Thursday, February 22, 2018

“The Fingers that Hold God”: The Priestly Benefits of ‘Liturgical Digits’ (Part 2)

I introduced this series (Part 1) with a brief story about how, having noticed the custom of the holding together of thumb and forefinger at the traditional Mass for many years, I decided to ask a number of priests how it appeared in their eyes. The responses of 19 priests to my first question were given in the first installment. Today, we proceed to the second question and the responses.

QUESTION 2. Devotion, Nuisance, or Something Else?
If you began your priestly life celebrating only the usus recentior and later learned the usus antiquior, did learning to hold the fingers together strike you as more devout, or as a nuisance, or something else?

Fr. A.P.
It struck me as both more devout and also, at first, as a bit awkward since I had been used to celebrating the usus recentior without this gesture. But that sense quickly disappeared and I instinctively began to want to use this gesture also when celebrating the usus recentior.
Fr. B.H.
I started my priesthood saying the Novus Ordo but was taught the rubrics for it by a conservative priest superior who taught me to hold fingers together—and why. So when I started the usus antiquior a bit later that same practice then didn't really make any difference for me.
Fr. B.J.
As can be seen from the first answer, it certainly struck me as more devout. It did take a small amount of time to get used to it, but even that was not difficult, since it so powerfully confirmed what I already knew by faith.
Fr. D.C.
This is exactly my situation. I didn’t celebrate the usus antiquior until almost 10 years into my priesthood. However, from the day of my first Holy Mass, I have held my fingers together after touching the Sacred Species. I have always found it to foster devotion in myself, but also in the congregation. I in no way find it a nuisance.
Fr. D.F.
I began celebrating the Extraordinary Form after four years of celebrating only the Ordinary Form.  I did not perceive holding together my canonical digits as a nuisance in any way.  I would say that it did strike me as somewhat more devout, as, related to Question 1, I sensed a particular devotional significance in the gesture.  
Fr. D.N.
I have been a priest for seven years. The first four years I was doing the Novus Ordo. The last three years I have been doing the Traditional Latin Mass. For all of this time (in both Masses over seven years), I have kept liturgical digits. It wasn't a matter of showing people what was devout, as just a result of knowledge that crumbs could be on my fingers. As a guy once said, "You're dealing with plutonium up there." He actually got it right. Would we not follow every precaution possible with something as precious and as powerful as the physical body of the Son of God? For this reasons, it is hardly a nuisance to hold my fingers together in an act of protection.
Fr. E.W.
This was in fact the path I took— celebrating first the newer use, and then learning the older. Holding the fingers together in the older use struck me immediately as more devout.
Fr. E.P.
One who is not a priest and has not had the experience of keeping the fingers joined at the appropriate times cannot fully appreciate the difficulty that this may cause him. Try, as an example, taking your handkerchief out of your back pocket, passing your hand with its joined fingers along the way, opening the handkerchief and blowing the nose after having sneezed!
Fr. J.F.
I was ordained 17 years when I learned and began celebrating the Traditional Rite. It was not all that foreign to me. A friend of mine who was a Franciscan in his late 70’s still used canonical fingers for new Mass during the early 1980’s. Learning to turn pages and hold things without dropping them was something to get used to. Bringing greater respect and reverence to the Holy Sacrament is of utmost importance.
Fr. J.K.
The one thing that became abundantly clear when learning the Extraordinary Form was that I was not in charge. I could not pick and choose this or that option depending on my homily or my personal preference. No, here I had to conform myself to the liturgy. This was experienced both spiritually and physically. In the spiritual life, it is my hope that I can be conformed ever more to the likeness of Christ. This becomes possible in the Extraordinary Form. I never experienced it as a nuisance. I took it up readily and easily.
Fr. J.S.
As said above, from the beginning I celebrated both forms—but always with those two fingers together.
Fr. J.M.
It is clearly more devout. It can also be clumsy especially with the design of some modern ciboria. It just cannot be done with the sign of peace: which suits me just fine! Give me canonical digits over handshakes any day.
Fr. J.B.
I have from the beginning celebrated Mass according to both usages—my first Mass was in the usus antiquior, my second Mass in the usus recentior… However, I found it all three—more devout, in the sense indicated above; somewhat of a nuisance in distributing Communion from a Ciborium or when using a Missal without good tabs; and corresponding to a general greater visible and corporal mimesis in the usus antiquior than in the usus recentior.
Fr. M.K.
Never did I find it annoying or fussy.
Fr. M.C.
In our congregation we learn the “holding together” in both forms from the very beginning. It is even an internal rule to do it in both forms, always.
Fr. M.B.
I learned the usus recentior and then later learned about how to celebrate the usus antiquior. The practice of holding the fingers does strike me as devout and careful. I have held those fingers at nearly every single Mass I’ve ever said. The first 30 or so Masses I said were without this practice. The others included it. I believe that it is a catechetical tool. It gives people something to think about, it is distinctive and it begs the question: why do you do that? It gives me a chance to talk about the Real Presence, thus I like it.
Fr. P.M.
Though holding the fingers together may have been a nuisance to begin with, it quickly became a very conscious sign of the care I needed to take regarding the Host and any particle whatsoever. This consciousness has definitely affected the way I celebrate any Mass.
Fr. T.K.
The practice did not strike me as a nuisance, though it took some getting used to, especially when turning the pages of the Missal.
Fr. W.S.
It struck me as awkward at first, merely from the mechanics of the gesture; but unreservedly as a more devout and indeed as so naturally devout that I wondered how on earth the usus recentior could ever have suppressed the gesture.
St. Josemaria Escriva observing 'liturgical digits'

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