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Psychological Healing
in the Catholic Mystic Tradition

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In reading Through the Eyes of Jesus I keep encountering the hand holding during prayer, which is the Protestant approach to prayer, at least it has been as long as I can remember, and one that has pained me even as a child. I would go to a friends house for dinner and was so embarrassed when I had to fight to get my hands free so I could make the sign of the cross and fold my hands to say my prayer. I have offended I don’t know how many people throughout my life, because they see this as a rejection of them, but I tell them I am Catholic and we sign ourselves with the cross and fold our hands to pray, why do you not allow me this and you pray in your way? Why get so worked up about it? But then even Catholics today pray more and more this way, and when we were in Lourdes I was nudged repeatedly in the ribs when I refused to hold hands during the Our Father, and more recently, I was with a group of Catholics yet they wished to pray in this way, and what should have been a moment to thank God, turned instead into an argument over why can they not hold hands and allow me the sign of the cross and and to pray in the more traditional manner? No one would pray until I held their hands. At the Novus Ordo Mass more and more there are people floating our way to hold our hands during the Our Father, and so I isolate myself and the children more and more so we can concentrate on the prayer, rather than on who to hold hands with. The children get a real kick out of the social aspect and it is getting harder to get them to bow their heads and just fold their hands and pray, instead of looking around at everyone to see whose eye they can catch and whose hand they are going to shake. Now, I know in prayer it is not so much the outer expression of it as the heart being in it—and I know often when I speak with another and my heart is in my words, I reach out and wish to hold their hand as we talk. So I can see how this could happen in prayer—yet I still recoil from it today, as it seems so shallow and a surface thing. These same people stand and talk so noisily in the Church so others cannot pray afterwards, and so this is why I recoil from it I think. If their hearts were truly full of the love of God, they would not prevent others from speaking with Him. You know? I have tried to research this in the past, and see how the Catholic tradition of folding the hands rather than holding the hands began, but I have never been able to discover this.

Imagine taking a group of light bulbs and connecting them together with a wire. What would happen? Nothing. Well, OK. Now imagine screwing those light bulbs into electrical sockets that have been connected in series to an electrical generator. What would happen? The bulbs light up. 

When Jesus was among us in His human form, He was a conduit of divine love. So it would make sense that, at times, as Ames describes, He would hold hands with others in prayer as a way to transmit His healing love [1] to them—like the generator in my example about the light bulbs.

Nevertheless, Ames provides many descriptions of times when Jesus touched the hearts of others purely through prayer, without human touch. This demonstrates His spiritual connection with us, and it anticipates His Church itself. 

After the Ascension, when Jesus was no longer present to us in human form, He sent the Holy Spirit to us, as described in Acts 2:1–13. And ever since that Pentecost, the Holy Spirit is present to each of us, individually and directly, through our connection to the Church.[2] Thus, when we pray, we have no need to hold hands with others. Prayer comes from our hearts when we open them to the touch of divine love. Prayer facilitates our emotional connection to others through our acts of sacrifice for them, but prayer does not come from others.

The practice of holding hands in prayer derives from the New Age notion that we can be our own salvation, without concern for sin or fear of judgment. Holding hands feels good, yes, and it gives the illusion of being connected to others. But to what purpose? It’s like light bulbs connected to a wire that goes nowhere.

So, once all of your daily actions become grounded in orthodox theology, you can then feel confident in not letting popular opinion dissuade you from the true faith.


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1. Similarly, those persons throughout Church history who have been gifted with healing graces often use physical touch to transmit healing to others.

2. Especially through the Sacraments of Baptism and Confirmation.


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