Did you know it is illicit to hold hands during the "Our Father"? - common liturgical abuses

Most priests face the temptation to add or remove from the liturgy of the Church. To alter it’s rubrics or to totally ignore some parts they consider unnecessary. This is what “Liturgical Abuse” is. When the priest treats the Mass as an entertainment or something casual, the entire meaning of the Mass is altered and people are seriously scandalized by this.

“(not all of the changes in the liturgy) have always and everywhere been accompanied by the necessary explanation and catechesis; as a result, in some cases there has been a misunderstanding of the very nature of the liturgy, leading to abuses, polarization, and sometimes even grave scandal.” – Pope St John Paul II

Holding hands during the Our Father:

This is widespread in some countries. For some reason the priest asks people to hold hands during the Our Father at mass. When looked in itself it seems harmless, however it is an illicit addition to the liturgy. The official publication of the Sacred Congregation for the Sacrament sand Divine Worship, Notitiae (11 [1975] 226), says the practice

“must be repudiated . . . it is a liturgical gesture introduced spontaneously but on a personal initiative; it is not in the rubrics.” And anything not in the rubrics is unlawful, again because “no other person . . . may add . . . anything [to] the liturgy on his own authority” (ibid).

It goes further to name a number of known variations; the priest may never invite the congregation to circle around the altar or hold hands during Consecration. The prescribed positions for each person must be maintained: He is to be in the sanctuary while the lay faithful stay outside, in the pews.

Disregarding the prescribed text of the Order of Mass.

This is probably the most common of the liturgical abuses. A priest is never meant to deviate from prescribed, official Order of Mass. I sometimes wonder, what more could you be adding to the texts? Those prayers and rubrics are so rich, so meaningful, so powerful.

In some places, you hear priests, or readers change or ignore the male references to God in readings or prayers, or using unapproved or inaccurate translations of Scripture at Mass. Or changing words like “that my sacrifice and yours”, to “our sacrifice”, or sometimes saying prayers aloud that are meant to be said quietly when the priest is preparing the gifts for consecration. Some priests also invite the congregation to join in prayers meant for the priest alone.

A priest may not choose to remove or change the penitential rites. There are quite a number of variations he can follow, but they must be according to prescription. He also cannot give general absolution to replace individual confession and reconciliation. During the “Sign of Peace” which BTW is optional, a priest may not go to exchange greetings with the congregation. He is to stay in the sanctuary.

I have actually witnessed a priest changing the “Gloria”, exchanging it with a simpler and shorter version that the congregation seemed to have already memorized. However, this is wrong. The General Instruction of the Roman Missal (GIRM) says:

The Gloria is a very ancient and venerable hymn in which the Church, gathered together in the Holy Spirit, glorifies and entreats God the Father and the Lamb. The text of this hymn may not be replaced by any other text. The Gloria is intoned by the priest or, if appropriate, by a cantor or by the choir; but it is sung either by everyone together, or by the people alternately with the choir, or by the choir alone. If not sung, it is to be recited either by all together or by two parts of the congregation responding one to the other. – 53.

In some cases you find a priest wearing blue during Marian feasts or using non-prescribed bread during children’s mass.

These are all unlawful and offends God and his Church. Such deviations also deprive the faithful of authentic liturgical experience.

“Regulation of the sacred liturgy depends solely on the authority of the Church, that is, on the Apostolic See and, as laws may determine, on the bishop. Therefore no other person, even if he be a priest, may add, remove, or change anything in the liturgy on his own authority” – Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, 22.

Interrupting the Mass

No one has the right to interrupt the Mass: not the priest, nor the faithful. It is permitted for the priest or the catechist, lector to make general announcements before dismissal of Mass. But no priest may stop the mass for any activities, plays or entertainment, “liturgical dance (BTW, the word “liturgical” doesn’t magically legalize anything illicit), give financial reports or host some launching for funds.

“In addition, pastors shall not neglect to ensure prudently and charitably that in the liturgical services and more especially in the celebration of Mass and the administration of the sacraments and sacramentals the equality of the faithful is clearly apparent and that any suggestion of moneymaking is avoided” – Inter Oecumenici, Sacred Congregation of Rites, 35.

Omitting the homily

Whilst the priest may choose to omit the homily on weekdays. He is required to give homilies on holy days and every Sunday. He is also required to give the homily from the sanctuary.

