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 August 2014
Refugees:
That refugees, forced by violence to abandon their homes, may find a generous welcome and the protection of their rights.
Oceania: That Christians in Oceania may joyfully announce the faith to all the people of that region.



Comments


More Living Faith

What Pope Francis said to make millions think again about abortion Watch

Image of On Saturday, August 16, 2014, during the apostolic visit to Korea, Pope Francis made a loud statement. However, he did not use words. He did not have to. His prophetic action brought to mind a saying attributed to his namesake, Francis of Asisi - I preach the Gospel at all times, but sometimes I use words.

By Deacon Keith A Fournier

When Francis began his service from the chair of Peter, much hoopla filled the media about some alleged softening in the opposition of the Catholic Church to what are dismissively referred to as complicated "moral issues" such as abortion. Sadly, even some in the ... continue reading


DEAR CATHOLIC ONLINE: Keep it free, keep it going

Image of Keep it free, keep it live.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Catholic Online is heavily invested in bringing you world class news delivered from the Catholic perspective. This service is provided for free and we intend for it to remain free for the foreseeable future. However, it comes at a cost and right now, we need each ... continue reading


You Go Into the Vineyard Too! Every Baptized Christian Has a Vocation and Mission Watch

Image of

By Deacon Keith A Fournier

The Church is a seed, sign and beginning of the kingdom, making the kingdom present in a world which is wounded by the effects of sin but waiting to be born anew. The Lord continues His work through us. We are the workers in His vineyard. It matters little what ... continue reading


Friendly overtures to Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR) met with mixed response Watch

Image of LCWR presidents welcome the approximately 750 members to the assembly.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

The Leadership Conference of Women Religious, or LCWR is comprised of Catholic women religious who are leaders of their orders in the United States. The group represents about 80 percent of the 51,600 women religious in the U.S. However, relations between the ... continue reading


POPE: 'It is legitimate to halt the unjust aggressor' Watch

Image of Pope Francis said that

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Answering a wide array of questions, which included the proper response to the persecution of Christians and other religious minorities by fundamentalists of the Islamic State in Iraq, Pope Francis said that "it is legitimate to halt the unjust aggressor." ... continue reading


POPE IN SOUTH KOREA: 'Peace is not simply the absence of war, but the work of justice' Watch

Image of Pope Francis told 200 South Korean government officials that the two Koreas, halved between North and South since the end of the Korean War in 1953,

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Pope Francis, in his first trip to Asia, addressed South Korean political and civic leaders and encouraged them to stay on a steady course towards social justice and democracy. "Peace is not simply the absence of war, but the work of justice," the Pope said in ... continue reading


Will Suffering, Struggle, Failure and Pain Make us Bitter or Better? Watch

Image of Because of his close communion with Jesus Christ, the Risen One who had called him in the desert, Paul cultivated an interior strength which made it possible for him to walk through the pain, to even embrace the pain, and to experience failure itself as a path to the Cross where he found comfort in the wounded side of Jesus the Savior.

By Deacon Keith A Fournier

St. Paul was an extraordinary man and an extraordinary Christian. An Apostle, raised up out of the ordinary course, he accomplished great things for the Lord as he eagerly responded to His calling to build the Church and, through her, to help change the world. A ... continue reading


The Assumption: The Virgin Mary goes before us in the Order of Grace Watch

Image of

By Deacon F. K. Bartels

What God has promised on the last day for those he loves, he has already accomplished in the Virgin Mary. Let us turn to Mary and love her as our spiritual Mother in the order of grace; let us open our hearts to her Immaculate Heart, that she may illuminate her ... continue reading


The Assumption or Dormition of the Mother of the Lord: What Does It Mean? Watch

Image of

By Deacon Keith A Fournier

This event is a part of the naturally supernatural  progression in the life of the Blessed Virgin of Nazareth. Her Yes, her Fiat of surrendered love, brought heaven to earth. This exercise of her human freedom, responding to the invitation of God, as sent through ... continue reading


Making bad situations worse in the Middle East

Image of Only by following the non-violent Christ can our world that seems so steeped in violence be converted.

By Tony Magliano

The heart wrenching tragedies throughout the Middle East are not the United States' fault, that is, at least not entirely. The fact that many Sunni Muslims and Shiite Muslims distrust each other, that the Allies established artificial national boundaries to suite their ... 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, Ezekiel 43:1-7
1 He took me to the gate, the one facing ... Read More

Psalm, Psalms 85:9-10, 11-12, 13-14
9 His saving help is near for those who fear him, his ... Read More

Gospel, Matthew 23:1-12
1 Then addressing the crowds and his disciples Jesus ... Read More

Saint of the Day

Saint of the Day for August 23rd, 2014 Image

St. Philip Benizi
August 23: Servite cardinal and preacher. Born in Florence, Italy, to a ... 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