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Priests We Follow

Bishop Roger Foys: Stop Holding Hands!

The Rituals of the Roman Catholic Church Call for Specific Words, Actions, and Gestures On The Part of the Priests and the Faithful.


Taken from Patheos.com

By Deacon Greg Kandra

Hot on the heels of the new Roman Missal translation, the Bishop of Covington, Roger J. Foys, has issued a decree clarifying the proper gestures and postures for Mass, according to rubrics laid out in the General Instruction of the Roman Missal.

As he notes:

The rituals of the Roman Church, of which we are a part, call for specific words to be used as well as particular actions and gestures, both on the part of the priest and the faithful who join their hearts with his in their worship of God. We are encouraged as the Mystical Body of Christ to continual, ongoing conversion in the faith and to strengthen that which is good and holy in our individual lives as well as our common life as Catholics and to root out that which is evil.

Among the points his decree makes:

Special note should also be made concerning the gesture for the Our Father. Only the priest is given the instruction to “extend” his hands. Neither the deacon nor the lay faithful are instructed to do this. No gesture is prescribed for the lay faithful in the Roman Missal; nor the General Instruction of the Roman Missal, therefore the extending or holding of hands by the faithful should not be performed.

And he notes:

The text of the Roman Missal be used exactly as it is written. As stated in the citation from the Second Vatican Council none of us has the authority to change the text for any reason.

a. This includes altering or changing any of the language contained in the liturgical books of the Church, not only the Roman Missal, but the Lectionary and other ritual books – the responses and prayers of the priest, and also those of the people.

b. Please note that only those texts approved for use in the Dioceses of the United States may be used.

c. Priests and deacons are restricted in their use of the Penitential Act – Form C, to those invocations found in the Order of Mass of the Roman Missal and those in Appendix VI.

Read all of Bishop Roger Foy’s Decree here.

Would you share with us your thoughts on holding hands during the Our Father?

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52 comments to Bishop Roger Foys: Stop Holding Hands!

  • marc

    Holding hands hands outstretched communion in hand. Im ROMAN CATHOLIC not protestant. Ive had enough i really have our religion is being destroyed, you only have to look at these Anglican Ordinariates who in the uk are allowed to hold mass and add readings from anglican mass while doing Catholic mass its crazy. Thank God for SSPX and others i go Latin mass on Sundays which is beautiful..

  • Mishka

    Bravo, Bishop Foys!

  • Alphonsus Jr.

    Lots of Roman Protestants here. Search the net for this essay:

    Roman Protestants by Fr. Wrighton

  • Jolene

    I believe our Lord is much more concerned with what is in our heart and how we treat our fellow man than how we hold my hands or where our fingers point when we pray.

  • Michael

    Sounds to me like what Pope Francis wrote about in Evangelii Gaudium that he does not want the Church “being caught up in a web of obsessions and procedures . . within rules which make us harsh judges” or is he a “rogue bishop” to be ignored if the Catholic Jihad disagrees?

  • Francis

    This sentimental hand holding thing does not belong at the foot of Calvary where the Son of God is being sacrificed to His Father for us. Stillness, awe and reverence – indeed, trembling – are in order. To those that like to mimic the priest (priest envy?) by adopting the orans position (which is prescribed by the rubrics for the priest alone) during the Our Father, I ask: Do you do this at home when you pray the Our Father, say, for example, during the Rosary? So why at Church, during the Most Holy Sacrifice of the Mass? Why the two differing norms? Who are you trying to impress? God, others or yourself? Since when has it become the role of the laity to design the Church’s liturgy? What other actions, postures, gestures and the like do we want to arbitrarily introduce in our communal worship – just because one or more of us in the congregation imagine it is meaningful or nice or holy or whatever? Of course, many of the clergy are themselves to blame for this anarchy, playing loose with the rubrics themselves – off the top of my head I could name a dozen silly and shallow practices which some priest or other decided would add to the “theatrics” of the Mass. These priests and their laity have forgotten that it is Christ Himself Who is offering the Mass, the eternal oblation of Himself to His Father for the atonement of our sins, and that our role in the proceedings is – rightly – very limited indeed. “I must decrease, that Christ may increase.” We sinners have nothing to offer to God except our thanks and contrite hearts. Almost all else is tomfoolery or distorted piety. Good on Bishop Foy. We need many more like him. And a lot less of arrogant Catholics (priests included) daring to publicly criticize a bishop of the Church for doing the right thing. Do these priests not understand that every Mass they celebrate, they do only on the bishop’s behalf?

  • Sonia

    Thank God for Bishop Foy. This is a good thing that he is speaking up about this, Our Church has been slowly crumbling throughout the years that I no longer recognize her as Catholic. Why aren’t more Bishops in line with Bishop Foy? Why aren’t they speaking up about all the liturgical abuses in the Novus Ordo? What saddens me deeply is that most Catholics, especially clergy, are blind to all of this and are completely okay with it all. God help us!

