Fr. V. posts on applause at Mass.
…When I was younger (and even more idealistic) and directing the choir, Fr. Ozemik whom I looked up to (I took my confirmation name in part after him) acting very out of character asked the congregation at the end of mass, “Didn’t the choir do a fine job? Let’s give them a round of applause.” Not usually one to counter elders I none-the-less marched in to the sacristy and said rather sternly, “Don’t you ever do that to me again. This is my ministry and unless you are going to clap for the servers and the women who ironed the linens, and the men who volunteered to fix the pews, and Mrs. C who mended your vestment, and the ushers, readers, EMEs, and everyone else who had a role in this mass including the congregation don’t you ever do that again!”
Surprisingly he took it very well. More amusedly I think than anything else. But we never clapped again and once or twice he suggested to people that if they liked the music they should go tell the choir.
I spoke about this to a seminarian yesterday at lunch. He was equally as irritated. “We used to do that at my (Catholic) high school," he said, “We were told not to clap during the mass anymore so we took up a bunch of time afterwards to acknowledge everyone after mass and clap for them. ‘And now for the choir . . .and now for the EMHC . . .’ I don’t know why we didn’t clap for the congregation that did a great job praying or for Jesus Christ who was kind enough to show up.”
He then goes on to give more arguments against this. For my part whenever I have heard applause at Mass I always thought it was disruptive and took away from the solemnity of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. That people have forgotten that Christ’s sacrifice is re-presented and we are present at Calvary and Jesus’ live-giving sin-destroying sacrificial act. Would anybody think it was appropriate to clap at Calvary?
If applause is a good to show appreciation in the context of the Mass, then shouldn’t we be doing it at the consecration?
Some of the parishes where I have heard applause I have also experienced another thing. That after Mass the priest will start asking who is from out of town, who has a birthday or an anniversary, etc. I keep waiting for them to ask "Who is annoyed by this phony act of community" so I too can stand up. I am sure they have the best of intentions, but we have just received Jesus Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity and the last thing we need is to be focusing back on ourselves once again. Speaking from experience I know I am very good at doing that myself without any outside help.
No problem here with asking visitors to identify themselves after Mass/Liturgy. It was, and no doubt still is, a commonplace at my Byzantine parish in Las Vegas, and seemed a good way to welcome new people to the parish. Compared with how easy it is to disappear into the congregation and never be noticed by anyone…is it that bad?
I remember an apocryphal story about a preacher who became very angry at the applause which followed sermons in his day. He preached fire and brimstone apcalyptic doom to those who persisted in this obnoxious habit and of course, you can guess the rest can’t you? … he was applauded vigorously for such a fine sermon. Sounds about right doesn’t it?!
Applause at Mass is one of my pet peeves. It indicates an attitude that people want to be entertained at the Show, er, I mean, the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.
Every time I hear applause after Mass, I half think, half mutter “This is not entertainmnet. This is Mass.” It sounds like we’re being curmudgeons, but really, that is one of the more inappropriate things once can do at Mass.
I can understand occasional applause at Mass–for example, when our First Communicants sang a song of thanksgiving and praise after receiving the Eucharist for the first time this past weekend, or when the neophytes re-emerge from going off to change their clothes after being Baptized–but I don’t get applauding the choir after they sing. And I’m a choir member! Just come over after the Mass and tell us you appreciated the music.
I think applause during Mass is disruptive and inappropriate, even for children’s singing. We are teaching those children that applause is an appropriate response to a hymn of praise; how much better to speak to them after Mass (at a reception for them)? or put a note in the bulletin. Every parish that others I attend breaks into applause at the end of the recessional song (then stand in the aisles and chat) Grinchlike as it sounds, how about a little silence for those who want to pray quietly then.
Perhaps it is also apocryphal, but there is the story about Pope Paul VI. He was in a church (a Major Basilica perhaps) and after his homily, the congregation erupted into applause. He remained in his place and silently put his index finger to his lips. When the applause had settled to a relative silence, he responded: “Do not applaud the servant in the master’s house”
�Wherever applause breaks out in the liturgy because of some human achievement, it is a sure sign that the essence of the liturgy has totally disappeared and been replaced by a kind of religious entertainment.�
(Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, �The Spirit of the Liturgy�)
I went to this Spanish language charismatic Mass one time by accident (long story) and they spent rather a lot of time (like an hour) after Communion applauding Jesus Christ. Seemed totally out of place on the one hand (probably should have been reserved to a prayer meeting outside of Mass) and totally refreshing on the other hand, because we were for once giving credit where it’s due.
I was visiting another parish a few years ago, where the baptisms were done in the context of the Mass. After the baptism, the priest would ask for a round of applause for the newly baptized. Which, as you could expect, jarred the heretofore calm infant into nerving jangling wailing. Applause at Mass does the same thing to me, but because I’m a grown-up I have to hold my screaming for later.
Of course, we were set back a bit in this respect by the College of Cardinals applauding all through Ratzinger’s sermon at JP II’s funeral.
“I keep waiting for them to ask “Who is annoyed by this phony act of community” so I too can stand up.”
You wouldn’t be standing alone, Fr. V!
