QUAERITUR: Applause during Mass

From a reader:

One thing I have seen at several different parishes is the priest, during mass, after a song by the choir during mass either leading applause or in two instance saying something along the lines of ” How about a hand for the choir and the wonderful job singing ..
insert your Marty Haugen tune of choice here…” I seen a quote by Cardinal Ratzinger , now Pope Benedict XVI that I can only paraphrase, it went something like ” Applause during the liturgy raises the accomplishments of man above the celebration of the mass ” What are your thoughts on applause during the mass ?

I know there are cultural differences, but I agree with His Holiness.

“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liturgy because of some human achievement, it is a sure sign that the essence of liturgy has totally disappeared and been replaced by a kind of religious entertainment. ” (Spirit of the Liturgy p. 198)

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46 Responses to QUAERITUR: Applause during Mass

  1. Marianna says:

    At Mass in my parish they applaud after a baptism. The priest says: “Give X a round of applause”. I’m never quite sure why the person should be applauded, since his/her baptism is God’s work, throught the priest. So maybe the idea really is to applaud the conferral of the Sacrament, or to welcome the person into the Christian family. But it trivialises the proceedings. If it’s a welcome, couldn’t the applause wait until the end of Mass?

  2. anilwang says:

    I think its more accurate to say that applause indicates that those of the parish think the liturgy is an arbitrary religious ceremony and the Church is merely a religion social group.

    Sad to say, the head of the religious order of the parish I go to for daily mass hosted a retirement for one of the priests at the parish. He wanted to surprise the priest by buying him a mountain bike and driving it down the center aisle of the Nave (not during mass thankfully). It didn’t work out so well since he accidentally smashed into one of the pews.

    This felt like a sacrilege, but what saddened me more was it showed that the head of the religious order forgot what the building of the Church was. The Church building was not a post-Vatican II warehouse…it actually looks like a Church, so it should have given a hint that this was sacred ground. Something is definitely missing in the Church today for this not be be clear.

  3. FaithfulCatechist says:

    One of my pet peeves, this. Whenever I talk about it to one of our priests, he’ll shrug his shoulders and make some kind of excuse for it. I remember reading the text you cited and at the time I wanted to have it emblazoned in four-inch letters in front of the sanctuary!

    Catechetical Sunday is coming up and I’m one of the catechists who is being commissioned. I’m already bracing myself for the inevitable applause and teaching myself to resist the temptation to shout at the congregation “HE MUST INCREASE, I MUST DECREASE!”

  4. Darren says:

    I have to endure the same thing. Sometimes we get a homily that people really like, and they clap. Sometimes the choir gets the same applause, instigated by the priest. When someone speaks about some ministry at the end of mass, people clap. So often, it is the priest who begins the clapping. We have one priest who likes to sing, and he oftens sings during his homilies… and they clap for him. I just sit there.

    This reminds me of an interview of Cardinal Arinze from some years ago when he was still head of the Congregation for Divine Worship & the Discipline of the Sacraments. He was asked a question about liturgical dance, be he gets into clapping as well:

    So all those that want to entertain us — after Mass, let us go to the parish hall and then you can dance. And then we clap. But when we come to Mass we don’t come to clap. We don’t come to watch people, to admire people. We want to adore God, to thank Him, to ask Him pardon for our sins, and to ask Him for what we need.

    When the people finish dancing in the Mass and then when the dance group finishes and people clap — don’t you see what it means? It means we have enjoyed it. We come for enjoyment. Repeat. So, there is something wrong. Whenever the people clap — there is something wrong — immediately. When they clap — a dance is done and they clap.

    I got this from: http://www.adoremus.org/1003Arinze.html

  5. introibo says:

    Or applauding at a wedding. You’re applauding them now? Wait until they’ve stayed married for 25+ years..then they will deserve the applause. (and isn’t this what receptions are for?)

  6. APX says:

    I believe, however, that it is appropriate to applaud at an ordination. I can’t remember exactly, but I thought such was part of it. Can anyone confirm? BTW: It’s very awkward if you don’t applaud at things such as baptisms an weddings when everyone else is.

