Skip to content
Catholic Online Logo

By Fr. James Farfaglia

10/25/2011 (2 years ago)

Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

No one has the authority to spontaneously introduce novelties within the Catholic liturgy. The process

No one has the authority to spontaneously introduce novelties within the Catholic liturgy. The process for introducing any new rite or gesture into the liturgy in a stable or even binding manner is already contemplated in liturgical law. In recent times, there has been much confusion regarding certain aspects of our hand gestures during the Catholic Mass.

Highlights

By Fr. James Farfaglia

Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

10/25/2011 (2 years ago)

Published in Living Faith

Keywords: Mass, Holy Mass, Liturgy, Catholic Liturgy, priest, GIRM, New Missal, Fr James Farfaglia


CORPUS CHRISTI, TX (Catholic Online) - The arrival of the new English translation of the Roman Missal provides an excellent opportunity to not only understand the changes that will take place, but to understand the Catholic Mass in and of itself.  This week, let us take a look at the bodily gestures that we use during our worship.

Bodily gestures in the Catholic liturgy are very important. Every time that we participate in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, our bodily gestures make up a very important part of our worship. Making the sign of the cross, genuflecting, sitting, standing, kneeling and the beating of our breast are all components and expressions of worship.

In recent times, there has been much confusion regarding certain aspects of our hand gestures during the Catholic Mass. I would like to address this confusion as we approach the implementation of the revisions to the Roman Missal..

There are three questions that are always being asked: 1) Is gesturing toward the priest with the hand while responding"And with your spirit" considered correct? 2) Should the congregation pray with hands held in the orans position during the Our Father? 3) Is holding hands as the congregation recites the Our Father correct or even appropriate?

At the present moment, it is true that there is not a single ruling on the subject of hand gestures, either from the Congregation of Divine Worship and Discipline of the Sacraments or from the U.S. Conference of Bishops. I believe that definitive norms on gesturing would provide clarity and uniformity. However, in the absence of such a norm, I would like to share my thoughts on the subject. 

Regarding the first question, as to a gesture on the part of the people towards the priest when the people respond "And with your spirit", my research on the subject reveals no historical basis for this gesture within the liturgical tradition of the Latin Rite of the Catholic Church. Nor is there any history of people gesturing with their hands during the beginning of the Preface or even the raising of hands during the recitation of "For the kingdom, the power and the glory are yours no and forever."

These hand gestures, which have become quite common in parishes throughout the country, are innovations that have been introduced.

Secondly, as to praying with hands held in the orans position during the Our Father, there is an historical precedent for this bodily gesture in Catholicism. Pope Benedict XVI, writing as Cardinal Josef Ratzinger, in his widely popular book, The Spirit of the Liturgy, provides a detailed discussion of this subject (203-204). That being said, it is also true that praying with folded hands has always been part of our Catholic tradition.

However, I would argue that praying with hands held in the orans position during the Lord's Prayer or at other moments in the liturgy by the congregation is an innovation that has been introduced and encouraged as a novelty.

No one has the authority to spontaneously introduce novelties within the Catholic liturgy.

The process for introducing any new rite or gesture into the liturgy in a stable or even binding manner is already contemplated in liturgical law. This process entails a two-thirds majority vote in the Conference of Bishops and the approval, or what is called the recognitio from the Holy See, before any change may take effect. Thus, if neither the U.S. Conference of Bishops nor the Holy See has seen fit to prescribe any posture for the recitation of the Our Father, it hardly permits any lesser authority to impose a novel gesture not required by liturgical law and expect the faithful to follow their decrees.

This is also true regarding the gesture of holding hands during the Our Father. There is nothing in our liturgical tradition that shows any history of the congregation holding hands during the Our Father either in the pew or crossing over to the other side of the church.  This too is an innovation that has been spontaneously introduced.