“There is to be a homily on Sundays and holy days of obligation at all Masses that are celebrated with the participation of a congregation; it may not be omitted without a serious reason. It is recommended on other days, especially on the weekdays of Advent, Lent, and the Easter Season, as well as on other festive days and occasions when the people come to church in greater numbers” GIRM 66

No one who isn’t a deacon, priest or bishop may give the homily unless from such a group that has obtained dispensation to speak.

Enforcing certain postures or behavior:

There are parishes where the pews are built without kneelers to discourage people from kneeling during mass. In some cases, the ushers actually tell people to stand when they’re trying to kneel. Kneeling down is an honor to Christ who is really present at Mass. No priest or usher has the right to mandate your posture, only the Church can. Everyone at mass should be uniform in sitting, standing, kneeling. Unless one is ill, participating at mass means joining with the congregation in prescribed prayers, gestures and postures. Faith should be held in the heart and also expressed outwardly: joining the Church means expressing this faith and everyone has the right to do this. You are required to bow at the words “by the power of the Holy Spirit” during the creed, you are required to genuflect when you’re passing the Eucharist or enter a Church where Jesus is present. And the parish isn’t allowed to hide the Eucharist, but it should:

“placed in a part of the church that is prominent, conspicuous, beautifully decorated, and suitable for prayer” (CIC 938).

Receiving the Eucharist:

No one is permitted to change the manner of reception of the Eucharist. There are some countries where the Eucharist may be received by hand. Even though this practiced is frowned upon, and rightly so, it is allowed in some countries. However, universal Church law does not permit this. Also, in those countries, people also have the right to choose to receive in the mouth. The chalice may not be left for people to pick up and drink from nor are they allowed to dip the host into the chalice. The priest must distribute both the body and blood of Christ. Each person receives the chalice from the priest and drinks, or just receives only the host.

The priest may not sit and allow even the Eucharistic ministers to distribute communion as a routine.

“But these encouraging and positive aspects cannot suppress concern at the varied and frequent abuses being reported from different parts of the Catholic world: the confusion of roles, especially regarding the priestly ministry and the role of the laity (indiscriminate shared recitation of the Eucharistic Prayer, homilies given by lay people, lay people distributing Communion while the priests refrain from doing so); an increasing loss of the sense of the sacred (abandonment of liturgical vestments, the Eucharist celebrated outside church without real need, lack of reverence and respect for the Blessed Sacrament, etc.); misunderstanding of the ecclesial character of the Liturgy (the use of private texts, the proliferation of unapproved Eucharistic Prayers, the manipulation of the liturgical texts for social and political ends) . In these cases we are face to face with a real falsification of the Catholic Liturgy: “One who offers worship to God on the Church’s behalf in a way contrary to that which is laid down by the Church with God-given authority and which is customary in the Church is guilty of falsification.” – INAESTIMABILE DONUM[7]

If you have more examples, add them in the comment section. What is happening in your local community? If you witness abuse, report to your local bishop or his office. It is our work: lay people and ordained ministers to keep the liturgy pure.


  • Catherine Paterson says:

    I attend St Anthony’s Church in Noble Park. 3174. I have known for some time that the parish priest ( fr. Brian), has continually been adding and removing parts of the mass to add things like, : children’s liturgy, baptisms during the mass, notifications, school fete notifications, extra collections for certain charities and that’s just to name a few! There are constant interruptions during the mass, to the extent that when the mass is over, I feel very dissatisfied, as I haven’t been able to concentrate on the actual mass at all. Also, the irreverence is disgraceful! People talk loudly when they enter the church just before mass starts, as if it’s a social gathering. Fr. Brian also invites parishioners to hand out communion, and also to read parts of the mass that have always been done by the priest in the past. I really feel my parish of St Anthony’s Noble Park is in deep trouble and it needs somebody to look into what is going on there.

    • Mike Uwa says:

      It is our duty to look out for other people who are even unaware of the danger of such abuses by reporting such conduct to the local bishop. Since God has shown you the horror of this, maybe consider taking it upon yourself to at least make a formal report to your bishop or his office. Maybe even online, you could find a phone number or an email to report to.

      God bless you.

    • Ethelyn says:

      I’ve been traveling a lot lately and all the Catholic churches I went to when they say peace be with you all the position is raise a hand and say and also with you. And when saying the Our Father we put our hands up in Praise of God is that what you are talking about.

      I don’t know what church you’re going to but all the churches up and going to have been doing that for years.