  7. jaykay says:

    Our local priests have been quite good in that regard in recent years, and they don’t encourage it but on the other hand, I’ve never heard them positively speak against it. Using the Holy Father’s quote above would be a great way to start some decent catechesis around the area of reverence and appropriate decorum. Invariably, and I must say not on the priests’ initiative, the applause “spontaneously” starts after the “thank you’s” at the end of Mass at Christmas and the Easter Triduum. People just seem to think they HAVE to do this; probably it’s the schmaltz overload in our culture in recent years. My parents’ generation (they’d now be in their 90s if still alive) were very much more reserved

  8. Joe in Canada says:

    I think clapping at an ordination is not really “applause” in the secular sense but election, an indication that we agre with and approve the presentation by the Bishop of the man to be ordained. I think at any rate it has the sanction of long custom.

  9. Supertradmum says:

    I do not join in. Then, if someone asks why, I quote the Pope. Most people say, “Oh, that is interesting”, or even better “I never thought of that.” I suggest refraining and inviting conversation.

  10. onosurf says:

    I’ve seen this hundreds of times, along with comedy hour and lots of laughs.

    Would we be laughing and clapping on Mount Calvary while Christ is being crucified? Let’s save laughs and clapping for after church.

    I must note that I’ve seen this lack of reverence only at the N.O. mass, never at the TLM. By their fruits…

  11. Patikins says:

    Our former pastor gave a “farewell address” in place of the homily at his final mass before taking a new assignment. The whole congregation gave him a standing ovation. I think I was one of few people to remain seated, not clapping. I lost a lot of respect for him that day. First for co-opting the homily then by not discouraging the ovation at the end.

    Luckily, applause is rare at my parish. Visitors from other parishes for confirmations and other special masses sometimes applaud but it dies out quickly because parishioners don’t join in.

  12. Salvatore_Giuseppe says:

    I don’t so much mind the clapping for Ordinations, Weddings, Baptisms and the like. In fact, I believe there is a place in the Easter Vigil (OF) that says to welcome the newly received. Applause is probably the best way to do that in a large group.

    What you are applauding here is not a “job well done” by the priest in presiding or the couple in meeting each other or anything like that. You are applauding these people for heeding the call of the Lord, and following it. Giving them encouragement to continue following it. This, in my eyes, is not applause “for some human achievement” but for a divine one. We are applauding that a lost sheep has returned, or that a new shepherd has been appointed, etc.

    Clapping for the job the choir did is something entirely different. Or for little Susie making the honor roll, or the like

  13. monmir says:

    Not only no applause during Mass, no applause in church, I do not join in regardless of the event and try to keep my cool. Ordination? I will receive the first blessing and kiss the hands of the new priest. Far more powerful for him and for me.
    No singing of America or any National Anthem in church until I reach the sidewalk. Do I dread amazing grace.
    Best places to hear applause and cheering in New York: The Cathedral of St Patrick on Fifth Avenue (and now with EMHC), best place NOT to hear applause EVER: the church of Our Saviour on Park Avenue and TLM at Holy Innocents on 38th Street. And since I am at it do not talk in church, turn your phone off, wear clothes.
    If asked I do quote Pope Benedict too.

  14. Incaelo says:

    While our parsh priest is a sensible chap who doesn’t go for entertainment, our bishop is more fond of the, let’s say, “social element” of Mass. He was most recently applauded for the homily he gave at the Mass for the 25th anniversary of his ordination. Not that I begrudge him the well-wishes of the congregation, but it did strenghten the impression that this was a celebration of the bishop instead of our Lord. He didn’t start the clapping himself (he’d never do that, I believe), at least…

  15. Banjo pickin girl says:

    patikins, his being a charismatic may have something to do with that.

    yes, that is the applause-free parish. also the jabbering-in-the-nave-free parish. hooray.

  16. Darren says:

    Re: monmir says: Not only no applause during Mass, no applause in church, I do not join in regardless of the event and try to keep my cool. Ordination? I will receive the first blessing and kiss the hands of the new priest. Far more powerful for him and for me.
    No singing of America or any National Anthem in church until I reach the sidewalk. Do I dread amazing grace.

