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Wednesday, 30 November 2011

Bishop saves his people from having to hold hands at Mass


A Bishop issuing a Decree! Whatever next? From Pray Tell via Diane of Te Deum Laudamus, comes this Pastoral Letter and Decree from Bishop Foys of Covington, Kentucky. The Decree concerns the celebration of the Sacred Liturgy and primarily the importance of obedience to the principle:
Therefore no other person, even if he be a priest, may add, remove, or change anything in the liturgy on his own authority. (Sacrosanctum Concilium n.22)
Bishop Foys talks about the text, the music and the gestures used in the Liturgy, particularly the people kneeling during the Eucharistic Prayer and after the Agnus Dei. He also points out that people should not extend or join their hands during the Our Father. Referring to the General Instruction, he points out that silence should be observed in the Church before mass, and encourages silence after Mass.

Predictably there is a degree if indignation in the comments box at Pray Tell (misanthrope... legalism... rubricism... dreck... fascistic... etc.) and, as usual in these debates, the prediction or hope that priests and people will disobey, not put money in the collection, be liberated, and hold hands proudly at the Our Father.

I suspect that many priests and people will be relieved that whether or not the Decree is obeyed throughout the Diocese of Covington, they at least cannot now be criticised for keeping to the rubrics. Priests who do not make conversational improvisations to jolly the Mass along, are often criticised for being distant or formal, when in fact they are trying to allow the people to participate at Mass as the Church teaches us, with Christ at the centre of the action, not the personality of Fr Showman.

And I expect many ordinary Mass-goers will be relieved that they do not now need to feel stand-offish if they refuse to hold hands during the Our Father. Those outside of the Diocese of Covington and unlucky enough to be in a parish where hand-holding is compulsory might benefit from this idea of Jope:

The "Our Father Holding Hand" is a one-size fits all that you can easily slip on your real hand and then slip off discreetly so the progressive congregant to your left or right has a hand to hold. Meanwhile, your real hands are now reverently folded so that you can pray the Lord's Prayer without getting stuck in that giant 60's style peace chain.
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