Reasons for holding hands in mass during the Lord's Prayer

Personally, I hold hands during the Lord’s Prayer. That was a novel gesture to me when my family moved to Michigan when I was 11, but quickly it became a natural gesture. It’s now much more widespread.

Some more traditionally-minded Catholics don’t hold hands during the Lord’s prayer and argue against others holding hands, suggest that holding hands derives from a Protestant practice and note that is not called for in the General Instruction on the Roman Missal (GIRM).

Here’s one such example of an argument against hand-holding:

I think there is solid basis in the norms for celebrating mass to support the holding of hands during the Lord’s Prayer.

First, the General Instruction on the Roman Missal does include language on “The Duties of the People of God” that, to me appears to be an exhortation to corporate charity. For example, section 95…

“95. In the celebration of Mass the faithful form a holy people, a people whom God has made his own, a royal priesthood, so that they may give thanks to God and offer the spotless Victim not only through the hands of the priest but also together with him, and so that they may learn to offer themselves.[83] They should, moreover, endeavor to make this clear by their deep religious sense and their charity toward brothers and sisters who participate with them in the same celebration.

Thus, they are to shun any appearance of individualism or division, keeping before their eyes that they have only one Father in heaven and accordingly are all brothers and sisters to each other.”

How are people to “endeavor to make this clear?” Through “deep religious sense” and “charity toward brothers and sisters who participate with them.” Does that mean that people are just supposed to “feel” really strongly toward their neighbors? There’s lot going on in the minds of the people described in Section 95. It seem to me that holding hands is a perfectly “organic” way to express that charity toward one another (to cite Sacrosancrum Concilium 23).

The next section of the GIRM also contains relevant wording.

“96. Indeed, they form one body, whether by hearing the word of God, or by joining in the prayers and the singing, or above all by the common offering of Sacrifice and by a common partaking at the Lord’s table. This unity is beautifully apparent from the gestures and postures observed in common by the faithful.”

This section really highlights the oneness of the Church, as set forth in New Testament passages such as 1 Corinthians 10:16-17 and John 17:11. I would think that “gestures and postures observed in common” probably refers to those prescribed in the GIRM, but there is reason to think that a culturally-recognized gesture such as hand-holding would fit in as well.

Sacrosanctum Concilium (SC), the Church’s Constitution on Sacred Liturgy, explicitly describes “norms for adapting the Liturgy to the culture and traditions of peoples,” as here:

“37. Even in the liturgy, the Church has no wish to impose a rigid uniformity in matters which do not implicate the faith or the good of the whole community; rather does she respect and foster the genius and talents of the various races and peoples. Anything in these peoples’ way of life which is not indissolubly bound up with superstition and error she studies with sympathy and, if possible, preserves intact. Sometimes in fact she admits such things into the liturgy itself, so long as they harmonize with its true and authentic spirit.”

To me, holding hands is an appropriate way for most American Catholics to relate to their coreligionists during the Mass in a culturally-recognized manner. Hand-holding is an intimate gesture, which normally Americans reserve for their loved ones. However, through our baptism, we have become brothers and sisters to each other. Hand-holding in the U.S., to me, represents a small way to make that relationship manifest.

I don’t object to people refraining from holding hands, nor will I try to hold hands in a mass where no one else is doing so (such as within the Extraordinary Form of the mass). Personally, I will continue to hold hands during the Lord’s Prayer when those around me are doing the same.

Alright, I suppose we might as well let Native Americans chant their music at the Mass. Or better yet, let’s allow a “Frozen” themed Mass, after all, it corresponds with our culture.

Query: In some places there is a current practice whereby those taking part in the Mass replace the giving of the sign of peace at the deacon’s invitation by holding hands during the singing of the Lord’s Prayer. Is this acceptable?

“Reply: The prolonged holding of hands is itself a sign of communion rather than of peace. Further, it is a liturgical gesture introduced spontaneously but on personal initiative; it is not in the rubrics. Nor is there any clear explanation of why the sign of peace at the invitation ‘Let us offer each other the sign of peace’ should be supplanted in order to bring a different gesture with less meaning into another part of the Mass. The sign of peace is filled with meaning, graciousness, and Christian inspiration. Any substitution for it must be repudiated” (Notitiae 11 [1975] 226, DOL 1502, no. R29).

While this addresses the holding of hands at the Sign of Peace the reasons given apply also elsewhere in the Mass, including at the Our Father.

  1. It is an inappropriate “sign,” since Communion is the sign of intimacy. Thus, a gesture of intimacy is introduced both before the sign of reconciliation (the Sign of Peace), but more importantly, before Holy Communion, the sacramental sign of communion/intimacy within the People of God.

  2. It is introduced on personal initiative. The Holy See has authority over the liturgy according to Vatican II’s “Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy” #22 and canon 838 of the Code of Canon Law.

At the Our Father, one should simply stand there in an appropriate posture. Holding hands is not appropriate. Frankly, it seems to be something taken from the Protestant world, not the Catholic world.

Also, from a question on Catholic Answers:

“A visiting priest told us that according to the Vatican, it is not proper to hold hands or lift our hands upward when reciting the Lord’s Prayer—that this was reserved exclusively for the priest, who offers the prayer collectively to God for the congregation. If holding hands is in violation of Church practice, then perhaps it needs to cease?”

"In his book, Mass Confusion, Jimmy Akin states, ‘The Holy See has not ruled directly in this issue. In response to a query, however, the Holy See stated that holding hands ‘is a liturgical gesture introduced spontaneously but on personal initiative; it is not in the rubrics’ . . . For this reason, no one can be required to hold hands during the Our Father’ (161). The appendix notes that the practice of holding hands during the Our Father is “discouraged.”


