Clapping in church

An interesting piece from Catholic Exchange.

My emphases and comments.

Hold the Applause: Confessions of a Conflicted Clapper

July 22nd, 2008 by Mary Anne Moresco

Whenever 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because of some human achievement, it is a sure sign that the essence of the liturgy has totally disappeared and been replaced by a kind of religious entertainment. 

The above words were penned by our Holy Father Pope Benedict the XVI, (then Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger) on p. 198 of his book entitled The Spirit of the Liturgy.  I first read this book before our Holy Father became pope.  The book did three things to me.  First, it made me acutely aware that there was much about the meaning of the liturgy to which I was blind.  Second, it deepened my love for the liturgy.  Third, it put me in conflict with respect to how I needed to approach Mass.  One area of conflict was in clapping at Mass

Having read Cardinal Ratzinger’s words on clapping, I wondered how I could continue to clap at Mass in good conscience.  As one who has been to Masses where there was clapping for just about everyone, from musicians, lectors, altar servers and church decorators to priests giving homilies and lay people giving testimonies, I began to wonder why we clap at Mass at all.

Some liturgical clapping proponents claim we clap because Psalm 47:1 tells us to clap: “All you peoples, clap your hands….“   But we Catholics do not interpret scripture independently.  We look to Holy Mother Church, and her 2,000 years of teaching, to ensure our interpretation is authentic.  The documents on the liturgy (the General Instruction of the Roman Missal, Liturgiam Authenticu[a]m, and Redemptionis Sacr[a]mentum) do not call for clapping at the Most Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.  They call for reverence.

Rome wants irreverence at Mass to a stop.  “…let everyone do all that is in their power to ensure that the Most Holy Sacrament of the Eucharist will be protected from any and every irreverence…” (Redemptionis Sacramentum 183).  The key question is this: is clapping a reverent action, or does clapping break the liturgical spirit of reverence which Rome is calling us to protect?

Cardinal Francis Arinze is prefect for the Congregation for Divine Worship and Discipline of the Sacraments in Rome.  When His Eminence speaks about the liturgy, our ears should perk up and listen.  He stated that “…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.”  [Adoremus Bulletin; Vol. IX, no.7, Oct. 2003]

I am a Roman Catholic.  I don’t make up the rules for my faith or the Catholic Mass as I go along.  I receive them from God, through His church, as a gift.  I have faith in God, His church and its teachings.  I believe God reveals His truths through those teachings.  For that reason I want to honor them.  [Christ speaks in the prayers of Mass.  His are its gestures, whether in this moment by the priest or in that moment from the congregation.  We must get ourselves out of the way.]

To honor those teachings, and thus honor God, I had resolved at Mass to hold the applause when I was there.  Yet, I must confess that sometimes when everyone around me is clapping, or when someone stands up at Mass and asks me to applaud for someone else, I still succumb to clapping — albeit half-heartedly.

In the midst of the applause, our Holy Father’s words spin sadly around in my head, thus causing me grief and making for conflicted claps.  The hands that clap at Mass these days are distracted and bewildered hands that would find a sublime joy if only they might be permitted to simply fold themselves in prayer to our God on that one special hour of the week devoted to Him.  This is an ongoing struggle in my life that revisits itself often on Sunday.  But please don’t clap for me.  Instead, I ask “you my brothers and sisters, to pray for me to the Lord our God.”

And, just to be clear…

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

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  1. magdalen says:

    Yes, in my rounc clautrophic church where we are once again, before Mass, standing up to greet and hug and shake hands with everyone around us, there is, of course, clapping. But I do not clap. I read what Cardinal Ratzinger wrote too! There was no clapping at Calvary was there?

    But there is the pseudo-theology of the Mass which says it is a fellowship and gathering of the people, the holy assembly, and we are there to find each other. This approach does not mention the HOLY SACRIFICE or even the worship of God! And when we come only for fellowship and entertainment, it is easy to do this elsewhere.
    Many do; they do not understand the awesome miracle of the Holy Mass but are singing of themselves and clapping for the entertainment of the servers or someone’s achievement.

    It is a problem.

  2. Geometricus says:

    Fr. Z,
    I still remember the day at St. Raphael’s when you stopped people from clapping in mid-clap. You had given some particulary rousing homily on some favorite topic of our people (pro-life?). As you were leaving the pulpit, they started clapping, you turned around with this look to kill on your face and faced your palm to the people discreetly yet unmistakably, and they stopped dead. What I wouldn’t give for a video of that moment. [Yes. I remember that. I remember the horror I felt at being applauded during Mass! After a conference, fine! The more the better! But not in church during Mass. I would probably do it differently now that I have more experience and patience. But all I could think of at the moment was to stop it as fast as I could in such a way that it would never happen again. It wasn’t about me in the slightest degree. Whew… you brought back a strong memory. And my, did I get flack for that! Fr. Z]

    Fr. Bryan Pedersen just arrived as the new pastor of Sacred Heart in Robbinsdale. Could it be we will finally have the TLM over here in the Western suburbs? Only time will tell. Brick by brick…

  3. Ken says:

    Clapping can be controlled by the celebrant, MC, or even organist. When it is allowed to continue — during JPII racetrack liturgies, for instance — then it will only increase.