  • Linda Novak says:

    I notice quite a lot of people in our Church holding up their hands in the ‘Orans Posture’. Do I approach them privately, or should I speak to our priest about it? Perhaps, he could mention it during the homily.

    • Mike Uwa says:

      Yes, you should speak to the priest nicely. Approaching individuals might not really get the message across. But if the priest can announce it from the pulpit, it’ll definitely have more weight.

    • Ethelyn says:

      I’ve been traveling a lot lately and all the Catholic churches I went to when they say peace be with you all the position is raise a hand and say and also with you. And when saying the Our Father we put our hands up in Praise of God is that what you are talking about.

    • Teresa says:

      The same happens in our church. It’s actually very common place now.

  • Fredrerick Png says:

    Holding hands during the Lord’s prayer should be allowed simply because we pray as one united church invoking God as ‘Our Father” and joining together as one universal people of God. There has to be solidarity when we are gathered together as one universal and Catholic church for the glory of God. Amen.

    • Mike Uwa says:

      Once you gather in the Church, you are already united. When you sing, and pray, and lift your heart, you are already united with the local and Universal Church (including Angels, Saints and those in Purgatory). There’s really no real need for holding hands. Not that it is bad in itself, it is only illicit because it is a personal addition and not an approved gesture. If the Church universally changes this, it will be okay. So the point is: no one has the right to change anything, the Mass is, among other things, an expression of obedience. Christ’s obedience to die, and our obedience to “Do this in memory of me”. We cannot be doing our will, we need to join our own obedience with Christ’s and the Church’s.

      • Brooke C says:

        How I read this, was the priest cannot order parishioners to hold hands during the Our Father. He cannot change the mass; that would be illicit, not the actual act of holding hands. If our family decides to hold hands during this very reverent, special prayer, I don’t see how that is illicit. That’s not how it was worded.

        • Mike Uwa says:

          If your family decides to hold hands during a family prayer, this would be okay. There are no laws against that. However, if your family decides to hold hands during mass, it is still not part of the liturgy. Even though this would not be a grave sin, but you might not be joining the entire Church in praying a prayer of complete obedience directed to God through the Holy Spirit acting in the entire congregation. Holding hands isn’t bad, it is beautiful, but obedience is higher before God.

      • Paddy Downey says:

        I was at mass with the Bishop last night. Everybody holds hands in our parish. The Bishop has witnessed this multiple times and they also do it at the cathedral. If the Bishop is condoning it does the parish then, have the right to do it?

  • Natty says:

    Is it appropriate or permitted for the priest to give a small piece of the Eucharist to a 2-3 year old toddler?

    Is it illicit for the priest to bless an adult who does not receive communion but has arms crossed like children would before their first communion?

    Is it permissible for the priest to interrupt the mass and use it for teaching the parishioners of what they should or should not do? I think it is disruptive to interrupt the mass especially in the presence of the holy Eucharist. After the mass has concluded seems more appropriate.

    Is the sign of peace allowed among family members provided we do not leave our seats or be disruptive to the Eucharist?

    Sorry for all the questions. I just need clarification from another source besides my priest.

    • Mike Uwa says:

      In my opinion:

      Is it appropriate or permitted for the priest to give a small piece of the Eucharist to a 2-3 year old toddler

      A priest should not give the Eucharist to a toddler.

      Is it illicit for the priest to bless an adult who does not receive communion but has arms crossed like children would before their first communion

      There can never be harm in giving blessings to people.

      Is it permissible for the priest to interrupt the mass and use it for teaching the parishioners of what they should or should not do? I think it is disruptive to interrupt the mass especially in the presence of the holy Eucharist. After the mass has concluded seems more appropriate.

      It depends on what you mean by this. It is generally okay for the priest to teach his flock. He just has to choose when it does not prevent people from praying. He cannot talk during very solemn moments of the mass, like the Consecration. However, he can teach during the homily or before end of the mass. As long as his instructions are good.

      Is the sign of peace allowed among family members provided we do not leave our seats or be disruptive to the Eucharist?

      Sign of peace is allowed among family members, sure. And i don’t think there’s anything wrong in leaving your seat to greet someone really important to you as long as your parish won’t be disturbed. Where i live, we sing during the sign of peace, it is usually a moment to show love to your neighbors. So you could walk a short distance to greet a family member. But if the moment is short, maybe just stay in your seat, you do not want to be caught disturbing people on your way back.

