Saturday, December 3, 2011
WHAT'S THE HANG UP WITH HOLDING HANDS AT MASS?
Saint Philip Benizi Church, Jonesboro, Georgia (guess who is the former pastor there?)
READ THE BISHOP OF COVINGTON,KENTUCKY, Most Reverend Roger J. Foys, D.D. RULES FOR MASS AND HOW TO HOLD ONE'S HANDS.
Let me be clear, if family groups or friends wish to hold hands at the "Our Father" or there is a Mass designated for such, then so be it. I'm not a prude or a liturgical Nazi.
What I don't like is when the priest-celebrant or some commentator says, let's join hand and pray the "Our Father." I despise when the priest joins hands with those around the altar, whether Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion or altar servers. That shouldn't happen, period.
However, if people hold hands naturally, especially if they belong to the same family or are close friends, so what!
When I first arrived at St. Joseph, because someone had foisted holding hands during the Our Father, I simply wrote in the bulletin but never said publicly the following:
"Holding hands during Mass especially at the "Our Father" is not a rubric for the laity at Mass nor of long-standing tradition for praying in the Catholic Church. If done it should respect those who are not inclined to do so, thus never foisted upon someone. I would ask you to consider simply holding hands with your family members or close friends who find this meaningful but not force others you do not know to hold hands with you unless it happens naturally."
I had many people tell me how much they appreciated my comments and the fact that they did not like holding hands especially of strangers. But of course there were others who thought saying this would turn the congregation into a frigid, unfriendly environment.
This contempt for respecting the private space of others comes from the "free love" period of the 1960's when respect for the personal boundaries of others was challenged and overturned. It has led to all kinds of problems, scandals and sometimes sexual harassment suits at the workplace, although not at church because of unwanted hand holding. There are those who do not have "impulse" control when it comes to the personal, physical boundaries of others and we should not be naive about it and the "jollies" that some people get infringing on others personal space!
For some people, holding hands is just too physical for them, especially with someone they don't know and just too intimate, especially with someone they don't know. I say be sober and respectful about this.
Following the common rubrics for postures at Mass for both the laity and the priest puts us all on equal ground and makes clear what expectations are and leaves out the element of surprise and discomfort when individuals foist their physical needs for intimacy on others.
Finally, the Bishop of Covington as primary liturgist for his diocese has made clear his desire for parishes in his diocese based upon his understanding of the rubrics of the Mass.He is completely within his rights to do so. But as far as I know there is no definitive statement about non-rubrical postures the laity take at Mass from the Vatican or the United States Conference of Bishops, so to select one and not the other non-rubrical postures for elimination strikes me as a bit odd.
For example, many people make the sign of the cross before or after receiving Holy Communion. This is not prescribed in the rubrics. Some people kneel for Holy Communion although the rubric for the USA is to bow before receiving and to receive standing.
Some people return to their pew and relax their head on the pew in front of them as they kneel (but with their rear-end leaning the the seat of their pew and simply meditate. This is not in the rubrics.
There might be other things you notice parishioners doing during Mass that aren't prescribed. What are they?