Apologetics for the Masses - Issue #146

Bible Christian Society

General Comments

1) I’ve received an initial response from Mike Gendron to the newsletters I’ve been writing about the articles on his website. I’ve printed it below with my response (see “Challenge/Response/Strategy”). I really am not expecting much in the way of a full, comprehensive, and coherent response, but, you never know…

2) I’ve released the 3rd video in my series, “Questions Protestants Can’t Answer.” You can see it at this link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z6Zx9X7S6nQ

I continue with another question from James, chapter 2 which most of you should be familiar with (I promise I’ll soon get out of James 2, but it’s just such a wonderful chapter!). So, if you wouldn’t mind checking it out, maybe even many times, and letting your friends know about it, I would appreciate it. And, if you haven’t already checked out video #2 in the series, you can do so by going to: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ykU8Ku4ENDs


Sorry I haven’t been able to get a newsletter out in the last couple of weeks, but I’ve been traveling some and my job at the Diocese has been keeping me crazy busy lately.

And, for the next couple of weeks, I’m under the gun with tax returns for a couple of non-profits, so I will not be able to finish my response to Mike Gendron’s article on Purgatory until around the middle of August. But, in the meantime, I’m going to put out a couple of issues with some Q&A’s that I’ve been publishing in our diocesan newspaper. I hope you enjoy them.

So, first the email I received from Mike Gendron and my response back to him, and then two Q&A’s on the rubrics of the Mass.


Hi John,

Many people have been asking me to respond to your condescending attacks on my articles. I will respond if you promise to send my response to your entire email subscribers.

The Son of God became the Son of Man because He had the law to fulfill, darkness to dispel, truth to disclose, error to expose, prophecy to accomplish, justice to satisfy, sin to remove, righteousness to impute, sinners to save, a bride to purify, heaven to open, life to give, death to destroy, Satan to conquer and God to reveal!


Mike Gendron

Dear Mike,

I will be more than happy to send your response to my entire email list.  Unlike many who only give selective parts of what the Catholic Church says on any given topic, it is my policy to publish all of the responses I receive in their entirety.  So, I will be anxiously awaiting your response…

As a side note, I find your description of my newsletters as, "condescending attacks," to be a bit like the pot calling the kettle black, don’t you think?

In Christ,

John Martignoni

"For this I have come into the world, to bear witness to the truth.  Every one who is of the truth hears My voice."


Q:     I heard someone mention something about the “rubrics” of the Mass and I wasn’t exactly sure what they were talking about?
A:    Strictly speaking, the rubrics of the Mass are the instructions in the Missal that tell the priest what he is to do at Mass. In the Missal, the prayers the priest is to recite are written in black, while the instructions (rubrics) for the priest are written in red. This is why they are called “rubrics,” because the word comes from the Latin word “ruber,” which means “red.”   

I have seen, however, a number of people who use the word in a more general manner to refer to all of the instructions for the Mass that are found in the General Instructions of the Roman Missal (GIRM).  In the GIRM there are instructions that are specifically for the ministers, and there are instructions that are specifically for the people.

You can generally find the instructions meant for the people in the missalettes that are out in the pews.  They are usually italicized.  For example, you might see in the missalette the instruction “Sit” for the First Reading or “Stand” for the Alleluia or Gospel Acclamation. These instructions, or “rubrics,” however, don’t just tell us when to stand, sit, or kneel, they also instruct us on other postures we are to assume during Mass.

During the Penitential Rite, for example, you will see in the missalette the instruction to “Strike breast” when we say the words, “Through my own fault,” and during the recitation of the Creed, the people are told to “Bow” when we say, “By the power of the Holy Spirit he was born of the Virgin Mary, and became man.”  

These instructions, or liturgical norms, from the GIRM will also indicate when it is appropriate to say or not say certain prayers.  For example, in the missalette, at the beginning of the Profession of Faith, we are told that the Creed is to be recited by all “On Sundays and solemnities.”  At the beginning of the Apostles Creed, the instructions state that it “may be used at Masses with children.”  

These liturgical norms also tell us which prayers of the priest we are to respond to. Reading in the missalette, at the “Prayer of the Altar and the Gifts,” it says, “If no song is sung, the priest may pray aloud, and all may respond,” and then it gives the people’s response: “Blessed be God forever.” At the “Prayer Over the Gifts,” we are told, “The priest says the prayer over the gifts, and all respond,” and we say, “Amen.”