  • Larry

    If I were in this bishop’s diocese, his decree would be fine with me. Honestly though, none of these issues are points of consternation for me. Although I have my preferences (fairly traditional), unless it would directly conflict with the GIRM, I will accept whatever my bishop says and follow it faithfully. It is not my place to do otherwise.

  • Pam

    I am a convert to The Church. I cringe with the “peace be with you” Extending arms during Our Father was what my Priest in NC told us to do. Also, I am appalled with the “any visitors, birthdays, etc” at end of Mass

  • Evan Johnstone

    It is cringe-worthy to me too but now widely practised in a host of denominations and parishes.

    I still cringe at use of Overhead Projectors and Data Shows in church services of any kind. Ditto electric guitars, drum kits …

    God, I am conservative just like you!@

  • Toni

    Sally I totally agree with you. There is no reverence anymore. We are trying to teach the little ones in our family the way we were brought up. Its very hard to do when others aren’t teaching theirs. We tell the children our family what not to do and what we are supposed to do. I wished people would wake up. We are not protestant, we are Roman Catholic. Sometimes I feel people(not everyone) are trying to make our church more towards protestant. I don’t believe in talking bad about any other religion, but look what we have right in front of us, and some people want to just throw it away. God Bless.

  • Steve

    Are you kidding me? Let go of all this and spend some of this energy your wasting on finding ways to bring others to Christ. Ugh!

  • Joseph

    What bishop Roger Foyes says is an exaggeration

  • Mary

    I agree with this priest completely. Also, no Communion in the hand, kneel when receiving Our Lord in reverence and move the peace sign perhaps to the beginning or end of the Mass. We need more courageous priests!!!

  • Daniel

    I am very grateful that a Tridentine Mass is offered every Sunday nearby. Much of this post-Vatican II confusion is avoided.

  • PAL

    Holding hands is a Prod thing, not a Catholic thing.

  • tg

    In my parish, no one holds hands other than some families. Most extend their hands out like the priest. It used to really get on my nerves but I ignore it now and offer it up. I just fold my hands in prayer and bow my head. The deacon also folds his hands in prayer. I wish people would notice that if the deacon doesn’t extend his hands, they shouldn’t either. I agree with Nancy that the sign of peace should be at another point in the Mass. I think it should be near the end of the Mass, before the blessing.

  • Jayne

    Hang on folks, this could be reversed. Bishop Olmsted reversed his position on Holy Communion. From the Arizona Republic: Bishop Thomas J. Olmsted of Phoenix has backed away from his ban on using consecrated wine for Communion at most Masses, a decision that was originally met with widespread outcry.

    In an explanation of his decision in a letter to the priests of the diocese, Olmsted apologized for his own misunderstanding of church documents, including new guidelines and translations for the Catholic Mass, and for any confusion arising from his previous statement made at a priests’ meeting in September.

    Read more: http://www.azcentral.com/arizonarepublic/news/articles/2011/11/11/20111111phoenix-bishop-reverses-ruling-wine-communion.html#ixzz1fh87xom7

  • Joe P.

    What do you mean, you don’t know what to do with your hands at the Our Father if you don’t extend them or hold someone else’s hand? How about simply fold your hands in prayer? That’s what Christians have done for thousands of years.

  • Bill

    A noted Catholic sociologist once wrote: “…..I believe the present leadership in the church to be morally, intellectually, and religiously bankrupt”

  • Nette

    When I was into the occult and the new age movement some thirty years ago, my friend-occultist told me never to let anyone touch me at the top of my head, and never to accept a handshake ( or never to let anyone touch me at all). These two prohibitions for one important reason: the other person can transfer negative powers, hexes, spells, etc. Following this logic, if the person is possessed (as in many charismatic events where demons seem to attracted), some evil spirits in the possessed person can be transferred to you through touch. Sans paranoia, I’d like to ask, how can I be sure that in the long line of people holding hands, there is no one who is possessed? I don’t see anyone going to confession on Sunday Masses since there are no Confessions on Sunday (make an appointment on other days if you want to say your Confession), but there are so many people receiving Communion! In practice, at Mass I keep my hands together before my heart. I believe that when we keep our hands palms together next to the heart, we become more attuned to the Holy Spirit who dwells, speaks and listens to us in our hearts. (The body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, the heart Its tabernacle.) I also bow my head and close my eyes so as not to be distracted, but raise my head and open my eyes anytime I want. One important point, the holding hands is not a good reason to signify the unity of everyone at Mass. All living Catholics are called the Church Militant, truly united with the Church Suffering (Purgatory souls) and the Church Triumphant (those already in heaven). The outward sign of holding hands is a foolish substitute to true faith – knowing and believing in the unity of all Catholics, near or far, dead or alive, united by and in Jesus Christ.