  • Judy Bemowski says:

    Hello, my husband and I are visiting family in Wisconsin. We attend different masses here in the Green Bay diocese. One of the parishes here recently had a Sunday polka mass. I sent an e-mail with a link regarding the inappropriateness of this type music at mass…quoting several different popes.
    I received a reply telling me this type music IS approved by the Church and that we should attend one sometime to see what they really do. I also commented on the immodest dress at mass…especially women who come in shorts as well as men. This dress is also allowed for those distributing communion. The loud talking before, sometimes during and always after Mass makes it impossible to pray. The mass has definitely turned into one big social gathering. My husband and I have written to bishops in the past and receive no responses. I did receive one response regarding the dress issue…but he simply excused it all…saying we now live in a much more casual society.
    I feel hopelessness regarding the correction of all the abuses and lack of reverence at mass today. It has gone too far and no one seems to care. People like my husband and I are looked upon as being judgemental or holier than thou. It’s all so very sad.

    • Mike Uwa says:

      I know what you mean dear, the sad part is when you charitably want to show people something could be done better, everyone thinks you’re being judgmental and condescending. Since you have written the Bishop, you could try seeing him in person if this is really that bad, or writing to your country’s Catholic Bishops’ Conference. If you have done all these, then change parish and let it go. Just pray that God removes from your heart any temptation of resentment. So that you can focus on running your race and making it to that City where everyone is sane and joyful.

      May God bless you and your family, you’re in my prayers.

    • Msch22 says:

      Check out the traditional Latin mass, you won’t be disappointed, fund a parish that strictly does Latin. Best choice I have ever made

  • Kate says:

    I was unaware that wearing a blue vestment is unlawful within the mass on Marian feasts. Our priest is very strict and adheres to church teaching though I have seen him wear blue on Marian feasts-is this something that maybe the archbishop may allow and thus some wear blue? I cannot imagine our priest deviating from Church laws, unless he truly did not know.

    • Mike Uwa says:

      It is very possible he doesn’t know. Sometimes we do not always remember every little details about every rule. However, it is our duty to charitably point it out to our fellows without any form of judgement at all. Remembering that everyone forgets 🙂

  • Alyson says:

    Where did you get this photo? This priest is a bishop now and I am pretty positive not the kind of man who would change anything in the liturgy, abuse it, or make people do what they should not. He is very reverent and a very good shepherd. This picture had to have been taken probably 15 years ago. The people in the picture may not even realize why they are holding hands as it just always seems to have been done. I used to be a parishoner and I know they made it very clear people should not have to hold hands and no one should feel pressured or guilted or forced. Because I used to be a hand holder here and hearing this I stopped. With that said this church changed me from a nominal Sunday mass going Catholic to one who is trying to live as an intentional disciple as a teacher and mentor to Catholic youth. This church formed me and my prayer life. This church’s motto is to “form apostles for the church and for the world” and they are well known for having significant numbers of men enter the seminary and many men and women discern and enter religious life. The last count was 160 from there that have taken permanant vows and are stationed all over. Around 80 currently in formation. Over 20 years they have averaged 9+ men and women who enter formation or seminary annually. 2 Bishops were former long time priests of this parish. I am sorry but this picture while at face value seems to be the right choice, is not fitting when you know the reality of the Catholic heritage at this parish. Clearly the Holy Spirit is moving in the parish whether it’s parishoners are holding hands or not. Beyond this picture this parish has done so much good in the formation of Catholics young and old. This is a parish living out what it means to be a Catholic Community, serving others, and forming people both spiritually and intellectually. Through it so many Catholics and non-Catholics have come to encounter Christ in a real lasting way. This parish lives what Jesus has called us to in holiness baptizing all nations. This is St. Mary’s Catholic Center in College Station, Texas. George Weigel wrote well of it not long ago.

    • Mike Uwa says:

      Hello Alyson. I am sorry but the photo was never to disparage anyone. Just a photo we got from Aggie Catholic blog and we added where the photo was from maybe you didn’t see it.

      We have now changed it. Thank you for your input. And i am happy this Church has touched you positively, may God continue to lead you deeper in his love so you can lead more souls to him.

      Also, we do not allow comments with links. so the link in your comment has been removed, hope you understand.

      Thanks !

