Sunday, November 1, 2009

Holding Hands During the Our Father

I'm not a touchy feel-y person. When I was in high school my friends would make fun of what they called my "fake hug" because when people who I wasn't very, very close to hugged me I would do this uncomfortable, awkward, one arm pat on their backs that just screamed "please let go of me and stop touching me, now!" Of course I'm not this way around my family or close friends, but I guess I don't like to give out hugs quite as easily as many people do in our culture. What can I say, every time I take a personality test I get the "introvert" label (my whole Kersey Temperament score is always INTJ, or "rational") and apparently introverts and extroverts have totally different ideas of personal space.

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!


  1. Just do what I do, give the stare of don't touch me, or occupy your hands, it always works.

  2. Believe me, you're not the only one. Although this is not an issue in either of our parishes now (Thank God!), this issue has driven me crazy since I was a child at mass. I would ALWAYS, for as long as I can remember, leave the sanctuary to "go to the bathroom, Mom" right before the Our Father would begin so that I could avoid it. If I were to encounter the problem today I would rather appear rude than hold hands, but that's just me. I'd probably do something like clasp my hands together and put them under my chin and close my eyes before Father starts. My husband agrees with me on this one also. I think that if we were in your and Paul's situation, we would turn just a little bit sideways towards each other and grasp our own hands and the baby's.

    To some people it may just sound like a silly pet peeve, but to me, it represents so much more than that. And my own personality just won't abide it anyway. ;)

  3. Hi Joe,

    That sounds just like what my husband's answer would be. He usually sits on the end too, so there's no chance anyone will be grabbing his hand too, because I'm in the way! When we joined our parish people actually came up and asked me why he wouldn't hold hands (at RCIA). It's just crazy how expected it is, but I think I'm getting braver reading the responses!

    Hi Brooke-
    I like your idea too about turning towards each other a bit. Since Paul always sits on the end I may try harder again to make sure I'm holding the baby too! Then no one gets offended or stops me to ask why we don't hold hands (I wonder if being young makes people think that we should be okay with it or something... I'd think after three years they'd realize that we're pretty traditional and the holding hands and swaying is definitely not that!).

    I also don't like the singing part. In our parish it adds words (at the end) that aren't part of the prayer. I guess I'm a stickler for tradition! I keep telling myself that we're going to find a very traditional parish when we move for Paul's next grad school and then we won't have to worry about it!

  4. You know, I don't like holding hands for the Our Father either. Maybe it's because I grew up Lutheran and we didn't do it that way, or maybe it's because I'm an introvert like you, I don't know.

    But, I don't go out of my way to hold people's hands during the prayer. I generally clasp my own hands together in front of me. This normally works, and the fact that I generally don't sit right next to anyone unless that Mass is packed. So I only have to hold hands if I'm right next to someone and they put their hand out towards me. Then I feel obligated..

    So, I'm like you and prefer not to. Steve and I don't even hold hands during the prayer. We both just prefer not to.

    Shaking hands during the sign of Peace took some getting used to too, but I don't mind that as much because I'm not holding someone's hand for an extended period of time.

  5. Hi Allison-

    It's funny, I don't mind all the hugging nearly as much if we didn't have the hand holding in front of it!

  6. I was shocked by the handholding and the hugging when I went to mass for the first time. I was always so nervous leading up to the handholding that I couldn't pay attention to what was going on in the liturgy. All that nervousness would make my palms even sweatier and I would get even more uncomfortable. I've learned to put up with it, but it's great now that our parish has obeyed the h1n1 precautions two weeks in a row.
    It does make the sign of the peace a little awkward. Our priest suggested we bow to each other like Indian or Japanese people. :) It was a cute suggestion, but a little awkward. I just wave now.
    I have to admit, the swaying that you described during the Our Father is pretty out there. I thought our parish was modern, we don't have kneelers or altar servers, but we do speak the Our Father and we don't sway, thankfully.
    It's really ironic because, as a evangelical, I always felt like I was stereotyped as a touchy feely type of Christian, but I've found Catholics to be more huggy and touchy than evangelicals. I'm sure it depends on the churches you go to though.

  7. I usually attend the Tridentine Mass, so thankfully we don't have those issues. However, when we had to attend a Novus Ordo for some time, it was really very awkward during the sign of peace and we never held hands during the Our Father as our Novus Ordo parish was more conservative. If I do have to attend a Novus Ordo now a days, I find that if I keep my hands in the prayer position, nobody tries to take my hands. Actually, our priest at the time even mentioned that it was a gesture for the priest and not the people.

    And even during the sign of peace, I never turn around. I think a lot has to do with when I was growing up, if we ever turned around during Mass, even to look at the choir, we would get a swift tap on the back of the head! :)

    That's why I can appreciate the Latin Mass so much more, as it doesn't involve seemingly superficial and social gestures. :)
    Best wishes,

  8. Here (deep South) the hand-holding is widespread, but people often won't try to grab your hand unless it is clear you're open to it.

