Friday, 26 November 2010

Lourdes Magazine: October-November 2010

The October-November edition of Lourdes Magazine looks ahead to the pastoral theme of the next pilgrimage year. This theme is "Pray the Our Father with Bernadette". If forms the second year of a three year cycle which draw our attention to the prayers that St Bernadette used during her first meeting with the Blessed Virgin.

The articles in the Magazine are made up of answers to 50 questions about the Our Father, written by the Bishop of Tarbes and Lourdes, Mgr Jacques Perrier. I haven't read them systematically yet, but hope to do so during the season of Advent. My dip suggests that the articles are reflective and helpful, providing a certain intellectual input by, for example, including citations of the Fathers of the Church, but keeping that input at a profoundly pastoral level. Question 7 is a discussion entitled "Father or Mother?" - but don't take away from the title of the question any idea that Mgr Perrier's is denying the Fatherhood of God.

In the centre of the Magazine is a double page spread dedicated to helping children, or perhaps teenagers, to pray the Our Father. One of the interesting things about this spread are the photographs illustrating a young girl in different postures of prayer to illustrate the different petitions of the Our Father. In Question 47, Mgr Perrier describes a range of different practises in this regard. Whilst not coming to a definitive conclusion about the question of the congregation extending their hands along with the priest, his reply does suggest a positive evaluation of such a practice.
In Christian prayer, the greatest traditional attitude is the Orant gesture represented in the catacombs. As it is a woman it cannot be a priest. Afterwards the gesture was practiced only by priests during the greater part of the Mass, notably during the prayers, the Eucharistic Prayer and the Our Father. When the faithful recite the Our Father with the priest it is reasonable for them to adopt this gesture. Extended arms render us vulnerable: in prayer we rightly wish to be vulnerable to God. They also reproduce the attitude of Christ on the cross. The hands slightly raised towards the heavens correspond to the invocation "Our Father who art in Heaven".
If I understand the rubrics of the Liturgy correctly, they expect the congregation to stand for the Our Father at Mass, but beyond that, remain silent. So far as I can gather, in those places where some people do extend their hands for the Our Father, the people are generally happy to accept that some people will do that and others will not, there being no sense of division or anxiety created as a result.

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