Regarding these innovative gestures and the silence on the part of the Holy See and the Bishops' Conference, it seems to me that there is a very clear answer on the subject. We need to keep in mind that the revised Roman Missal from Vatican II is not a departure from the Missal in use previously. The liturgical reform mandated by the Second Vatican Council organically flows from the Tridentine liturgy.

"In setting forth its instructions for the revision of the Order of Mass, the Second Vatican Council, using the same words as did St. Pius V in the Apostolic Constitution Quo primum, by which the Missal of Trent was promulgated in 1570, also ordered, among other things, that some rites be restored 'to the original norm of the holy Fathers'. From the fact that the same words are used it can be seen how both Roman Missals, although separated by four centuries, embrace one and the same tradition. Furthermore, if the inner elements of this tradition are reflected upon, it also becomes clear how outstandingly and felicitously the olderRoman Missal is brought to fulfillment in the new" (General Instruction on the Roman Missal, #6).

Therefore, since there is no evidence of innovative hand gestures in the Tridentine liturgy, there should be no innovative hand gestures in the Vatican II liturgy without a clear and precise decision from Church authority.

Thus, answering the three questions that have been raised regarding the use of certain hand gestures in the Catholic Mass, I would conclude the following: 1) The use of hand gestures towards the priest with the response "And with your spirit" is an innovation that has no place within the Catholic Mass; 2) The use of the orans, a hand position with an established historical precedent in Christian prayer, should not be introduced into the Catholic Mass until a definition has been given by the authority of the Church; 3) The gesture of holding hands during the Our Father has no historical tradition in the Catholic liturgy and should not be introduced into the Catholic Mass unless the competent ecclesial authorities were to decide the contrary.

In conclusion, regarding the use of bodily gestures within the Catholic Mass, it seems to me that there needs to be unity. The people become confused when one parish does one thing and down the road or in the next town, another parish is doing something entirely different. "Therefore no other person whatsoever, not even a priest, may add, remove, or change anything in the liturgy on their own authority" (Vatican II, Sacrosanctum Concilium, #22.3).

Father James Farfaglia is the pastor of Our Lady of Guadalupe Catholic Church in Corpus Christi, Texas. Visit Father James on the web at http://www.fatherjames.org and purchase his new book Get Serious! A Survival Guide for Serious Catholics.  Father has a hard hitting blog called Illegitimi non carborundum.  You can contact Father James at fjficthus@gmail.com.  Click here for the audio podcast of this homily which is posted every Sunday afternoon.


---


Pope Francis: end world hunger through 'Prayer and Action'


2014 - Distributed by THE NEWS CONSORTIUM

Pope Francis Prayer Intentions for September 2014
Mentally disabled:
That the mentally disabled may receive the love and help they need for a dignified life.
Service to the poor: That Christians, inspired by the Word of God, may serve the poor and suffering.



Comments


More Living Faith

Pope Francis at risk of an assassination attempt by Islamic State Watch

Image of There was an assassination attempt on Pope John Paul II in 1981 by Turk Mehmet Ali Agca. That Pope later forgave his attacker.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Pope Francis at risk of an assassination attempt by ISIL'Band of criminals' could have Pope Francis in its sights prior to his visits to Albania, TurkeyCatholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)Iraq's ambassador to the Holy See warns that there are credible threats against ... continue reading


Patriarchs ask faithful to help 'save Christianity in the Middle East' Watch

Image of Syriac Catholic Patriarch Ignace Joseph III Younan prayed during an ecumenical service in Washington last week.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Five Catholic and Orthodox patriarchs from the Middle East urged Westerners to take action to help ensure that Christians and other minorities can remain in the region. "Christians are not (just) looking for humanitarian aid. They are looking for humanitarian ... continue reading


With just six months to live, news anchorman finds comfort with God Watch

Image of Dave Benton announced on his Illinois show that he had only six months left to live after a long battle with brain cancer.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

An Illinois news anchorman with Champaign WCIA-TV shared heartbreaking news with his viewers on September 11, revealing that after a lengthy battle with cancer, he had only six months to live. LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - The 51-year-old anchorman, Dave ... continue reading


Did a Catholic Online candle contribute to a miracle? Here's a yes!

