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Life is tough. Nuns are tougher.

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Thy Will Be Done

We have not heard the last of comments on people holding hands during the "Our Father" at Mass. This reader sums up pretty much every one's thoughts, as least those who are bugged by the practice:

I'm very weary of many parishes allowing everyone to put their own spin on what they want to do at mass. If you follow the GIRM, you won't get lead into ya-ya land. I have often thought what a coup it was in Satan's cap to have everyone adding all their "feels good" hand holding and other nonsense during mass. The ONE prayer Jesus actually gave us to recite is now interupted with thoughts of whose hand you have to hold, how long, germs etc. when you should really have your mind focused on the words of the prayer. Just my thoughts...

I really can't see how a bunch of the faithful holding hands with each other while they say the prayer Jesus gave us to say is a feather in any one's cap, let alone Satan's. While I understand the slippery slope of looney music, Eucharistic poetry slams, girl altar servers, and wacky interpretive dance, I also believe that people are sensible enough to understand the difference between music you don't like and heavy death metal, Eucharistic poetry and the def poetry jam, girl altar servers and women priests and wacky interpretive dance and the Rockettes high kicking in skimpy costumes. We love the Rockettes. But not at Mass.

I can clear up some of the issues so that your thought will no longer be interrupted:

Whose hand do you have to hold? The hand of whichever brother or sister in Christ is next to you in the pew.

How long do I have to hold my brother's hand?
For the duration of a short prayer. Slightly longer if we're singing the prayer. Even longer if we are not singing a capella and we are accompanied by a pipe organ.

What if my brothers and sisters have germs?
Oh, they most certainly have germs. Jesus kissed lepers. He didn't worry much about the germs, apparently. I realize that we're not Christian Scientists, but if you are really that worried about germs, I think you might have some sort of other problem. Keep your hands away from your eyes and mouth and have a little faith.

Now you can focus.

I don't think Satan is too proud of his hat while the Body of Christ holds hands and prays together. I do think Satan might like his hat while the brothers and sisters are busy loathing touching each other for three minutes (tops) because everyone has cooties.

It's not in the GIRM (what an ironic acronym), so be it. But until the pastor shows up in baggy pants, starts the Mass with a rap and dances a tango with the girl altar servers, I will not raise a fuss. Until then, I pick my battles.

There are not supposed to be girl altar servers anywhere. I have voiced my objection wherever I have gone in the past. But girl altar servers are not going away. Now I spend my time making sure they are appropriately dressed for Mass, let alone to serve. It takes up more of my time than I would have imagined. If the Vatican hasn't dropped the anvil on this practice more strenuously than they have, clearly it's not a giant issue to them either. They wish you would stop having girl altar servers but they are not driving over or making a phone call or, from what I can tell, even writing a letter to stop the practice.

Does it bother me? Yes. Does it interrupt my thoughts during Mass? Not for a second, since it seems that the Church isn't letting it bother 'them'.

That's my last word on the subject, I think. If you want to go on being aggravated during the "Our Father" because you've noticed that your brethren are nail biters, I can't help you. I doubt the lepers had much in the way of fingernails.

Otherwise, if you think it is such a terrible, terrible liturgical abuse that all of us nuns, clergy and religious are overlooking, get it together and form a committee and go marching into the pastor's office and get something done. But I do hope everyone is being honest with themselves about why they don't want to hold hands and not just pinning their own discomfort on the liturgical abuse donkey. Because, frankly, why bring up germs and how for how many excruciating minutes you are going to hold someone's hand if the real problem is abuse?

Here's a question from a new reader:

Dear Sister, I'm new to the "Club" and wonder if I might ask a "how to" question? My daughter volunteers @ a Protestant school and wanted to know whether or not she should make the Sign of the Cross after closing prayer? She noticed that they don't. Told her to focus on the prayer (same God!) but would like to know the "Club" rules for the future. Thanks!

Welcome to the club! I didn't know it was a club. I haven't been in a club since I was the secretary of the Boy Savior Club in the second grade.

What club rules? Now I'm confused. Should your daughter make the sign of the cross when nobody else does? Sure. I say, go for it. They can't fire her, she's volunteering! Maybe someone will ask her about it and she'll have an opportunity to explain our lovely practice. Maybe they'll just ask her to stop. I don't see a down side. Poor little separated brethren.


