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.

Article 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 April 2014
Ecology and Justice:
That governments may foster the protection of creation and the just distribution of natural resources.
Hope for the Sick: That the Risen Lord may fill with hope the hearts of those who are being tested by pain and sickness.



Comments


More Living Faith

Pope Francis calls for your 'prayer and action' to end global hunger Watch

Image of

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Pope Francis helped launch a worldwide movement to end hunger through prayer and action. LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - Catholic Online with Your Catholic Voice Foundation is participating, along vwith Catholic Relief Services, Catholic Charities USA and the ... continue reading


TO THE ENDS OF THE EARTH: Pope Francis delivers powerful Easter message Watch

Image of Pope Francis enters with his candle symbolizing the light of Christ.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Pope Francis urged Catholics to share their faith "to the ends of the Earth" during a baptism ceremony at St. Peter's Basilica. The solemn ceremony reminds us that we are called to serve amid the joy of the resurrection. The most enduring call of Christ is for us to ... continue reading


Rome already crushed with pilgrims for historic canonization of Pope John Paul II and John XXIII Watch

Image of Hundreds of thousands packed into Rome for the beatification of Pope John Paul II. This time, the numbers will be far greater.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Rome is well-packed with throngs of pilgrims who have begun a week's long vigil awaiting the most historic canonization in world history. Next Sunday, Popes John Paul II and John XXIII will be canonized by Pope Emeritus Benedict and Pope Francis. ROME, ITALY (Catholic ... continue reading


BREAKING THE RULES or IS HE? Pope Francis washes women's feet and those of undetermined religion Watch

Image of This year, Francis arrived at a center for the disabled and elderly in Rome. Francis kneeled down, washed, dried and kissed the feet of a dozen people, some in wheelchairs, other with grossly swollen and disfigured feet.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Pope Francis has shown little regard for rules in regards to his papacy. The latest controversy now surrounds his washing the feet of 12 disabled and elderly people, some of who were women and non-Catholics. The pre-Easter ritual, Pope Francis is designed to show ... continue reading


'Priestly joy is a priceless treasure,' Pope Francis says Watch

Image of The pope, presiding over the first of two Holy Thursday liturgies, blessed the oils that will be used in the sacraments of baptism, confirmation, ordination and the anointing of the sick.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

If a priest wants to overcome moments of sadness, exhaustion and boredom, in addition to discovering his true identity, he must head for the exit sign, going outside himself to be with God and his people, Pope Francis said during the Chrism Mass at St. Peter's ... continue reading


Who's ready for the most historic canonization in modern history?

Image of

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Are you ready for the canonization of Pope John Paul II? Vatican officials are busy preparing for the historic canonization of Popes John Paul II and John XXIII. As they prepare, it's time for use to get ready as well. LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - on April 27, a ... continue reading


Pope Francis encourages people to kiss crucifix and recite simple prayer Watch

Image of

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Pope Francis is encouraging people this holy week to pick up a crucifix, kiss it and recite the simple prayer: "Thank you, Jesus. Thank you, Lord." He wishes to remind others that Christ's passion "isn't the happy ending of a beautiful fairytale, it isn't the ... continue reading


Pope Francis distributes Bibles, asks Catholics to perform acts of charity

Image of Bibles were handed out to all visitors regardless of their religious affiliation.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Pope Francis has given out tens of thousands of Bibles to people that he hopes they will keep and use daily. The gifts were distributed in St. Peter's Square following Mass. The gifts came with one string attached however, Pope Francis asked all people to perform an ... continue reading


Pope Francis' Wild Ride - Pope takes happy kids for a spin through St. Peter's Square Watch

Image of Pope Francis kisses Livio Bastianelli and Davide Maria goodbye after their lucky ride.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Pope Francis gave to kids the ride of a lifetime by inviting them for a spin in the Popemobile around St. Peter's Square. The gesture continues to cement Pope Francis as a man of the people who is most comfortable with the throngs of faithful who seek his wisdom and ... continue reading


Seminary is not for those who do not wish to 'get on with life,' Pope admonishes Watch

Image of

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

In addressing the Pontifical Leonine College of Anagni, the Pope did not mince words. Pope Francis was forthright in saying that the seminary is not a refuge for those who have "psychological problems" or lack the courage "to get on in life." LOS ANGELES, CA ... 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, Acts 3:1-10
1 Once, when Peter and John were going up to the ... Read More

Psalm, Psalms 105:1-2, 3-4, 6-7, 8-9
1 Alleluia! Give thanks to Yahweh, call on his name, ... Read More

Gospel, Luke 24:13-35
13 Now that very same day, two of them were on their ... Read More

Saint of the Day

Saint of the Day for April 23rd, 2014 Image

St. George
April 23: Pictures of St. George usually show him killing a dragon to ... 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