There are two times when our priests asks us to applaud during mass. 1 is immediately after the rite of baptism (i.e., it’s essentially between the end of the baptismal rite and the offertory) and after the rite of confirmation at Easter vigil (again, between the rite and the offertory.) I think it’s a little uncomfortable, but the context is not one of appreciation or accolade for people serving in the context of the mass. Rather it is in the context of congratulation for those who have received the sacrament and their families, of welcome.
There are a couple of times when applause is actually called for by the Latin Rite during Mass. 1 of those places where the ritual actually calls for applause is at the ordination of priests or deacons. The purpose isn’t to congratulate those ordained. rather it is included as a sign of the call by the community of those persons being ordained that is a part of the discernment process. It is a final affirmation of this at the ordination. Nowadays it is more symbolic than anything. But, it IS still required.
On the other hand, applause after Mass for the music ministry (which I refuse to do despite criticism from some) reaks of saying to the music ministry, thanks for the entertainment. Fr. V has got it exactly right. I applaud him for saying so. (Tongue in cheek) I guess that is OK at this point as were aren’t at Mass.
As an aside, as I type this, I have on EWTn’s coverage of the homily that Papa Benedetto gave at Vespers Fri nite. He just got done talking about how liturgy is supposed to be rightly done. Oh, if only the priests & bishops here in the USA would listen & obey.
The only one I want clapping for me is the Lord!
I lead our choir (which is located in a vestibule to the side of the sanctuary, thus forcing us to face the congregation concert-style), and whenever a particular priest always mention a message of appreciation for us, including applause, I tell the members to not clap for ourselves.
I really don’t like the applause during Mass at all, especially at my church when we applause after the Gloria and after the Our Father. It’s disruptive and makes me feel like I should have paid to buy a ticket to Mass.
I don’t mind what you call “phony act of Community”, if it’s done during the homily. I think sometimes people are afraid of the Catholic Church because way too many Catholics are belligerent and focused on their own salvation. We need to be a welcoming church. I’m not talking about the i-don’t-care-if-your-openly-progay,performing-abortions-hey-have-some-communion kind of welcoming, but just an attitude of love and real affection. Yes sometimes when it comes from the ambo it sounds phony, but at least it makes the priest more approachable and I often find that people smile and laugh during the little greeter. If it’s done respectfully and doesn’t take away from the charity of the Mass, then it’s ok in my book.
One place where I find clapping during Mass grating is during the Pro-Life Vigil Mass at the Basilica in DC–the homily, interspersed with bouts of intense clapping, seems less a homily and more a rally speech….
You can prevent applause after mass for the choir by having the choir keep singing each verse more quietly or by choosing a subdued hymn or by having the organ play quietly after people are done singing.
Usually, choir members dislike applause at mass the most.
Excellent idea, TNL. When the Recessional Hymn is a peppy, clappy African hymn, typical at one parish, the contemplative mood of the Mass is broken.
And forget about trying to stay and pray.
Fr. V and Lynn: i agree with you!
As to the applause as the congregations assent to the ordination of a deacon or priest, I don’t believe that the rite calls specifically for applause. I believe the proper response to the bishop’s statement: “we choose this man for the order of deacon/presbyter” is “Deo Gratias” translated as: “Thanks be to God.” Many ordinations I have attended where such has been completely replaced with applause – nobody saying “thanks be to God.” It seems there is a real problem here, because in this culture (North America) Applause is not a nuanced gesture – we generally associate it with the sentiment “Good job ol’ boy!” or “Good show! Good Show!” The rubric may allow for the response “Thanks be To God” or “some other acceptable gesture of affirmation…” (or words to that effect) This is clearly an example of the way in which the allowance of “some other gesture” or “in these or similar words” have re-shaped the liturgy in a way which is – at best – inconsistent with the intended purpose.
I could go on, but I feel I should go to my own blog if I wish to post further on this!
I went to a parish where the priest asked everyone who was a visitor to stand up and be appauded. I found that offensive. I was there to go to Mass, not to have this fake/creepy lovefest foisted on me. I didn’t stand up but a woman next to me did and announced that I was new. Everybody looked at me and clapped. I couldn’t wait to get out of there. It was like being at a Stepford Wives convention.
Kind of shatters the peaceful Mass atmosphere, doesn’t it? My theory is that certain personality types love and need this kind of recognition/interaction and don’t understand why everyone doesn’t.
I must disagree with Al, who writes:
“There are a couple of times when applause is actually called for by the Latin Rite during Mass. 1 of those places where the ritual actually calls for applause is at the ordination of priests or deacons…. But, it IS still required.”
No, the assent of the assembly is required: the manner of the assent is a matter of discussion.
I have in front of me a copy of the current Rite of Ordination of Priests. Section 123 has a specific modification for the United States of America:
Bishop: Relying on the help of the Lord God and our Savior Jesus Christ, we choose these, our brothers, for the Order of the Priesthood.
All present say: Thanks be to God.
In the dioceses of the United States of America, all present give their assent to the choice by means of a sung or recited acclamation, such as, Thanks be to God, or by other suitable words. The assent may also be given by means of an action, for example, by applause or by all standing.
Thus in the USA applause is permissive, not prescriptive.
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