The “Our Father” at Mass

08-14-2016Why do Catholics do that?

The “Our Father”, or “Pater Noster”, which we say at Mass is a prayer given to us by Our Lord (Matthew 6, Luke 11). We can say that this prayer is a summary of the whole Gospel given the wide range of topics in its petitions. This makes it a very suitable prayer for meditation since each petition cannot be exhausted.

Within the prayer we see seven distinct petitions. The first three are for the glorification of God, and the last four are for our own needs:
1. "Hallowed be thy name".
2. "Thy Kingdom come".
3. "Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven".
4. "Give us this day our daily bread".
5. "Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us".
6. "Lead us not into temptation".
7. "Deliver us from evil".

It is interesting to note that a closer translation of the Greek renders "daily bread" as "super-substantial bread". This indicates that the prayer is actually Eucharistic in its character. It also shows that Jesus was talking about the need for the Eucharist just as much as He was talking about the need for daily food. For this reason, the "Our Father" was already a part of the liturgy as a Communion prayer as early as the 4th Century.
The General Instruction of the Roman Missal (GIRM) does not indicate a posture for the people during the Our Father at Mass, except that they should stand. It should be noted that the "orans" (hands open slightly apart) is a gesture reserved for the priest at the Our Father. In the 1970s this action was often imitated by the faithful which soon led to congregations holding hands. Since this gesture is so common today it is often mistakenly believed that it is required. If it is your practice to hold hands during the Our Father please be aware that others near you may not wish to do so.

God Bless,
Andy Miller
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