RadioPie said...

If girls can't (or technically shouldn't) be alter servers, than what can they do to help out during/before/after/two days before etc. mass? Not even during mass - just help out the church? Other than uh...nunning...or whatever the present tense of that verb would be...

Anonymous said...

"Liturgical abuse donkey"..hysterical! You have such a way with words!
As for the sign of the cross, I think it's a great opportunity to explain that it is a way to remind us we are made in God's triune image. "In the name of the Father"-we touch our heads, our minds are in the image of the Father from Whom all things originate. "And of the Son"-we touch our chests, we are physically made in the image of Jesus, the Word made Flesh. "And of the Holy Spirit"-we touch our shoulders, our souls are made in image of the Holy Spirit which binds all together for our life and binds us to God. Of course, we only reflect God's image when we are loving each other as Jesus loved us. Not sure if that's what they teach in Catholic school (I never went) but it seems to make sense.
Just my thoughts!

Leigh said...

'Tis I who prompted this debate about hand holding at Mass on your blog, Sister... Amazing that you had to address the controversy on not one, but two posts. I had no idea that the issue was, well, such an issue. My conscience tells me the whole thing is just not that big of a deal but there are folks who go apoplectic at the mere mention of the hand holding gesture. Apparently, the stand-off between the hand-holders and the pew isolationists is more pronounced than I could have imagined. Thanks Sister MM for addressing the topic and for making us lay people laugh at our little dramas. My pastor will definitely receive the links to these posts!

Sarah - Kala said...

I should have shut my gob as well, but you know sometimes it's fun to complain . . . I tought I tried to be charitable (hold hands if you have to). There ARE bigger fish to fry I suppose. SMM, you and your way with words - thank you, for you are certainly a daily blessing to me (and my funny bone).

Anonymous said...

The sign of the cross and Protestant volunteering.
I was raised Lutheran and am now raising my four children Catholic. Needless to say they have frequented both churches. We have always gone with the 'when in Rome' approach. We don't genuflect, kneel or do the sign of the cross in my families church.

bearing said...

Sometimes making the sign of the cross can be very important.

Some dear friends of ours, whom we dine with frequently, are members of the LDS church (i.e. Mormons). We and they are all aware that their beliefs about the nature of God are drastically different from ours. In particular, they are not Trinitarians. When we dine at their house the father of the family offers the meal prayer to "Heavenly Father," and my family prays silently along -- but always adding the sign of the cross, because our family does not pray to "Heavenly Father" but to the Triune God. Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. We assent to all the words of their meal blessing, but we cannot assent to the Name of God that their family uses, and so we use the sign of the cross to direct our prayers to the Blessed Trinity.

Anonymous said...

I'm the one who left the comments that sister quoted. It seems to me that perhaps more is being read into what I said than I what I actually meant. Sister says "I do think Satan might like his hat while the brothers and sisters are busy loathing touching each other for three minutes (tops) because everyone has cooties." THIS was the point I attempted to make.It's never been an issue of "cooties" for me nor do I get feelings of loathing for my brother or sister in Christ. It's all been about adding to what we are told not too and Satan liking that. At my parish is started with hand holding. Then it was raised hand holding and now we've added swaying. Next thing you know we'll all be doing that old dance where you bump hips. When I pray the Our Father I just don't want to be distracted with silliness that isn't suppose to be there in the first place.

Anonymous said...

I didn't see a contact link (it could be the sleep deprivation), so I'm asking a question in the comments. What do you think about children at Mass? What noise level should others be expected to tolerate and when are parents supposed to get their kids out of Dodge? Our cry room can be likened to a toddler version of Lord of the Files, chaos reigning supreme. My three-year-old loves Mass (but only in the main sanctuary, not in the cry room), but my nine-month-old is a bit of a chatterer when I can't get him to sleep through the service. Thanks for listening!

Anonymous said...

Brynne, I'm no authority, but I do have 6 kids, so I have my own standards for when the monkeys should be dragged out. If a 9mo old is 'talking' I say let him talk, so long as he isn't shouting. If they slip off the kneeler and whack their chin (biting their tongue in the process) you have just enough time during the long silent inhale which preceeds the WWWWAAAAAAAAAIIIIILLLL to scoot out the back door. Our parish has a good speaker system which pipes to outside the front doors so you can still participate. Cry rooms are all awful. I think kids running up and down the aisles are more disruptive than those making vocal noises, but that's my personal preference. There will always be cranks who want you to take the kids for any noise.

