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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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Holding hands is a symbol of human affection.The kiss of peace is a sign of unity in Christ.Both have their place, but only one is quite right for Mass. Marriage-encounter types may do as they please, as always.

I never did care for handholding during the Our Father, and I'm looking for the first person who trips on a "kneeler" at communion time to sue his/her butt off!Another thing I don't like but found to be common at a university parish was the celebrant, after walking up the aisle, turning around and inviting everyone to "greet your neighbor." All hullaballoo breaks out, and, while folks take a break to calm down, the priest then begins the Mass. Sort of like "let's all get worked up here; now it's time to shut up and get in the proper frame of mind to pray."I generally don't mind shaking hands when it's time to do so later in the Mass (I say "generally" because I'll leave the kid with the "next illness" to give it back to mommy and daddy :)

I'm not a hand-holder, and was rather annoyed the first time I was subjected to this practice (on the East Coast). But what's a marriage-encounter type?

I have ordered a diocesan review of Grant's pre-cana training. Many couples opt for Marriage Encounter Retreats instead. I suppose Kathy means groups that hug a lot.This is why Real Estate never rose in Chicago. Visitors realize how cold the natives are. That is why Grant does not want to visit the House of Ruth---Too much warmth for him.Amazing all the concern for germs in this age when people are living longer (too long according to Dan Callahan). People start getting excited when no one seems to be able to avoid getting a cold.Normal precautions still help. Wash hands more during cold season. Use mouth wash and other preventives.At one time people were lucky to make it to forty and having bread was a major concern. We all need to lighten up.

Mercy me, folks: get a grip! Worry about something important ... like the lack of Eucharist because of shortage of priests.The next thing you will against is passing the peace except by means of vapid nodding.Complaining about holding hands during the Our Father?? Is is OK with you if we SING it?Don't ever come to my parish or you'll have a heart attack.

Jimmy Mac, my pastor in Santa Fe used to say, every single week, "And now let us hold hands, even across the center aisle, and say..." That was the *liturgical* introduction to the Our Father. Note the distinction between this and "Jesus taught us to call God our Father, and so we have the courage to say..."Grant, I'm not ordinarily very good at explaining types. Walker Percy was good. It must be in Love in the Ruins where he talks about an usher "swinging fist into palm and hawking phlegm in true usher fashion." Marriage Encounter types do, as Bill says, hug a lot. But they do everything together: they go to Communion side by side, sometimes go to Confession together. Imagine! I used to go to an East Coast parish for daily Mass, and really nobody sat close enough together to hold hands, so it just wasn't done. I forget what the custom was on Sundays. Anyways, this couple I know who were facilitators of Marriage Encounter weekends used to hold hands. She had this way of turning towards him when they held hands, and he would always glance down to see her. They seemed like a very sacramental couple, far beyond the need for liturgical legislation in this particular matter.

Jean, I know what you mean. But doesn't football season get rid of all that?I think ND has a game this weekend. I'd better check, come to think of it.

Easy, Bill. I know what Marriage Encounter is. Never having attended one, I'm unfamiliar with the "type"--although I do know a few couples who facilitate the retreats, and they seem no more touchy-feely than those who ran or attended the marriage prep classes we attended. Although, Bill, if the investigation turns up anything questionable, I'd be delighted to receive a rebate on the $200 fee--money decidedly not well spent. Unless I count one particularly amusing moment, when the speaker described Christopher West as "the Elvis of the theology if the body."

To keep it all light:At the Council one bishop's argument against giving the Cup to the laity was that it would be unhygienic--to which another replied that the eastern-rite Catholics seemed healthy enough to him. Another bishop said that if a woman drank from the cup and left lipstick on it, the man who followed it might get the lipstick on him. Another bishop was opposed to putting the biblical readings into the vernacular because of the impure thoughts that might be suggested to adolescent boys by the Song of Songs or the story of Susannah and the elders.Which reminds me of the pastor in Stamford, CT, the year that the Lenten readings were first read in English. He nearly choked when he got to the part where Ezekiel compares Israel's sins to "the filth of a menstruating woman" (one didn't talk about such things in the mid-1960s--not in public at least). After Mass he came into the sacristy and angrily slammed his bitettum down and said: "That's the alst time I'll go out there without reading that stuff first!"And then there was the poor priest who had one foot in the "new Church" and one in the old. He was saying Mass in a private home, and they gave him raisin-bread to use. When he got to the words of consecration, he said: "This, except for the raisins, is my Body." Then there is the story told in "Why Catholics Can't Sing." The author, Thomas Day, tells of the day he was attending Mass in another city and entered a pew next to a saintly-looking old woman who throughout the Mass piously prayed the Rosary. When it came time for the exchange of peace, he held out his hand to her, and she looked up at him and snarled: "I don't do that s**t ! "Etc., etc. etc.

