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Gestures During Mass

The celebration of the Holy Mass involves all of our senses in our worship. As Catholics, physical postures and gestures have always been an important part of worship. Our actions reinforce the words we speak and the attitudes behind our worship. But which gestures are appropriate in the context of the Mass? In recent years American Catholics have seen a dramatic rise in the use of innovative gestures used by the laity in the Mass. But innovation in the Mass is NOT a good thing. That’s why the Church prescribes rubrics for our participation in the Mass.

My wife and I have received “dirty looks” from others in Mass when we don’t hold their hands during the recitation of the Our Father. Some people will simply grab your hand and attempt to force this participation if you don’t respond to their offer to join hands. Obviously this can be an awkward moment. Some folks seem insulted that you don’t want to hold their hands. My wife and I don’t even hold each other’s hands at this point in the Mass, we simply fold our hands and pray. Why? It’s simple, holding hands during the Our Father isn’t an approved gesture for the Mass.


  1. Max
    March 19, 2013 at 9:28 am

    Exactly how much time did it require you to create Roman Blinds “Gestures During Mass | I, Witness”?
    It also has quite a lot of high-quality advice. Thx ,Domenic

    • March 20, 2013 at 4:35 pm

      Well, I am glad you liked the article and I hope that you found it helpful. Actually, this is information every practicing Catholic should know well. However, the fact that it is not just underscores the lack of quality catechesis since Vatican II.

      Vatican II was all about “participation.” The Mass was changed to facilitate participation since it was felt that most Catholics did not understand the Tridentine Mass well enough to participate fully in it. However, how can people participate in something they don’t understand and don’t know what’s expected of them? Most Catholics do not understand the Mass or know what’s coming next. They just blindly follow what’s going on around them. The gestures used in the Mass are an official part of the Mass. How can anyone fully participate if they don’t know or understand them?

  2. Karen S.
    May 30, 2013 at 8:30 am

    I am uncomfortable with extending hands toward the priest (“and with your spirit”). My understanding is that he is acting ‘in persona Christi’ when HE extends hands, so for us to mimic it is inappropriate. Can you give me a solid place in CCC, etc. that addresses this? Please send privately…

    • May 30, 2013 at 11:18 am

      Hi Karen, For the sake of any others who may be wondering the same thing, I’ll provide the “short version” here. The rules for the way the Mass is conducted are not detailed in the CCC. The Catechism is a statement of the beliefs of the Church. The rules are known as “rubrics” and these were detailed in a document known as the General Instruction of the Roman Missal (GIRM) which could be found on the USCCB website. However, with the Novus Ordo Mass the thinking seems to be not to give too much instruction (sounds like Catholic Catechism to me). The general rule of thumb was, if the rubrics don’t say to do it, then don’t do it. But that was pretty much ignored and never corrected. These blog entries were written before the changes to the Mass that went into effect in Advent of 2011. At that time the GIRM included details on each section of the Mass. With the latest Mass upgrade (I think this one is Novus Ordo 5.2, but don’t quote me on that), the new version of the GIRM on the Bishop’s website contains virtually no details on anything. It just has some very vague general statements summarizing the major divisions of the Mass. You can find that HERE.

      So I guess in the final analysis all that can be said is that the Novus Ordo Mass, at least as practiced in the United States, is pretty much a “free-for-all” affair and the only rule is that if it feels good then do it. It seems to me that the only difference these days between Sunday Mass and professional wrestling is that professional wrestling has referees to enforce the non-existent rules.

      Sorry, but at least Jesus seems to have expected it (Luke 18:8).

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