Orans position

I am new so I am sorry if this has been discussed before. I am a Roman Catholic and travel back and forth between the US and Europe. In the US in my parish the Orans position - extended hands - has become common for the laity when praying the Our Father but I don’t see it done elsewhere in Ireland, England or Italy when I attend Masses there. It is only the priest who does it outside of the USA. What is the official rule on this in the American church?


Hope this helps.

I don’t think there is an official position on it, from what I remember, but I know that it is discouraged by more traditional Catholics. It is believed that people started doing it because the priest does it and just caught on. I don’t do it. And in a more liberal parish near where I went to university, they not only extended their hands, but everyone also joined hands (even across the the isle between the two sides of the church), during the Lord’s Prayer. It kind of bothered me. I do not do it and most in my current parish do not either, but some do.

I belong to an ethnic Polish parish in NYC. There are only two Masses in English each week in this parish, The Polish Language Masses are largely attended by people from the Old Country. One sees the Orans position during the Our Father by only a few people at the English Language Masses. One rarely, if ever sees it at the Polish Masses. It is simply not in their tradition, and Poles for the most part are not as individualistic as Americans when it comes to the practice of their Faith.

My understanding of the article I posted is that it is not in the rubrics. The orans posture is a priestly posture.

Thanks all. The responses were helpful. I personally don’t like it and don’t do it because I always understood it to be the priest’s’ function only at Mass.

But the issue in my parish came to a head when the Mass for Pope Francis’ initiation was shown on TV. Many did not know - that really is the only word for it was lack of knowledge - that the cardinals were con-celebrating the Mass with him and so their use of the Orans [and other gestures] was in keeping with that. So those who had refrained from using the Orans then joined in also at Sunday Mass. We even have the altar servers doing it on either side of the priest, which looks very odd indeed.

Exactly - looks odd… And that is why there are rules, why there are limitations on what the laity should / could / can do during Mass, otherwise what is next? What other changes can the laity interject into the Mass on their own? In my parish I see people doing the Orans position all the time. Not too much holding hands. One other thing I notice at my parish, that I have never really noticed anywhere else, is that all the parishioners turn towards the aisle during the Procession of the priest. Even the diocesan see, at Chrism Mass the other day, no one turned towards the middle. In every Church I have been to before we always face forward and sing the Processional Hymn…

OTOH, it is an ancient prayer posture that’s been used by Jews, Christians, Muslims, and probably others, for centuries.


Oh yes, I know it is an ancient prayer position - but the question I had was it a part of the Mass rite for the laity to join in with the priest. And I think from what I have learned is that it is not.

Kneeling is also an ancient position but we wouldn’t expect the laity to decide to kneel at the gospel for instance because that is not how the Mass is conducted.

My position is this. A lot of people may say, ‘oh, what’s the harm’. Well, what’s the harm with parishioners implementing a number of their own habits, styles of worship, etc.? Then what do we become? What form does the Mass take after that if we let the laity come up with their own forms of prayer during Mass, or gestures, etc.? Could this evolve into something totally different that what we have now? The priests never say a word about these things now - as it is. I walk into Church expecting a quiet, reverent atmosphere and I get Romper Room. Full-on conversations taking place, of course right next to me and then more conversations and people just looking around and joking after they receive the Eucharist. So the problem is, if priests aren’t willing to correct these things, where will this lead? What’s next? Dancing in the aisles, jumping jacks during the Pater Noster? I went to my Diocese this week with my young sons for Chrism Mass. My boys were taught to be quiet, respectful of the Mass, the Church, the Holy Eucharist. And then what? They see and hear everyone having all kinds of very loud converstaions, phones going off, pictures, you name it. And this is the Diocesan See/Church? Ugggh… If we don’t hold to the liturgical norms or rites as established by competent authority, then what will our Mass evolve into?

Nice art by the way… And what is the setting for these? Is it during Mass or during private recitation/prayer? Are they priests/religious with a need to perform the Orans during a Mass? I have no problem with people using the orans gesture in private recitation of course, but the statement that the priest does it, and just caught on, doesn’t hold water with me. Then why not put our hands out during the blessing of the Eucharist? At the end of the Mass, why don’t we all perform the sign of the Cross just like the priest? I can go on… think about it. And I am not picking on this post specifically (I won’t pick on anyone in this forum - just argue against or for particular thoughts) as I presume you are just stating a fact about the way things are…

Well, true, Moses used it to pray for Israel. They even held up his arms when he got tired. But it was Moses who was acting in the capacity of priest, not the Israelite, who were the subjects of the petition!

During one of the USCCB conferences apparently it was spoken of as an alternative to holding hands - only holding ones elbows at the waist and forward to show a difference from the priest. It was decided not to vote on it. I hold my arms the way described in order to be charitable to people who try to grab my hands to hold them. There are some pretty aggressive hand-holders in this area!

