Wednesday, November 30, 2011

The Hand-Holding Thing and Other Minor Annoyances

Only once did someone have the effrontery to grab my hand during the Our Father.  I made sure ever since then to adopt the more appropriate posture of folding my hands upright in prayer (I had the down by my side when the sneak attack occurred).

A few weeks ago we were at a meeting when our leader announced the news that one of our colleagues was facing a dire prognosis with cancer.  She asked us to pray and told us to join hands.  I have managed to wiggle my way out of the things that I find wrong (like receiving a "blessing" from someone who is not a priest) but what to do with things that are simply uncomfortable?

Offer it up, what else. I wish I could say I did the same with my next item.

A few nights ago, I ran into one of the "old guard" at my parish.  She wasn't exactly enthralled with the op-ed piece in the Philadelphia Inquirer because, in her words, it gave the impression that "the majority of our parishioners approve of this Mass."  I told her I didn't get that impression at all and besides, that was a very narrow and uncharitable way to view the piece.

"Very few of our parishioners go to that Mass".  It was then that I took the opportunity to remind her that I am a parishioner and I am a regular at that Mass.  I then decided to take things a step further.  I seized this as an opportunity to ask this woman why the loud chatter before and after Mass does not disturb her as much as an article about the Latin Mass.  I was just getting warmed up.  I asked her why she has never complained about the hit and run Catholics who stroll in late and leave Mass directly from the Holy Communion line.  I asked her why she has never addressed her friend who likes to talk in the same volume that she would out on the street. I told her that these offenses never, ever happen at the Traditional Latin Mass.  I also reminded her that little by little, more and more of the older parishioners are coming to the TLM. As for "parishioners", I told her to consider how many new families had joined the parish since the inception of this Mass.

 I left her speechless.

 I'm not sure it was right or charitable for me to respond this way. I felt like maybe I had taken some of my frustration about the abuses I see out on her, but she opened the door and maybe, just maybe, she'll think twice before she decides to chat it up in church or condemn something as sacred as the TLM.


  1. I understand. We had to do the hand holding thing in prayer a while back when a co-worker was undergoing surgery for a brain tumor. What are you going to do. It's not that I dislike them, not at all. It's just uncomfortable as you say. I don't even like the hand shaking at the sign of peace, especially when people are blowing or wiping their nose or coughing into their hand.

    I think you were OK with the co-worker. She probably won't think so but maybe it will make her think. Most times people don't even realize they are being disrespectful.

  2. There is a time to speak, Joyce. It sounds like you just used an opportunity to-- as you say plant a seed. She opened the door with her comment and you simply challenged her to think past the assumptions she had.

    Sometimes the most charitable thing to do is speak the truth in love...even when it requires a little exhortation : )

    Blessings and +

  3. I have never understood the hand holding during the Our Father or the holding out of the palms. We never did either in church when I was growing up.

    Thank God no one has ever tried to hold my I'm not sure how I would react. The hand holding at my parish seems to be limited to family groups. Either that or I'm too scarey. :-P

    No one has ever grabbed my hand in a group prayer either. I guess I would go along with it, or offer it up as you say. It kind of reminds me of football players praying at a game. Though it would be awkward for me, I'm not sure I would be against it. I'm not sure how I would feel until I actually experienced it. I really like the shaking of hands for the sign of the peace. In the context of the mass, it feels like I'm touching the Christ in humanity.

    That's amazing that a newspaper actually had two positive articles on Catholicism in a row.

  4. To disagree with someone and point out an error is hardly a sin, as long as you do so charitably. I think you did the right thing.

  5. Thanks Kathy, for your usual common-sense response. I do appreciate it.

    Caroline, you know I'm always in doubt. I wonder if I'll ever be able to change that about myself sometimes.

    Manny, I'd be afraid to grab your hand LOL!

  6. WTG Joyce! Sounds to me like you have an abundance of holy zeal! : ) And..I'm sure you said everything in a kind and respectful tone of voice. Yes you did!

    The confirmation candidates have been attending Tuesday 6pm Mass for the past few short shorts, till it thankfully got cool recently. Some of them talk and laugh in the Communion line! I just want to cry. Their instructors are right there. I feel sorry for these kids, as they haven't a clue about where they are and what is happening.

    I pray for them, but wish I had some of your holy boldness :) Good for you!

    Love u,

  7. I think that Catholics dislike the hand holding thing because it smacks of seances and mediums and also slushy sentimentality.
    Hurrah for your Bishop Foy (or America's Bishop Foy, I should say).

  8. Sometimes, I think charity IS saying something! It obviously needed to be said. We all are imperfect vessels, so try not to worry too much about whether your delivery was perfect. Your intention was to defend Christ and His Church. What could be better than that? Especially when there is way too much timidity going around on that topic.
    Manny, I used to be part of a charismatic group that held hands during the Our Father, but it was done in the meetings,not at Mass. From what I can tell, the family groups that do that are just transferring their private practice over into Mass. I think hand holding in prayer outside of church is fine, I just think the mistake is thinking those practices need to follow into the Mass. I do think most of the time, it's just a mistake, though. I know it was for me, until I learned what was appropriate. But the thing is, I cared. There is still the group of rather militant hand grabbers who want to impose their interpretation of appropriate on the rest of us.

  9. The very worst thing that ever happened during the "handshake of peace":
    I was once seated at Mass next to a very stylishly dressed woman who was about seventy or so. Directly behind her was seated a frail, elderly man whom I suspected from past encounters was in the early stages of dementia.
    After the Our Father, the woman turned and offered her hand to this gentleman.
    She immediately let out a blood-curdling cry,"Yee-oooow! Let go! Let go! You're hurting me! Not so hard! "
    Of course, everyone in the parish whirled around to stare at the couple. The old man had an astonished look on his face. He looked absolutely mortified. She held her hand up and shook it and sniffled.
    My grandfather always taught me that it was important to have a strong handshake. "Don't hand me a dead fish," he'd tell me, so I could see maybe where this old fellow was coming from, and I was rather horrified for his embarrassment.

  10. Julie, that's wild. Don't think I've ever seen anything like that ever happen. "Don't hand me a dead fish." lol

    Richard, I don't know where the practice came from but it can't leave soon enough. Bravo for US Bishop Foy!

    Kelly, I can vouch that you are a recovered charismatic! lol

    Patricia, yes, I feel more and more speaking up was the right thing to do. Perhaps now this woman will help "enforce" the quiet before Mass.

    Blessings to all

  11. Oh I'm still one. I just don't foist it upon the world at large :)

  12. I found myself cheering you as I read the post. Forgive me if that's wrong. But like another commenter mentioned, I am sure you did it in love. sounds like it was illuminating to her. Bravo.


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