The following is from an article titled “Hold the applause: Save the praise for God alone”
All of this reminds me of an old Chevy Chase routine when he was a regular on Saturday Night Live. He would come on stage and say, “I’m Chevy Chase, and you’re not,” always garnering a big laugh. No one was ever sure why, but it seemed to touch a nerve about the comedian’s feigned oversized ego and his disdain for everyone else. The joke, in other words, was on him.
There are many other things that parishes do that drive home the point that some among us are Chevy Chase, and most are not:
1. Applause for a job well done. Apparently the choir members in our parish are so insecure that they have to be thanked and applauded at least once a month. And here I thought they were singing to give glory to God and because they like to sing.
During a Stations of the Cross at our parish school last year, the priest led a round of applause for the good job the children had done. I know our children deserve to have their self-esteem built up, but is it really necessary—or even appropriate—when we have just finished recalling Christ’s passion and death?
2. Mentions in the parish bulletin. My parish used to list everyone on the staff but the flower arranger on the front page of our bulletin. The new pastor (the one who led us in “Happy Birthday” on Christmas Eve) has thankfully eliminated that list most weeks, under the theory that most of us already know who is on the staff.
3. Prayers of the faithful. Yes, I think we should pray for the pope, the bishop, and the pastor by name, and all the other ministers of the church. But do we have to do it every week, and do they always have to be first? How about a prayer for “Jane Jones, who is fighting to keep her business afloat and to continue to employ seven people,” or “Mark Johnson, who is balancing his job and visiting his aging mother in the nursing home every day”?
4. Announcements. I once went to an Episcopal church in New York City where they made all the announcements before their Mass began. When I mention this possibility to Catholic priests, their universal reaction is a jocular “But people aren’t there yet!”
The implication is that the announcements are so important that they must be done right before the dismissal, so that it is the sending forth on our mission to the world that becomes the afterthought, not the precious announcements about what is going on at the parish that week.
(Here’s the way to know if an announcement is really important at my parish: The homilist mentions it, it leads off the announcements, and then the priest mentions it again before the dismissal. Mostly these have to do with an event at the parish that they really, really want us to attend, such as the special concert by the contemporary choir or the St. Patrick’s Day dinner.)
5. The annual blessing of parish ministers. If there is ever a time when Chevy Chase would feel comfortable at our parish, it is the annual Sunday when we all thank and bless every single person involved in any sort of ministry in our parish.
We (about half of those present) are all called up on stage—I mean around the altar—and the priest reads a special prayer over us. Then all those in the stands—I mean the pews—raise their right hands and bless us, reminding themselves in so doing that we are Chevy Chase and they are not.
All of this reflects both a poor understanding of the church and of evangelization.
It is a poor understanding of the church because it says that “the church” is really the people who work for it, either on the staff or in a church-sponsored “ministry.” The rest become onlookers and cheerleaders and donors and “the faithful,” and it is their job to make sure that we—the ones who actually the ones who actually run the church—feel sufficiently loved and honored.
So was this article published in The National Catholic Register or The Wanderer? Perhaps Crisis Magazine? Surprisingly it was actually published in U.S. Catholic.
I think this is the first time I have ever found an article from that source that was actually worthwhile. The full article is really quite good and makes some good points. I have complained before about what I call the “Liturgy of the Bulletin” and applause at Mass is becoming more and more prevalent. I’m thankful though not to have run into Happy Birthday at Mass, knock on liturgical wood.
Then-Cardinal Ratzinger said in his book “The Spirit of the Liturgy”:
“Wherever applause breaks out in the liturgy because of some human achievement, it is a sure sign that the essence of liturgy has totally disappeared and been replaced by a kind of religious entertainment.”
I couldn’t agree more.
We are all part of the Body of the Christ and have our roles to play. In the Holy Liturgy those in the pews praying and worshiping God are just as active, if not more so, than members of the choir or others involved in the Mass. There person who prays daily for the parish gets no applause, and should not. If you require such recognition than you need to refocus on what the Mass is about.
Does he thank the servant because he did what was commanded? 10 So you also, when you have done all that is commanded you, say, ‘We are unworthy servants; we have only done what was our duty.’” (Lk 17:9–10)