Congregation holding out hands for blessings

Today at Mass, someone who will be joining the Catholic Church came forward with her sponsor, and Father said a blessing. He held out his hand and asked the congregation to hold out their hands while he said the blessing.

There’s one other time when are asked to do this as a congregation. When the children gather at the front of the church to go into the chapel for Children’s Liturgy. There is a blessing that is sung and everyone holds out their hands during the song.

Are we, the congregation, allowed to hold up our hands like this? Or only the priest?

Thanks, and if you answer that it’s not right, please tell me where to look it up.

This is not supposed to be happening. In 1997, the Congregation for Clergy, in collaboration with the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, issued a document called Ecclesia de Mysterio. Please note what it says here:

  1. To promote the proper identity (of various roles) in this area, those abuses which are contrary to the provisions of canon 907 are to be eradicated. In eucharistic celebrations deacons and non-ordained members of the faithful may not pronounce prayers – e.g. especially the eucharistic prayer, with its concluding doxology – or any other parts of the liturgy reserved to the celebrant priest. Neither may deacons or non-ordained members of the faithful use gestures or actions which are proper to the same priest celebrant. It is a grave abuse for any member of the non-ordained faithful to “quasi preside” at the Mass while leaving only that minimal participation to the priest which is necessary to secure validity.

The Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments further clarified this in 2008:

  1. Lay people, within the context of Holy Mass, are unable to confer blessings. These blessings, rather, are the competence of the priest (cf. Ecclesia de Mysterio, Notitiae 34 (15 Aug. 1997), art. 6, § 2; Canon 1169, § 2; and Roman Ritual De Benedictionibus (1985), n. 18).

This is an ilicit practice. During the Mass, only the celebrant can confer a blessing. We can join in and pray for the Elect and the children, but the actual blessing is reserved to the priest and bishop only.

I understand that it is symbolic of us uniting our prayer to those of the priest giving the blessing, however it can be confused with us giving the blessing. So it should never be done within the context of public liturgy, where the priest is saying the prayer and giving the blessing.

I assume this was one of the Elect with the person who will be her baptismal godparent coming forward for the 2nd scrutiny. yes there is part of the rite where the assembly is asked to rise and join in the prayers for the elect. There is no instruction in the right about raising hands, but there is no document that forbids people to raise their hands in such prayers. This portion of the rite is not the blessing, nor is it the exorcism, it is what it says, the assembly joining their minds and hearts in prayer for the Elect while the priest recites the prayer. We also pray for them in the intercessions, responding Lord Here our Prayer or something similar.

However, just because something is not in the Rite, that does not give us the right to insert it on our own authority. Such action will only serve to cause confusion. If we are going to pray, then, we should do so internally, without any external activity that could (and often does) construe something else.

The rubrics have the following. During the intercessions the instructions are:
“During the intercessions the godparents stand with the right hand on the shoulder of the elect.”

After the intercessions there is the exorcism. For the first part “The celebrant faces the elect and, with hands joined, says” … At the end of this, there is a response of “Amen”. Then the rubrics are:
“Here, if this can be done conveniently, the celebrant lays hands on each one of the elect.
Then, with hands outstretched over all the elect, he continues:” Everyone responds “Amen” and the end of this second part.

In Mass, the celebrant will be a priest or bishop. But the scrutinies may not be part of a Mass, since it has “155. … if the eucharist is not to be celebrated, the entire assembly is dismissed by use of option D.” But for the scrutinies is has “144. In the rite of exorcism (nos. 154, 168, 175), which is celebrated by a priest or deacon, …”.

For minor exorcisms, during the period of the catechumenate, the instructions are: “91. The presiding celebrant for the minor exorcisms is a priest, a deacon, or a qualified catechist appointed by the bishop for this ministry (see no. 16).”

So the “scrutiny exorcism” has a special importance, reflected in who can do it, over a “minor exorcism”.

The Rites Volume One, Liturgical Press, 1990, ISBN: 0-8146-6015-0.
The RCIA introductions for England and Wales are at . The USA edition has different paragraph numbers.

“we” did not do something on our own authority, the priest did which is his call

However, it is not his call to make, since the faithful have no right to join in on the imparting of any kind of blessing.

Maybe I should be equally bothered about anything that violates the rubrics, but this one in particular gives me the creeps. Most people seem to comply with this kind of request with the following posture: right arm out at a more-or-less 45 degree angle, elbow locked straight, and palm flat and facing down. With the entire crowd doing that, the resulting picture takes on such a similarity to a Hitler rally that it makes my skin crawl. The rubrics could totally allow it, and I still wouldn’t like it.

