Since I've joined the Catholic Church I've had lots of people hugging me... Luckily, as an adult I've gotten better at hiding my nerves and disguising my fake hug and lack of hugging enthusiasm. More than that I feel close enough to the people in our little group at daily Mass that all the hugs during the Sign of Peace don't bother me (although I must say I spent the first half of Mass my first year in the Church dreading the hand holding swaying version of the Our Father followed by the huggy Sign of Peace on Sundays).
Hand holding pretty much falls into the same category as hugging people I only kind-of know. I'm just never going to be comfortable holding hands with someone that isn't part of my family! Maybe I'm just old fashioned (or incredibly shy) but after 27 years of being this way I doubt it will change!
Still I was downright enthusiastic when Father announced a few weeks ago that we would no longer be holding hands during the Our Father or hugging or even shaking hands during the Sign of Peace, because of the H1N1 outbreak (which a member of my family, who's identity I will protect, called Hini the other day, pronounced like "hi-knee"... it took us all a second to realize what she was talking about) I was mildly happy (okay, maybe it was more like giddy... I'm very nervous about the Swine Flu and about having a little one while this is going around, but if there is a rainbow to all this awfulness, it seemed to be that we wouldn't be holding hands during the Our Father!).
While I no longer dread that part of the Mass, I also wouldn't say that it's my favorite part. Some people might say that if you don't want to hold hands, don't do it, but there's a lot of pressure to hold hands (in the form of the person next to you pretty much grabbing your hand) and since it seems rather rude to yank your hand back, most people just stand there even if they have rather strong opinions on the matter.
Paul and I usually pass the baby back and forth throughout Mass and both of us usually aim to be the one holding her when everyone joins hands, because that person is clearly exempt from the hand holding. We thought the new H1N1 rules would change that. And it would have, if anyone followed them. People heeded them the week that Father announced them. The next week everyone was back to hand holding and hugging.
Today we were in a row with another couple who are very traditional. They don't hold hands either and it was so much more relaxing! It was easier for me to focus on the Mass. What can I say? I guess I'm enough of an introvert that even though I've gotten pretty used to the hand holding, it still causes me some stress!
I googled the issue of "holding hands during the Our Father today" and got some interesting results. Most of them concluded that there isn't anything actually wrong with holding hands. EWTN talked about it here and gave both sides of the argument and Aggie Catholics discussed it a while back and came to the conclusion that it's not important enough to fight over (I agree, I just wish it wasn't the habit in our parish!). Catholic Matters came to a very different conclusion. Oh well, I might as well put it out of my mind, it's not like it's going to change in our area anytime soon.
I feel silly that this bothers me so much, but it does!
p.s. I had to add some of the pictures I took last night! We have so many I'll probably be posting them for a while!