Category Archives: Liturgy

Holding Hands?

I’m a touchy guy, I’ll admit it. I always love those Italian movies where folks are running around kissing everyone they know on the cheek as a standard greeting. I love to hug people, and I’ve got a pretty firm handshake. I like to touch people.

In my family, we are very touchy as well. I will be cooking dinner, and guaranteed, either my wife or either of my daughters will come in for one of my 5 minute hugs while I’m cooking up a roast. I just like people, and it just seems natural to share actual physical contact.

Not very American, I know. We like to stand far off from one another, and a far reaching, weak handshake is usually our norm. Often this is followed by a quick dip into the purse for our own personal bottle of hand sanitizer.

So be it I suppose, but that’s not me.

Holding hands doesn’t bother me. It really doesn’t. I like to hold hands.

When we get to the Our Father at Mass though, I’m not so into it. Don’t get me wrong, if someone reaches out and grabs my hand, I’m not going to jerk it away. I feel being charitable is more important than my own proclivities, but that doesn’t mean I like it all that much.

Even my own family does this. My daughters are the first to want to reach out and hold everyone’s hand, including my own, but I must admit, I feel that it is really bad communication.

When we all hold hands during the Our Father, what is it that we are saying by this action? What feeling are we trying to convey? I would argue that we are expressing oneness, or togetherness, and I’m just not so sure this is the right time to highlight that aspect of our being together.

Let me be the first to say that we are a community praying together, that’s why we are all here right? So if we want to hold hands, could we not pick a moment so near communion, when we truly become one? Let me show you how this plays out in my mind.

We all hold hand like we are at a girl scout camp out singing Kumbaya. We feel great. Then we kneel to let God know that we are not worthy, and we instantly get caught up into our own bubble. Then we are all rather silent as we go up to receive our Lord. So the togetherness is accented before communion, and our solitude is accented during communion.

This just doesn’t feel right to me. What brings us together, what truly makes up one is communion itself. We become One Body because we share the One Bread, not because we decide to hold hands. It just seems to place the focus just off center.

Again, holding hands is fine. Why not pick another time in Mass, like the opening hymn? Why the Our Father? I think it’s just too confusing.

If we really want to do it right, we should hold hands after communion, to show that what was separate is now brought together.

Don’t get me wrong, if you wanna hold my hand, I’m cool with that, I’m not going to pull away. I mean, come on, there is no reason to be rude.

If you don’t offer though, don’t expect me to.

Communion in the Hand

Jesus in the palm of your hand.


We were talking in my formation classes about receiving the Eucharist, and one of my fellow candidates made a telling comment. He claimed that being able to receive Jesus in his hand, and to hold the Master of the universe was a powerful humbling experience.

If that is you, then you get it, and I’m totally cool with that. If every time you receive our Lord in the palm of your hand you are humbled by the experience, and feel the weight of such a great responsibility, then I have no issue with you at all.

If you are like the majority of Catholics I see in Mass filing in to get their holy cookie though, I have some serious reservations.

Now let me say right off that there is definite precedent for receiving in the hand. It was most certainly what was done in the early church, but if you think they did it like we do, I’m afraid you are quite mistaken.

Imagine yourself in early Rome, hiding in the catacombs for you life, celebrating Mass in secret. Did you receive the Most Precious Body in your hand? You bet you did, they didn’t exactly make communion wafers back then, so it could be crumbly. We certainly didn’t want pieces of our Lord to fall in the dirt, and the palm makes a great bowl.

What you would not do is pick it up out of your hand. Instead you would bow to your hand, and pick it up with your tongue. Yup, like you were bowing to the King, which of course, you were. It was a very reverent act.

Contrast that to today. At the Christmas Mass, I had to stand by the front pews to make sure everyone actually consumed the host. That’s right, folks would just carry it back to their pews to do Lord knows what with. It’s a pretty scary thought, that after every major holiday like Christmas and Easter, we find hosts just sitting in the pews. I remember one boy who got upset with me for asking him to consume the host, because it would get in his gum.

My goodness, I wish I were joking.

There is a powerful opportunity for education that we are missing here. The Eucharist is the source and summit of the Christian life, it is the point on which the entire world turns. There is nothing you will ever do, (well, outside of getting baptized) that will ever be as important as receiving the Eucharist. This is the prime teaching moment, and we are totally fouling it up.

Let’s say you are a marginal Catholic. You come almost every week, but just because you feel you are supposed to. Let’s say you come 75% of the time, that’s almost 40 times a year, so 400 Masses every ten years. There are two ways this can work.

In the first, you get in line, and the priest slaps a host down, you pop it in your mouth like a potato chip and head on. Multiply that times 400. How do you feel about the Eucharist?

In the second, you file in line, and when you get to the front, you have to get on your knees, something you almost never do otherwise, and the priest puts the host directly on your tongue, also something you never do. Multiply this times 400. How do you feel about the Eucharist now?

Sometimes what we cannot teach with words, must be taught to the body to really be understood.

Why I Don’t Support the Latin Mass

Yesterday I spoke on thee merits of the Tridentine Mass, today I want to share my concerns. (Click here for the first part of this article!)