    My sentiments exactly. A few years ago, at midnight mass for Christmas, our pastor saw a man dressed in his US Army uniform in the church and encouraged everyone to stand up and give him a thuderous ovation. It was a standing ovation that lasted about a minute… …I felt very awkward, as I just kept my focus on the tabernacle – which is where everyone’s focus should have been. If I was that serviceman, I would have felt so horribly, I wonder what I would have done. I really wonder how he DID feel…

  17. MuchLikeMartha says:

    @FaithfulCatechist, YES!! We have a priest who says the same thing. We once sat in on a series of post-Mass talks he gave on the new translation. As soon as he finished people began clapping. He hastily (and humbly) went back to the ambo and asked that in the church there be no applause after homilies and such so as not to put the wrong emphasis on man, rather than God. He ended it by emphatically stating that, “HE MUST INCREASE, I MUST DECREASE!” I notice that when someone begins applause during Mass now it’s only about half participation, and those who don’t are many of the ones who were present for his talk.

    Brick by brick.

  18. Bea says:

    A son of mine gave me a calling-card-size of that quote of Pope Benedict XVI from the “Spirit of the Liturgy” p 198. I made copies and laminated them to pass around. I gave one to our pastor and he said he would put it in the bulletin. It has yet to appear. He still initiates clapping at times and that leaves me questioning???
    He wavers but is so well intentioned.
    (I’ve noticed during weekday masses he no longer says: “Good Morning/Afternoon” but goes directly to the foot of the altar before he begins Mass. That leaves me with great hope.)
    As to applause:
    If there is anyone to whom applause should be directed to, it should be GOD HIMSELF.
    He, who gave the talents to the singers in the choir,
    He, who gave us the Sacraments for our spiritual enrichment and salvation.
    He, who created us.
    Even then applause would be distracting as we try to converse with Him in prayer in His Own House.

  19. Gail F says:

    Clapping after a baptism or a wedding doesn’t bother me. It is a sign of welcoming people into a community, not of enjoying a performance. About half the people in my parish applaud for the musicians at the end of Mass, though, and that drives me nuts. If you are applauding then, you are saying how much you enjoyed the performance — and it is not a performance.

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  21. Phil_NL says:

    I find appluase after Mass already quite bad enough, thank you very much. My 2c is that in a church, you simply don’t applaud. I might just make an exception when a choirmaster of 25 years is retiring or after the premiere of a new setting of a motet, but that’s about it. And it would be after mass has concluded, never ever during,

  22. Supertradmum says:

    I know TLM brides and grooms who have indicated they did not want applause. It ruins the solemnity and to be honest, the Nuptial Mass is not only about them but God. It can easily be put in the wedding booklet.

  23. wmeyer says:

    I find appluase after Mass already quite bad enough, thank you very much. My 2c is that in a church, you simply don’t applaud. I might just make an exception when a choirmaster of 25 years is retiring or after the premiere of a new setting of a motet, but that’s about it.

    Agreed, with one exception: For the retirement of any choir director or music director whose reign has been an endless parade of Haugen, Haas, et al. But again, only after Mass.

  24. JKnott says:

    From the Litany of Humility

    O Jesus! meek and humble of heart, Hear me.
    From the desire of being esteemed, Deliver me, Jesus.
    From the desire of being loved, Deliver me, Jesus.
    From the desire of being extolled, Deliver me, Jesus.
    From the desire of being honored, Deliver me, Jesus.
    From the desire of being praised, Deliver me, Jesus.
    From the desire of being preferred to others, Deliver me, Jesus.

  25. JKnott says:

    Consider the applause craze as the “New Rules of Attachment”
    Can Doctors of the Church be considered “old-fashioned”? One would certainly think so.