Sarah - Kala said...

Parents: use your best judgement and remember all are welcome at Mass.

We all need to be a little more patient with one another.

Anonymous said...

anon...i "get" what you and others were trying to say...unfortunately your post was highlighted to show how uncharitable and petty we all must be to follow the *gasp* rules of the Mass... ;)

Sister, we agree on the altar girls...unfortunately they seem to be the only ones signing up to serve Mass around our parts...

Anonymous said...

My church has Saturday night Mass for those too lazy to get up Sunday and those who go drinking Saturday night. There is early Sunday Mass, otherwise known as dead man's Mass for those who like a quiet service. Then there is family Mass held late morning. This is my favorite as it is full of kids of all ages. It isn't quiet but it is always interesting!
Here is where I find Jesus. He is in the sleeping innocent faces. He is in the little arms hugging a parents neck. He is in the questioning eyes looking to the priest. He is in the patient parent whispering explainations to "whispered" questions.
Children are the life of the church. When they start screaming head out until they calm down. But chatter? How do we know a baby's chatter isn't him answering the angels?

Anonymous said...

Anonymous, Bless you! I can't count the number of times I've gotten dirty looks or angry comments from other parishioners, for having unquiet children at Mass; a few years back, I got yelled at just before everyone headed out to the buses ready to take us all to the March for Life.

Anonymous said...

As someone who was raised Catholic but then spent 30 years in the Protestant church, I would urge the Catholic Church to beware of these little "innovations" that get added to the liturgy or in prayer groups. I got so sick of all the profaning of sacred things, like for example, all the show business type worship, people bringing coffee and donuts into the liturgy, folks laughing and chattering in the communion line, etc. Things got so wacky that my Protestant-born and raised husband led our family (and me back to) the Catholic Church where we have been rejoicing ever since. Naturally, then, I pray that Holy Mother Church, in her wisdom and stability, will root out and rein in anything that detracts from the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.

And I leave it up to the Holy Father and the bishops to keep things orthodox. I am glad for the rules.

Anonymous said...

A reminder to any parent who feels stressed about bringing cranky, unruly or simply just not-ready-for-mass children: it's not required. The age of reason - 7 - is the magic number. And the vast majority of children are quite able to sit quietly well before that age. But don't guilt yourself about this if you'd rather not bring the over-tired one, the toddler who hasn't yet outgrown his refusal to sit for more than 5 minutes or the colicky infant who you just know will scream his head off.

St. Therese writes about how she was not brought to mass as a young child - she was considered too young. And her parents are about to start their journey toward canonization, so it must mean something!

Anonymous said...

Anonymous 7:14;
St Therese's childhood was before the age of First Communion was lowered, wasn't it? You're implying that it's acceptable for a child to skip Mass until he's 7 and preparing for his First Communion. The same priests that are pushing the cry room and nursery here are the ones who lament that the children don't magically have the habit of attending Mass with their families when they enter CCD.

But yeah, I agree, if a kids' parents are saints, he'll probably be okay skipping Mass until he's 7.

(tongue removed from cheek)

and I definitely agree that parents shouldn't feel guilty about leaving a 18-30 month-old child at home occasionally, but it's very important to attend Sunday Mass together as a family right from the start, rather than switching off Masses, one staying home, etc. It's easier to maintain a habit than it is to start one, especially in these families like mine where there's always a baby or two that doesn't behave perfectly. I'll tell you if this policy doesn't work out well later on, but so far, child #1 of 8 wants to be a Navy chaplain, and none of the rest ever complain about going to Mass past the age of 4.

Joan said...

You give me a good chuckle every day ! I honestly didn't know that girl altar servers were not allowed! My daughter was one for about 5 years, and my parish still uses them. Where is this information located? (The info about girl altar servers.)

Anonymous said...

Bring the little children! Thanks be to God for their sounds of life and love!! And any opportunity to practice charity is to be welcomed in my book.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous said..."My church has Saturday night Mass for those too lazy to get up Sunday and those who go drinking Saturday night. There is early Sunday Mass, otherwise known as dead man's Mass for those who like a quiet service."