      • Alyson says:

        Wow, Thanks for going through the trouble. Really I appreciate it and was not expecting that. No I did not see where the photo came from in the post but I was reading it on my phone so its possible I missed it in the way this small screen formatted it. I am sorry about that and the website too no big deal removing it I understand. I do want to express that I agree with what is presented in the article and thanks for laying it all out and I know this abuse takes place. The picture just really bothered me because I know Bishop Sis is not the kind of priest to abuse anything whether intentional or unintentional. And this place definitely isn’t bringing forth nominal or uninformed Catholics as its fruit. Just didnt seem right to fit them with this article. Though I realize only Texans may recognize it.

        In the parish I am currently at there are minor things that happen that are not in the books. I think as a culture we have grown lax and indifferent and that has carried over into our churches in many aspects not just the mass. With everything growing more lax, in general people are not being formed to recoginize when things are not as they should be. Example my first year teaching I was asked to have my students do a play about Our Lady of Guadalupe on the altar and I knew it was not reverent for the altar and spoke up but the response was “this is what we have done, it happens before mass so its okay….” and more instances like that have occured and I have come to realize many people just do not know it any different way. We lack that formation. And I know for our priests it is hard to make changes (though they make the effort) in a parish that just has for so long done things a particular way. Not excusing it just recognizing the challenge.

        • Mike Uwa says:

          You are right in saying it is difficult for a priest to make changes in such parishes. Indeed a lot of people antagonize priests who try even in the slightest to shake people out of their own customs. That is the reason we have to pray for priests that God gives them courage and wisdom to do what is right without causing damage to the congregation where they are posted.

          I appreciate you Alyson and pray my Mother Mary to bless you 🙂

    • Natty says:

      I received this through our Catholic FB page and KOCF.

      However, my questions are not about this photo or the bishop. My questions relate to what is happening in my church.

      • Mike Uwa says:

        Okay dear,

        If you feel your church is stepping out of prescribed order, maybe consider informing your local bishop of this. Most times they have bodies or organizations that work to preserve the liturgy and such bodies will be able to do something about these issues.

        God bless you, dear.

  • Pedro Gil says:

    In all the churches I’ve been to in the US and the Philippines, people are holding hands during The Lord’s Prayer.
    Here is the response of the USCCB regatding the practice:

  • Ashley says:

    Hi! My question is about taking communion. Should we only receive the Eucharist on the tongue? Just yesterday on Catholic Radio someone had called with this question and the priest said it didn’t matter as taking taking communion only on the tongue was not “law” and therefore could be recieved by hand. He mentioned that when Jesus did the Last Supper he did not place it in the mouths but simply handed it to each disciple and Jesus is our leader.

    • Mike Uwa says:

      It is reserved to the Catholic Bishop Conference of each country to decide if Catholics in their countries can receive by hand. There are very strict guidelines for this so it isn’t about what each person wants. If the Bishops of your country doesn’t approve this, then it is illicit.

  • Gregory Comiskey says:

    Thank you for this post. I agree with it all. I attend St. Anne Catholic Church in Columbus GA, however, I was born and raised Roman Catholic in Cleveland, OH. The differences in regional behavior is stunning.
    I am 43, a 4th degree Knight of Columbus, and a Retired US Army 1SG who now teaches history at a local high school.
    The most frequent abuses that I see are:
    1. Eucharist Ministers at least 10 at every Mass simply to keep Mass under an 1hr and a half. The ministers give blessings to those who cannot receive the Eucharist as well, a other clear abuse.
    2. The Orans Posture is routinely abused. If you were to visit my Church and stand in the back during the Our Father you would see people praying with hands folded, hands outstretched or hands held. Then those that have them held out outstretched raise them for the doxology!
    3. Girl altar servers. Violation of Vatican guidance from 2005 and this is because of the USCCB pushing off to local bishops.
    4. People chewing the Eucharist like He is bubble gum.
    5. Bishop Annual video appeals, Catholic Charity messages and other fund raisers instead of homilies.

    I could go on but that is enough for now. I regularly meet with my parish priest, bring him copies of documents and presenting this information. I am told – he is not in charge.

    Yours in Christ,

    Greg Comiskey, MSG (Ret.)

  • David Zalonis says:

    Be the change you want the church to be , lead by example. Dress code is important to a point nothing distasteful or revealing however what is more important to god How we are dressed at mass or that we are there fully engaged with what is going in at mass. In
    The eatly 50s we all dressed for dinner and today most families dont even eat together , sad but true. I think we need to meet people where they are not where their parents and grandparents were 40-50 years ago.

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