    Of course, at a traditional Latin Mass, the only clapping is during the recessional of a Nuptial Mass — and a good organist can take care of that with some Bach.

  4. Jenny says:

    At my parents’ church, they have baptisms during Mass, and after every child is baptized, there is applause. The baby is completely naked, baptized, and then lifted into the air like The Lion King’s “Circle of Life” while everyone claps. I’m not quite sure what to think of this practice.

  5. QueenoftTahiti says:

    I was a little shocked that there was spontaneous clapping after the
    homily at the early Mass this weekend- these are people who are about
    75 years old, on average. They should know better! But the kicker came
    when the priest thanked them and said that he always liked clapping. Please!

    And while we’re at it, how about a calm “Please stand” at the beginning of
    Mass? I don’t need to stand now and greet my neighbors! If it was the
    President giving a speech, the moderator would not ask me to shake hands with
    those around me. Doesn’t the Sacrifice deserve at least as much solemnity?

  6. Limbo says:

    Jenny wrote – “At my parents’ church, they have baptisms during Mass, and after every child is baptized, there is applause. The baby is completely naked, baptized, and then lifted into the air like The Lion King’s “Circle of Life” while everyone claps. I’m not quite sure what to think of this practice.”

    I think I’d have to leave…is it a Catholic church ? Naked babies ???? poor little pets.

  7. David Andrew says:

    At the end of a particularly reverent and well-executed liturgy, nothing negates the reverence, awe and majesty of it like a priest celebrant who, before the final blessing, breaks into “On behalf of the staff I want to thank the choir and its music director for their spectacular music . . . the environment team for the beautiful decorations . . . ” and on it goes. In most cases a pastor who does this at the end of Christmas Midnight or the Easter Vigil is trying to be genuine in his thankfulness, but even the best intentions can have devistating consequences.

    I cringe and hide behind the console (the organ and music area are at the front of the church, separated from the sanctuary by a funny little wall that sticks out with the tabernacle perched on it) whenever this happens. I don’t do this for my own glorification (Non nobis, Domine, sed nomini tuo da gloriam) and yet because I maintain a modest demeanor at all times while serving at Mass, I’m now being accused of “not being warm and engaging” with the congregation.

    I can only hope that as Benedict continues to exert his own form of gravitational pull towards reverence and awe in the liturgy (especially on the part of priests with respect to the ars celebrandi) these kinds of uncomfortable situations will become less of a problem.

  8. Just as annoying as the clapping are those that enter the church before Mass, sit, then begin to talk and greet everyone around them – as though the Eucharist is not present in the tabernacle.

  9. Hoka2_99 says:

    I agree completely: no clapping, no talking. But, I do wonder what His Holiness thought on Sunday, June29th in Saint Peter’s basilica. I was present at this beautiful Mass with imposition of the pallium. There was just one problem: applause at the end of the Holy Father’s homily [ this is now occurring at all papal Masses; in a way you can understand it, because his words so brilliantly fill our hearts], and much applause, even cheering, as some of the archbishops went up to be clothed with the pallium.
    So – are we just talking about parish Mass here? Or do we include Papal Masses? Our beloved Pope Benedict obviously doesn’t approve.
    On Good Friday, in Saint Peter’s, silence was maintained. As he was leaving the basilica, the Pope put his finger to his lips, which was a lovely gesture. I think he saw that we were longing to erupt in cheers for him!
    Another point: are we including the “clapping Gloria” in this discussion? I make a point of going elsewhere when we have it, which is for a run of six weeks.

  10. Deusdonat says:

    Wow. Foolish me! I thought clapping went out with the early 80’s. Even at the most insipid of NO masses where there was rampant abuse, lack of reverence and good taste, I can’t remember the last time in recent memory where I experienced clapping (save at a wedding).

    Who would have thought I’d have that among the things for which to count my blessings.

  11. Brian Kemple says:

    “Just as annoying as the clapping are those that enter the church before Mass, sit, then begin to talk and greet everyone around them – as though the Eucharist is not present in the tabernacle.”

    I have a hard time not glowering at these people. And this past Saturday, at the Vigil Mass, there were people talking during the consecration. Charity is such a hard virtue to practice. It’s particularly bad when I come home from school, where the entire congregation is reverent, where you can hear a pin drop before Mass and during the consecration (during Lent, anyway).

  12. Mitchell says:

    There is much work to be done. No one should be satisfied with only the visible changes taking place, vestments, altar arrangements, etc. If someone next to me at Mass was clapping and encouraged me to do the same I would firmed state. “I will not. It is incorrect” After Mass I would hope my words would stick and I would have the opportunity to explain exactly why..The importance of not going along would be the chance to educate someone else why I do not. Brick by Brick. Hopefully they would get it and pass it on……

  13. David Andrew says:

    Well, should we any of us be surprised that people are so very comfy in the presence of the Lord in the Blessed Sacrament preserved in the tabernacle? It’s a credit to all of the wonderful catechesis our well-educated (read: we’ve moved beyond all that “silence = reverence” stuff) catechists and “formation leaders” have been trowelling out for the last 30 years. They revel in their success, and don’t you dare tell them otherwise!