(Rollicking fits of laughter)But seriously: there are two questions here, distinct enough to be discussed separately.1. Shared physical space, intimacy, spit, bodies in general2. The relationship of the divine and human elements in the ChurchRegarding #2, my sense is that holding hands at the Our Father (along with many other post-Vatican II practices, notably the theology of the "optional collects") disrupts the delicate liturgical balance, tipping the scales well into the human realm. In which case why don't we skip the Mass and head right over to coffee and donuts, and, in the midwest, perhaps a nice jello mold.

Bill, JimmyYou , of course, are right in pointing out that the matter of holding hands is not exactly the most earthshattering subject for discussion.However, in a way , it can be seen as emblematic of a matter of concern to many Catholics. And by that I mean the uneasiness that many of us have regarding the quality of the liturgical celebration that we experience every sunday.Without any real evidence, I have a sense that much of the widely expressed appetite for restoration of the Tridentine mass is not so much a desire for latin or for that matter even for the actual form of the older mass, but rather a desire for a quieter, more serious and more spiritual encounter. Believe it or not, but there are people who are actually disturbed by what appears to be a superficial almost party-like atmosphere of some masses.As an example, during the winter I attend a church near Naples Florida. The congregation is almost entirely made up of people in their 60,s and 70,s. ( I fall into that category). When it comes time for the Lord,s Prayer everyone holds hands, even accross the aisle's. Then they all sing the Our Father and, incredibly, sway back and forth to the rhythm. It has to be seen to be believed!But all this effussion of "love and good will" lasts only a few minutes, for as soon as people get to the parking lot one's life is in danger as these loving people race to get out.So the question of holding hands might be seen as part of a larger question regarding the liturgy itself. Some commentators have expressed anxiety over the potential for diunity or discord arising out the reintroduction of the Tridentine mass. But wouldn't it be better if we corrected some of the oddities and superficial entertainments that have crept into the New Mass of which this business of holding hands during the Lord's Prayer is an example.

What we should not forget is that the Tridentine Mass is basically anti-social. More masses were said without a congregation than were said with one. It is a irony to me that many feel the Novus Ordo encourages theatrics in the celebrant. The Tridentine Mass was grand theatre, especially when said without a congregation. With the priest whirling and twirling around for the Dominus Vobiscum and other greetings or exhortations.The Lord's Supper, the Mass, is essentially and inextricably a social event. It is the People of God coming together to offer our love for each other and for God in union with the life, death and resurrection of Jesus, in joyful and loving unity. It is a together thing. It is barely that still. We have to work to make it more so. Not less.

My liturgist colleagues on the edges, traditionalist and progressive are all dead-set against it. There are lots of funny or horror stories about it.As a liturgist, I would never introduce the practice in a community that didn't do it, and I'm not enthusiastic about ending it in a place that does it.Personally, I'm going to hold hands with my wife and daughter, but otherwise I don't hold unless somebody next to me reaches out.It will never be included in the rubrics for Mass, but the practice seems to have legs where it's been in place for a few decades.Hold or not hold: I don't see the fuss. Just so long as the presider doesn't omit the Rite of Peace on a personal whim.

Hi, Todd. I wonder: what is your reasoning behind the positions you take here?Bill, you said, "The Lord's Supper, the Mass, is essentially and inextricably a social event. It is the People of God coming together to offer our love for each other and for God in union with the life, death and resurrection of Jesus, in joyful and loving unity."I take issue with your expression "for God." The Mass is not "for God" but "to God," Who is present, and not only in us.I have no way of knowing whether the following is true, but I taught it in CCD so let's just assume I was correct (joke). I told the kids (highschoolers) that in this life each person develops a rhythm in which the social and the personal are to some degree separated. After spending a lot of time with others, most people need to spend some time alone, and vice versa. But in heaven (this is what I can't seem to verify) it won't be like that. We will always be with one another, and we will always have that kind of rest that occurs in solitude--both at the same time.My sense is that on this side of heave there needs to be a rhythm, particularly when we are doing the central thing: in the liturgy. Currently there are camps. One says the Liturgy is nothing but social. The other camp says the liturgy is nothing but prayer. Both camps, I think, are missing part of the good.