Now that you have "found Jesus" I hope you will also find charity so you can stop judging the motives of others.

At my church there is a sound system way too powerful for the size of the church and if for some reason I have to attend 9:00 mass on Sunday morning I bring ear plugs to save my hearing from "the band" that performs there. They are not leading anybody in song; they are deafening.

The 11:00 mass is the one that parents bring the children whose hearing they hope to preserve.

I like the Saturday evening mass because it's at 5:00, when most children are eating their supper, and the singing is lead by a nice man with a guitar.

Sister, what is your objection to girl altar servers? If the church would allow married people (women and men) to be priests perhaps it wouldn't be a haven for homosexual pedophile predators.

Anonymous said...

Oh, Katy! Ow! Please re-read your own very apt comments on charity!

Whatever views anyone has on priestly celibacy or the ordination of women, the way your last sentence is phrased is likely to cause unnecessary and unhelpful pain -partly because it seems as though you meant to hurt. Perhaps you didn't, but it comes across as a zinger.

I think girls serving at the altar are a bishop-by-bishop choice. Some bishops specifically allow for it & others specifically allow parishes to respond according to their pastoral judgment.

Anonymous said...


My Mass of preference is the Saturday evening, and I don't drink. At all. This Mass is generally less crowded and is also quieter, allowing me to pray better and concentrate on the miracle taking place. I'm up for Mass five, sometimes six, other mornings every week, usually between 6 and 6:30. That's a.m. So how do I fit into your neatly defined categories? Am I lazy, drunk, or dead?

Sarah - Kala said...

It is my understanding that girls were allowed to alter serve since 1997. I have a daughter who does not alter serve because I don't think it serves a purpose since girls can never be priests. However, I am not judging those families who allow their girls to serve, nor the girl, nor the church for allowing it. I do see the logic in it just being a ministry for boys, though.

Be careful, Katy, you opened a can of worms. Let's educate Katy compassionately folks.

Ave Maria!

IRISH said...

Does the word Charity mean anything to you?
I go to Saturday Mass because it is quieter and less crowded and more supportive of my prayer life. I dont drink either.
The "pedophile predators" were NOT homosexuals.
You in fact sound rather homophobic. You have issues with that? Get help.

Joyful Catholic said...

I'm not one to hold hands during the our Father. GASP! I don't like it "for me" but that doesn't mean I loathe my brother or sister in Christ. I think it's rude of my bros and sisses in Christ to "loathe" me for not wanting to reach out and touch somebody's hand at Mass. Hey, I'm not Diana Ross, I'll admit it, but I do love my neighbor. I'm not going to raise a stink about it here or anywhere else, but I prefer to hold my own hands during the Our Father. I'll gladly help the poor and reach out to the needy without having to feel pressured to hold the little booger eather's hand next to me or be frowned at or looked at quizzically for being too "stuck up" to hold someone's hand. I'm not "too good" to hold that hand, just don't want to, that's all. Holding hands to me is a rather intimate gesture and I'm just not comfortable with doing it with strangers. Am I now a "bad Catholic?" Handholders, knock yerselves out and hold hands until the 2nd coming, but don't give me a scowl for NOT wanting to grab yer perty paws, Okey dokey? It's not so much germs for me as the plain distraction. That's what the sign of peace is for, isn't it? To 'reach out and shake the hand of one's bro or sis in Christ? Can we all just get along? Oh is it? Yes, I feel a Kumbaya growing ou there, yes...I feel a Kumbaya chorus and ain't it grand?

Anonymous said...

I have an off-topic question. I'm in RCIA and I need to choose a confirmation name soon. How do I choose? Can I only choose a saint? Do I need to have a special devotion to the saint, or can I just choose one whose life mirrors mine a bit? Or one who has a name that I like? I'm probably making this into a bigger deal than it is, but when else do you get to pick a name for yourself? And I'm just curious - what was your confirmation name?

Anonymous said...

The Vatican has left the altar (folks, not the alter) boys/girls decision up to the individual bishops. It is perfectly appropriate, depending on the diocese, to have altar girls.

For the poster who would not let his/her daughter serve as a server because she could not become a priest, would you also not permit her to bring up the gifts to the altar in the offertory?

