Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Meatless Fridays + Holding Hands during the Our Father?

Last week, I spent a few days at the beach with a family I'm good friends with. It was an eventful time with them, to say the least.  While I was there, I blessed their beach house which they just bought this year.  At the end of the house blessing (and before I used the Ace Ventura line, "thiss houssse iss clean"), I anointed the grandfather of my friends' kids.  He has been having a problem with his eye that just doesn't seem to be getting any better even with much treatment.  I laid my hand over his eye during the anointing and blessed it.  Well, the next day, the oldest kid, a senior in college, was involved in a car accident in which her family's favorite car was totaled.  It wasn't her fault and she was fine, just a little shaken up.  And, the grandfather called his doctor because his eye was feeling worse.  So, when I woke up (laaate in the am), I was of course blamed by my friends for both of these occurrences...in a joking way, of course.  But, will they invite me back??

On Friday evening, I celebrated Mass with them in their house (confident that bringing more Grace to the place wouldn't result in bringing more problems) and then had an hour of reserved Adoration afterwards.  (By the way, it is quite an experience to have a priest celebrate a "home Mass" in your home, especially on vacation.  This family really enjoyed it and so will yours.  So, consider inviting a priest on your next vacation.)  One of the coolest parts of the few days was seeing the two daughters come in - on their own - for a few minutes of Adoration.  Then, their Dad came in.  Then, their grandmother.  It was sweet! 

Well, in the course of my conversation with these three generations of faithful Catholics, a few teachings and practices arose that they didn't know and asked why they haven't heard about them. So, I thought it would be good to present them here.

1)  Meatless Fridays throughout the year 

Here's what Canon Law says in this regard:

"Abstinence from meat, or from some other food as determined by the Episcopal Conference, is to be observed on all Fridays, unless a solemnity should fall on a Friday. Abstinence and fasting are to be observed on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday." ( #1251)

This is from the Code of Canon Law of 1983.  The breakdown in the way Catholics have approached this for many years most likely comes with the statement of the US Bishops' Conference (Episcopal Conference).  In 1966, the Bishops' Conference in our country addressed and encouraged penance on Fridays (to honor in a small way the day of the week in which Christ sacrificed His life) and ended the law of abstaining from meat.  Here's a part of their statement:

"Among the works of voluntary self-denial and personal penance which we especially commend to our people for the future observance of Friday, even though we hereby terminate the traditional law of abstinence binding under pain of sin, as the sole prescribed means of observing Friday, we give first place to abstinence from flesh meat. We do so in the hope that the Catholic community will ordinarily continue to abstain from meat by free choice as formerly we did in obedience to Church law… (Nos. 19-24 )."

Nowhere in the full statement are there guidelines on what penances we should do on Fridays.  So, as my seminary professor taught us, it's just easier to go without meat on Fridays.  Catholics should be doing some form of penance on Fridays (except on a solemnity that falls on a Friday), and even as the bishops wrote, abstinence from meat is the first choice. 

For some of you, this might seem frivolous.  And, sometimes, going meatless might not seem like a penance.  But, here's the point:  we should have Christ's sacrifice on our minds and hearts every Friday and in some way offer a small sacrifice to Him.  American Catholics might be confused on the best penance to offer, so keep it simple:  go without meat on Fridays in and out of Lent.

2)  Holding hands during the "Our Father"?

Last year, Msgr Pope addressed this on the ADW blog:

"From the USCCB website: No position is prescribed in the present Sacramentary for an assembly gesture during the Lord’s Prayer. While the recently approved revised Sacramentary does provide for the use of the orans gesture by members of the assembly during the Lord’s Prayer, the revised Sacramentary may not be used until it has been confirmed by the Holy See. I might also note that in the course of its discussion of the this question, the Bishops’ Committee on the Liturgy expressed a strong preference for the orans gesture over the holding of hands since the focus of the Lord’s Prayer is a prayer to the Father and not primarily an expression of community and fellowship.

Some years ago in this parish hand hold at the Our Father was common. It was ended in the following way. The people were read the instruction of St. Paul who said: I want men everywhere to lift up holy hands in prayer, without anger or disputing. (1 Tim 2:8) Hence the congregation was directed to lift their hands, palms upward to God (to distinguish it a bit from the priest’s orans posture). Since it was in the Bible that this is how people should pray it was well received and it ended the practice almost immediately. We have none of the hand holding at this time."

I remember seeing something from the Archdiocese a few years ago which recommended the orans gesture (with palms upward to God) as the preferrable gesture for each person during the Our Father, but I can't find it now.  It might be in preparation for the new revised sacramentary that Msgr Pope mentions (and which will be in use the first Sunday of Advent this year) The current sacramentary does not give an assembly gesture for the Lord's Prayer, but apparently the revised one does, as Msgr Pope writes.  So, this should be addressed as one of the changes with the new sacramentary - that our gesture during the Our Father is palms up to God while we pray it. 

My former seminary rector taught us that the congregation's focus at that point of the Mass should be what's on the altar (the Eucharist).  We should indeed be focused on the Eucharist as we offer our prayers and petitions to the Father and not on holding the hands of our neighbor which can distract us.  


CynthiaBC said...

If a priest had come along my husband's and my most recent vacation he would've had to cycle 160 miles in three days, carrying on his bicycle what he needed for the trip. [BTW the Eastern Shore is NOT as flat as it looks.] And if said priest were as far into middle age as my husband and I are, I suspect that the Body of Christ would be sharing space with a bottle of ibuprofen.

Anonymous said...

??? - our family holds hands during the Our Father, we do it because "When two or three are gathered together in prayer, God is WITH us. " yes we are most definately focused on the Lord, however we are doing it together. Why should that be dissed?