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My Father? Our Father?

Out here in Dairyland everybody feels a bit low and squabbly this time of year, what with the end of county fair season and the kids grousing about going back to school. So it's maybe no wonder that the usually below-the-surface disagreements about hand-holding during the Our Father have recently become an issue with local Catholic broadcasters and reporters.

Naysayers like me find the practice unhygienic (the kiddies who just coughed your next illness into their hands are the most enthusiastic hand-holders), awkward (do you jump the aisle, just hold your hand toward the person sitting in the pew across the aisle, or what?), and contrived (Midwesterners are not demonstrative people, mostly opting for the single-pump handshake on rare occasions when public affection is required).

Others want to know why they can't kneel to take communion. No, it's not in the rubrics, but neither is hand-holding, which has never been in the rubrics. More evidence that the happy clappies are taking over the Church

Still others say that holding hands is a lovely symbol of our one-ness as the Body of Christ. It's Our Father, after all, not My Father.

I like to think this will all blow over when the Oktoberfest beer tent goes up. But the movement against hand-holding during the Our Father seems to be gaining ground.



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About Confession.After adoration on Wednesday nights at Catholic U, 4-6 priests, half Franciscans, half graduate students, hear confessions for several hours.A bulletin says "Confessions 4:15-4:45 Saturdays, or by appointment." By appointment means you call the office, get the secretary, who may ask "and may I tell Father what this is in regards to?"Kids on retreat, crying, heads in their hands.Priest on retreat trying to make my confession more emotive.Grown adults fussing, with angry silent gestures, about whether someone is taking cuts in the confession line.Little kids scared to death on First Reconciliation Saturday.My deacon friend smiling as he leaves the confessional.My old priest friend asking "Do you care if I put this (purple stole) on?"A CCD kid raising her hand and saying, "I'd go to Fr. X. He doesn't get mad no matter what you do."The dreaded Scruples Penance: "I want you to think of 10 reasons that you're grateful to God." Puh-leeze.St. Patrick's, the Dominican parish in Columbus Ohio. The priest announces at the end of Mass that he didn't have time to hear all the confessions before Mass, so he will be in "that confessional over there" after Mass. Sunday, the 12:30 p.m. Mass. 20 people in line: teenagers, kids, families with kids.The parish in Alexandria where I sing, which has sixteen scheduled times for Confession, including 10 am Sunday. Times and the scheduled priest's name are printed in the bulletin every week. The priest comes over from the rectory and leaves if nobody shows within a few minutes of the scheduled time.My old parish in Annapolis, a Redemptorist parish. Used to be confessions were heard between the morning masses and at noon daily. Now they have a mission parish and the times are split up. Priests in the confession line at the Franciscan Monastery on a Saturday morning.

While the Lord's Supper is a communal celebration it is also a meal or banquet. People who dine together regularly are friendly and inviting to each other. The important thing to do at Mass is to acknowledge your sisters and brothers in Christ. The question is how do we do this in the best and most appropriate way possible?

Bill, perhaps the answer to your question is to honor one's own feelings in the situation, look around for behavioral cues, do what you feel comfortable doing, and don't force anything on the other party. I don't see any significant difference here between our behaviors at Mass, on the one hand, and at parallel non-liturgical events, on the other.