    Now, dh and I are rather middle-of-the-road, liturgically speaking; while I appreciate a beautiful Latin Mass, we aren't "traditional" in the accepted Catholic meaning. However, we do, I hope, have some common sense; it seems to me that all hand-holding and shaking of hands should be suspended during this very scary flu season. Our pastor (touch-feely type) has not done this (of course, he still calls up around the altar anyone who wishes - usually unruly children who wave, pick their noses, and show their panties...makes me want to scream!) They even try for an extra handshake, as the pastor and associate always ask people to say hello and introduce themselves at the start of Mass. It is very difficult to avoid the handshaking, though dh and I busy ourselves as best we can greeting and shaking hands with each other.

    I have come up with a solution to the health concerns, at least. CVS carries small bottles of hand sanitizers with little or no scent, and I surreptitiously pick up my purse, slide out the bottle, squirt a little in dh's hand, then in mine, replace the bottle and purse, all the while being as discreet as possible; I certainly don't want to insult the people we've shaken hands with, but dh has a compromised immune system due to medication, and sane is sane. (I was lucky to find the no-scent sanitizer; I had tried another one previously and it smelled as if we were concocting fruity alcoholic beverages during Mass!!!)

    I'm hoping the pastor soon comes to his senses, but it hasn't happened yet, vis a vis physical contact with H1N1 out there.

  9. It's nice to know I'm not alone in how I feel! In our parish not holding hands if abnormal.

    Hi April-

    I'm glad your parish is following the precautions (I wish the people at our did!)! Our pastor told us to bow a little too, but it was like everyone forgot after one week!

    Our parish has a guitar version of the Our Father. I've noticed our pastor doesn't sing it, but he's only been here a year so I think it might be something that, if he does disagree with it, he's decided not to make a big deal by stopping it.

    Hi Andrea-

    We went to our first Tridentine Mass a few weeks ago (the closest is about three hours away) and it was wonderful. My husband said afterwards that he loved how it felt like it was something sacred between the priest and God that we were witnessing! I hope that when we move for my husband's schooling our new home has a Latin Mass nearby!

    Hi dixieeagle-

    I've been carrying around a cotton scented foaming sanitizer that has a faint scent and I got a scentless one for my husband that he keeps in the car. Those things are great! My husband is actually working at CVS to pay the bills while he's in school, so that's where we do a lot of our shopping because of the discount. I hope your pastor comes to his senses too and the people in our parish decide to start listening to the instructions ours gave!

  10. Cam,

    My computer was messed up yesterday because I had wanted to comment about how I was shocked you didn't go to the Latin Mass. From everything you are about I thought for sure you did....makes me happy you are so orthodox attending the Novus Ordo. I was also going to ask how far north in California you were because I know our order of priests have an oratory in Oakland. Bummer you aren't closer to one, as your husband is going to be a canon lawyer I think you said, you would truly love it! Sorry for the long comment,
    sarah from st. louis

  11. Hi Sarah-

    We would love to go a Latin Mass, but the closest one is in Crescent City (right on the Oregon border by the coast) and we're about three hours away because of the winding roads (I just realized that you probably already read that here!). We finally got to go a few weeks ago and were thrilled! But I do love our parish here. It's like a family! However, I do think we'll be looking for a parish with a Latin Mass when he goes to his next school, wherever that will be!

    We're about four and a half hours north of Oakland, but my husband does commute into San Francisco every weekend for classes and he goes right by Oakland. What's the name of your order with their oratory in Oakland? My husband might be interested in stopping by if he had the chance!

  12. It is the Institute of Christ the King Sovereign Priest....They are WONDERFUL! I think they share the parish with english masses as well but the website is Good LUck!

  13. Thanks for the link Sarah! I'll definitely pass it on to Paul!

  14. Holding hands at church really irritates me. I don't like hand shaking for the sign of peace either. It just disrupts the prayerful atmosphere. I LOVE LOVE LOVE Traditional latin Mass and have started attending it most sundays. No nonsence there. Just God :-)

  15. Cam, I love this blog. Although I cover my head at Mass (only one), I don't feel convicted to cover all the time. I am buying one of the snoods because I just think they are pretty and practical.
    Like Andrea mentioned, I just keep my head bowed, eyes closed and hands folded in prayer. That gets me out of it of the whole hand holding thing. I am by nature a very affectionate person so it's not about being an introvert or "not touchy feely" for me. I just view it as a protestant affectation that came about in the 60's/70's and I don't like it.
    Just like that irritating custom of singing during communion. I mean, would it kill people to be silent for just a few minutes? It's so distracting when you are trying to pray after receiving with all that caterwauling going on. I don't care how beautiful the voices's distracting.
    If people are so infantile or aflicted with ADD that silence is intolerable, then I vote they hire a juggler to put up front and to the side to entertain them SILENTLY so the rest of us can pray in peace.
    Okay tirade over...why do they incite me to riot?
    God bless you and your family,


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