I really dislike the practice, though sadly it is almost universal around these parts. And of course one feels pressured not to 'opt out' as it seems inhospitable to your neighbor.I think I fall into the group that feels the liturgy is more personal than social. While I understand Bill's point that the Mass is a social event, I think it important that it also be a personal one. To be quite honest I don't go to Mass to socialize, I go to be in the Presence and be with God. To me, the 'social', community aspect of the Church is where we spend the other 6.5 days of the week. Those few hours on Sunday, for me and my family, belong to God, and are primarily between us and Him. It is our obligation as Catholics to give the rest of the week to the community. So I guess, from that point of view, I object to the folksy 'how ya'll doin', let's hear it for the band' Mass because to me it intrudes on the sanctity of the time and refocuses it 'all about us' yet again.I guess I think we spend enough time glorifying ourselves and our community the rest of the week, and it wouldn't hurt to be a bit more humble in God's presence for a few hours on Sunday. And I think I can express love of neighbor far more meaningfully by praying for them during Mass, than by the superficial and hypocritical 'holding hands' device.RM

Glad everyone (mostly) is taking this for the light-hearted post I hoped it was. I can see both pro's and con's to the hand-holding; my dislike for it is personal rather than liturgical, and I don't understand the hoopdeedoo either way.

My hoopdeedoo has to do with a central Komonchakian category: the relationship of the divine and human elements in the Church.

Well Jean for a more light-hearted objection, I will say I also oppose it because it inevitably gives my children an excuse to try to bring each other to their knees by squeezing their sibling's hand as tightly as possible, thus forcing Mom and Dad to intervene by about the 'and lead us not..' part...RM

Robert M, yes, I've seen kids give younger siblings crushing hand holds, twisted wrists and shoulder yanks followed by strangled threats from parents usually followed up by smacks in the parish hall. Lovely way to start the week.The Peace is another opportunity for kids to get out of hand.At my son's Catholic school, the boys used to "pinky Peace," which was shaking hands only with the pinky finger. I have no idea how/why this started up, but it was something the boys did to distinguish themselves from girls, and they would NOT do it any other way. Efforts to put a stop to it were futile.

Omigod!Mountain.Molehill.I reiterate: don't EVER attend liturgy at me parish. The enthusiasm for human contact during the Our Father and passing of the peace is, well, downright ...... protestant? unthinkable? communal? familial?Maybe it has something to do with the fact that we are a small parish (400 bodies with equal number of souls) who pretty much all know each other. We even do, of course, allow the odd stranger or 2 to join us .... unvetted re: their attitudes toward hand holding, friendliness, etc. We are so very liberal that way.

Ref. mountains and molehills, I understand what you're saying, but it's foolish to contend that 'little things' don't mattter. They do. Not only is one man's molehill another's mountain, but the accumulation of molehills can create a considerable mountain.Glad it works for your parish, though. I suppose I might add 'self-referential' to your list of adjectives, but again that's just my opinion.Also do note I'm not objecting to the socializing during the Sign of Peace -- clearly one time it is specifically called for. It's elsewhere I find it jarring.Jean, I've not seen the 'pinky peace' (thankfully), but agree the Sign is dangerous opportunity for the little ones. Not to mention the astonishing number of pseudo-origami creations that can be made from the average offertory envelope or parish registration form.RM

See, pinky peace is just fine. It's being in the middle of the Jimmy Mac love fest that would give me the heebie jeebies. The Focolare people scare me too, with their warmth.But again, these are personal feelings regarding personal space. It's a matter of culture. The liturgy has its own language of gesture, and it's meant to express a balanced spirituality. How long would Jimmy's congregation tolerate somebody who kneeled throughout the whole Mass? Not long, I'd bet, because (s)he is going too far with the penitential gesture.Similarly, the handholding gesture goes too far, I think, by making the Mass a human endeavor only, rather than something that God gives and we receive and give back and finally, fully, receive.On its own--hey, it's one gesture out of a hundred. Let's give it a rest. But as matters are, it's not one gesture. It's this gesture, plus -the translations of the prayers-the optional collects-the songs-the casual attitude of the celebrant-the bare walls-the abstract art crucifix-the amphitheatre seating-the football scores-and the handholding at the Our Fatherthat give the impression that God, if He were to show up, would probably be a tolerable guest in the midst of all our human togetherness.Whereas God is in reality the host of the feast, and its center.

