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Sue Fedoryczuk wrote:


My question is this:

  • Is it proper for us to hold hands in church during the praying of the Our Father prayer?

I feel uncomfortable when I see people doing this. It just seems wrong.

Thank you,


  { Is it proper for us to hold hands in church while we are praying the Our Father prayer at Mass? }

Mike replied:

Hi Sue,

Thanks for the question.

My knee-jerk reaction: I'd feel uncomfortable too.

The Church has something called rubrics.

Rubrics are established modes of conduct or procedures; like a set of protocols . . . the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass has its own set of rubrics. Without them people would be standing, sitting or kneeling whenever each parishioner wanted to, instead of worshipping in harmony as a faith community.

Rubrics, to my knowledge, are laid out by the conference of bishops within each country. In the United States they would come from the (USCCB) United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.

To my knowledge there is no USCCB rubric for holding hands during the Our Father. Sometimes
I think rubrics can enter the Church when new converts enter or when lay Catholics just wish to
do something new that they may have seen at other churches.

I believe there is a responsibility for priests and pastors to periodically explain the purpose and reasoning behind rubrics from the pulpit to the faithful.

I hope this answers your question.


Richard replied:

Hi, Mike and Sue —

Here are two columns by knowledgeable priests that cover the issue:

If I may summarize them: gestures in the Mass are regulated by the competent authorities of the Church, either in the Vatican or at the level of the bishop's conference, and neither has directed that we should hold hands during the Our Father. For this reason, a priest does not have the authority to impose this gesture on the congregation, and no one should feel obliged to hold hands.

It's ironic that a gesture, intending to express unity, actually ends up being imposed on people in an unauthorized way that makes them feel uncomfortable. On the other hand, hand-holding is not forbidden, and there is certainly no problem if a husband and wife hold hands during the prayer.

Fr. Dennis Smolarski, SJ, points out in his book How Not To Say Mass that the Sign of Peace, which immediately follows the Our Father, is an expression of unity and charity. Furthermore,
it's a part of the official rite of Mass, so adding another gesture with the same meaning during the Our Father creates an unnecessary duplication of symbols.

In general, when the Church already prescribes something in the rite of Mass, it's not a good idea to make unapproved additions that take over the same meanings.

Regards —

— Richard Chonak

Mary Ann replied:


Mike is right. There is absolutely no requirement to hold hands during the Our Father, and it is even liturgically incorrect to do so, not to mention possibly unhealthy. It is also a violation of the rubrics to shake hands with everyone around you at the sign of peace. However, rubrics give way to charity so if you are not sick (nor the person next to you obviously sick), and if your not-taking-part-in-these-activities may annoy someone, then it is best to do them, however minimally.

There is another health issue people ignore. I have actually heard people say that God kills any germs that are on the Cup of the Blood of Christ. I don't think so! The physical properties of the Consecrated Species remain the same, and the Cup itself gets germs.

I was getting sick so often with little viruses that I did an experiment. Every Sunday I took the Cup, I got sick 3 — 5 days later. The next Sunday I didn't take the Cup because I was sick. Then the following Sunday, after I recovered from my sickness, I didn't take the cup and the result —
no sickness. I kept this up for nearly a year, and it never failed so now I don't usually take the Cup.

As for rubrics, there is one set for the Latin Rite, which is translated, with adaptations by permission, by the Bishops of the various conferences.

Mary Ann

Eric replied:

Mary Ann stated:
It is also a violation of the rubrics to shake hands with everyone around you at the sign of peace.

  • That's a new one to me, how do you explain that one?

I thought the whole point of the sign of peace was to exchange a sign of peace. It even says so in the liturgy: Let us offer one another a sign of peace.

  • Admittedly it doesn't have to be shaking hands. The real term for this part is the
    kiss of peace
    , nor is it mandatory, but how do you figure it is forbidden?

Or am I misunderstanding you —

  • Are you criticizing those who leave their pew and shake hands with half the congregation rather than with the people to their immediate left, right, front, and rear?


