Q: During the Mass, what is the laity supposed to do with their hands when the Presider says “The Lord be with you” ? Some 20+ years ago, when I came into the Catholic Church through RCIA from the Episcopal Church, I was told that extending one’s hands forward while responding, “And with you (your spirit)” was an unrequired, voluntary, and acceptable gesture of good will toward the human persona of the Presider. Since then and across multiple dioceses and parishes, I have observed that this hand-extension has been a common, though not universal, form of response to “The Lord be with you.” In recent years, I’ve participated in Roman Catholic Masses in which a particular Presider replied “Thank you,” to the laity response — whether with words and/or hands. I was heartened to recognize that he was acknowledging our collective-laity recognition of and gratitude for his particular, and wonderful, vocation, as well as his Christo-persona. My question arises from a recent “wave” of comments among my prayer group and some parishioners that this laity hand-extension gesture violates the USCCB guidelines for how laity is to use their hands and arms during the Mass. Please clarify. Thank you.
A: There are no rules on what to do with your hands. The Vatican has stated that the laity should not imitate the presider’s gestures, but it appears especially concerned about the Eucharistic Prayer, so that the people do not pretend to be concelebrants.
Some people in some congregations make the gesture you describe. It seems spontaneous. There is no clear rule against it. Consequently, I do not promote it, and I do not forbid it.
And I never say “Thank you.” I’m sure the priest means well, and you certainly accepted his words well. But that response should not be necessary, and it can draw too much attention to the priest.