Image of Did a prayer candle have a role in a recent miracle?

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Catholic Online has received many comments thanking us for sharing the prayers of the faithful. Catholic Online has a vibrant prayer community and we are happy to report another miracle. LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - Mika T.* sent an email to Catholic Online ... continue reading


Pope Francis denounces ongoing global conflict as 'piecemeal' World War III Watch

Image of Pope Francis, who has often condemned the concept of war in God's name, said it would be legitimate for the international community to use force to stop

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

In his visit to the Redipuglia monument, the resting place of 1000,000 Italian soldiers killed during World War I, Pope Francis condemned ongoing conflicts across the globe. "Humanity needs to weep and this is the time to weep. Even today, after the second ... continue reading


Fr Peter M. J. Stravinskas on the Exaltation of the Holy Cross Watch

Image of Rev. Peter M. J. Stravinskas, Ph.D., S.T.D. is the Executive Director of the Catholic Education Foundation.

By Fr Peter M. J. Stravinskas,Ph.D., S.T.D.

Every cross borne by any believer in history gains meaning and becomes life-giving when it is brought into a relationship with the Cross, the Cross from which Jesus reigned as the King of Love and over which He triumphed in His glorious Resurrection.  The ... continue reading


Two U.S. priests appointed by Pope Francis to address clergy sexual abuse Watch

Image of Father Oliver had previously served as a judge and promoter of justice in Boston tribunals and as a consultant to the Boston archdiocesan review board.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Addressing the sexual abuse of minors by clergy within the Catholic Church, Pope Francis has appointed two U.S. priests to top positions at the Vatican. Father Robert W. Oliver, from Boston and Jesuit Father Robert J Geisinger, a member of the Chicago-Detroit ... continue reading


The truth about climate change

Image of Pope Benedict is known as the 'Green Pope' because of statements he has made on the environment. Pope Francis is also said to be working on an encyclical about the environment.

By Tony Magliano

"Can we remain indifferent before the problems associated with such realities as climate change .  loss of productivity in vast agricultural areas, the pollution of rivers and aquifers, the loss of biodiversity, the increase of natural catastrophes and the ... continue reading


Cardinal George compares forcing of sexual agenda to Sharia law Watch

Image of Cardinal George compared American culture and government to Sharia law in the way it treats mainstream Christians.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Cardinal George has criticized the imposition of a "public creed" to force acceptance of sexual depravity across the nation, enforced with the power of law. Cardinal George compared the forcing to Sharia law in some countries. LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - Head ... continue reading


Jesus Spent the Night In Prayer. Maybe We Should Follow His Example Watch

Image of Prayer is the most effective form of action for a Christian.

By Deacon Keith A Fournier

What jumped off the page as I proclaimed the Gospel is the importance and priority of prayer. Before Jesus made this historic and eternal decision he spent the entire night in prayer. I know that in His Sacred humanity he shows us the pattern for our own lives. ... continue reading


All Living Faith News

Newsletters

Newsletter Sign Up icon

Stay up to date with the latest news, information, and special offers

Daily Readings

Reading 1, First Corinthians 12:31--13:13
31 Set your mind on the higher gifts. And now I am ... Read More

Psalm, Psalms 33:2-3, 4-5, 12, 22
2 Give thanks to Yahweh on the lyre, play for him on ... Read More

Gospel, Luke 7:31-35
31 'What comparison, then, can I find for the people ... Read More

Saint of the Day

Saint of the Day for September 17th, 2014 Image

St. Robert Bellarmine
September 17: Born at Montepulciano, Italy, October 4, 1542, St. Robert ... Read More

Inform, Inspire & Ignite Logo

Find Catholic Online on Facebook and get updates right in your live feed.

Become a fan of Catholic Online on Facebook


Follow Catholic Online on Twitter and get News and Product updates.

Follow us on Twitter