    Saint John of the Cross Rules for Detachment

    These are the golden rules proposed by St. John of the Cross for total detachment: The soul must always be inclined ‘not to the easiest thing, but to the hardest; not to the tastiest, but to the most insipid; not to the things that give the greatest pleasure, but to those that give the least; not to the restful things, but to the painful ones; not to consolation, but to desolation; not to more, but to less; not to the highest and dearest, but to the lowest and most despised; not to the desire for something, but to having no desires.’ In this way, we shall gradually become accustomed to subduing this inordinate desire for pleasure, which is at the base of all attachments. It is like going against a current; hence it is a hard tiring task which can be accomplished only by strength of will. We must oppose the inclinations of nature and make ourselves do what is repugnant to nature. This is, however, a sweet task for a soul in love with God; it knows that everything it refuses to self is given to God and that, when it has reached the point of renouncing self in everything – of selling everything – God Himself will give it the precious pearl of divine union.
    Father Gabriel of St. Mary Magdalen, O.C. D.

  26. VexillaRegis says:

    Speaking of weddings, this piece of news I hope will brighten your day even more: http://www.remnantnewspaper.com/Archives/2012-0915-wolfe-royal-trad-wedding.htm

  27. Phil_NL says:

    @Supertradmum:
    My ideal solution to that would be to have the choir start immediately with a full Te Deum – ideally Charpentier’s.

    @wmeyer: I’m pretty sure that I wouldn’t be around for the farewell of a choirmaster for such a repertiore.

    BTW, I realised one additional exception: recently, after Mass, the bishop presented the Pontifical Equestrian Order of St. Sylvester Pope and Martyr to someone present. Such awards would qualify as well ;)

  28. Supertradmum says:

    Phil_NL, great idea!

  29. Supertradmum says:

    VexillaRegis, wow and thanks for the link. Did you see the David Jones on my blog with your name on it?

    Blessed Karl is one of my favourite and his wife’s cause is open, which was on my old blog. She needs a few miracles.

    We need to be so grateful for this Pope, and pray that more people listen to him and read his common sense liturgical guidelines and criticisms.

  30. wmeyer says:

    Phil_NL: Sadly, around here, they are the rule, not the exception.

  31. jacobi says:

    Applause during Mass, for any reason, simply reflects the degree to which the Novus Ordo has become de-sacralised, and the extent to which today’s Catholics have adopted Secularist attitudes. The Mass has become for many of them a social gathering in which they can all participate and do something to show how involved they are – and have a nice cup of coffee and a chat afterwards.
    Yes, there is that bit towards the end where the priest does his own thing, before they all file up for Communion, but many of them today, probably, would be hard put describe what that is.

    Roll on the” Reform of the Reform”!

  32. VexillaRegis says:

    @Supertradmum: :-) I stumbled on that link on CAF, and remembered that I had seen a portrait of Blessed Karl and Zita on your blog a while ago. So I looked them up, and I saw the David Jones-painting “Vexilla Regis”. Very beautiful indeed! You could see the nails in the Holy Cross-tree and that St Dismas’ tree looked fine, but Gestas’ had withered.

    I dont’t know if you are interested in bridal gowns, but you must have a look at the spieringphotography -link near the end of the article. Ahh! What a lovely couple!

  33. eulogos says:

    I want to report that there is no clapping in my Ruthenian Rite parish. Once we had a 50th wedding anniversary memorial at liturgy. There were grandchildren and great grandchildren there from far and wide, many of whom were now worshipping Roman Rite. At one point many of them started to clap. The looks they got from parishioners stopped them cold. I suppose some of them didn’t understand, and thought us cold. We aren’t though. The couple felt well appreciated by the choir (in which she used to sing) who came at a time when they usually didn’t sing, and by the gathering of their families and the large number of parishioners present. It was far too wonderful and solemn for clapping.
    Susan Peterson

  34. frjim4321 says:

    There is applause, and then there is applause.

    To my taste, inappropriate applause would be (1) after the choir has done a reflection piece, (2) after a funeral when the casket of the deceased priest is being carried out of the church, (3) after first communion, congratulating the second graders.

    To my taste, appropriate applause could be (1) when the assembly demonstrates their joy and approval prior to the ordination rite, (2) when a newly installed bishop is processing down the aisle after installation, (3) possibly, and only possibly, after a particularly good and stirring homily.

