how bad is this?

Every single week at my parish, I’ve noticed (especially since I’ve stopped holding hands with the choir so I could face the altar) that during the Our Father, the priest and deacon hold hands… I’ve also notice that there are a couple deacons who don’t get vested, but sit with the congregation and receive communion with the rest of the congregation.

Just how bad is this, and how should I get it addressed?

I am not sure whether it is bad? It is tradition that we hold hands during the Our Father. I do not think they are being immoral by holding hands. Hey, I hold my dad and brother’s hand during the Our Father! As for the deacons, if there is already a deacon who is assisting the priest in the mass, I do not see a need for more than one deacon unless there is a special occasion. I guess we are all entitled to our own opinion, but those are my :twocents:

Well, there is no reason that a deacon has to perform as a deacon at every Mass he attends, AFAIK. However, if there are deacons present in the congregation, they should probably be used to distribute the Eucharist before any lay EMHCs are used, since ordinary ministers are preferred over extraordinary ones.

As for the priest and the deacon holding hands, it’s a liturgical abuse. The posture of the priest (unlike that of the congregation) is set down in the rubrics, and the priest isn’t following it. I don’t think it is a really major abuse, though it should be stopped. I’d think the first thing you could do to get it addressed is ask the priest about it.


hey Jen, where does it say that? I am not opposed to what you said, I just never realized that priests had to abide by a specific rule in a rubric.

pgnat1, From what I’ve learned, holding hands durning the Our Father has not been tradition at all, but something new that was introduced, probably about 15 years ago. That was at least when it showed up in my parish. I’m sure there were probably other parishes doing it before that too. That’s just when it showed up in mine.

However, from what I have learned, it is not something that is supposed to be done, but rather people just do it, on their own accord, which I’ve heard is ok. You don’t have to participate if you don’t feel called to do it.

I do not think it very bad, but I do think it is in exceedingly bad taste. Furthermore, there is no rubric to do so, and since holding hands is certainly not a “default” action of the body (such as letting one’s arms hang along the sides, or looking straight instead of to the side), I do not think it can be justified.

Current GIRM, #152, emphasis mine:

“After the Eucharistic Prayer is concluded, the Priest, with hands joined, says alone the introduction to the Lord’s Prayer, and then with hands extended, he pronounces the prayer together with the people.”

Not bad! Why?

Which is probably how “traditions” (as related to practice) get started…:D:thumbsup:


This is true - the deacons should be the ones to distribute.
However in most cases it seems that parishes “schedule” EMHC’s for each Sunday. I would say that it is commonly viewed as less disruptive for the extra deacon(s) to simply stay put rather than go up and “displace” someone at the last minute.
Just a thought…


Most of us in my parish hold hands at the Our Father.



ROME, 18 NOV. 2003 (ZENIT).

Answered by Father Edward McNamara, professor of liturgy at the Regina Apostolorum Pontifical Athenaeum.

Q: Many say we should not be holding hands in the congregation while reciting the Lord’s Prayer because it is not a community prayer but a prayer to “Our Father.” Local priests say that since the Vatican has not specifically addressed it, then we are free to do as we please: either hold hands or not. What is the true Roman Catholic way in which to recite the Lord’s Prayer during Mass? — T.P., Milford, Maine

A: It is true that there is no prescribed posture for the hands during the Our Father and that, so far at least, neither the Holy See nor the U.S. bishops’ conference has officially addressed it.

The argument from silence is not very strong, however, because while there is no particular difficulty in a couple, family or a small group spontaneously holding hands during the Our Father, a problem arises when the entire assembly is expected or obliged to do so.

The process for introducing any new rite or gesture into the liturgy in a stable or even binding manner is already contemplated in liturgical law. This process entails a two-thirds majority vote in the bishops’ conference and the go-ahead from the Holy See before any change may take effect.

Thus, if neither the bishops’ conference nor the Holy See has seen fit to prescribe any posture for the recitation of the Our Father, it hardly behooves any lesser authority to impose a novel gesture not required by liturgical law and expect the faithful to follow their decrees.

While there are no directions as to the posture of the faithful, the rubrics clearly direct the priest and any concelebrants to pray the Our Father with hands extended — so they at least should not hold hands.

One could argue that holding hands expresses the family union of the Church. But our singing or reciting the prayer in unison already expresses this element.

The act of holding hands usually emphasizes group or personal unity from the human or physical point of view and is thus more typical of the spontaneity of small groups. Hence it does not always transfer well into the context of larger gatherings where some people feel uncomfortable and a bit imposed upon when doing so.

