Oran's Posture - Priest Only!?


Good input, Deacon Jeff. We had a newly ordained priest join our Parish of 1,700 families about five years ago and proceed to set himself up as (it has been jokingly noted) the “rubrics police”. He wanted to actually instruct the faithful not to pray in this manner, not to hold hands during the Our Father and other issues. His point was that if it doesn’t explicitly state we should, then we shouldn’t. Our pastor and pastoral associate urged him to just “go with the flow”. That priest is now a pastor of two rural combined parishes, and has admitted to becoming more “mellow” regarding these types of issues. Meanwhile, the choice is left to the individual congregant.

Now we see a movement by the USCCB to establish a Intercultural training program, focused on the Hispanic Culture. I purchased one of the training manuals to use in my ministries, and was shocked at its content. The book recognizes the concept of “assimilation” but then goes on to describe a new generation of combined Hispanic/Western European US Church that will incorporate elements of both worshipping “traditions”. I gave the book to my pastoral associate and asked that we look at this whole topic in more depth. There are an additional 250 Hispanic families in our Parish, with 90% of their worship activities having become separate and distinct from the main congregation. So…given how it seems this cultural group is now impacting the Western European Rites potentially, I treat some of these other issues as … well, really non-issues in comparison


On second thoughts, I’d leave out the “probably.”
Amend to : It would be equally wrong …


I don’t at Mass because it’s not the way I learned it as a kid, and in general I’m not at ease with such self-expression, I like to keep to myself in prayer. But I have nothing against those who do so, and I agree with DeaconJeff on this. Not a hill I would choose to die on. Most do it at the Masses I attend here in Quebec.

I do use it in my small oratory, when privately praying the Liturgy of the Hours (a pic of the oratory is my avatar).


The orans posture at the Our Father is to be done by the priest only.

The notion that “if it’s not prohibited, it’s permitted” is simply wrong. The liturgical norms of the Church simply do not work that way. The rubrics describe what is done.

In recent years, the Church has repeated time and again that the laity are not to perform the words or the gestures of the clergy (priest or deacon) at Mass. To say that this is not prohibited is simply a contradiction of fact.

The Church does not have to edit every single rubric in the Mass to say “the priest, not the congregation, then does this…”

In the Mass, each person or group of persons has a proper role. They are not to be confused.

A while ago (early 2000s), the US bishops petitioned Rome for a US variation on the Mass asking Rome to approve the laity using the orans at the Our Father. The Holy See rejected the request.


Actually, 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” in 2002. 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. It was never presented to the Vatican, as was the Italian request to do the same, which the Vatican approved.


i’d like to know where this Orans posture got started. I was a regular Mass attendee from the late 1960s through the 1990s and I do not remember anyone in the congregation, except for a couple of charismatics maybe, using this posture.

About 1998 I fell off the Mass bandwagon and did not go very often for the next 10-15 years. When I resumed going to Mass regularly around 2013, suddenly almost everybody is doing Orans posture. I assumed it had been put in place through some directive. From what Father is saying, it doesn’t sound like that is the case.


The sign of peace is often a bow, not a handshake, here in Vancouver as well…thanks to the massive influx of Asian Catholics over the past few decades. I must prefer it to the handshake of my more rural, less multicultural home diocese.


Official pronouncement from USCCB (at least as “official” as the USCCB can be)

"Some people hold hands during the Lord’s Prayer, while others hold their hands out like the priest. Is there a prescribed posture for the Our Father?

No position is prescribed in the Roman Missal for an assembly gesture during the Lord’s Prayer."



This is one of the silly debates I do not understand.
I do not hold my hands in an “orans” position, per se, but I do not keep them folded or do the “5 on 5” either.

If I am standing, I hold my hands about waist high, with my palms up, usually with one hand laying on the other.

So long as we are not being “directed” to do something, which would be against the rubrics, what I do with my hands while I pray is really no one else’s business.