Hand holding is pretty uncommon where I live. When people do it they stand out. I wouldn’t say its intrinsically wrong, but it’s pretty sentimental and makes a LOOOOT of people extremely uncomfortable. I had my hand grabbed pretty forcibly once. There are people who would leave and never come back if they experienced that.

Fair point but I dislike arguments that deal with individual cultures. That presupposes a division of community. “They have their Mass and we have ours” is hardly the meaning of catholic in the true sense. Just my opinion.

As far as holding hands, apparently that’s covered under church etiquette, but that book has yet to be written, in Latin or whatever language spoken in your area.


You lost me at “Frozen”. There’s a world of difference between acknowledging a legitimate culture with centuries of history behind it (Native Americans) and making a Mass into a Disney show.

Some recommended reading:

(Note that the first of those sources is an encyclical by Ven. Pius XII, and predates the Second Vatican Council by about two decades. :))

Holding hands during the Our Father has its origins with the Catholic Charismatic movement, and dates back at least to 1965 (as I have a picture taken then).

Rome has been aware of the matter from not long after that time, and has set forth three revisions of the General Instructions of the Roman Missal (GIRM). In not one of the revisions has the matter been addressed. Nor has it been addressed in any of the official documents which have corrected matters of how the Mass is said.

To say that it is not allowed, is to say at the same time that it is not allowed to have one’s hands together, fingers interlaced, or to have them palms together, fingers pointing either out or up - because there are no instructions whatsoever in the GIRM as to what posture one should have for one’s hands. And I know of no one who would take that position; it is, however, the logical result of the insistence in this thread that if it is not written, it is not allowed.

People on EWTN have expressed their opinions on the matter, and it is entirely possible that someone in the Vatican has expressed their own personal opinion on the matter, but the bottom line is that Rome has chosen to ignore the matter for somewhere between 40 and 50 years. It is, in short, a non-issue with them.

As to the insistence in this thread that if it i not in writing, it is an abuse: there are two general (Western) philosophical approaches to law.

One is the Germanic approach: “Whatever is not allowed is forbidden”.

The other is the Mediterranean approach: “Whatever is not forbidden is allowed”.

It is very typical of America to take the Germanic approach; however, last I checked, Rome was considered to be in the Mediterranean…

An example might suffice. Some time ago, the GIRM came out with the directions that people were to stand during Communion; in short, it appeared that all were to remain standing (in their pew) after reception until the last had received. Cardinal George sent a dubium; Cardinal Arinze responded that Rome did not intent that the posture was to be so rigidly enforced; meaning, in spite of the wording, we could go back to what was pretty much a universal practice, that we could kneel after reception.

No one is required to hold hands.

No one is forbidden to do so.

And as Archbishop Chaput said in Colorado, both sides need to exercise charity to the other side.

I am always a bit bemused when hearing that people would leave the Church - and thereby leave the Eucharist - Christ, present to us Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity - over an issue of holding hands, or not holding them.

It seems to speak volumes concerning their faith - or perhaps lack thereof?

John 6:68: “Lord, to whom would we go? You have the words that give eternal life.”

And no one should force another to hold hands. A singular act of uncharitable behavior, just before reception of Communion.

Perhaps the same could be said of someone refusing…:shrug:

I beg your pardon?

This is so odious it deserves an answer unto itself.

You do realize that you are talking – not about something of entertainment or of an American theme park but instead the aspects of an indigenous culture which the Most Blessed Virgin herself assumed the appearance connected with as well as the garb and symbolism of when she appeared to Saint Juan Diego as the Virgin of the Tilma.

Could be someone off the street coming to mass for the first time in years, or first time altogether. A stranger suddenly grabs their hand, they become uncomfortable, and decide not to come back. Doesn’t seem a far fetched scenario to me at all. Like I said, hand holding is very rare here- those who do it stand out… But as it is not part of the rubrics and as it does involve what we Anglo cultures consider fairly intimate touching (holding hands in public is typically reserved for parents/children and lovers, no?), it would seem to me inappropriate unless the all those involved have discussed and agreed to the practice ahead of time.
Here in Vancouver a very large segment of our congregations are Asian-Canadians. As a result even shaking hands has become relatively uncommon in many parishes. I myself have become accustomed to giving a quick respectful Shake of the head during the sign of peace. (I contrast this with parishes in my wife’s native Dominican where people would wander over from several pews back to embrace each other during the very extended sign of peace- very different cultural expectations).

I meant “nod” or “bow” of the head, not shake.

Inculturation goes far beyond Africa, including the use of dance. One can clearly see in this news photo from the Mass of Canonisation of Saint Juan Diego the indigenous dance that was offered in the context of the Papal Mass:

If you are not aware of how inculturation of Native American spirituality has been approved and incorporated, I suggest you begin with the National Conference of Catholic Bishops Subcommittee on Native American Affairs, “which is under the direction of and assists the Committee on Cultural Diversity within the Church by working directly with the standing committee and collaboratively with other USCCB committees to address the pastoral concerns of Native American (North American Aboriginals) Catholics to affirm the gifts and contributions of Native American Catholics and to provide more opportunities for Native American Catholics to engage in the life of the Church and help shape its evangelization mission.”

You will find information about the practices in the dioceses in the United States on inculturation as it relates to Native Americans here:

The image of everyone shaking their head at each other as a means of conveying a gesture of peace was a most startling one, TWF…especially given that I had the occasion over the years to visit Canada many times and was perfectly charmed by the land as well as the people. It would be a gesture very unlike from what I experienced…although I have been quite assured that British Columbia is unique in many ways. :slight_smile:

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