A good and holy priest of my acquaintance summed up the problem, and the answer, very well . . .The Mass isn't about you, it's about Him.

Kathy,Exactly. By itself, 'no big deal' (molehill). It's the cumulative effect that matters.But I don't agree on pinky peace.RM

Robert M, you spoil my fun.Henri de Lubac once told a friend that he wanted to write a book, but never would, about the "place" where human beings and God meet. In other words, a book about mysticism. To my mind, a book about mysticism would have to comprehend many things, because many aspects of Christian life are like a "place" where human beings are able to encounter God. The Sacrament that is the Church--that is the common "place." The Eucharist is how and where that place is constituted and fulfilled, the "source and summit" of the Christian life. Sean, the Mass is a divine action. But it needs people. It's about God and us together.

During my last 9+ years at a VA medical center, I coordinated new employee orientation. One of the topics we covered was proxemics, the idea that folks are inherently territorial in nature and have different comfort zones depending on particular circumstances. The idea was developed by anthropologist Edward T. Hall and described in his 1969 book THE HIDDEN DIMENSION. Hall identified four comfort zones that, so far as I know, pertain to Americans (and maybe --- or maybe not --- Westerners in general):+ Intimate, which extends from 0" to 18" from one's body,+ Personal, which extends from 18" to 4 feet from one's body,+ Social, which extends from 4 to 12 feet from one's body, and+ Public, which extends beyond 12 feet from one's body.In a healthcare setting (in our case, one that included long-term neuropsychiatric as well as chronic and acute care patients), it was important to remind healthcare and other personnel to be mindful of proxemics in dealing with patients, visitors, and staff.In the course of conducting and facilitating supervisory training that included "meet and deal" modules or segments, I had to be mindful that not all folks are comfortable with what they might perceive as "touchy-feely" behavioral exercises. On the other hand, I would use "warm-up" activities at beginning of training courses to "break the ice" among participants. Fun activities could be quite useful, but, again, I tried to select exercises that were minimally or non-invasive of personal space. It was always a balancing act.I think we should be mindful of the same concerns in church. I'd guess by now that most folks are reasonably comfortable with shaking hands, but I don't think it's a good idea to force the issue on our fellow pew dwellers.

I have been making annual visits to my mother's family in what used to be a very rural part of Ireland for the past 30 years. The 'peace with you' and hand shake has been the most interesting expereince. Most of the congregation are related in some form or other(cousins don't count) and they are very uncomfortable about touchng each other. no hugs, a brief handshake . and let us get on with the reason we're here

One year my sister and I were joined in a trip through Germany by a woman who had emigrated from Bavaira. She was returning to see her family for the first time in years. When we arrived at her parents' home, she got out, walked over to them, and shook their hands. My sister and I were astonished that there was no greater expression of love and joy than a rather formal handshake. So, Jean, maybe that's where all that midwestern reserve comes from--although Mary gives us to think that it could be Irish, too.

Lordy, lordy, Miss Kathy:We have a couple of folks who go through at least 2 and maybe 3 decades of the rosary during the mass, oblivious to what is going on around them.We also have 2 other masses that appeal quite nicely to God's frozen chosen: lots of room in the pews so there is no need to touch or any other form of physical interaction , polite nods are perfectly fine, etc.However, (commercial time, folks) that being said, our parish has a certain ... how do I say this gently .... flavor to it ( that lends itself to favorability toward physical contact, joyous interaction and just plain welcoming during the entire mass. We probably do more singing at our Really Big Show (the 10 AM special) on any given Sunday than most parishes do in 2 or 3 weeks.We believe in making a joyful noise unto the Lord in all possible manifestations of that joy.

I suppose ethnic heritage has something to do with one's comfort zone.I'm Irish and Welsh. Neither side of the family is demonstrative physically. Intimacy comes from talking, arguing and making fun of stuff. Somebody told me once that the Welsh language actually had a verb form for sarcasm, which is why the Welsh are so deadpan when they tell jokes.Much of the Midwest is German. Judging form my husband's family, gemutlichkeit involves neither touching or talking, but sitting around eating a lot of food and drinking a nice cold beer, maybe listening to some accordions.

God is not about God, but about all those God loves. It strikes me as odd to have a mass "about God" and not about what God cares about.But there appear to be people here who think the Our Father is a private prayer, so I must be missing something. How does a prayer that begins with a plural become private?Personally, I do not care for handholding. Maybe if I could hold EVERYONE's hand, I could accept it. I prefer we all be held in the heart of God together. (which I suppose happens regardless of posture.)