    I actually dared to mention how upsetting I found it that people had to retreat to the chapel after Mass for their prayers because of all the yackety-yacking of people after Mass, lazily slumped in their pews, gathered like folks on a living-room sofa. I was immediately rebuked by our sacramental prep person, and told by her that, “this is what the bishops have taught us. . . it’s more important that we be ‘church’ to one another, and take this time to build community. They’ve changed the purpose of the building. . . that’s why our gathering [loitering] space opens up directly into the church with no doors!”

    So we’ve repurposed the Church and made Christ in the Blessed Sacrament of secondary importance to “community” and “being church.” A triumph of the “spirit of VCII and excellent catechesis.

  14. Scott says:

    I also generally despise clapping in church.

    However, there is a distinction observed in Card. Ratzinger’s quote: he is speaking about clapping for a *human achievement*.

    What about clapping for a divine achievement? Of course, there are a few problems with this: (1) how can we be sure we are clapping for God’s action and not for a human one and (2) even if it is directed solely to God, it doesn’t seem to be the mode prescribed by the Church.

    For example, people often clap when a baby is baptized. I also have that joy in my heart, on account of the miraculous action of God. So I can understand why people clap (it isn’t because Father did a great job pouring the water!).

    What does everyone think?


  15. I am not Spartacus says:

    If clapping is ok as a way to indicate approval of what has happened in church then I ought be able to boo when the priest does something I disapprove of.

    I often tell my grown children – “Catholic Fan almost stood-up and booed when the Choir starting singing Lord of the Dance” – and they sort of laugh.

    Then they check with The Bride to see if I actually did such a thing.

    I have come close – MANY times.

  16. Royce says:

    There is a great church in San Francisco run by the Salesians that has signs on all of its doors with hands clapping under the universal no sign. I think that’s an effective way of dealing with the problem.

  17. Will says:

    Scott, I have no problem whatsoever clapping when a child is baptized. That is the only time I applaud during the mass, for the same reasons you mention.

  18. Kellen says:

    I’d like to second Scott’s question. The first thing that came to my mind when I read this was a recent Mass in my parish during which the bishop, having just baptized four children, invited us to welcome the children into the Church with applause. In addition to the discomfort from the applause itself, it felt distinctly odd to think of clapping as a way of welcoming. Still, it wasn’t really because of human achievement…

  19. David Andrew says:

    As for clapping after a baptism, ISTM that the universal sign of acclamation and acknowledgement is when everyone says, “Amen.”

    In my experiences the participatio actuosa as prescribed in the rites plays second or third fiddle to the sometimes confused, sometimes multivalent acts (clapping, for example) by the congregation. If we’re to retain the sense of reverence in our rituals, seems that our best place to start would be to safeguard and encourage the use of ritual actions that are called for by the rites, and not permit the culture to replace them with those that are not.

  20. Geoffrey says:

    No one was more shocked than I when I heard applause after the homily at a Mass in the Extraordinary Form! Yes, you heard me right! It was during the homily when the priest-celebrant announced the new regularly scheduled “old” Mass. I was shocked.

    The only time I don’t get upset with applause is when it is for the Holy Father. His children just cannot all greet him one by one, and so I think they show their love for him in this way.

    I recall a news commentator mentioning at the funeral rites of John Paul the Great, how in Europe applause is a sign of greeting, so the faithful weren’t applauding JPII’s death.

  21. Susan Peterson says:

    In my Byzantine rite church at a 50th wedding anniversary blessing, some grandchildren and great grandchildren who no longer worship in the Byzantine rite were there. At one point a number of them started clapping. At least 50 faces of parishioners turned to the clappers with pointed icy stares, and the clapping died abruptly. We do not do that here, was clearly conveyed. I loved it.
    Susan Peterson

  22. Ioannes Andreades says:

    I seem to remember reading somewhere that in Hippo during Augustine’s time, the congregation would applaud after the consecration. Is this familiar to anyone else? If not, I’ll try to dig up a reference. Of course, this is not at all applause for human achievement.

    I am also not averse to clapping at the end of an ordination mass, but I’m never the one to start it.

