announce this, and few people read his articles, so perhaps 90% of the people still use "orans" in Cleveland!

It's just like the other thing that he and some other midwest bishops did, contrary to the will of the Holy See -- forcing everyone to stand up during the entire distribution of Holy Communion, while singing (even after one has received Our Lord) -- and then to sit down when the priest sits down.

In response to a question on this, the Holy See sent a letter [in 2003?] to those bishops (including Cleveland's), reminding them that, even in the 1970s, they had ruled that, during Communion, people may stand, sit, or kneel, according to what they found spiritually beneficial. But once again, at least in Cleveland, the word did not filter down from the bishop through the pastors to all the people in the parishes. As a result, still in 2006, in many parishes, all the people stand throughout the distribution of Communion.

I pray that the new bishop will get into Cleveland and "clean house," shutting down the corrupt seminary, gathering all the priests for a long and tough series of liturgical classes, warning the no-longer-Catholic colleges that they risk losing the right to call themselves Catholic, firing all the radical feminists who run the chancery, etc..

I attended Mass in all thirty parishes in one of the dioceses eight counties, and EVERY single Mass had liturgical abuses in it -- including some serious ones (such as multiple changes to the wording of Eucharistic prayers, use of an illicit lectionary, use of a EMHC with a "crowd" of twenty communicants, etc.).

Sorry, Paul Hoffer. I got carried away. Just fold your hands and no longer worry about it in Cleveland.

God be with you.


Dear Fr. Stephanos,
As a graduate of a Benedictine secondary school, I want to speak to you with great respect and affection -- but also with a spirit of fraternal correction.

I was very pleased to see you raising a matter that has been important to me for many years -- the fact that people have not been taught by their pastors to bow deeply at mention of the Incarnation in the Profession of Faith. I was also very pleased that you spoke against hand-holding during the Pater Noster.

But in light of all that has been stated by several people (including Mr. Akin's linked 2005 comments), explaining why it is illicit for the laity to use the "orans" position/gesture, I was deeply disappointed at you for writing the following:

"I have absolutely no problem with laypeople using the orans gesture."

With all due respect, Father, it is not your place to have a "problem" or "no problem." No one's mere opinion, including ours, is controlling. As has been explained, nowhere does the Church prescribe "orans" for the laity, but only for the priest. And, when it comes to what is worn, used, done, or spoken at Mass, that which has not been prEscribed is prOscribed.

Father, you went on to say, "ancient Christian imagery's classical depiction of the 'Ecclesia Orans' ('Church Praying') is a woman."

Many people are aware of this, but they are also aware that it is irrelevant to this discussion. We know that, in the first millennium, many people (even non-clergy) prayed in the "orans" position. But the point is that this fell out of lay use at Mass -- completely, for many centuries. No one, therefore, may restore it for the laity's use at Mass except the Holy See -- and that has not happened.

Right now, "orans" at Mass is exclusively prescribed for the priest. As Mr. Akin, in the linked page points out, this helps to maintain (rather than blur) the roles of the clergy and non-ordained.

Those laity who began to use "orans," perhaps 30 years ago, were among the group (with the women's ordination crowd at their forefront) who desired to convince everyone that they were "concelebrants" -- and that they were confecting the Eucharist with the priest. That's why they wanted to use "orans" and to sing part of the Eucharistic Prayer with the priest. Perhaps you were unaware of these things, Father. The devil is always at work, concocting such schemes.

God be with you.


Dear Nick, you wrote this:

"John you said, '3. When I pray do my fingers have to point up? The GIRM does not mention this. Therefore, one would follow age-old customs, which allow for hands/fingers to be held together (e.g., pointing up, interlaced, cupped) in a manner that is comfortable to the individual.'
But right before [that,] you said: 'Mr. Akin is correct in saying (and showing that Canon Law says) that what is not prescribed is proscribed (forbidden). That pertains to what is used and worn -- and to what is said and done (including one's postures and gestures).'
Isn't it becoming a custom to hold hands since it is so prevalant?"