It was included in another proposed list of adaptations, if not the 2002 attempt.

In any case, your post proves that this adaptation to the Mass requires the approval of the Holy See.

The Holy See (if it’s true that this has been approved for some countries) does not grant approval for adaptations which are already permitted by the Missal.

So unless one can show where the Roman Missal says “the congregation does this” or show where Rome has approved this adaptation, it is not permitted.

How can you can reconcile the practice to these words “Neither may deacons or non-ordained members of the faithful use gestures or actions which are proper to the same priest celebrant.” ?

What part of that sentence is unclear? or ambiguous?

What part of that sentence justifies the laity engaging in a gesture that is proper to the priest celebrant?

Source: 6 § 2



I’ve noticed several parishes where people now just hold their hand up and make an upraised palm or a peace sign at others around the Church. I think just holding up your hand in a sign of peace and smiling at people is a good way to go about it - it’ s faster than having to shake everyone’s hand and removes some of the concerns about germ transmission (since you’re probably going to be receiving the Host in your hand in a few minutes), arthritis, attendees from cultures that don’t shake hands, etc.


It’s silly. It’s childish. It looks downright ridiculous (as a priest I literally see it from a different angle).

It has no basis in Catholic liturgy. It has no basis in liturgical tradition of the Latin rite.

It is an attempt at having the laity perform a gesture which is reserved to the priest alone (yes, priest, the deacon also does not do it.)

It makes the Mass look very trivial and superficial, like a high school pep rally. That’s especially true of the later innovation where people “do the wave” at the doxology.

It really does look ridiculous.


It may be helpful to review the actual regulations on the orans posture.

What does the GIRM say?

First of all, nowhere in the (2002) General Instruction of the Roman Missal (GIRM) does it say that the orans posture is recommended for the congregation during the Our Father.

In GIRM 43 and 160, the paragraphs dealing with the people’s posture during Mass, the only posture specified for the congregation at the Lord’s Prayer is standing. It says nothing at all about what people do with their hands. This is not a change from the past.

Background of present confusion

The history of the bishops’ debate on the orans question suggests the origin of the confusion that persists.

During the US bishops’ discussion in the 1990s of the proposed ICEL (International Commission on English in the Liturgy) revision of the “Sacramentary” (prayers for Mass), some liturgists were urging that this orans gesture, which by centuries of custom only the priest assumes, should now be mandated for the entire congregation as well.

In 1995, the Bishops Committee on the Liturgy (BCL), then chaired by Bishop Donald Trautman of Erie, proposed certain amendments to the proposed revision. Among these, the BCL recommended specifying the orans posture for the people during the Our Father. The rationale was that the orans gesture was used in the “early Church”, and that this posture should replace hand-holding during the Our Father, a practice that was becoming increasingly common.

Several bishops objected to adopting the orans for the people (by custom a priestly gesture), and strongly opposed making this a rule. But eventually the bishops compromised, at this 1995 session, and voted to make the orans a permissible option for the congregation during the Our Father.

It is important to note that the bishops’ debate and vote on the orans posture for the people involved the ICEL Sacramentary, not the new Roman Missal.

Source of continuing confusion

One source of continuing confusion is this. When the proposed ICEL Sacramentary was sent to the Holy See for approval (after the November 1999 meeting of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops), the BCL posted on its web site a description of the orans posture, saying that this posture would be permitted when the new Sacramentary was approved.

This 1999 BCL comment stated, in part:

No position is prescribed in the present Sacramentary for an assembly gesture during the Lord’s Prayer. While the recently approved revised Sacramentary does provide for the use of the orans gesture by members of the assembly during the Lord’s Prayer, the revised Sacramentary may not be used until it has been confirmed by the Holy See. I might also note that in the course of its discussion of … this question, the Bishops’ Committee on the Liturgy expressed a strong preference for the orans gesture over the holding of hands since the focus of the Lord’s Prayer is a prayer to the Father and not primarily an expression of community and fellowship.



