Friday, December 2, 2011

Idle hands

Twice today I was asked about the letter from Bishop Roger Foys of Covington, Ky. The bishop was setting forth some liturgical norms for his diocese and obviously, the letter went viral. For Catholic geeks anyway, it's viral.

The letter can be seen here.

Of the norms stated, this one has gotten some people's attention:
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.

The bishop is correct in stating that "neither the deacon nor the lay faithful are instructed" to extend their hands at the Our Father. This position is known as the "orans" position from the Latin word for "prayer".
An androgynous person does an orans position. More on this later.
People call it the GIRM but rarely get infected.
In 2004, when the General Instruction for the Roman Missal was corrected and published, some Dioceses instructed their people to do and not do certain things. There were some reiterations of the Vatican's statements in our Diocese but nothing formal. Here at St. John's, I instructed that hand-holding should not occur (but it does) and, at that time, there was some talk of everyone doing an "orans" position.

A bishop can put forth liturgical norms for his Diocese and good on Bishop Foys for his. But this isn't for everyone's Diocese! Our bishop hasn't said anything about hand positions so far. He's made some mandates concerning the ordinaries and the musical setting. He has been against people chewing gum or wearing short skirts while performing duties at the altar, I know. But nothing about hands.

Bottom line, there is nothing suggested one way or another about the lay faithful and what to do with your hands during the Our Father. Hand-holding is not prescribed because it symbolizes that the Our Father is a unifying moment when no such moment is celebrated in Catholic liturgy. Then there's the awkwardness of holding strangers hands and people who don't hold hands and people who have crushes on people after that unifying hand-holding. But it's your soul.

So, as far as it stands now, there is nothing about how to hold your hands during the Our Father. Just don't be mean or dramatic. And speaking of's more of the genderless character with a butt-cut:
Wave your hands in the air like you don't care. Why don't you care, Luke Skywalker haired creature?