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Holding hands during the Our Father
Question from Andrea Elliott on 8/17/2004:

What is the stated policy of the Catholic Church of holding hands or folding hands while praying the Our Father during Mass? If the congregation is to fold their hands in prayer will you please lead me to where I can find support? Thank you. Andrea

Answer by Colin B. Donovan, STL on 8/23/2004:

The posture of the faithful is infrequently prescribed in the rubrics, except in general - sit, stand, kneel (cf: GIRM 43). Whether a lay person at Mass folds their hands in prayer at the chest, or at their waist, or not at all, is not a matter of law. Our bodies should reflect our devotion and attention to the sacred action in which we are participating, however, and thus as a matter of piety a too casual demeanor should be avoided. As GIRM 42 notes,

42. The gestures and posture of the priest, the deacon, and the ministers, as well as those of the people, ought to contribute to making the entire celebration resplendent with beauty and noble simplicity, so that the true and full meaning of the different parts of the celebration is evident and that the participation of all is fostered. Therefore, attention should be paid to what is determined by this General Instruction and the traditional practice of the Roman Rite and to what serves the common spiritual good of the People of God, rather than private inclination or arbitrary choice.

While the GIRM does not specify the details of gesture, some gestures will by their nature contradict the meaning of the liturgy, which from beginning to end teaches through signs and manifests the faith through signs. For example, the law does not forbid the orans posture to the laity, in which hands are extended up and out as a sign of intercession. But if this were done by a lay person during those times when it is prescribed for the priests alone (canon), or for the main celebrant alone (the prayer immediately after the Our Father), then the gesture would be an anti-sign, violating the theological meaning of the liturgical signs.

It is in this way that holding hands, while a minor abuse, nevertheless does not belong in the Mass. The following FAQ explains it further.

Holding Hands at Mass



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