    In general, I tend to agree with those who propose that “when we applaud in church, we are basically applauding for ourselves.” Most of the foregoing, though, is related to matters of taste and it would be difficult to make hard and fast rules either way. My episcopal friend bragged to me that “we never applaud in church,” but just a few weeks later I was there and indeed they did applaud something.

  35. keithp says:

    About 3 months ago, we moved back to attending Sunday Mass at a local men’s religious shrine. Up til then we had a local TLM. When that moved away, we went back to the shrine. I’m sad to say, that applause has become very routine. On Sept 2, the Father (and Shrine director) instituted a monthly “It’s your birthday or anniversary” where if it’s your birthday or anniversary, you are supposed to come up to the sanctuary to recieve a blessing. Following said blessing is the round of applause. then the final final blesssing and dismissal. *Sigh* not sure what to do….

  36. Giuseppe says:

    When the celebration of Mass reminds us of community theatre, then applause is fitting.
    When the celebration of Mass reminds us of Christ’s sacrifice on Calvary, then silent awe is fitting.

  37. One commenter said applause doesn’t bother them. Thankfully, we do not base propriety in Catholic worship on our personal likes and dislikes, or whether it “reminds” us of a secular occasion. There is no place for applause, which can only be interpreted as a form of worship of man, in a setting where one is engaged in the worship of God.

  38. KristinLA says:

    I would like to think that people generally mean well when they do dumb things. To test this theory you would have to tell them to stop, and if they mean well they will stop. The problem is–no one is telling them.

  39. mwa says:

    When I was growing up, the at the Ruthenian parish we often attended there was a brief song we sang on such occasions “Mnohaja lita”: God grant them many years; God grant them many years; God grant them many blessed years. In peace, health and happiness; peace, health and happiness; God grant them many blessed years.
    How often in following years while cringing during applause at Mass( even though knowing it was meant as an expression of good will) I have wished we in the Latin rite had something equivalent!

  40. off2 says:

    frjim4321, Perhaps as alternatives –
    1) Axios, or its English equivalent.
    2) Kneel to solicit his blessing.
    3) If all THAT great, Doxology.

  41. johnmann says:

    A narrow reading of the Holy Father’s comment discourages only applauding some act performed during the Mass like a hymn or homily.

  42. Jay E says:

    What about, say, at the end of Mass if a priest would thank the choir or other groups that helped make the liturgy beautiful and there is applause?

  43. irishgirl says:

    I absolutely loathe applause in church.
    I just came from a Mass in honor of one of the two Upstate New Yorkers who will be canonized next month in Rome (Holy Father, please be safe in Lebanon and come back to Italy safe!). There was applause several times, mostly for musical numbers.
    I sat way over on the side in a pew by myself, and I did not join in the applause. In fact, two people took photos of me (one for the diocesan paper, on for the local paper), and I managed to stop them and tell them that I did not want my picture in either one, because I go to the TLM exclusively now and I did not want to get in trouble with the priests at the chapel where the Mass is said if any pictures appeared and someone from my chapel saw them. The priests at the TLM chapel don’t accept the NO Mass; so I was a ‘passive viewer’ at this Mass today. I mean that I was ‘physically’ present, but only did the normal bodily postures (standing, sitting, kneeling). I did not sing and I did not make any verbal responses.
    In short, I feel that applause has no place in church. Would there have any applause on Calvary?

  44. irishgirl says:

    VexillaRegis: I went on the link you had about the royal wedding in Washington. How cool is that, a relation of Blessed Karl of Austria! And the bride looked lovely, too! And the groom didn’t look too bad, either! ; )

  45. Bea says:

    Happy memories from that church in Washington DC
    my daughter was married there in September of 2000, a TLM Mass.
    The long candles in the church set off the fire alarm bells and one of my sons had to scramble up until finally the alarm was temporarily turned off.
    Tomorrow is their anniversary.

  46. Jane says:

    Applause during Mass is really out of place.