Q. 1. Some time ago, some of the parishioners started holding hands at Mass during the Our Father. This practice has spread to the extend that about one third of Mass participants are doing it. Many of us are not comfortable with this new practice. No one seens to know when the Vatican implemented this new practice. What can you tell me about it?
A. 1. Holding hands during the Our Father at Holy Mass is not a Vatican approved part of the liturgy. It is an illicit (meaning "not legally permitted or authorized") addition to the liturgy. In fact, it is an abuse of the liturgy.
The practice started around the 1970's in Protestant Churches, infiltrated the Catholic Charismatic movement and is now found in many Catholic Churches around the world.
The holding of hands during Holy Mass appears to be an imitation of the priest who prays with his arms outstretched. This is the traditional posture for priests and bishops during the liturgy. The U.S. Bishops have considered permitting the laity to mimic the gestures of the bishop or priest, but the Holy See has not approved this, and the 1997 Instruction on Certain Questions Regarding the Collaboration of the non-ordained Faithful in the Sacred Ministry of Priests, prohibits the laity from mimicking the gestures appropriate to a priest. Specifically it states: "Neither may deacons or non-ordained members of the faithful use gestures or actions which are proper to the same priest celebrant. It is a grave abuse for any member of the non-ordained faithful to “quasi-preside” at the Mass while leaving only that minimal participation to the priest which is necessary to secure validity. [ICP, Practical Provisions 6 §2]."
The Catholic Church, in her official teaching, does not look favorably on the practice of holding hands. If you practice this liturgical abuse, you are asked to stop it. If you are a member of a parish where a misguide priest demands that you participate in this practice, you are not obligated to do so. No one but the Vatican, through the proper implementation, can add or remove from the Catholic liturgy.
The Vatican Document Notitiae (Not 11 (1975) 226) stated the practice of holding hands during the Our Father should be "repudiated". That means it should not happen, and should not continue. (see also DOL 1502)