I'm glad you asked this, Nick, for it is a logical question.
The answer is this:
No. Hand-holding is not "becoming a custom," because Canon Law tells us that something cannot become a "custom" if it is illicit. Hand-holding is against the liturgical law, because it is not prescribed by the Holy See.

Both the "Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy" (Vatican II, 1963) and "Canon Law" explicitly state that no one, not even if he be a priest, is permitted to add, change, or delete anything in the Mass, on his own authority. It is clear that hand-holding was an unlawful addition to the Mass and, ipso facto, cannot be regarded as a "custom." [J.R. Stoodley spoke truthfully on this, above.]

The accepted ways of holding one's own hands together in prayer, by contrast, were not considered illicit, so they are legitimate customs that we continue to practice today.

Dear Susan Peterson,

I admire the compassion you have for those who wish to hold hands when they do not know the Church's rule on this. I do not agree with you that it's OK for you to give in to them and do what is wrong, but I do agree with you that, when we do not give in, we owe our neighbor a kind explanation -- though it should be an explanation that is not delayed. This kind of thing happened to me only once in the last 20+ years. I immediately smiled at the person who wanted to hold my hand, and I said, "I'm sorry, but the Church does not allow us to do this." We did not become enemies.

God be with you.

G.M. Knowles

Here is part of my comments from my blog at http://www.mycatholicblog.net. I had responded earlier to Karl Keating's e-letter.

I really don't see how the origin of the social phenomena of hand holding would lend itself to it's value while unofficially practiced by the laity during the Mass.

It seems that the question of the value of this practice would involve the questions on the spiritual value per se or if the practices lends to a decrease in the Mass other spiritual functions.

The center of the Mass is the Eucharist of Our Lord. In regards to the social spirituality present at the Mass, I think there are many times when we are called to experience the union of the invisible spiritual Christ among us.

These include but are not limited to prayers for others, the Lords prayer is for "us" and not for "me", "look not on my sins, but on the faith of your church", etc..

The church has always allowed for the human needfulness for material reference to spiritual realities. The hand holding is a material reference to spiritual reality of the oneness of all within The Body of Christ.

--more on my blog--


From another blog...

The Orans
How to start this subject? I remember years ago, when I was in high school, a new priest came to our parish and suddenly people were holding their hands out to the sides, palms up, during the Lord's Prayer. This morphed into hand-holding (not pleasant when the person sitting next to you has been coughing into his her her left hand and then you have to grasp it so as not to break the enforced chain), and this further morphed into stretching across the aisle to the other side to hold THEIR hands also. We were one big happy parish.




I dislike the handholding we have at many churches in Milwaukee for all the reasons mentioned. Something else that hasn't been noted is that for myself, and probably for most men, it is particularly uncomfortable to hold hands with another man. I wouldn't even hold hands with my brothers at mass, so I certainly don't want to hold hands with my unknown pew-mate.

I've found an effective way to avoid an awkward exchange with eager handholders is to delay a few seconds before getting up from the kneeling posture, then get up very slowly. Once I stand I keep my eyes down, avoiding eye contact with pew-mates. Only one time has somebody stretched their hand towards me after this point.

It astounds me that nobody bows during the Creed since it reminds people to do so right in the missalette! I've yet to see a priest make any attempt to curb this disobedience.


The Orans is just another Protestant introduction into the mass, as was the sign of peace. One should try reading the book written at the turn of the century by Adrian Fortescue simply titled the Mass with many greek and latin original translations that go back to St Justin.

I hear many so called Catholic scholars for instance defend communion in the hand by citing St Cyril, as Marcel D'ambrossio did on EWTN the other day, but this practice was immediatly stopped and held for centuries because of the fact that the body of our lord was actually being taken home and placed into so called boxes, and abused till one day fires broke out in these boxes (which of course were not tabernacles) and then saint after saint changed the so called "norm" and cited only consecrated hands may touch the body of christ. Well of course in the wake of the free for all of Vatican II and Paul VI and Protestantinazation of the Mass that was thrown away and our Lord is once again at the mercy of many unscrupolous charaters and being sold on e-bay.

