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A column I never thought I’d see in NH

Parable Magazine, the magazine of the Diocese of Manchester, has a regular column “Ask Fr. Kerper” wherein people can ask a priest questions to which they’ve never gotten answers.  In the September/October edition Fr. Kerper addressed the question, “Why does everyone do something different at Mass?”  He addresses the Sign of Peace, holding hands during the Our Father and the Orans position for the laity and does so in a way that lines up with everything I’ve read from Church authorities.  That only sounds unexpected if you haven’t visited the many parishes throughout this Diocese where these practices are well out of line with all those recommendations – indeed I can’t remember a single parish (not that I’m particularly widely traveled, but still) where at least one of the above wasn’t at least a little sideways compared to what the Church recommends.  Once upon a time it really bothered me; for the most part now I sigh and chuckle – it is, indeed,  in the words of James Joyce “the Church of here comes everybody”.

In short summation, here are some of his points, but the whole article is worth reading if for no other reason than to see a truly sensitive treatment of the topic that doesn’t fail to offer what the Church teaches in order to seem “nice”.  Well done, Father.

The Sign of Peace

In the late 1960s, after Vatican II, the Church restored the sign of peace. Whether one likes it or not, it is definitely not an innovation but part of our genuine liturgical tradition. Moreover, recognizing that it may not work well in all conditions and cultures, the Church never mandated it but made it optional.

Holding Hands

It has two drawbacks. First, it draws people away from the Father, whom we address in union with Christ, by focusing too much attention on the specific community linked by hands. Second, in most places it actually divides the worshippers because some cannot reach the hands of another person. For example, I have seen some congregations broken into six or seven groups with some people actually turned from the altar as they seek someone’s hand.

The Orans Position

Though the orans position is not prohibited, its use by people in the congregation certainly seems inappropriate and distracting. In private prayer or, say, in devotional prayer groups with a more charismatic style, the orans position might be good and useful, but not during Mass.

It should also be noted that Fr. Kerper is now the pastor of St. Patrick’s Parish in Nashua, NH which holds the only recurring Extraordinary Form Mass in the state outside of the St. Benedict Center.  For now that schedule is in flux as Fr. Kerper settles in to his new role, but I am hopeful it will again be offered at least as often as it was before the passing of the late Fr. Kelly.

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