  23. Gavin says:

    One may have their hands together to pray in Mass, but heaven forbid they should come together so quickly as to make a sound! Actually, clapping in Mass is something I quickly tired of a few months back. It used to be that I didn’t mind – there’s no rubrics for the announcements, after all. And if they’re acknowledging a particular anniversary, or bidding farewell to a parish employee, isn’t that just the decent thing to do? But then I gave some serious thought to Ratzinger’s words. Particularly “human achievement”. The Mass is about God’s gifts to us in the Word and Sacrament, so why should we respond by exalting man? To be honest, I LOVE getting applause as a musician. I can be a real ham with enough encouragement, even in a church. But that isn’t what my service to the Church is about. Particularly with Gregorian chant, I’m only doing what the liturgy requires and no more. And for the old couple, why take time to celebrate their achievement? Great though it may be, their love doesn’t compare to the love just shown us 10 minutes ago in the shed Body and Blood. One MAY say “well, we are celebrating God leading them through the marriage.” In that case, don’t respond with slapping your hands together, respond by doing good works in thanksgiving to God for the grace He gave the couple!!

    When I left my last job, I requested of the priest not to make a direct mention of my last Sunday, lest I should receive applause during the liturgy. On the contrary, I put on a recital after my last Mass. As an added benefit, it was much more gratifying to have people stay and appreciate my music and applaud for that then to have the congregation give a forced applause. And that’s the problem with applause in Mass: it doesn’t fulfill the ends of expressing appreciation and only detracts from a right view of God’s grace.

  24. John P says:

    In Rome, it was traditional to applaud every time the Pope entered a church. Years
    ago I was present at S. Paolo fuori le mura on Good FRiday when John XXIII entered
    . He placed his finger on his lips, and the entire church fell silent. But this,
    of course was not *during* the liturgy, but *before*.

  25. Here in the Excruciatingly Orthodox Diocese of Arlington, applause is rather common, even in the more “conservative” parishes. A teenaged girl gets up to ambo in tight-fitting jeans and a tee-shirt and shares her story of Summer Work Camp, and they applaud her. A seminarian tells of his calling at a Mass during Vocations Week, a young couple gets married, converts complete the RCIA at Easter Vigil — every human accomplishment is a reason for applause.

    I was once told that applause is actually prescribed during the Rite of Ordination, so that the people can give their assent to the ordinand’s worthiness. Personally, I don’t buy it for a moment. Couldn’t they just sing “Axios!” like the Greek Catholics do? Fortunately, I work at a parish whose pastor is a very wise man, who would never stand for such tomfoolery. It is through his good graces that I find solace, and am thus spared the absurdity of it all — for the moment.

  26. Tina says:

    Christopher M.
    Is socializing before the Eucharist OK if there is no tabernacle? Cause were I go to Mass doesn’t have one. It did once upon a time, but no longer.

    Just askin’

  27. Lee says:

    Hey, I like that equal opportunity idea of booing!

  28. Lurker says:

    In the ordination rites and the rite of acceptance for the RCIA, the “black” says that applause is a sign of acceptance.

    I’ve heard several “orthodox” Catholics describe Mass sarcastically as “clappy happy” when the pastor thanks the servers or the choir but the same Catholics applaud singularly if the “orthodox” non-pastor visiting priest talks about birth control or Medjugorje.

  29. The Cellarer says:

    At my school last term, as clapping (particularly the choir, who are good) and chatting had appeared during the liturgy (for various reasons) we decided to insist on no clapping during Mass and make this point strongly before Mass for several Holyday Masses (one brick at a time…)

    It was well done by senior management before the beginning of Mass, an explanation it is not appropriate but that it could be apropriate after Mass to show appreciation. To simply ban clapping, rather than point out it is not appropriate during Mass would have been open season for complaints of being killjoys.

    Numerous comments of appreciation from staff, a recurring word used, reverence.

    Currently musing on what the next brick will be…

  30. In my experience, applause is used to signify the people’s acceptance of candidates for ordination, after they are presented to the bishop. I don’t recall the exact rubrics, but like the RCIA example, above, I thought it was provided for in the red (we say the black).

    Also, I think one reasonably makes a distinction between what happens spontaneously and what is orchestrated. Sometimes people are moved to give their acclaim, such as when a couple celebrates an anniversary as part of Mass, or when a new pastor is welcomed (at the Mass at which I was installed as pastor–where there had been several pastors before me in a short time–I said, “I intend to be here a long time” and applause broke out.), and so forth, I think the answer is not to encourage it, but not to get too bent out of shape. More important is to cultivate in various ways a proper atmosphere of reverence and prayer so that such things really are exceptional and spontaneous.

  31. Not all that long ago I heard an entire congregation in a large parish church clapping to the song, “This Little Light of Mine”.

    I think that it is important to go to the sources of this practice by studying the history of clapping in it’s historical and Liturgical context……Then, when you have figured out what such nonsense is all about you can try to explain it to me.

  32. LCB says:

    I’ve never seen anything wrong with applauding for sacraments, especially if celebrated immediately after the homily. Marriage, Baptism, Confirmation, Ordination, all seem applause worthy. Certainly seems appropriate to applaud a sacrament after the mass has concluded.

  33. Rose in NE says:

    If only it were just clapping! I work at a K-8 Catholic school and on the last day of the school year there is always an all-school mass (kids,staff,parents). This year, prior to the homily, the priest asked the entire school staff to come up and stand in front of the altar. He then told the kids to “give it up for your teachers and staff”. Well, they did–for five minutes he let the kids clap, yell, whistle, stomp their feet and pound on the back of the pews. These kids have never heard the word reverence and certainly have not been taught it’s meaning.