The church no longer safeguards our Lord and the True mass, sacraments, and forms of worship and one must wonder if God shall punish her, as he did the Jews of the Old Testament for worshipping false idols (JPII at Assisi???. Only time shall tell, till then find a Traditional CAtholic mass or chapel, in communion or not-it is really the only answer to all of this nonsense


Let me clarify one other thing-the "kiss of peace" which I stated above goes back to the earliest times of the church, but it was between the priest and the deacons at the sacresty and not the free for all, back slapping, yelling across the pews that it is today in the Novus Ordo Mass. Just wanted to clear that up whne I said it was a Protestant introduction-I meant the form of the sign of peace as I know some smart alleck will pick on that. I still recommned the book above as it will make it all so clear as it has no Traditional or Novus Ordo slant as it was written before the changes and it is very very clear that what has taken place after Vatican II and the New Mass has no roots at all in faith and tradition but it is a truly new mass


Well, John, since I have no evidence that Jesus transferred the keys to the kingdom of heaven from Peter to you or enyone else, I'll stick with Peter and his successor.


Gee Bill-I guess then you would have a hard time explaining how it took all the way to Vatican I to define papal infallibility and the multitude of corrupt Popes, Bishops and Priests (pedophilia anyone?)that the church as produced. I will stick to strict catholic teaching and morals with good sound holy clergy and not make believe men who compromise at every whim. If the Apostles were like the Popes post Vatican II we would still be worshipping pagan gods (lowercase G)


Gee Bill-I guess then you would have a hard time explaining how it took all the way to Vatican I to define papal infallibility and the multitude of corrupt Popes, Bishops and Priests (pedophilia anyone?)that the church as produced. I will stick to strict catholic teaching and morals with good sound holy clergy and not make believe men who compromise at every whim. If the Apostles were like the Popes post Vatican II we would still be worshipping pagan gods (lowercase G)


I'm not as smart and wise as you, John. Since Jesus made Peter the rock on which he built His Church, and gave Peter and his successors the keys to the kingdom of heaven, I'll stick with Peter. I figure that Jesus knew what he was doing.


Trouble explaining currupt popes, bishops, and priests? The worst it's ever been for the priesthood was the night our Lord ordained His first priests and bishops. All 12 of them failed Him (Even John, who, at the trial before Caiaphas said nothing when Jesus told the High Priest to ask His followers what He taught). It has never again been that bad as it was the first Holy Thursday.


"I guess then you would have a hard time explaining how it took all the way to Vatican I to define papal infallibility..." No. Doctrines are not formally defined until they are attacked. The doctrine of divinity of Christ was not formally defined until Arius denied it(Council of Nicaea). The doctrine that Mary is the Mother of God was not formally defined until Nestorius denied it(Council of Ephesus). The doctrine of Christ's two natures abiding in one Person was not formally defined until the Monophysites denied it(Council of Chalcedon).


Thank you for your post, Mr. Akin. As you said the Vatican currently has only used words that discourage the practice. She has not yet issued any firm decision whether it is approved or prohibited (compared to something like liturgical dancing which she declared forbbiden).

Personally I believe since it is only a matter of custom (which is changable) rather than of doctrine (which can never change) the Church can approve it if She sees it fit. But until then, and with respect to others who do practice it, I choose to prayerfully keep my hands folded and not perform this not-yet approved gesture of the the liturgy of the Mass. The liturgy which "no one on personal authority may add, remove, or change anything in them" (CIC 846, para. 1).

Mrs. Pauline Ogutu

Dear Brethren,

Lets join hands together and on a seious note help Aids victim children, orphans and neglected street children on their Education, Shelter, Clothing, Medical care, food etc.in Kisumu City -Kenya. Please do this and God will bless you abundantly.

Be blessed! I am patiently waiting for your reply.

Yours in the Lord Jesus Christ,

Mrs. Pauline Ogutu
Manager (Morning Glory Orphanage Home)

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