The Sacramentary revision, however, was not only replaced by the new Roman Missal, but it was officially and specifically rejected by the Holy See after the new Missal appeared.

Unfortunately, however, this outdated and misleading comment on the USCCB web site was never removed. It was still there as of October 28, 2003.

The response about “orans” on the USCCB web site was later changed, and simply reads: “No position is prescribed in the present Sacramentary for an assembly gesture during the Lord’s Prayer.” www.usccb.org/liturgy/q&a/mass/orans.shtml]

At their November 2001 meeting, the bishops discussed “adaptations” to the new Institutio Generalis Missalis Romani (or GIRM) of the new Missal (reported in AB February 2002). The proposal to introduce the orans posture for the people was not included even as an option in the US’ “adaptations” to the GIRM.

Furthermore, the bishops did not forbid hand-holding, either, even though the BCL originally suggested this in 1995. The reason? A bishop said that hand-holding was a common practice in African-American groups and to forbid it would be considered insensitive.

Thus, in the end, all reference to any posture of the hands during the Our Father was omitted in the US-adapted GIRM. The orans posture is not only not required by the new GIRM, it is not even mentioned.

A new approved US edition of the GIRM was issued in April 2003, and is accessible on the USCCB web site –http://www.usccb.org/liturgy/current/revmissalisromanien.shtml

Not on the list

The posture of the people during prayer at Mass is not one of the items in the GIRM list that bishop may change on his own authority (see GIRM 387). Thus it is not legitimate for a bishop to require people to assume the orans posture during the Our Father.

The GIRM does say that a bishop has the “responsibility above all for fostering the spirit of the Sacred Liturgy in the priests, deacons, and faithful”. He has the authority to see that practices in his diocese conform to the norms liturgical law, and, mindful of this, a bishop is to “regulate” these things:

  1. “the discipline of concelebration”;

  2. “the establishing of norms regarding the function of serving the priest at the altar”;

  3. “the distribution of Holy Communion under both kinds”;

  4. “the construction and ordering of churches”.

The posture of the people at prayer is not on this list.


Neither is there a prohibition against having a monkey dressed in a little red tuxedo dancing on the altar during the Gospel.

Just because the rubrics do not (indeed cannot) address every possible situation, does not mean that anything is permitted.

A quote from the USCCB website (which has no authority whatsoever) does not change what the Church clearly says:

“Neither may deacons or non-ordained members of the faithful use gestures or actions which are proper to the same priest celebrant.”


It might not be on that list, but it is certainly addressed here

“Neither may deacons or non-ordained members of the faithful use gestures or actions which are proper to the same priest celebrant.”

Again, what part of that sentence do you not understand?


Ed Peters (canon lawyer) has an excellent article on why the orans during the Our Father “may not be” considered a “gesture or action which is proper to the priest celebrant” in that since Vatican II it has been interpreted by some that the priest, for that prayer at Mass only, is not praying “on behalf” of the people (arguably) but “with” the people. So accordingly some consider that prohibition to be not applicable.


In fact, around 2005, our then bishop, now cardinal archbishop of DC sent a letter to all parishes to be read at Mass stating that those who wished to prayer the Our Father at Mass with hands outstretched, were encouraged to do so. (I think that also went too far, but nonetheless).,


I’ve read that.

It does not change the fact that the current rubrics are crystal-clear that the gesture is indeed reserved to the priest.

Dr P. proposed modifying the rubrics, not disregarding or disobeying them. There is a huge difference.


Indeed he did propose modifying them to make clear what is now not “clearly” prohibited (according to him, not me).


I can give plenty of examples of clerics attempting to act beyond their own competence.

It doesn’t change anything about the sentence:

“Neither may deacons or non-ordained members of the faithful use gestures or actions which are proper to the same priest celebrant.”

If a bishop sends out a letter encouraging all the congregation to join the priest in the words of consecration, that would be an example of a bishop acting beyond his competence. It would not make it right.

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