Posture during Our Father; Catholic-Jewish wedding

| Father Kenneth Doyle | January 26, 2017 | 0 Comments

Q. A discussion that is common between the more “orthodox” members of the parish and the more “progressive” ones is whether the faithful should use the “orans” posture during the Our Father.

I remember being instructed several years ago that we were to start stretching out our hands while praying the Lord’s Prayer at Mass. I felt odd doing this at first but decided that I needed to follow along as instructed.

Years later, I noticed that our nun and our deacon did not observe this. So, are we supposed to stretch out our hands when offering this prayer or not?

A. The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops is quite concise on the issue, saying in its guidelines that “no position is prescribed in the Roman Missal for an assembly gesture during the Lord’s Prayer.” There is simply no “rule” or guideline.

As you say, though, it has become common in some congregations for the faithful to adopt the “orans” posture — with hands extended to the side and facing up or out. The priest, by contrast, is directed specifically in the rubrics to adopt the “orans” posture during the Our Father.

Some liturgists have pointed to this as a bit of an anomaly: Generally, the celebrant extends his hands during the parts of the Mass when he is praying aloud and alone, on behalf of the congregation; during the Our Father, he is praying not on behalf of the congregation but along with them — as in the Gloria and the Creed, when his hands are joined.

Perhaps future liturgical guidelines will clarify this; in the meanwhile, though, I can’t imagine that it matters a lot to God.

Q. I am a Catholic woman who is planning to marry a Jewish man. He is uncomfortable with having a Catholic priest preside at the wedding, and he says this would be awkward for his family as well. Are there ways to have a “neutral” presider celebrate the service and still have the marriage recognized by the Catholic Church?

(I have told my husband-to-be that my only “requirement” is that the wedding be seen as valid in the Church’s eyes.) Is this possible, and what would I need to do to make it happen?

A. Yes, in a situation like this a diocese is able to give permission ahead of time for a marriage ceremony to take place in a nonsectarian setting, witnessed by a civil official, and have that marriage be recognized by the Catholic Church. You and your fiancé should speak with a local priest to see that the proper paperwork is completed.

But how about, instead, doing a joint religious ceremony that would highlight the role of God in a marriage and seek the Lord’s blessings? I have several times done such a wedding service together with a rabbi.

Only one — either the rabbi or the priest — would be designated as the responsible civil official to receive a couple’s vows, but both the rabbi and the priest could offer prayers from their own traditions and appropriate blessings. (Two or three times, we have even used the chuppah, the traditional canopy under which Jewish couples pronounce their wedding vows accompanied by both sets of parents.)

Father Doyle writes for Catholic News Service. A priest of the Diocese of Albany, New York, he previously served as director of media relations for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. Questions may be sent to and 30 Columbia Circle Drive, Albany, New York 12203.

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Category: Ask Father Mike