  34. “Comment by Fr. Martin Fox — 23 July 2008 @ 3:03 pm”

    Okay, maybe I can live with that. But I suspect the average Joe Sixpack does not make the distinction between the equivalent of “Axios” at ordination, and his little Suzy’s summer camp speech after Communion.

    I never get bent out of shape. I get up and leave.

  35. mariazell says:

    I dont feel called to clap at Mass

  36. Atlanta says:

    Bravo! Yay, Fr. Z.! I wish the Catholic priest in my city would read your blog. I wonder if he does.

  37. Mairead says:

    Hoka2_99 I agree with you about the clapping Gloria but it is very difficult when the Pastor is actively encouraging it. I don’t clap but am made to feel uncomfortable about it.

  38. Rob says:

    While we are on the subject…In the Archdiocese of Boston (I’m sure we’re not unique) for the last few years, particularly at the Cathedral of the Holy Cross, I’ve noticed a ritual that I call the “Concluding Rite of Affirmation” before the last Blessing at Mass. This includes “credits” with a veritable litany of ministries and individuals who have somehow contributed to the Liturgy. It is usually followed by applause. As a result this practice seems to pervade most every parish throughout the Archdiocese. Do you suppose the value of therapeutic “formation” has been a bit over emphasized in seminaries as “Pastoral SOP”?

    While I freely admit I like thanking folks for a job well done, I find this psycho-liturgical action chalk full of human respect and applause highly inappropriate within the context of Holy Mass.

    Instead of thanking each other by dragging everyone back down to the natural level with applause, why can’t there be a greater emphasis of Thanksgiving and prayerful silence following Holy Mass? Shouldn’t our thanks be directed toward God alone with whom we have just Communicated? There is plenty of time pay your respect to your neighbor, perhaps a post-Mass Agape (Coffee and Doughnuts). Just my “two cents”.

  39. Baron Korf says:

    I’ve clapped at one occasion at mass, and I will not apologize for it. The deacon gave a wonderful homily basically stating recent events in the news around the world of governments and courts telling christians to shut up and sit in the back of the bus. He told us that it is our job as catholics to not be silent and we must have the strength to stand for the faith even in the face of imminent martyrdom. The whole congregation applauded. I can’t speak for the rest, but I was so happy to hear a strong and unapologetic Catholic voice.

  40. Laura says:

    hi Geometricus,
    Heard you were in Robinsdale. We just got Fr. Creagan last week and I’d heard he was at your parish. I’m not writing to speculate on him, but I just wanted to say hi. There seem to be lots of people here from my neck of the woods so, hi from St. Paul Mn. I love your blog Fr. Z. God bless you forever and ever!

  41. Bob says:

    The last time I heard applause at Mass was actually at an EF Mass. The pastor of this particular parish was retiring after more than 50 years as a priest, and it was his final Mass (a Solemn High Mass.) The congregation applauded at the end of the homily. It seemed quite fitting to me, considering the circumstances.

  42. Thorfinn says:

    There are some occasions when it seems a genuine, spontaneous and heartfelt response such as mentioned above by Fr. Fox, Baron Korf and Bob, I too think that is just fine. It is a very natural, gracious and human thing to do. However– the narcissistic “presiders” who just have to “run the credits” at the end of Mass! Did you know many of them were taught to do this in seminary? As a choir member I and many others I know, have always found this SO embarassing. We do not “perform” to win the applause and praises of men, rather we sing for the greater glory of God! Yet these “presiders” treat us as though we had just finished a junior high school play and need to have our egos boosted with their “recognition” and some applause. Please!!! How disrespectful and demeaning! This is thankfully no longer done at my parish in recent years but I know of many others where it is routine. Verily I say unto you, they have their reward!

  43. patrick f says:

    There is nothing more annoying then people clapping at mass. I hate it. I am a cantor. I have sang (proud to say) some very nice, sometimes complicated, psalms, chants, name it. I have been apart of choirs that have sang grand masses from the rennaissance, and the baroque. There is nothing that cheapens it more then an applause. I could go anywhere and put on a show. I use my talents for Almighty God.

    Worse then that, I find clapping at a religious event very un intellectual. You have just been brought up to heaven, and here you attempt to bring heaven to the mud with a very “human response”

    I am not against people showing appreciation, or being excited. But the mass isnt about the cantor, or the priest’s homily (though homilies are important), the mass is about almighty God, the praise and glory of him. Anything that “praises” anything else, should be considered sacrelige.

  44. Daniel Canaris says:

    There are times when clappig is called for! At Pontifical Vespers and Benediction with Cardinal Pell during WYD, Pell remarked at the end that he is having dinner with the Holy Father. He said he will tell him where he has been and what he had just done and also pass on our gratitude for the Holy Father’s support for Extraordinary rite. It was such a beautiful and heartwarming gesture that the congregation had no choice but to burst out into applause!

