Meeting Christ in the Liturgy: Weekly reflections on the Scriptures of the sacred Liturgy
and the Catechism of the Catholic Church


Dear Father,
I have recently been involved in a debate concerning holding hands during the Our Father. One of the people involved accused the another of being dissident because she held hands during the Our Father. I read the Instructions and the clarifications and there was only mention of holding hands as a substitute for the Sign of Peace. What about when that is not the case? At my parish we hold hands and do the Sign of Peace as it is in every other parish I have been in that holds hands. I am also a little confused because in Cardinal Mahoney's recent Pastoral Letter he says he wants to make hand holding mandatory. If what the women in the debate were saying is true, he would be in direct disobedience to the Pope, who according to these women has banned hand holding during the Our Father. If you could clear this up for me I would greatly appreciate it. I love our Pope and would not want to be disobedient. Thank you for any help you can give me.
God Bless,

Dear Kandyce,
There is nothing "dissident" about holding hands for community prayer, and this method may be quite suitable for some voluntary prayer groups, but it is not mandated during the Our Father in the Mass and so should not be done. The problem with hand-holding during the Our Father at Mass is not in the holding of hands itself but with the fact that it is not just or charitable to shove your hands at someone during Mass and demand that they hold your hands. The Liturgy is the official prayer of the whole Church, and the Church does not call for hand-holding during the Our Father because that is the best solution for everyone. It destroys the nature of the Liturgy for some to hold hands and to make others feel as if they are not praying well if they choose not to hold hands. We must choose ways to pray during the Liturgy that respect the wishes of everyone so that all feel welcome to the community and not forced to pray in ways that may appeal to some but not to all. I would like to see everyone start bowing during the Creed where the text indicates this is to be done and striking the breast during the Confiteor as we are called to do. Why is it that we are inventing some liturgical gestures today and ignoring the gestures that are mandated in the Mass? Thank you for writing.
Father Cusick

Dear Father,
Please could you give me your view on the following: My daughter is 15 years old and attends catechism classes at our church every Tuesday. The teachers now want her to sign a "covenant" with God that she will attend classes and Mass every week until the end of the year.Should she miss either the teacher would then contact me.
They also want me as a parent to sign a "covenant" to see that my child gets to Mass and religious classes every week. 2)Set an example for my child by participating at mass in my parish each Sunday and Holy day 3) Give an example of the importance of our faith in celebrating the various Sacraments including the Sacrament of Reconciliation as the Church prescribes during the year. 4) If I do not keep to these terms, it will be understood that I have withdrawn my child from the Parish Religious Education Program.
I must say that I am not at all happy signing this and would like your opinion. What does the Church prescribe with regard to Confession??
Do you think I should sign this form and is it correct for the church to want a child and parent to make a covenant with God we don't know if we can keep. I look forward to your reply. God Bless and thank you for your website.
--Regards, J

Dear J-- The Church prescribes Confession at least once a year and whenever we are conscious of serious, or mortal, sin before receiving Communion.
There are many abuses of the Sacraments and Religious Education today. Teachers and priests spend a lot of time and effort and then children do not show up on a regular basis, or go to class and never attend Mass on Sundays with the idea that they can do thus and then present themselves to receive first Communion or Confirmation. I can understand why the parish is reminding people of the covenant that they already should have made with God before presenting their children for classes or Sacraments.
Especially scandalous are those parents who, while enrolling their children for first Confession classes, refuse to take them to church on Sundays and so are occasions of mortal sin for their children. It is not the loving thing for a parent to do, to ask a child to prepare for Confession while being a source of scandal to the child each Sunday. The situation of Catholics who ask to pre-pare for the sacraments outside of a context of practicing the Faith has reached epidemic proportions. Unusual solutions are called for in order to correct such a serious problem.
Every Catholic is called by the Lord to live a covenant fidelity. This covenant is to keep the Commandments except for serious reasons, such as illness. Your parish is only asking you to verify that you are doing your best to live out this covenant. If you are already keeping the Commandments, why not set a good example for your child and others by participating in this public witness to the Faith. You are not being asked whether or not you know if you can keep the Covenant in the future. You are being asked if you have a firm intention now to keep the Commandments and to ensure that your child does the same. God calls us to answer for ourselves and to promise him to be faithful. Your parish leaders represent God in this respect, in particular the bishop's representative: your pastor. You have nothing to lose...others have much to gain.
Father Cusick
Dear Father,
The GIRM does not give a description of a cross or crucifix in the requirements for same at or near the altar. Is a figure of the crucified Lord supposed to be on the cross? Lately crosses with a figure of the resurrected figure of Christ have been used. The Holy Father always has a crucifix with the crucified figure when he says Mass. It may be that following Easter the resurrection figure would be appropriate but, otherwise, it seems to me that the crucified figure would be required. My parish church is the Resurrection so we don't have a crucified figure. It is the feeling of some in the parish that it is too gorey. I always say that unless there was a crucifixion, there wouldn't be a resurrection and the Mass itself is a re- enactment of Calvary. To make matters worse, our resurrection cross had three small bells on each side of the crossarm - can you believe that! Thanks for any help you can give.
--Jim Holland

Dear Jim-- The Latin, though translated into English as "cross", indicates that a crucifix is to be used -- at least one representation of the crucified Lord must be placed near the altar for the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass each time that it is offered....thank you for writing!!!
I am writing to you, because of an article that I read, in the Cleveland Plain Dealer, this past Sunday 11/23/97. In this article, it tells of infertile couples who are adopting embryos. It seems there is this hospital in Manhattan, Columbia-Presbyterian Medical Center, that offers frozen embryos supplied by donors eggs and sperm. The couples can choose an embryo to match their physical or have same ethnic background as well as education.
The premade frozen embryos go for $2,570. Some are custom made by doctors. I was really upset to read this kind of supermarket attitude towards life. I hadn't seen much on this subject before and didn't know that this was allowed, but it appears there are not too many laws to govern this action. I don't know whom I should contact in order to register my concerns. Would writing to my elect officials be the best course of action? I know that you bring a lot of issues to light in your web site, and that is why I thought of writing you.
Your guidance in this matter would be appreciated.
God Bless!!
Frances Frey

Dear Frances,
Thank you very much for writing.
I can refer you to a moral theologian who can help you to reflect further on this issue or to web sites that explore moral issues. Please be sure to read the Gospel of Life by Pope John Paul II and Humanae Vitae by Pope Paul VI. These would be a good starting point. Anything which replaces the God-given means of bringing a child into the world strips the child of his or her dignity and turns that child into an object subject merely to the whims and desires of the parents. Such attitudes reduce the child to sub-human dignity. Every child has a right to be brought into the world by natural conception. Every child has a right to be brought into the world by a man and a woman committed to each other in marriage. Only this God-given context ensures the child will be respected and treasured as a free individual created in the holy image of God.

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