Boy howdy, Jimmy Mac!As a hymnnut, I naturally browse the choir director want ads from time to time, whenever the ecumenism business gets so boringly cliched that I'm even willing to dive into parish politics. About half of the want ads say "Spirit of Vatican II Parish" which already means too much liturgical dance for me. One expects some diversity. But this is, how DOES one say this gently?You even had my theological archnemesis Fr. James Alison come for inservice.To tell you the honest truth, I'm actually having a little trouble finding any kneelers in the photo. Help me out here, Jimmy Mac.

Kneelers? Kneelers! We dont got no stinkin kneelers, or nuns in wimples, priests in cassocks or unsued musty confessionals.We do have a very neat baptismal POOL as you enter the church. We do have great old stained glass windows and stations, ca 1907. However, we redid the place about 10 years ago and added a runway, antiphonal seating around the altar and moved our glorious tabernacle under lights at the very front of the church. It dominates our fully visible, very usable eucharistic chapel that IS used regularly.Oh, yes, we do have a gang albeit small that says the rosary in front of our Lady statue at the front entrance of the church.But kneelers . Really!

My former cathedral parish does not have pews. Instead, they use movable chairs. I guess one could say they have "chair sitters" rather than "pew dwellers" :)

I could deal with no kneelers (bad back), and I think these are supposed to be gradually phased out, no? Since kneelers began as a device for private devotions while everybody who went to church stood around and watched the Tridentine Mass in the olden days.But a DUNKING POOL? Jimmy, I love your sense of humor, your zero tolerance for crap. And to the extent your church has made you who you are, I celebrate it.But holding hands at the Our Father pales in comparison with getting into a tank and doing the Total Immersion with Father Barefoot, not to mention standing around church in a wet white robe and towel shivering. Lord, why not sing "Warshed in the Blood of the Lamb" and have done with it?Whole other post there, but I'll refrain, as this one was bad enough. Scores dying in Iraq, kids without health care, joblessness on the rise in our Fair State. Time to seek out one of those musty, unused confessionals and be ashamed for being so trivial.

Kathy,I didnt mean that the Mass did not require people, but that the principal subject of the Mass is not the people, but God. It is the people in unity as the Church encountering God in the prayer, Word, and the Eucharist and worshiping Him.Of mountains and molehills, it is always easy to say something isnt that important, or to get over it, but I have found that these minor things accrete into a more general attitude that can undermine the sacredness of the Mass. Holding hands is as good an example as any. Holding hands is a personal gesture, a symbolic gesture, that is clearly outside the rubrics of the Mass. There is no question of that. We live with it because its not bad and people who do it have good intentions. We wouldnt put up with people standing up at the consecration and turning their backs, even though in both cases the personal gesture does not align with the purpose of the liturgy.The problem with the its not that important approach is that when something is important who will listen? One mans mountain is anothers molehill, and when you start trying to pick and choose among the rubrics, you will find that no one agrees on what they are or ought to be and they won't listen to any "authority" because they didn't bother to enforce them in the first place.As Catholics, a Sacramental Church, signs, symbols, objects, and gestures are extremely important. Taking the Tabernacle off to a side room or removing kneelers for example arent neutral actions, and are usually undertaken for a reason, for some symbolic purpose.So Jimmy, Why no kneelers?

Jean,The idea that kneelers are being "phased out" is one of those Catholic Chruch design myths - like pews are being phased out. There is no requirement to have kneelers, but kneeling is the standard posture in the US - according to GIRM 43 -"...In the Diocese of the United States of America, they should kneel beginning after the singing or recitation of the Sanctus until after the Amen of the Eucharistic Prayer, except when prevented on occasion by reasons of health, lack of space, the large number of people present or some other good reason. Those who do not kneel ought to make a profound bow when the priest genuflects after the consecration. The faithful kneel after the Agnus Dei unless the diocesan Bishop determines otherwise."Kneelers as such aren't required, but they make it easier for people to kneel. In the churches I have been in without kneelers, people usually stand.

Sean, I agree with you on the importance of signs and symbols.Therefore my question for you, Jimmy Mac, is: why baptism?

