Some families and households hold hands to say grace before meals. Maybe this practice migrated to church, as the Our Father is the final “grace” that we say before sharing in the Lord’s Supper.
Members of prayer groups often instinctively join hands when praying together this most basic of all of our prayers. In many parishes, the gesture began—and continues to be—spontaneous. People simply do it, without prompting. In other parishes, the priest asks people to join hands.
What does it mean to hold hands and pray the prayer that Jesus taught us? The prayer itself seems to suggest this gesture: We do not pray “my Father,” but “our Father,” and that makes us all sisters and brothers, united in our common baptism, adopted children of God.
In technologically advanced and wealthy cultures, the bonds of community are often strained. Whereas in some places—or even in our own country 50 years ago or so—you might be born, live, and die all in the same village surrounded by the same people, today we move about, live far from extended family members and close friends, and communicate electronically rather than in the flesh. We sometimes yearn to feel more connected to the people around us, especially our sisters and brothers in Christ and particularly at this moment of supreme intimacy with God and with each other that is the Eucharist.
But precisely because handholding denotes a specific kind of intimacy in our culture-romantic love, or the love of parent and child, for example—some people feel uncomfortable holding hands at Mass. It’s best to respect this. Yet if it is parish custom, those who balk may need to ask themselves, “Does it really hurt me to grasp hands for a few minutes?”
Every parish has a personality, just like every family or household does. Some families or households are very physical in expressing affection: lots of touching, hugging, kissing. Others are more reserved physically: Love is expressed in words and deeds but maybe not very often in hugs and kisses. There’s no right or wrong here. What’s essential is that we pray the words of Jesus with sincerity and love.
Image: Unsplash cc via Giang Vu