Long gone are the days when the altar servers had "tonsure," or were considered "semi-clerics," or had some form of minor clerical status. They serve the community well in their service today, and people should be grateful that any youngsters are interested in this kind of service to the church, male or female.

Anonymous said...

In my parish, handholding has become a rubric (tho kneeling at the consecration is apparently not.) Standing together and praying OUR Father is the Church's profound sign of unity. Handholding is a relatively trite sign by comparison. But since the handholding has started, the profound sign has been all but forgotten and I have been accused more than once of not being "in community", to many the most unforgivable sin. I fold my hands in prayer but ocasionally someone will grab my hands or slap my arm (truly) to get my attention. I respond by taking their hand and even giving the little squeeze at the end. We don't have to loathe our brothers and sisters to love the instructions of our Mother the Church. Terentia

Anonymous said...

Well, well what a little time away from here will cost me. I wrote on the Saturday night drinkers. Not everybody is there for that reason, but in a small town you can follow the procession of cars out of the church parking lot and right to the bars. My last church was in walking distance to the bars, many left the bar, walked to church then walked back to the bar!! No need for a DD.
Then Katy dear, you made my point when you said you choose a mass time for the purpose of avoiding children!!!! Annoyed, same thing, you choose a mass time to avoid noise, and noise and children go together!!!
Like the other anon. said children are the sounds of life and love.
Since you both have the need for quiet then we don't have to worry about you giving some hard working parents, trying to bring their children up in the Lord, any diry looks then do we?

Connie's Daughter said...

Here's what our family does. We implemented a hands clasped together prayer posture (with fingers pointed to heaven!) years before joining a parish that holds hands during the Our Father. I appreciate your relaxed attitude, Sister, but I thought I'd mention that an advantage of keeping one's hands clasped in prayer is that the attention can then be on God, and not on how tightly your kid brother is squeezing your hand and other such shenanigans. Because others see us pray this way at every Mass, I seriously doubt anyone is offended that we don't hold hands with them. We try to keep this prayer posture throughout all the prayers of the Mass. It works for us and has given me much peace during the liturgy.
Sorry that I posted this under another comment section; I meant to post it here.

Anonymous said...

Sorry Irish, the Vatican's own study showed that 81% of the "child abuse" cases were instances of homosexual predator priests seducing teen and pre-teen boys.

In the old days young men were promptly booted out of the Seminary if they were suspected of being homosexual. All this changed after Vatican II. In the 1970's and '80's, when it became evident that homosexual predator priests were on the prowl, the Liberal Bishops didn't want to get rid of them.

In restrospect the Boy Scouts showed much more wisdom than the Catholic Bishops in preventing the desecration of their organization by horny homosexuals.

Anonymous said...

Sister, I am sorry to tell you that holding hands is, according to vatican documents that I can sow you, a liturgical abuse.

Anonymous said...

Sister, in your post you mention that the church has not sent out letters about the Sign of peace, but that's not correct because in the recent Redemptionis Sacramentum it clearly states that "It is, however, appropriate that each person offer the sign of peace only those who are nearest and in a sober manner.” and later that the priest is instructed to remain in the sanctuary.

I think it boils down to don't leave your seat, cross the isle or jump pews to do, just those next to you, I don't have any axe to grind, if fact I once saw a sign of peace that was truly wonderful but that's another story. Just though I'd add my 2c to the debate.

Dymphna said...

Well I'll be honest and I won't whine about charity.. I go to the 5 PM vigil Mass because I am lazy. I hate getting up early and I don't dare go to the later in the day Masses because they are : the dreaded family Mass--screaming kids, flying cheerios and squished vienna sausages, the contemporary Mass-- an old goat on a guitar and goofy music, the Spanish Mass-- fine in a pinch and I find that they actually seem to be more serious about Mass than the white Americans.

Anonymous said...

SMM, I'm happy to read that there is no shortage of opinions out there. What a great vehicle for sharing thoughts and information. I drop in anytime I'm looking for a catholic discussion group...
Have a great day, everyone!
Barbara from Indiana

Anonymous said...

I never give a family struggling with little ones during Mass a dirty look. I raised 5 of my own. I know the ropes. I just don't need to deal with that anymore, so why would I subject myself to that distraction? I have a hard enough time keeping myself on task when it's quiet!

xXincinerateXx said...

May I have permission to use the picture of the two people dancing?