Jean: it's a small pool .... and an original idea of a jacuzzi pool was shot down after long and heated discussion! Our adult initiates do step in and get the full 10 gallon treatment. Kids and babies get proportionately less.Kneelers: actually, we do have them. I know that someone from the environment committee periodically checks them to make sure that they (1) still work and (2) get a regular dusting. I suppose that some of the frozen chosen at the other masses use them.Why baptism? Incorporation into the community of believers; children of God; heirs of heaven .... you know, the usual reasons. No argument from me there. Symbols, signs and wonders are all important in the life of a Christian ... even a Catholic.I'll suggest "Warshed in the Blood of the Lamb" for the next Holy Saturday service. But, then, I'm one who wants "I'll Fly Away" to be done at my funeral, so that would be right up my alley.

"A heated discussion"--hah!Jimmy Mac, I keep thinking of the Hanc igitur from the Easter Mass: "Father, accept this offering from Your whole family and from those born into the new life of water and the Holy Spirit with all their sins forgiven."My absolute favorite thing about being a DRE was preparing little kids for baptism. I made sure to tell them that baptism washes away all sins. You should have seen the expressions of relief on the faces of these very little kids.

Actually, Jean, my parish hasnt made me what I am. It allows me to be so. I spent many, many years wandering far afield and rediscovered God thanks to the ministrations of a former Mormon, then Episcopalian who started a small nondenominational evangelical-oriented church. He was a perceptive man and more than once engaged me in conversation about why I had left the Catholic Church and what was I looking for. He forced me to focus on my beliefs and my unbeliefs.My years of searching taught me a couple of things: (1) Im not a Protestant intellectually; (2) I love the earthier approach to worship music and style; and (3) I could and would never go back to being the kind of Catholic who, like all good little sheep, prays, pays and obeys. I do pray and, because I believe in tithing, I do pay. Obey? It all depends. Call me Fickle.My parish consists of a whole lot of people who are returnees. Practically all of us drifted away, some for almost a lifetime. But MHR provides a place where we could come home as we were and resume our faith journey from there. We are very eclectic band of people, deeply committed to our God and our parish. The rest of the churchy structure holds little value for a great number of us, yers trulee!When I came back I request a symbolic rebaptism, knowing full well that once baptized, always baptized. However it was important that I recommit myself to my faith journey in a formal and visible way. If, for no other reason, it is harder to back out easily. It was one of the most important moments in my life and I recommend it to anyone who strays and then returns.But I drift dramatically from the topics of hand holdin' and huggin' and other heterodox stuff.

Jimmy, I have 5 brothers whom I wish would return to Mass. It is very interesting to hear your story.

Kathy wrote: My absolute favorite thing about being a DRE was preparing little kids for baptism. I made sure to tell them that baptism washes away all sins. You should have seen the expressions of relief on the faces of these very little kids. Jean notes: I'd be interested to know what you told the kids (maybe write me offline). In our experience, relief on little faces means somebody has drilled a very disproportionate notion of sin and guilt into little heads.My son's First Reconciliation was a godawful nightmare, full of tears and fears and blowing minor transgressions into mortal sins. Though, if I'd told him at age 4 that he'd get dunked in Jimmy Mac's tank, he'd have had his swim suit on in seconds! I want "Brighten the Corner (where you are)" played at my funeral/wake. Anybody who knows me will get the irony and be rolling in the aisles.There will be no hand-holding.

Jean,This was the entire sin-related part of a conversation:Me: And when you're baptized, all your sins are washed away.Little boy, wistfully: Do you mean *all* of them?Me: All of them. Who knows if he was brainwashed at home, but his mom seemed unusually gentle. One would think that the new Reconciliation, the friendly priests, felt banners, etc. would take the edge off. But I've noticed the kids are just as anxious as ever at First Reconciliation. My guess is that guilt is intrinsically hard, not just because of how it's done.

Jean,I am not sure how this will work with dial-up, but you can give it a try"This site has over 6,500 Christian hymns & Gospel songs from many denominations. Youll find lyrics, scores, MIDI files, pictures, history, & more." I wonder if any of the 6500 hymns are Kathy's.

None of this excuses the Church from needing to amp up its problem-solving skills on certain issues, though, especially in dealing with sins that have a compulsive component that is exacerbated (or generated) by the experience of shame.

David, are you suggesting that I'm old enough to have texts in the public domain? Wait, that means I'm dead..

David, thanks! I am a regular user of the cyberhymnal. Though I admit to singing "Some poor failing struggling seaman you may guide OUT of the bar" for laughs, as my husband is a Navy vet.

Kathy,I never doubted that you were alive. Music is in the public domain if it was registered before January 1, 1923. It could be your early works.


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.

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