Have you ever read a missal from before Vatican II? They are really an amazing piece of history. Personally, I collect them, (and anything else Catholic for that matter) and every time I walk through an old book store, I’m always hunting these down. It’s the first place I go, every time. I find them simply fascinating. I will be the first to admit that I long deeply for that sense of connection to all of history that one must have felt with the old Mass.

The are not just books I shelve though, I really actually read through them. I am brought to two major conclusions.

First, nobody really knew what the heck was going on. Yes, there were of course the die-hards, just like today, but it’s obvious to me that the average person saw himself more as attending an event then actually participating in it. Was it holy, oh yes it most certainly was, but was the average person truly engaged? I’m not so sure.

Let me paint a picture for you. Imagine you are at Mass, and everything is in Latin. You know your responses by heart, but you don’t really speak Latin at all. When it comes time for the Bible to be read, it’s like they are reading Greek. You have no idea what they are talking about. What do you do? Well, you are at Mass, so you can pray of course. Can you imagine sitting around with everyone quietly praying their rosary while the priest was up there doing his thing? Pulling out your missal so you can read in your language whatever the priest is mumbling up at the altar?

Mass was truly a personal experience, a chance for you to have some quiet prayer time in the midst of all the other Catholics in your community. Yes, there were moments when everyone would act together, but for the most part, you sat and prayed while someone else did all the work. You would sit and listen to the clacking of rosaries on pews and the rolling of Latin prayer reverberating through the room.

Now I’m not going to say it was all bad, in fact I think it was all good. Prayer is never a bad thing, and the way the Mass was celebrated truly gave you a sense of the Holy. You were not however personally involved.

Vatican II really set a new focus on the “People of God”, and in doing so really changed the whole view of what it meant to celebrate the Mass. I’m not saying this was a change in teaching, merely a change in emphasis, from institution to laity, and this is a good thing. With it came a required mandate to actually involve the people that the Mass was being said for.

So now we get to understand what is being said. This is very good. We are involved, this is also good.

Before I wrap it up though, I must throw in a thought.

I am rather intellectual, and have a tendency to think in the abstract. So it is very important to me to imagine the regular average Joe who is coming to Mass. The Mass is the only catechism he will get, and I have to imagine that he does not really know what is going on. Does the Mass as it stands call him to worship and prayer? Does it allow the gospel to really enter his heart? I know that God can do anything and work in any circumstance, but does the way we celebrate truly engage him?

The Tridentine Mass certainly did, he knew he was in the presence of something supernatural. I’m not so sure he would get the same feeling now, and fear he may leave out of boredom and confusion.

Why I Support the Latin Mass

Let me say first, that I have only experienced the Latin Mass via video, I have never actually been to one. If I had the opportunity, I would in a heartbeat, but all of these comments are purely speculation.

 

It seems we have lost the reverence. The Holy Sacrifice of the Mass is the supreme human act, there is nothing greater that we as human beings can do in this life. When I go to Mass though, this is not a feeling I have.
When we come into the church, most people are chatting away. They hardly seem to notice the fact that they are in the direct presence of our Savior. Here they are in the presence of Almighty God, and they look like they are just breezing in after a show. It almost feels like they are grabbing a burger and fries.
This is suppose to be a time a great reflection, and instead it’s a time for everyone to catch up after a long week. I find it nearly impossible to actually pray in church due to all the constant chatter.

 

Far worse than this though, our numbers are dwindling. When Mass was viewed with reverence, as a holy moment that you were privelidged to even be able to attend, people actually came. Somewhere in the changes in the Mass, the holy need to actually be there was removed. Even good meaning, dedicated Catholics seem to often think that going to Mass every week is an optional activity.Somewhere along the line, Mass turned from being an opportunity to share in the divine, to a mere spiritual exercise, something like praying before we go to sleep, or a bible study group. Not something that is actually necessary for the salvation of our souls.

This is really bad stuff. When Mass becomes just another religious service, we are really missing the point. The Novus Ordo, the Mass form we celebrate now, only complicates this mentality. Let me tell you why.

They say in the Tridentine Mass, the priest faced away from us, but that’s not entirely true. The priest was with us, facing the same direction we were. We are an Easter people, which of course means, we face the east, looking towards the rising sun, and the rising Son. The priest is one of us, so he too should face the east. The other powerful image here it that of the priest as more of an office, and less of an individual. I think this is one of the reasons the priesthood was so deeply respected.

This is just one example of many, but the functional point is, in the Tridentine Mass, you are present at a miracle, and you just can’t miss it. When the miracle happens the bells start ringing. You are present with the holy choir of angels, and the world starts and ends here. You truly get the feeling of ancient timelessness, the deep sense of being somewhere beyond the ordinary. These sensual feelings are not to be discounted.

In the Novus Ordo, you can’t help but feel you are at a community gathering. We are focused on whether or not our priest is charismatic enough, and if we don’t like him, well let’s either parish hop and find one we do or just stop going altogether. Our first thought is never the holiness of the actual event.

There is a caveat to this of course. That will have to be saved until tomorrow.