When did people start holding hands in Catholic churches?

I will have to admit there were many years there that I did not go to Church at all. I think my parents stopped making me go after I was confirmed. As kids we didn’t like being dragged to Church. As a little boy I wanted to be home playing. Oh, I went to mass on Easter and Christmas (I was a Holiday Catholic). But a couple years there I missed. My life took me elsewhere and I was not attending.

I remember when I had come back they had changed the melodies of some of the singing prayers. I really missed the way they went when I was a boy. I think they’ve changed them a couple times since. I’m 43, so I remember the folk masses back in the late 1960’s. I liked that when I was a kid.

But the one thing I do not ever remember seeing at a Catholic mass when I was growing up was people holding their arms out extended like Jesus would stand in a painting? And I also don’t remember when groups of people started holding hands during the Our Father? I remember when I first started seeing this it reminded me of Protestant church services on TV. When did this pop up in the Catholic Church? Just curious?

Oh, sometime in the last forty years.

Dear Friend,
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I was away from the Church for 25 years. Imagine my shock when I returned to see the congregation doing their impression of an AA meeting!:eek:

I’m not that old, but I remember when I was a kid there was a brief period when there was handholding during Our Father, but it went away. :shrug:

There are illustrations of the Oremus posture being used in the western liturgy going back to the 400’s, some show the faithful in it, others show just the clerics. It is a traditional prayer stance.

According to Very Rev. Fr. Leo Walsh, STL, the holding of hands is not “normative” nor is it prohibited, but when a congregation is standing in the oremus posture (Palms up, arms bent at the elbows, hands at shoulder or head level, elbows bent and slightly forward and out from the chest), one is likely to make hand-to-hand contact, and that encourages it.

Most of the priests I’ve met in Anchorage say the Our Father in the Oremus posture. I don’t know if it is in the rubrics of the GIRM, or not, but it is common. Holding hands with hands upraised is a common reaction to this.

I can understand why this would be within a certain family. But encouraging the holding of hands with strangers in our society (men with men, for example, or single men with single ladies,etc.) may be sending out wrong messages. Especially the part when you don’t know exactly when to drop the handhold.

I had a problem with hand-holding but when I was frowned upon for not participating in several different parishes, I decided that that was the last straw for me, I would never attend NO worship again.

I know how you feel. I was away from the church for many years, and when I came back, if I had not known better, I would have thought that I was in a protestant church. I usually try to get to Mass early enough to say a rosary before and the talking in the church would wake Peter Church Mouse. As Mammy in GWTW said " it just ain’t fittin’, Miss Scarlet." And the bobbing and weaving to greet and wish peace is really strange to me. Occasionally when I really want to feel like I have been to Mass, I drive 35 miles to a TLM. I am not knocking the NO, I just prefer the other.

Fortunately at our Church we had a priest who put a stop to hand holding. He said our unity is in the Eucharist and made everyone stop. Thank God! At other churches where they handhold, I just keep my hands against my chest in a prayer position, and if anyone were to grab my hand they would really be intruding. And it has happened. It was kind of shocking to say the least.

You’re lucky to have a priest that will stop it. Our priest stopped Mass once and asked us to pray in the “Orans” position regularly. However, he reserved the right to have us hold hands in the future. He basically said that the hand position of each Mass was up to his discretion.

I have to drive 200 miles for a TLM. Needless to say I’ve never been there. I would love one as close as yours. I was away for some years as well. Although I had been going to Mass throughout the years but not receiving…I didn’t understand what was going on. My brother’s were altar boys…and to she the girls was really strange and surprising. In my church people hold hands but not everyone does it. I don’t do it The lifting of the arms and such as a link to the hand holding sort of makes sense; but I’ve had people actually reach out and take my hand. I just let them, what you going to do? snatch it away??? that wouldn’t be nice.

There are a lot of things that have changed. Like I said I would love to have a TLM Mass close by. I wonder how I could go about getting one for this area; or if that is even possible. mmm

I always thought the hand holding and such came from the Charismatic movement.


