To Hold, or Not To Hold

I usually do not write about conversations I get involved with on other weblogs, but I stumbled into one over at Amy Welborn’s open book. The original post was about the minor changes in posture during the Liturgy. The comments naturally gravitated to how different parishes have or have not implemented the changes.

One touchy area (sorry, pun intended) has always been whether a congregation holds hands during the Our Father. The new changes do not address this issue. Some parishes hold hands, others do not. It does not exactly make one way right and the other wrong. It is the preference of that community. I can accept that, whatever it may be.

Thanks to a link left by Henry
, the “official” position on this practice during worship is not in the rubrics. It is a “spontaneous” practice that probably should be discouraged because it interrupts the flow of the Liturgy:

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.

I understand the inappropriateness of the timing of the gesture of holding hands, but am I conflicted over this issue. For me, it is one of those issues where the rule seems to conflict a little bit with the intent of the rule.

I remember the first Mass I went to at the small catholic high school where I teach. I was a newcomer, not sure exactly where I fit within the community. Holding hands during the Our Father gave me a tactile and non-verbal sign of acceptance. I felt included. (It also happens to take us a full two minutes to get through the Sign of Peace.) At our school Masses, we first and foremost worship Jesus only, but it is also an opportunity to celebrate our Christian community. Holding hands is one of the ways that reminds us of that fact.

On the rare occasion when I visit another church, I honestly feel welcome and included when a stranger, a fellow Christian, reaches a hand out to mine for prayer (regardless of denomination). I know that Holy Communion does the same thing, but there is something about the physical touch. Holding hands touches us on a deeper level than just shaking hands. I bet there are single people all over the country, old and young alike, that holding hands during the Our Father is the longest moment of physical contact with another human being that they have next to a hand shake.

I love the Liturgy. It affects the whole person—mind, body, and spirit. The psalms and songs affect the right/artistic side of the brain. The scripture readings and the homily affect the left/analytical side of the brain. Both affect the emotions. Holy Communion is for the whole person and the whole community. The Bread, the Wine, and the holding/shaking hands affect the whole person. When the Liturgy is over, I feel whole, refreshed, and rejuvenated for the next leg of my journey.

I am surprised at myself for defending this practice. I have over-analyzed this issue. I respect the feelings of others not wanting to hold hands. I do not want to distract from someone else

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