  45. patrick f says:

    I am not opposed to people clapping in church, I mean, in the past many churches were also meeting areas for the town. As some have pointed out its traditional to applaud the arrival of the pope. But it should be outside the context of the mass.

  46. Subvet says:

    At the end of the Mass, prior to the final blessing, our priest calls up those celebrating birthdays and wedding anniversaries. Those people are applauded and Fr. Tim encourages the men to kiss their brides (no tongue).

    He’s an excellent priest by the way, very active in the pro-life field, our church bursts with truly Catholic ministries that he encourages.

    Okay, so theres some clapping there on Sunday. Its kind of pleasant, so shoot me.

  47. Tony says:

    In a biography of Pope St Pius X I read that this Holy Pontiff forbad applause within St Peter’s Basilica during his reign (1903-1914) – and this despite being an Italian (lest someone claim that this is an Italian custom). It certainly gives pause for thought. Of course, in Rome – where many go to show their loyalty and love of the Pope, the motives for clapping are less self-centred than the clapping contexts which kicked off this discussion – and perhaps it reflects a certain latino exubriance..although what’s our excuse in a far more anal anglo culture? It’s mere self-centred contrivance, I’d bet!

  48. Carl says:

    What does everyone think about clapping for Christ and His Presence in the Eucharist? The vicar at my church has started having us often clap at the end of mass, and I’m pretty sure we are clapping for Christ in the Eucharist, and in thanksgiving for the Mass He just gave us. (I say ‘I’m pretty sure’ because they are Spanish Masses and my Spanish is a bit shaky). But anyway, I wholeheartedly agree with Pope Benedict’s assessment on clapping, and I feel like this is different, since it obviously is not for a human achievement. Thoughts?

  49. Coletta says:

    Thank you for posting this. We have a problem with the clapping and it really bothers me.

  50. Coletta says:

    “Just as annoying as the clapping are those that enter the church before Mass, sit, then begin to talk and greet everyone around them – as though the Eucharist is not present in the tabernacle.”

    Yes, this is a real problem here where I am. It is awful and really erodes our faith in the Real Presence without realizing it – even though we oppose it.

  51. Johnny Domer says:


    Go to a Tridentine Mass and you totally avoid the problem…

    Ok, yeah it’s not always the easiest thing in the world…I know I know, I shouldn’t judge.

  52. eyeclinic says:

    Forget the clapping! I just pull out my BIC lighter and pretend it’s the Holy Spirit.
    (Just kidding…I don’t even own a lighter, but I have been tempted to buy one!)

  53. Bernadette says:

    One problem with clapping and applause is the danger that it might eventually deteriorate into cheering, hooting, and even whistling as it has at my parish. I cringe at applause but want to run out the door when when these other vulgar noises break out.

  54. You know, I wonder about “Say the black, do the red.” Doesn’t the red say, “Say the black?” Doesn’t it make that quote a bit redundant?

  55. Dominic says:

    There is a “children’s liturgy group” in my parish. The children leave before the penitential rite and return some time after the homily. The priest asks one or two of the children what they learned and as they all return to their places they are always clapped. It’s entirely unnecessary. (I don’t clap.)

    I do not object to clapping as a sign of appreciation for a holy accomplishment (i.e., when the clapping conveys also gratitude to God for what has been achieved): for baptisms, receptions into the Church, a significant marital/ordination anniversary, for JPII as his funeral Mass was concluded. But too much of it is just trite.

    (Just as trite, if not worse, is the singing of Happy Birthday for a parishioner at the end of Mass. Ghastly. Not the time or place.)

  56. Ken says:

    Johnny Domer: “Go to a Tridentine Mass and you totally avoid the problem…
    Ok, yeah it’s not always the easiest thing in the world.”

    Unless you choose to live in, say, rural Mississippi, it’s pretty much an option for everyone now.

    I haven’t been to a novus ordo in 14 years and have never missed Sunday Mass, which includes a few dozen out-of-town trips. We can thank the Internet for making traditional Mass locations that much easier to find.

  57. Pat says:

    When clapping occurs for human achievement at Mass, at least according to Pope Benedict, something has gone terribly wrong. He didn’t make exceptions because some of us are not bothered by it. But it seems that a good many, even here on this site, think that somehow it is ok if I am not troubled by it. This is very disturbing particularly because the rationale is so man centered. Why then do we bother to go to Mass? To please ourselves? Or to worship God and put all our focus on Him? Obviously a rhetorical question. But when I read the responses I wonder if we aren’t forgetting this.
    As to dancing at Mass. I know. David danced around the Ark. Many a progressive has patiently explained this to the ignorant who just can’t get with the times. The with it guy doesn’t explain and maybe doesn’t even know that David was not dancing before the High Priest as the sacrifice was being offered. So if you must dance, make a case for David’s dance which was by the way naked, but please make it for somewhere other than Holy Mass.