Steve Ray’s blog says this:

The current issue of the “Adoremus Bulletin” says this in response to a query from a priest in the Bronx:

"No gesture for the people during the Lord’s Prayer is mentioned in the official documents. The late liturgist Fr. Robert Hovda promoted holding hands during this prayer, a practice he said originated in Alcoholics Anonymous.(emphasis mine)


The orans position is a posture reserved the priest. It’s not for the laity.

Exactly. We are not to mimic the priest.

It is really, really wrong to be made to feel presured and uncomfortable for not adopting a non-prescribed posture during Mass.

What next?! Next they will be giving you the secret squeeze or hand tickle. Whatever does that mean?:confused:

I believe the orans posture is reserved to the priest in the liturgy of the Latin (Western) rite (I am not sure of rites like Chaldean and Maronite etc. but I am sure that there are experts on this forum who would know if the orans is permitted to the laity during the liturgy). Only recently has that orans position been considered a possibility for the laity at Mass, and even there only by a few bishops. . .but it is a perfectly fine posture to use in prayer outside of the liturgy.

It’s like so many things in our ‘diverse’ society. If a practice is used in one setting or for one occasion, it has to be used in others. If just once a family holds hands in a particular church, next week Father X will tell us “everybody hold hands”. If just once a tambourine is played for a particular piece of music, then ever after we have tambourines, maracas, and kazoos in all the music even if it is Gregorian chant. If back in the 60s the rage in pop culture was 'hippie beads and child-like drawings", today the church banners will have hippie beads and child like drawings.

And if people object and ask for music, banners, prayers, vestments, etc. that pre-date Vatican II, they’ll be told not to ‘live in the past.’

Excuse me? When was the last time most of us sang Kum Ba Yah at campfires, wore hippie beads, and thought that felt banners with stick drawings and 60s slogans were hip, happening, and now?

We can be ‘stuck in the 60s’ forever because this ISN’T the past?

I don’t think so.

Please, dear God, bring back the Catholic liturgy that was unified, dignified, and ‘God focused’.

I would be more than willing to have hand-holding, orans, and even (with only an internal ICK) Kum Ba Yah, tambourines, hippie beads and ugly felt banners. . .outside the liturgy, where all of them belong.

IOW, if I could have a reverent, dignified, unified Mass (Latin or vernacular), I would sit through a comparable period of time doing all the above ‘community’ based activities in order to support those who find all those things to be important. If it is important for John or Mary to be with his/her Catholic community and hold hands, etc., I’ll be there. . .but please, let it be outside of Mass!!

In this diocese parishioners in parishes where any of a certain 5-6 priests have served raise the hands in the orans position for the our father, and for times when the congregation responds, such as the preface dialogue, because those particular priests instructed them to do so some time during the period 1985-1995. Why, I have no clue. I found this out simply by asking.

People started holding hands for the Our Father during Cursillo and several similar popular retreats and the custom spread first as a way for them to identify themselves to each other at Mass (exclusive gesture rather than inclusive), then for families, then, again usually under instruction from a priest by him doing it with the altar servers, or even coming down among the congregation to do it.

In general the laity don’t make this stuff up, it is introduced by a particular priest for his own reasons, or allowed by a liturgist whom he has appointed.

Tell me about it…however, he claims that Archbishop Chaput himself supports the Orans position (for the laity). Don’t know if that’s true or not.

You don’t want to know what the “hand tickle” means. It is obscene. Holding hands during the Pater Noster goes back to about 1975 in my parish. It has fallen out of favor in the last 3 or 4 years and now most are doing the orans position. I am not sure exactly where these things came from. The holding hand I think may have come from parishioners who did Marriage Encounter or were part of a Charismatic prayer group. The orans, I have a suspicion, came out of the Friday children’s Mass at out Catholic School. I prefer to hold on to the back of the pew ahead of me so I don’t fall over.:thumbsup:

I know quite a few people in AA, since a coffeehouse I used to go to (since closed down) had AA meetings in addition to being open to the general public. The AA people said that they always hold hands when the pray the Lord’s Prayer. I don’t know if AA had any influence on the Church or Mass.

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