Physical Gestures During Mass

I’m wondering at what specific parts of the Mass do people tend to make gestures with their arms, and why they choose to do this when we are not instructed by the GIRM to do so.

I’m interested in hearing from anyone who practices this. What are your points of view?

Not a gesture with the arms per se, but I heard a talk from a priest last year that said people should kneel from the Sanctus until Communion because one should kneel while the sacred species is on the altar. I’ve been doing that since.

Monkey see, monkey do.
People think they have to do everything the priest doesn.
They do not, and should not.
I don’t know how or why this ever started up.
Lack of catechesis I suppose.


That’s always been the case in the UK since the OF was introduced, surely? Apart from those who find kneeling painful, of course.

Exactly, for example it is only the Priests who should assume the Orans position during the Our Father. It is not in the GIRM for the laity to do so.

Neither is it in the GIRM for people to clasp their hands together, put their hands at their sides, tuck their hands in their pockets, or put them in any particular position. Assuming that someone else’s hands aren’t bobbing around my nose, I don’t worry about it too much.

As Clare said; “Monkey see, monkey do”. Just lack of catechesis.

True, but the traditional prayer position is palms together with fingers pointing towards the altar and right thumb over left thumb.

It’s not a required position, but it’s a traditional one which is still often taught to altar servers who wear albs and/or cassocks.

The Orans position is a collection of prayers from the faithful to funnel them up to God.

Seeing the laity do it used to bother me a lot. Now it really doesn’t, but it does still bother me when I see non-priests doing it in the Sanctuary.

The only thing that’s forbidden is for the laity to copy the gestures of the priest. Other than that, Da Rulz say nothing about what one should or should not do with his/her hands.

As for me, I keep my hands clasped and my eyes and thoughts to myself.

It may not be in the GIRM, but it is certainly in numerous other liturgical documents.

The Ceremonial of Bishops:

Customarily in the Church a bishop or presbyter addresses prayers to God while standing with hands slightly raised and outstretched.

The Book of Blessings:

A minister who is a priest or deacon says the prayer of blessing with hands outstretched; a lay minister says the prayer with hands joined.

Instruction on Collaboration:

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

These are sources I found in an answer given by Jimmy Akin on this topic, here’s the link if you’re interested.

My point though is to find out why people insist on a completely improper and illicit form in the face of unambiguous rules. The other posters are probably correct though, it might just be poor catechesis.

My policy recently has been to just do what GIRM says to the best of my ability. People may/will ask you why, and you can tell them. You may change their mind. I’ve noticed that, in my anecdotal experience, whenever one does something to increase piety, it often spreads. Like kneeling to receive communion. I started doing it because I saw others doing it. I asked about it, and decided that I wanted to start doing it myself. I soon noticed others doing the same.

Why does it matter so much what someone else does at Mass? Unless it’s actually disruptive, I just can’t bring myself to care so much that someone is [gasp!] lifting their hands up. And why do they need catechesis to tell them they are wrong? Haven’t enough people stopped coming to Mass? Why make the few who are left uncomfortable about the way they pray?

How one presents themselves before royalty matters. If one were granted an audience before the Queen for instance one would want to make sure they knew the proper protocol. Same should go for greeting a Bishop, Cardinal, or even a Pope. Why would it be less important to conduct oneself properly before the King of Kings?

There is a proper way for catholics to conduct themselves when they enter the “Holy of Holy’s” and we should all want to know it out of our total Love, Devotion, and Submission to our Savior.

The fact that Mass attendance is poor has more to do with a lack of belief than anything else. If one believed in the real presents one would wait in a line to receive that would be out the door and around the block without giving a thought to what others may think.

I was trying to find the right words to explain the importance and just couldn’t. Well said!


If three quarters of the people the Queen invited for an audience said “No thanks, I have better things to do,” she would have a problem.

If her courtiers then proceeded to scold the few who did accept the invitation because they didn’t hold their pinkies properly while drinking tea, the Queen would have another problem.

The Church has a problem! Criticizing people who raise their hands in prayer won’t solve it.

I’m going to cut off my participation in this thread because I don’t think it’s a hill worth dying over. But I will say that I often think Catholics are our own worst enemies.

If three quarters of Catholics showed up for Mass THAT would be progress.

Firstly, I haven’t scolded anyone. Secondly, When do Catholics finally take pride in the riches of our faith and learn why the Mass is conducted the way it is.

Yes, The Church has a problem. As I stated it stems from a lack of belief. If one believed they were truly in the presence of God they would fall on their face in trembling fear and adoration. I offered no criticism just an observation of of how one conducts themselves does matter.

So are you saying that you fall on your face in trembling fear and adoration when you are in Church, and if not, do you really believe truly in the presence of God? Don’t expect others to do what you don’t if the answer is in the negative.

Your statement IS a criticism and a judgmental observation of other people. You don’t really know what the others believe, and their actions are not always a clue.

A person falling on their face might just be doing it for show. Nothing can be assumed.

Just focus on the Mass and pay attention to your own actions and thoughts. That is what is proper, not criticizing others for their posture. That is a very small thing in the scheme of things.

Yes. I see this all the time and it irritates me. I do believe that these people have every good intention in really praying the Mass with reverence: I just don’t think there has been proper catechesis on this. In fact, I’ve been Catholic for almost 20 years and I don’t recall a priest ever addressing this.

I’m also annoyed by the large number of Catholics who use the secular peace sign for the Sign of Peace.

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