  58. JB Nelson says:

    Ken wrote: “Unless you choose to live in, say, rural Mississippi, it’s pretty much an option for everyone now.”

    Two points: Unfortunately, quite a few of us “good” Catholics actually do happen to live in rural Mississippi. And, to further complicate the issue, its not just “rural” Mississippians who are out of luck: there is not one Mass offered in the EF anywhere in the Diocese of Jackson (Mississippi). Not one!

  59. Owen says:

    Late to the comments as ever…

    To me, former protestant minister and convert to the Catholic Church (Roman Rite) what I see is this coming down to the essential difference and confusion between what is a Catholic Mass and what is a protestant service.

    A protestant service can be anything as defined in the local sect / denomination / local setting. The Mass is the Mass. By a stretch and twist of the analogy “what happens in the Mass stays in the Mass” – or, it should. If we would like clapping and puppets and scantily clad aboriginal dancers outside of the Mass in some kind of service for Catholics, while I will probably not attend, I have no problem with such. However, I became a Catholic to be Catholic and I would most sincerely like my Mass to be a Catholic Mass.

    I hear it all the time, mostly from Catholics, ‘Oh, we have a lot to learn from other churches.” First, there’s one Church and many sects. Second we will not more fully live our Catholic identity and spirituality by borrowing from and becoming more like the sincere believers whose forefathers were heretics, no matter how real and sincere said separated brethren of today’s sects may be.

    Frankly, heading to a Tridentine Mass is seeming more the answer more of the time.

  60. justin says:

    clapping in the liturgy…as much as i dislike it, does that mean that no clapping should be allowed at the large papal ceremonies like the Final Mass that I attended at World Youth Day? And what about the Mass in Yankee Stadium where Panis Angelicus was sung by Placido Domingo and got a personal thanks by B16 *in* the liturgy?

  61. Fr Smith says:

    I knew at my first Mass that the faithful would be tempted to applaud as one of their native sons celebrated a OF Latin Mass for them. So in my announcements, already verklempt from the emotion of the whole experience, I quoted what I believed to be Pius X, “The servant is not to be applauded in the house of the Master.” And the crowd went wild. Standing ovation. Quid facere? Anyways, I always thought it interesting that in some of the videos of Pius XII, even in the Basilica, the Romans would also go wild. I hate applause in Church, but every once in a while, a (I won’t say the) Spirit moves. I’d rather have Axios sung in four parts!

  62. Brandon Hahn says:

    Are we not getting too legalistic about clapping? [You use that word in such a way that I am guessing you might be less than clear about what we are talking about. – Fr. Z] What do you mean Fr. Z in your message that we should not interpret scripture independently? You mention we should rely on Holy Mother Church and her 2,000 years of teaching. This sounds like we are showing more reverence for the organization of the church than for Jesus Christ. [You are not Catholic, I see.] Boy, if it takes 2,000 years to come to a correct interpretation of scripture, we’re all in trouble. [This is why Christ gave us the Church, and we have the three-fold divine revelation in Scripture, Tradition and the Magisterium. We have the Petrine ministry and Apostolic Succession. We have intellect and authority, reason and faith. We have grace which builds on nature, aiding our faith which always seeks understanding. We have the fullness of membership in Christ’s Church, which is the sole authority that confirmed which books belong to the collection of writings called the Bible. I firmly believe that the Holy Spirit does confirm in a Christian, who is searching God with all of his/her heart, the meaning of scripture as it should be applied to his/her life. Sure I agree overall that Biblical scripture has one interpretation. [Oh really? Then why do so many people disagree in interpreting it, when the same Holy Spirit is guiding them? You become your own authority, someone else his own, another his own, and so on and so on and so on.] However, certain parts of scripture can be interpreted and applied differently through out one’s life. That is why it is so important for Catholics to read the Bible often. The Bible is our guidebook while we are here on this earth. [Guidebeek? The Bible? Sort of like a spiritual Baedecker, huh? You might want to stick around and read for a while.]

  63. Joseph says:

    I was at a First Communion mass and at the end, before the post Communion prayer, the pastor began thanking every person or group involved in the mass (except for God). In the end there were twelve applauses for everyone from the choir to the teachers to the sacristan, to the maintenence man, to the secretary, etc., etc., ending with “and most of all, we thank…our children.” – wild applause and cheering. I thought he was going to say…God. I was thoroughly disgusted.

  64. RBrown says:

    Are we not getting too legalistic about clapping?

    Legalistic or no, I’m usually offended whenever I hear applause in Church.

    What do you mean Fr. Z in your message that we should not interpret scripture independently?

    He didn’t write the article.

    You mention we should rely on Holy Mother Church and her 2,000 years of teaching. This sounds like we are showing more reverence for the organization of the church than for Jesus Christ.

    No, it does not sound like it. Christ is the Head of the Church. When we read the works of the Fathers and Doctors of the Church, by definition we are showing reverence for Christ–they are Christ’s Heralds.

    .Boy, if it takes 2,000 years to come to a correct interpretation of scripture, we’re all in trouble.