The use of this practice during the Our Father could detract and distract from the prayer’s God-directed sense of adoration and petition, as explained in Nos. 2777-2865 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, in favor of a more horizontal and merely human meaning.

For all of these reasons, no one should have any qualms about not participating in this gesture if disinclined to do so. They will be simply following the universal customs of the Church, and should not be accused of being a cause of disharmony.

A different case is the practice in which some people adopt the “orantes” posture during the Our Father, praying like the priest, with hands extended.

In some countries, Italy, for example, the Holy See has granted the bishops’ request to allow anyone who wishes to adopt this posture during the Our Father. Usually about a third to one-half of the assembled faithful choose to do so.

Despite appearances, this gesture is not, strictly speaking, a case of the laity trying to usurp priestly functions.

The Our Father is the prayer of the entire assembly and not a priestly or presidential prayer. In fact, it is perhaps the only case when the rubrics direct the priest to pray with arms extended in a prayer that he does not say alone or only with other priests. Therefore, in the case of the Our Father, the orantes posture expresses the prayer directed to God by his children.

The U.S. bishops’ conference debated a proposal by some bishops to allow the use of the orantes posture while discussing the “American Adaptations to the General Instruction to the Roman Missal” last year. Some bishops even argued that it was the best way of ridding the country of holding hands. The proposal failed to garner the required two-thirds majority of votes, however, and was dropped from the agenda. ZE03111822

Follow-up: Hand-Holding at the Our Father [from 12-02-03]

Judging from the response to our reply regarding holding hands during the Our Father …, it would appear that the world is divided into hand-holders and arm-folders with the occasional hand-upholder wedged in the middle.

If anything, the widespread division of opinion seems to show that holding hands does not occur spontaneously, at least not in large groups. Several readers made very interesting comments and I will try to address some of their concerns.

A correspondent from British Columbia suggested that the origin of hand-holding might stem from an interpretation of the liturgical norms themselves, particularly: the Ceremonial of Bishops No. 159: “After the doxology of the Eucharistic prayer, the bishop, with hands joined, introduces the Lord’s Prayer, which all then sing or say; the bishop and the concelebrants hold their hands outstretched” and No. 237 of the New General Instruction of the Roman Missal: “(the priest) with hands outstretched and with the congregation … pray the Lord’s Prayer.”

First, for the sake of precision, may I point out that our correspondent seems to be quoting from the earlier study translation of the GIRM. The definitive approved text states: “Then the principal celebrant, with hands joined, says the introduction to the Lord’s Prayer. Then, with hands extended, he says the prayer itself together with the other concelebrants, who also pray with hands extended and with the people.”

Some liturgists might refer to these documents to uphold the hypothesis that the whole congregation or, at least the concelebrants, hold hands during the Our Father. I do not believe, however, that it is a correct interpretation of the text. In English the expression “to hold one’s hands” almost always refers to raising one’s own hands and not another person’s, in which case the gerund “holding” is usually adopted.

Whether one uses the earlier or the definitive translation the same expression “hands extended” (or outstretched) is used in all cases that the priest adopts this posture, for example, during the Eucharistic Prayer. Thus there appears to be no justification for interpreting it as holding hands only during the Our Father.

An Australian subscriber also points out: “The best argument for not holding hands is that the holding of hands anticipates and then negates the sign of peace.” I must confess that I had never thought of this argument but it does have a certain internal logic.

Personally I would not go so far as to say that the gesture negates the sign of peace, but it does anticipate and duplicate it from the symbolic point of view and, as a consequence, probably detracts from its sign value.

A California reader observes that I said there is little difficulty with a family holding hands during the Our Father. He asks: Should not hand-holding also be appropriate, then, for a larger group, if we consider the parish as family? He also objects to “the idea it might make some feel uncomfortable. …] Then let’s not have them say the creed either. It might make them feel uncomfortable. Faith is all about being uncomfortable. Growth starts with discomfort.”

As is often the case, the analogous value of words can lead to misunderstanding. Yes, the parish is, in a way, a family, but then so is the universal Church, and so is the human race. The point is that holding hands is a normal expression of affection for nuclear families or relatively small groups of people who know each other well.

It is not a usual expression for larger groups of people even though they may be united by spiritual bonds, such as membership in Christ’s Mystical Body. I do not deny that it may happen but it is rarely spontaneous and is usually provoked by an organizing agent.