    • Widdershins

      Nette, talk to your parish priest or consult church documents on possession. There has to be an act of invitation, first. Possession CANNOT happen by touching someone who is possessed. As Christians, an active Christian life with frequent reception of the sacraments protects us from evil. It is folly to think that the evil one is so powerful that he can possess the faithful without permission.

  • Bill

    Some of you folks must have a great cross to bear, having a lock on absolute truth.

  • S Bagley

    So, “No gesture is prescribed for the lay faithful in the Roman Missal; nor the General Instruction of the Roman Missal, therefore the extending or holding of hands by the faithful should not be performed.”

    I confess that, until I read this article, I didn’t know that the accepted rule for interpreting the words of the Roman Missal is that, unless the laity is explicitly directed to engage in some particular form of expression of devotion for our Lord or respect for our fellow congregants, then we are not permitted to engage in any such activity until we receive our next explicit advisory in the missal as to the form of our next outward physical movement in worship should be.

    I’m not sure whether Bishop Foys has been uniquely empowered to reach this bold and definitive conclusion through some divinely granted personal revelation to him, a scholarly analysis of tradition or, perhaps more likely, knowledge of some specific and well-established rule of interpretation in the rubrics unknown to most of us that have not had the benefit of his training in the Magisterium and canon law.

    It sure would give many of us more confidence to share with others throughout the country the contents of the directive of the Bishop of Covington on what to do, and what not to do, with our hands if he were to share with us the basis for his ruling and to share with us how many other Bishops, theologians, and canon lawyers with whom he consulted in reaching this important decision on what the laity, in at least a small part of Kentucky, should be doing during the mass that the editors of the Roman Missal neglected to specify.

    • JAndrion

      Totally agree with you!!!

    • JPatterson

      Amen! Thank You!

    • Rick Howard

      In the Evansville Indiana Diocese it was common practice to hold hands during the Our Father, about 10 years ago our then bishop said at the chrism mass one year that this gives a negative look in that we are excluding people and he suggested that we raise our hands like the clergy as a sign of respect. What I am seeing here though reminds me of what Jesus said about the Jewish leadership of the time, paying so much attention to what is written that you miss the point.

    • HereToday

      Seems like you must personally approve of your spiritual leaders’ instructions before you will obey them? This attitude runs dangerously close to the edge of rebellion. What if the minutia involved in the Bishop’s decision does NOT meet with your approval? Would you, then, go through his remaining instructions and toss out or revise them? The bishop is the top authority in his diocese, although he remains very human in many of his decisions. Be very careful of challenging his authority by challenging his instructions to the souls in his charge.

      If the externals connected with public worship were not controlled, then it would open game for any two or more people to bring in any invention of theirs that they thought would be a good idea or a nice thing to do, or add to the touchy-feely atmosphere. In our church we already have a deacon who gives a Public Service Announcement (PSAs) before the hand shaking business and an organist who gives instrumental solos (forbidden by Rome) during Holy Communion distribution. In San Antonio we heard an organist play gentle, soothing solo music during the middle of the Mass. The parish priest’s justification? It is “mood” music. I’ve heard the same thing in piano bars.

      It is good to remain a thinking person but to look for reasons to obey (even without understanding) rather than looking for reasons to not obey. Above all, avoid developing a “private” theology.

      May God find a way to get all of us into Heaven.

  • jeremyschwager

    This is a bold move, but much needed! Holding hands has become thoroughly institutionalized by now. I rarely go to a Mass where most of the people aren’t holding hands. I really hope other bishops follow Bishop Foy’s suit and make similar statements. But it is going to be a difficult sell to many priests and laity as they have been doing it for decades. Hand holding has never been an element of Catholic prayer or liturgy. I won’t hold hands at Mass, though I know people are annoyed at this sometimes. But I don’t really want to participate in a liturgical abuse.

  • James Lehar

    Jayne, If you study the message of Fatima you will see the bishop is far smarter than you and is little by little trying to accomplish what the Blessed Mother has warned against, altering the faith as taught by Jesus. Here is a start, they have much more to check out. http://fatima.org/

  • Nancy Rice

    I refuse to hold hands I keep them palms together and close to my body with my eyes closed. One thing I discovered is that if you smile while you are praying aloud, the words come out in a totally different and meaningful way. Try it! Also, I think the sign of peace should be moved to an earlier part of Holy Mass. As it is now, we have the God of the Universe present on the altar, and here we are focusing not on this holy and mystical Presence, but in addressing the people around us and it is disruptive and irreverent!

    • Fr. Jack

      God forbid you would actually be offering your hand to Christ standing right beside you. Lot of Pharisees on this site. I’m surprised. Guess they are unaware that there’ say new shepherd in town.