    Why would you say that when the Church teaches the opposite? Like the pope, Fr Z is a great fan of St Augustine, who died in 430. The last of the Western Fathers was Greg the Great, c. 600. The last of the Eastern Fathers John Damascene, died in about 750.

    St Thomas Aquinas died in 1274.

    I firmly believe that the Holy Spirit does confirm in a Christian, who is searching God with all of his/her heart, the meaning of scripture as it should be applied to his/her life.

    Sure I agree overall that Biblical scripture has one interpretation. However, certain parts of scripture can be interpreted and applied differently through out one’s life. That is why it is so important for Catholics to read the Bible often. The Bible is our guidebook while we are here on this earth.
    Comment by Brandon Hahn

    Scripture is open to all. In my experience, however, I have profited much more by reading a commentary on Scripture than just Scripture itself.

    It would be silly not to take advantage of the writings of people who have devoted their entire lives to understanding Scripture.

    And of course, anyone who reads the Breviary and attends daily mass reads Scripture.

  65. Todd says:

    Clapping during a homily has a place, I believe. Recently our priest has been the focus of a good deal of anti-christian and downright evil sentiment coming from within our own ranks as he tries to merge two parishes into a single new parish for monetary reasons (they originally separated 100 years ago along social divisions). He delivered a homily that was most affecting and firm in his stance. The people in attendance clapped long and loud after he was finished speaking. His speech brought tears to me eyes. I noticed a few people who remained seated and did not clap. Anyway, I think that clapping in support of your priest during times of crisis can be appropriate.

  66. Rod says:

    ? Clapping? Answer-NO. Well, almost no. More clearly, Answer- “Say the Black, Do the Red”. There were 66 comments prior to mine as I type this, and 66 opinions that diverge in some way. Every time we try to delineate when “we” think it’s ok to clap then we in all fairness open ourselves up to letting other people decide, rightly so by this self determination standard, when they think it’s ok to clap. Even though in truth I would tend to be sympathetic to some of the situations put forth previously as ones in which clapping would be acceptable, as soon as we make ourselves arbiters in the decision making process on this matter, we are doomed. How does it come to this point of confusion? (sigh) It should all be so very easy. “Say the Black, Do the Red”, simple, no discussion. Next liturgical abuse to the dock please.

  67. Herb says:

    Have you ever told a joke or a funny story in a sermon (maybe you haven’t) and received a laugh from the congregation. If so, were you offended? Clapping is the same thing as laughing, a spontaneous gesture of approval, with no disrespect intended. It’s not all that different that saying “Amen”, which would usually be allowed. [No. It is different from “Amen”. – Fr. Z]

  68. Brian Mershon says:

    “We are so proud of how rightly worship in majesty. Let’s clap for ourselves and for our organist and the choir members and the altar boys and everyone else at the end of Mass.”

    “Wasn’t that a wonderful performance? God must love us…”

    I’ve experienced this most often at so-called conservative Novus Ordo “reform of the reform” parishes.

    “Didn’t the choir and congregation sing so loudly? Wasn’t God praised rightly?”

    Hint or clue: Nope! You were screeching. It was quite nerve-racking actually…

  69. MarkF says:

    I’ve seen clapping only three times and all was at the end of the Mass, but still it did slightly bother me too.

    Once was for the tenth anniversary of our bishop’s elevation, another was for the fiftieth anniversary for three nuns’ taking their orders, and another was for a married couple’s fiftieth wedding anniversary. All of these are once in a lifetime occasions and all were done at the very end of the Mass. Still I was left a bit uneasy.

    Instead of talking about this on-line, we should be talking to the pastor at our parishes instead. I would have no problem with the cases I cited if this were done after the final blessing, “go in peace…” and the Mass were truly over. These were done technically during the Mass, but just before the final blessing, so it’s not so bad.

    I think we can bring up our concerns to the pastor as long as its done in a spirit of conciliation and care. Remember that the clapping is almost always for some person who has contributed more to the parish than most of us have.

  70. Jane says:

    Clapping in church is inappropriate.

  71. chris says:

    What an enlightening article. I had never read much about clapping in church, whether before or during Mass, so thank you for helping me by planting that “seed” that puts me in a more reverent state at Mass. Especially in today’s society that sometimes pulls in other directions, away from God and away from his grace given to us at all moments in time. Some church’s have narthex’s where the greeting and talking can take place. Here we can acnowledge the presence of Christ in others. But once we enter the body of the church, we should do so with reverence, honoring the presence of Christ in the tabernacle.

  72. therese says:

    A late comment on the “Lion King” baptisms…
    As the mother of two incontinent infants with deadly aim and no sense of occasion – I can’t begin to think what the dry cleaning bills of the priest and godparents might be like at the “Lion King” parish. And I hope they use plenty of chlorine in the font afterwards.

    As to clapping for a homily – I prefer to thank the priest personally on the way out of church if he has said anything I found particularly inspiring. As a teacher – I know it feels nice if someone comments positively occasionally.

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