Our reader’s second point expresses a great verity but I fear also misses the mark. It is very true that growth starts with discomfort and certain liturgical elements, such as the “Thy will be done” of the Our Father, should leave most of us decidedly discomfited. But one thing is the internal and spiritually nourishing discomfort caused by confronting our daily reality with God’s Word or the truths of our faith, quite another the discomfort brought about by some avoidable human initiative.

Some readers asked if the U.S. bishops’ vote against allowing the “orantes” posture meant that this gesture was forbidden in the United States. The bishops, in deciding not to prescribe or suggest any particular gesture during the Our Father, did not therefore proscribe any particular gesture either.

The bishops’ conference decision does limit the possibility of another authority such as a pastor or even a diocesan bishop from prescribing this gesture as obligatory. But it need not constrain an individual from adopting the “orantes” posture nor, in principle, stop a couple or small group from spontaneously holding hands.

While holding hands during the Our Father is very much a novelty in the millenarian history of Catholic liturgy, the “orantes” posture, as one reader from Virginia reminds us, is as old as Christianity, is depicted in the catacombs, has always been preserved in the Eastern rites and was not reserved to the priest until after several centuries in the Latin rite — and even then not everywhere.

The controversy regarding the use of the “orantes” posture for the Our Father appears to be confined to the English-speaking world. In many other places, it is pacifically accepted as an optional gesture which any member of the community is free to perform if so inclined … ZE03120221

No one is arguing the legitimacy of the orans position for the priest during the Pater. We are arguing the legitimacy of the priest and the deacon holding hands, which is nowhere to be found in the GIRM, current or otherwise.

I hope I never see this in the Episcopal Church. Holding hands is so …seventies…new agey…Hare Krishna…

As to deacons not vesting, I guess there is no real problem with this. From time to time, clergy sit in the congregation. There are some church buildings that really can’t accommodate more than a few clergy in the sanctuary.

I should clarify that my inquiry has nothing to do with postures of the congregation, and everything to do with the priest and deacon.

I really don’t have a problem with this…Though I choose not to do it myself. I simply keep my hands folded during the Pater. The item that “bugs” me more is people being overly enthusiastic with the “kiss of peace”. Some are running around, others practically falling over the front or back of a pew to reach as far as possible etc. I mean what is wrong with a quick wave, or nod and then getting back to the business at hand…the Eucharist. Of course that is off topic…

As to deacons not vesting, I guess there is no real problem with this. From time to time, clergy sit in the congregation. There are some church buildings that really can’t accommodate more than a few clergy in the sanctuary.

At the Church I attend for Friday noon mass there has been a young priest there who does not vest and sits in the congregation. He then goes up at communion time to distribute after which he returns to his seat in the congregation.


, he pronounces the prayer together with the people."
No one is arguing the legitimacy of the orans position for the priest during the Pater. We are arguing the legitimacy of the priest and the deacon holding hands, which is nowhere to be found in the GIRM, current or otherwise.

I believe agnes therese was responding to pgnat1 who asked me where it said what the priest was supposed to do. That’s where it says.

It would be extemely difficult to hold hands with a deacon if you had your hands in the orans position as required. :slight_smile:


I believe you. But how “last minute” is it, assuming the deacons show up on time for Mass? (I’m not arguing with you, but with the parishes who think schedules are all-important, and that it’s impossible to tell EMHCs that they aren’t needed because, for example, there are additional ordinary ministers available or the congregation is too small to need them all. I mean, shoot, it’s not like they didn’t have to go to Mass anyway :slight_smile: )


As an EMHC…I’d be relieved if I didn’t have to serve…just saying…but more often then not…I’m not scheduled but someone didn’t show.

I hear you - but how would a parish go about doing the notification at a crowded Sunday mass where the deacon and the various EMHC’s plus their families are all arriving at different times - perhaps just a few minutes before mass starts. At my parish the Sunday mass normally uses the Celebrant priest, the assisting deacon, plus 6 EMHC’s
Does the deacon go up and make an announcement - "here I am so which EMHC wants to stay in their pew?? :shrug:

What about when the deacon is traveling on vacation. By rights shouldn’t he tell the parish that he is visiting that he is there so that they can use him instead of one of the EMHC’s?

I’m not saying that it can’t be done, but my suspicion is that, as the parishes reviewed the logistics of using EMHC’s, they simply determined that following the schedule would be the least disruptive…Just my opinion…


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