:DBrigid, we can never be too careful of them either! :D:D:D

Only teasing. I know what you mean. Some folks really get into it. :slight_smile:

I recently attended Mass at the cathedral in my city. Right there in the bulletin it said “the people assume the orans position” during the Our Father. So, I have to assume that our bishop has approved it.

When my husband attends Mass with me we assume the orans position and hold hands during the Our Father. If he’s not there, I simply fold my hands in front of me.

In my parish in the UK it appears that the practice of the laity using the orans position came with an influx of far eastern Catholics - mainly from the Philippines. It has gained popularity among some English/Irish Catholics (who make up the rest of the congregation). The hand-holding also goes on, but mainly within each family.

I’d say there is currently about a 60:40 split of clasped hands/palm to palm: orans position.

On a related note, do the palm to palm and clasped hands (interlocking fingers) positions have names?

All the best


The rubrics neither require the laity to adopt this posture nor forbid the laity to adopt this posture.

This is not a similar case. During the reading of the gospel, the rubrics require the faithful to stand.

At the same time, the Church makes some allowance for the natural development (not imposition) of pious customs.

According to the General Instruction of the Roman Missal, the faithful are to stand “before the prayer over the offerings until the end of Mass, except at the places indicated below… [A]s circumstances allow, they may sit or kneel while the period of sacred silence after Communion is observed.” And in other parts of the world, this is what Roman Rite Catholics do. In the United States, however, a custom of kneeling rather than standing after the Agnus Dei (Lamb of God) developed. At the subsequent request of the USCCB, the Holy See allowed this local modification to be made: “In the dioceses of the United States of America, {the faithful} should kneel beginning after the singing or recitation of the Sanctus until after the Amen of the Eucharistic Prayer…” In other words, what was once simply a reverent custom spontaneously adopted by the faithful became the approved local norm (it should be noted, however, that the diocesan bishop may still choose that the congregation stand instead).

Note, too, that the general norm says “[A]s circumstances allow, {the faithful} may sit or kneel while the period of sacred silence after Communion is observed.” Some people interpreted this to mean that individual members of the faithful could choose one of the options (standing, sitting, or kneeling) while others interpreted this to mean that the bishop could choose one of the options, and some bishops asked their dioceses to stand. When the Holy See was asked for clarification, Cardinal Arinze at the Congregation of Divine Worship responded that the intention was “not {to} regulate posture rigidly in such a way that those who wish to kneel or sit would no longer be free.” In other words, the individual is allowed to choose his posture during the period of silence, not required to stand even if the bishop prefers that.

What I find interesting about the above is that, when a posture is not specified by the rubrics, different locales often spontaneously develop their own customs. In some parishes or regions, nearly everyone returns to his or her place and stands, while in others nearly everyone sits. In others, nearly everyone kneels until the Eucharist is returned to the tabernacle. In another, nearly everyone kneels until the priest sits. In still others, nearly everyone kneels until the priest stands and says “Let us pray.” All of these are acceptable according to the rite’s norms, as Cardinal Arinze made clear, but what I find intriguing is the spontaneous development of local customs. :slight_smile:

We’ve actually seen it happen. Here in the United States, what was once simply a reverent custom of kneeling after the Agnus Dei, spontaneously adopted by the faithful even though the rubrics specify standing, became the approved local norm. The Church does not always forbid this.

In fact, when a specific posture is neither required nor forbidden, the Church appears to be somewhat open to the development of pious customs, as when Cardinal Arinze responded that the intention was “not {to} regulate posture rigidly in such a way that those who wish to kneel or sit would no longer be free.”

There are actually norms and rulings answering these questions. Regarding dancing, the Congregation for Divine Worship says “it cannot {in western cultures} be introduced into liturgical celebrations of any kind whatever.” The rubrics for the Our Father specify: “The congregation stands.”

The Catholic Church does not ordain women and, no, none of them are religious. (Two of them are the same person, so I can’t help but wonder how closely you looked at the images.) In ancient Christian art, the great majority of figures adopting this posture are female.

In my parish people usually turn toward the aisle at the processional. I don’t know why–I do it out of habit to see the procession. I don’t think there are any rules on this at all and it will vary by parish. But that is a habit we’ve gotten into, and I have seen it at other churches.


Stand for the entrance procession.

Bow when the crucifix, a visible symbol of Christ’s sacrifice, passes you in the procession. (If there is a bishop, bow when he passes, as a sign of recognition that he represents the authority of the Church and of Christ as shepherd of the flock.)

According to the way some people here interpret rubrics, that turning toward the aisle is not mentioned means it is prohibited. LOL.

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