I don’t second-guess priests when there is room to avoid it, but having said that: there is a limit to what is the priest’s call, too. There is even a limit to what is a bishop’s call, and that is saying something. It does put the laity in a bind: at least, I don’t like to flatly refuse to do what the presider asks us to do, when I can help it.

In such situations my arthritis acts up and I cannot extend my arm, or even hold it up for a prolonged period. :wink:

I have read all of your postings. But, I must challenge something that was said here. If a Priest asks the congregation to help him impart a blessing why is that so bad? Rubrics, or Code of Cannon law aside. I feel that if we are “Catholic” i.e. meaning Universal why would it be a bad idea to have us pray with them holding up our hands seems harmless.
Is it any different when we hold up our hands during the “Our Father”?

In my own opinion it shows that the entire community of the Church is standing behind them in prayer.

I agree. The Rite says the priest prays with hands outstretched over all the elect. I’ consider this as “gestures or actions which are proper to the same priest celebrant” as mentioned above in the writings of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments. I think we laity participate fully in the liturgy without any need to assume gestures or actions which are proper to the priest celebrant. When our priest asked all to assume this gesture and pray over the elect I used my free will to not take that posture.

What you may not understand is that there are certain postures and acts that are proper to the celebrant alone. We cannot, as the laity, take that upon ourselves. We can certainly join him in our prayers internally, but, the externals, the hand gestures, and other aspects are entirely and solely the purview of the priest. Ecclesia de Mysterio, the document that I cited in my initial reply, makes that perfectly clear.

The problem is that inasmuch as there is the priesthood of the people, it should not be confused with the ministerial priesthood.

The same things happen at our parish.
We just bow our heads and close our eyes.
We consider it wrong and it is the priest that asks everyone to do this.
If you want to bring it to his attention, I would suggest praying about and then if you do anything, Charity first.

Allow boy oh boy I do not understand. Our Priest ask us to do this every year at this time for people joining. the church Allowed now that is something :whacky:

However, it is not his right to alter the rites in any way. Please read what Redemptionis Sacramento has to say on this:

They ought not to detract from the profound meaning of their own ministry by corrupting the liturgical celebration either through alteration or omission, or through arbitrary additions.72 For as Saint Ambrose said, “It is not in herself … but in us that the Church is injured. Let us take care so that our own failure may not cause injury to the Church”.73 Let the Church of God not be injured, then, by Priests who have so solemnly dedicated themselves to the ministry. Indeed, under the Bishop’s authority let them faithfully seek to prevent others as well from committing this type of distortion.

[32.] “Let the Parish Priest strive so that the Most Holy Eucharist will be the center of the parish congregation of the faithful; let him work to ensure that Christ’s faithful are nourished through the devout celebration of the Sacraments, and in particular, that they frequently approach the Most Holy Eucharist and the Sacrament of Penance; let him strive, furthermore, to ensure that the faithful are encouraged to offer prayers in their families as well, and to participate consciously and actively in the Sacred Liturgy, which the Parish Priest, under the authority of the diocesan Bishop, is bound to regulate and supervise in his parish lest abuses occur”.74 Although it is appropriate that he should be assisted in the effective preparation of the liturgical celebrations by various members of Christ’s faithful, he nevertheless must not cede to them in any way those things that are proper to his own office.

This is exactly what is happening when these invitations are made that are not supposed to be made.

I concur. The liturgical books are prescriptive rather than proscriptive. That is to say they inform us what is to be done, not what is not to be done. If it’s not in the book, don’t do it. Do the red, say the black and all will be well.


Others have responded with chapter & verse of canon law and the GIRM, so I won’t go over that. But what I find disturbing about this practice is the “Who, me?” attitude the priest is showing. The priesthood is a privilege, but also a responsibility,and sometimes a burden. It is not an option for the priest to abdicate his authority to absolve, bless and consecrate. I’d suggest that if he’s not comfortable exercising his office, he should leave it. It’s not a job for wilting flowers.

It is acceptable in any private gathering, but not during the public liturgy of the Church. I don’t find anything in the GIRM suggesting that we "“hold up our hands during the “Our Father””.

The orans position is a priestly gesture. I suspect that its use during the Lord’s Prayer originates from someone wanting to make a statement about the “priesthood of all believers” or some such.

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