So, again, the rubrics are, specifically, the instructions in the Missal that tell the priest what he is to do at Mass.  But, as mentioned, I’ve seen people use the word in a broader sense to refer to all of the instructions for Mass, for the ministers and the people, that we find in the GIRM. But, in addition to the instructions we see written out for us, we need to understand a very important principle in regard to the rubrics, or instructions in the GIRM, and that is this: If the instructions do not say we can do something, then we cannot do it.  We speak and act when and how the instructions tell us to speak and act, but in the absence of an instruction saying we can do something, then it is generally assumed we cannot do it.

In secular society, the general principle is that if there is no law saying we cannot do something, then we can do it.  In Church society, the general principle is that if there is no law saying we can do something, then we cannot do it.

These rubrics and instructions are the Church’s liturgical norms which protect our official, communal worship from the whims of the individual, the imposition of idiosyncrasies and material heresy, and ensure that it does not become the private possession of any one person but remains the treasure of the entire Catholic community. 


Q:     A few weeks ago your article mentioned the rubrics of the Mass.  I’ve always had a question about everyone holding hands during the Our Father…is that a violation of the rubrics?

A:    Technically, the rubrics pertain to the instructions for the priest during the Mass.  So, from that standpoint, for the people to hold hands during the Our Father is not a violation of the rubrics.  For the priest to hold hands with the altar servers and the cantor or anyone else, however, that would indeed be a violation of the rubrics.  

Also, as noted in the previous article, the word “rubrics” has often come to be used to describe all of what is written in the General Instruction of the Roman Missal (GIRM), which contains the instructions for the actions of both the ministers and the people during the Mass.  

Nowhere in the GIRM does it say, “The people are not supposed to hold hands during the Our Father.”  But, as I pointed out in that last article, the general rule regarding liturgical instructions is: If the instructions do not tell me I can do something, then I cannot do it.

Given that, it seems that the people holding hands during the Our Father is indeed an abuse of the liturgical instructions for the Mass that we find in the GIRM.  I know that’s not going to be a popular answer, but truth often suffers that burden.  And, as liturgical abuses go, holding hands during the Our Father would definitely not be at the top of the list, but it is what it is nonetheless.  However, it should also be noted that if a family does it at Mass among themselves, it remains a private gesture, but if the whole congregation does it, it is now a public gesture and a violation of the rubrics.

Now, someone might say, “What’s the big deal?  What harm is there in holding hands with those around you?”  I would answer that with four points: 1) This is a gesture that was introduced illicitly into the Mass. If it’s “okay” to allow one unauthorized change to the GIRM, no matter how “harmless” it may seem, what’s to stop other unauthorized changes to the GIRM from creeping into the Mass?  Which is exactly what has happened.  

2) Jesus says that he who is faithful in little things, can be trusted with much more (Mt 25:21; Lk 16:10).  Scripture also tells us that Jesus is concerned with every iota and every dot of the law and that it’s not a good thing to relax even the least of the commandments (Mat 5:18-19).  So, even though it may be a “little thing,” should we not strive to be faithful in all things?

3) The liturgical instructions for the ministers and the people are filled with signs and actions that have very specific reasons for being part of the Mass and convey very specific meanings. The entire congregation holding hands at the Our Father interrupts the flow of those  signs.

4) Finally, on a purely practical level, holding hands during the Our Father can be very distracting.  Have you ever had someone next to you who is coughing the entire Mass and then, at the Our Father, they reach out to hold your hand with the hand they’ve been coughing into?  Or, have you ever held hands with someone with sweaty palms?  That definitely hinders my ability to concentrate when praying the Our Father.  Then there is the visual distraction of those who twist themselves to hold hands with people in front of them and behind them.    

Again, I realize that this answer to your question may not be a popular one, but I have to answer truthfully.  I would simply ask the reader to consider all of these things in his or her heart.

In Conclusion

Again, I will finish up with my comments on Mike Gendron’s article on Purgatory in a couple of weeks. I only need one more issue to finish it off and plant flowers on top of its grave. After that, if I have received a response from Gendron himself to what I’ve been writing, I’ll publish that. Do you think, though, that Gendron would ever publish anything I write about his articles on his website?

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Apologetics for the Masses