“Ask a Priest: Why Is Hand-holding at the Our Father Discouraged?”

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Q: We have a new pastor a new (very young) priest at our parish. They have told us that it is not proper to hold hands during the Our Father. They highly discourage us doing so even with our families. Our former priests approached this differently, saying that it would not be proper for the celebrant to direct the congregation to hold hands, but if we did so in prayer it was not wrong. Is it OK to hold hands during other prayers? Can you help me with an answer to share with my family and the Catholic groups I pray with? Thank you so much! -S.

Answered by Fr. Edward McIlmail, LC

A: Your priests are just trying to follow the rubrics of the missal. The holding of hands is not called for at that moment. In that sense you are lucky to have priests who want to celebrate Mass as the Church intends.

More often, the opposite happens: People feel pressured to hold hands because “everyone else is doing it.” That isn’t good, either. The sign of peace is a particular moment in the Mass when physical contact (such as handshakes) is appropriate.

Another issue is how far priests should go to squelch the practice of people holding hands at the Our Father. This is a matter of pastoral prudence, and normally I won’t try to double-guess someone who is on the ground and knows the situation better than yours truly. My own preference would be to go along with the former priests who didn’t force the practice on the congregation but who didn’t say that such contact (especially among family members) is wrong.

Here you could ask yourself what would best build unity within the parish right now. Perhaps you could ask your priests about the issue. That you have two priests is a blessing in itself; lots of parishes no longer have a resident priest.

(For more reading on the subject, see my colleague Father Edward McNamara’s Q&A.) I hope this helps.

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