      • Bill Hoogsteden

        “Fr.”,

        I was at a relative’s funeral folding my hands during the Our Father and this “lady” next to me GRABS my hand and would not let go! I was almost in a fight to get her to let go of my hand! I can’t imagine the Lord being happy at that!!

        I think you may need to be checking you eye for a beam…

      • Stephen

        Wow, a bit judgemental! I personally prefer to direct my thoughts on praying as Jesus taught us, with my focus on the Father. Holding hands disturbs that focus. If some insist on hand-holding, so be it, but I agree that it should be discouraged. Definitely, it should never be instructed as “our parish tradition” as I’ve experienced in my own faith community. A pastor is abusing his authority in doing so.

  • Patricia Walsh

    Thank God for Bishops such as Bishop Foys, who is an extremely intelligent man! Mass is the continuation of Christ’s Sacrifice and Death on the Cross for our salvation. We are worshiping God and continuing Christ’s sacrifice as we offer Mass to the Father. By following the actual mandates from the Church regarding Mass, the people of God will once again come to understand what is going on at Mass. His letter calls for adherence to the protocols of Vatican II (which BTW in the USA were not followed). The 50 year period of liturgy according to your fancy at the moment has coincided with 50-70% of Catholics no longer believing in the true presence of Jesus Christ in the Blessed Sacrament, severe drops in attendance at Sunday mass, laity believing that they can do whatever they want regarding birth control, etc. I pray that with a renewal of the liturgy to the solemnity that is proper to it, so too will laity become again faithful to the actual teachings of the Church.

  • raymondscheel

    The only reason the habit ever took root was because of a significant number of rouge bishops who did specify holding hands during the Our Father even at parishes where that was not common practice. It is going to take some time to wean folks off of the habit now that it has been introduced by someone who the laity would think had the authority to approve or stipulate the practice.

  • TrueCatholic

    Jayne, On the contrary, he shows his intelligence by recognizing and promoting the Sacred Liturgy and the norms that help keep it sacred. And he has the backbone to stand up for it, another sign of his learning. And Vince, very good response.

  • Cathy Huppert

    I attend a Parish where this is never part of Mass. Reverence is key…we are not there for entertainment or a coffee clatch (you can hold hands and greet your fellow parishioners outside before or after Mass!!)…If I am visiting a Parish that does these things, I keep my hands folded, and my head down and PRAY…

  • James Lehat

    I forgot to mention, TO STOP THIS SACRILEGIOUS RECEIVING IN THE HAND STANDING, START RECEIVING ON THE TONGUE WHILE KNEELING AND REMEMBER, “Whosoever shall eat this bread, or drink the chalice of the Lord unworthily, shall be guilty of the Body and of the Blood of the Lord… For he that eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh judgment to himself, not discerning the Body of the Lord” – 1 Corinthians 11:27,28

    Please help remove the sorrows and pain our Lord suffers due to altering the liturgy of HIS MASS

    James Lehar.

  • Vince

    John, how is the use of extra ordinary ministers wrong? The abuse of them is wrong, of course, but that’s a separate issue.

    Jayne, gestures (as well as words) mean things. The “Our Father” is supposed to focus our attention on our Father, not on our neighbor. The proper time for that immediately follows at the sign of peace. Perhaps it is not incorrect to say that this symbolizes “God first, neighbor second”, which corresponds to the order of the twin commandments given by the Lord.

  • john

    When praying we are to emulate the Blessed Virgin Mary..hands close to the breast folded..head down eyes to the ground in humility.Remember we are sinful creatures in the presence of the Most Holy Creator.

  • john

    Good for the bishop..now can we please end the abuse of the Eucharist and get rid of the extra ordinary ministers of Holy Communion?

  • Sally

    Holding hands at the Our Father and shaking hands at the peace sign is not part of the Mass and we have refused to do it for quite some time. Thank you for this article. I am sick of the non-reverence at Mass with everyone looking around etc. and we go to daily Mass.

  • Nancy

    Evelyn, When I was a child I was taught to hold my hands close to my body in front of me, in prayer, with palms together and finger tips pointing to heaven.

    Wishing you many blessings

  • JMJ

    I agree with Lisa that it’s about time that somebody spoke about this. However, it is not enough that this matter is discussed in this type of venue. The Bishop(s) should make this clarification at the pulpit for every faithful to know and understand what the Church teaches and to settle this issue once and for all.

  • Evelyn

    Well we are not to extend our hands or hold hands but there is no instruction of what we are to do with out hands just what we are not to do.Actually the list of what not to do can be extended unlimitlessly and we still would not know what the proper gesture is. That specific information would be helpful.

  • Dave

    The Bishop is right on the mark… the Divine Liturgy is not a 60’s love-in!

  • Lisa

    About time somebody spoke up.

  • Jayne

    This may be one of the silliest things I have ever seen. Bishop Foy does not appear to be a smart person.

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