Mary Ann replied:

Hi Eric,

Sorry. I was vague to the point of misunderstanding. I meant the everyone around you as everyone — we have made it a festive meet and greet feast at just the wrong time.

A Sign of peace is supposed to be the old ritual embrace passed from the priest to one who passes it on, etc.

I believe it was the Pope who said that some customary sign be given to the person on each side, but no more.

Mary Ann

Eric replied:

I think I understand. I have always greeted the families on either side and in front and in back of me, and I think of that as everyone around me. I don't think the Church has defined to whom to extend the kiss of peace — we know we do it, but there is nothing, either way, to tell us we can or cannot do this many people.

I think this is different from the hand-holding, where there is no instruction to do it so, some argue, you cannot do it. Here, you have an instruction to do it, but no instruction on how to do it, which to me would leave it up to the individual's discretion.

I have to admit I would hate to see the Church micro managing how many people you can shake hands with.

  • Is there is compelling reason to limit how much peace we give? ;-)


Mary Ann replied:


The (GIRM) General Instruction of the Roman Missal says that the Sign of Peace is permitted, not mandatory, and that it should be given to those immediately around us and in a sober manner.

Ratzinger has questioned its placement and even its necessity and there have also been authoritative statements about the Our Father hand-holding, which was simply a custom informally imposed in America.

Also, you may be assuming that we give peace. In that understanding, everyone turns around with hilarious Godlike expressions. We are to give the peace of Christ, not bestow our own unction, and we are to receive it, which no one does. It is all faintly nauseous. I would be happy to give the ritual embrace to everyone within reach, rather than the present rite.

The compelling reason to limit how many people we extend peace to is twofold:

First, the nature of the moment, which is that we are passing the peace we receive from Christ (the priest) just prior to receiving Him at the altar. It is a question of making peace before receiving our share in the sacrifice, which is what Christ commanded.

The second part of the reason is related: the peace we pass is not our own, but is a share in Christ's, and it is not a greeting, so the number of people we ourselves touch is irrelevant.

Mary Ann

Eric replied:

Mary Ann,

This seems particularly strange given that if you limit it to the two people on either side of you, in many cases, you won't even shake hands with someone you don't know, probably not even someone outside of your own family.

What a shame it would seem to me if people didn't have a chance to exchange the sign of peace with strangers.

46 For if you love those who love you, what reward have you? Do not even the tax collectors do the same?

Matthew 5:46


Mary Ann replied:

Well, it's a ritual of passing on the peace of Christ, not a greeting. The rubric has always been each one to the next one — of course, people can greet those behind and in front, however, in America it has become more of a hearty meet-and-greet that disturbs the rhythm of the moment of the Sacrifice about to be consummated.

People lose the recollection they had attained, and the Communion Service, the climax of the Sacrifice, becomes an extension of the socialization.

Unfortunately, a generation and a half has grown up with the aberrant American version of the Roman Rite's Liturgy.

Mary Ann

Mike replied:

Hi guys,

I wanted to add to what Mary Ann has said about receiving the Precious Blood at Mass.
I also don't receive from the Sacred Cup but for two reasons:

  1. My doctor does not want me to drink the accident of the wine e.g. the alcohol, due to the medication I am on.
  2. When a Catholic receives the Sacred Host they also receive the Precious Blood.

We believe that if you receive Our Blessed Lord under either consecrated foods: the Sacred Bread or the Sacred Wine, you receive both the substance of the Body and Blood, along with the Soul and Divinity of our Lord.

She said:
... however, in America it has become more of a hearty meet-and-greet that disturbs the rhythm of the moment of the Sacrifice about to be consummated.

People lose the recollection they had attained, and the Communion Service, the climax of the Sacrifice, becomes an extension of the socialization.

I totally agree. I thought there was talk in the Vatican about moving the sign of peace to after the Gloria, but I guess that never happened.


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