Do you ever wonder during the Our Father that is prayed at Mass whether or not the faithful should use the Orans posture (raising hands upward); or should we hold hands with the person next to us; or should we simply keep our hands folded in prayer?

Of course, having dialog regarding the posture during the Our Father might elicit some emotion and response that would say our stance of hands extending upward during prayer is an expression of our interior intention of worship and openness to God; that it represents an outward sign of abandonment to God and a surrender to His holy will.

Or that holding hands during prayer is an appropriate way to relate to one’s family and to fellow parishioners; that this, too, is an external sign indicating that we are united with those with whom we are praying.

When such a question comes up, the obvious solution is to go to the rubrics.  Unfortunately, in this case, the General Instruction on the Roman Missal (GIRM) is relatively silent on the topic.

Because of the GIRM’s silence, many people have taken this to mean that the faithful may do whatever they want.  However, this seems not the case.

In the document, Instruction On Certain Questions Regarding the Collaboration of the Non-Ordained Faithful in the Sacred Ministry of Priests, put out by the Vatican on August 15, 1997, we read, “In Eucharistic celebrations deacons and non-ordained members of the faithful may not pronounce prayers—e.g. especially the Eucharistic prayer, with its concluding doxology—or any other parts of the liturgy reserved to the celebrant priest.  Neither may deacons or non-ordained members of the faithful use gestures or actions which are proper to the same priest celebrant” [emphasis added] (Article 6, §2).

What the above statement means is that we may not say the Eucharistic prayers along with the priest, nor, to the point of this topic, the faithful may not use the same gestures that are reserved for the priest celebrant.

As mentioned above, the GIRM is silent with regard to the posture of the faithful during the Our Father, however, the Roman Missal (the book of prayers for Mass used by the priest) states that the celebrant is to pray the Our Father with hands extended.

Simply, the faithful are NOT to use gestures or actions proper to the priest celebrant.  Likewise, the holding of hands while the Our Father is said is not prescribed, so for this reason, no one can be required to hold hands with another during the Our Father.

The proper authority to prescribe any posture for the recitation of the Our Father is the U.S. Bishops’ Conference or the Holy See, and neither has provided any liturgical rubric.  (9:42)