Ratzinger on applause in church

From the blog Sober Inebriation comes this timely note:

An important liturgical message from Cardinal Ratzinger – now Pope Benedict XVI

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liturgy because of some human achievement, it is a sure sign that the essence of liturgy has totally disappeared and been replaced by a kind of religious entertainment.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

This message has been brought to you by Sober Inebriation Weblog.

If you should encounter applause during Mass in your parish do not panic. Immediately after Mass go out and get a copy of Pope Benedict’s book "The Spirit of the Liturgy" by Ignatius Press and give it to your pastor as a gift. Be sure to highlight the above passage on page 198. Yellow highlighter works really, really well.

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  1. I had a horrible experience with charismatics and Ratzinger’s words lifted my spirit (no pun intended) when I first read this quote.

  2. I endured this at the cathedral parish for a few years, when I worshiped there regularly. When the new RCIA candidates were called for the Scrutinies in front of people for five minutes of whatever, they got applause. If a teenager got on the pulpit and gave a talk on their summer work camp, they got applause. When some volunteer retired and they just HAD to pay tribute to them in front of the King, they got applause.

    I can think of a number of otherwise good priests who, when shown the book passage in question, would just go “heh!” which is really too bad. Either they think they’re “orthodox” enough that it doesn’t apply to them, or they are powerless to affect a congregation’s behavior and so it doesn’t apply to them. If it’s enough to break bad habits, then thank the Lord for it. But alas, we’ve gotten into some bad habits over the years.

    When I attend a Traditional Mass, I never encounter it. I don’t blame it on a set of books, mind you, but such habits are one reason that’s where I keep going.

  3. Hidden One says:

    Thank you thank you thank you for posting this.

  4. CDN Canonist says:

    I wonder what Benedict XVI thinks of the applause which frequently accompanies his Masses.

  5. Marie says:

    Thank you for this. It is perfect after enduring applause just yesterday as visitors to an out-of-town church. I couldn’t bring myself to join crowd and participate. I just waited for it to be over.

  6. Jon says:

    Perhaps Pope Benedict might quote Cardinal Ratzinger in his next homily?

  7. Did I mention I love our current Holy Father ?

    Will any of these recognitions of human achievement be quelled (doubt it) ?

    Why not have the clap-fest after Mass over at the parish hall or rectory ?

  8. Mark says:

    There is seeming ambiguity as to what he is talking about.

    Most of the applause I have seen is during the homily/announcements. During that period in the middle which is technically an interruption in the Liturgy. And sometimes, at that point, it does seem appropriate, at least inasmuch as mundane announcements can be considered appropriate either!

    Is it possible he just means applause actually DURING the liturgy, ie, for the musicians or (shudder) dancers, etc?

    Because that homily/announcements period IS an interruption in the liturgy, not technically liturgical.

  9. Joe says:

    Mark, the homily is not an interruption in the Liturgy, technically it is a part of the Liturgy (which is why it is reserved to ordained ministers).

    Applause of candidates for reception into the Church could be considered analogous to the applause given to those to be ordained, that is the election of the people.

    And I would say that if announcements are allowed (more properly after the Communion prayer than after the homily) that indeed might be considered not part of the liturgy, and hence applause for (say) a retiring Sunday School teacher might be appropriate. I think the Holy Father is talking about applause for ministers performing their ministry, whether musical or otherwise, which indicates a non-liturgical understanding.

  10. Mike M says:

    It never bothered me when people clap for the RCIA people welcomed into the Church… I think my priest even asked us to applaud as a sign of welcome. And, I don’t consider the announcements at the end part of Mass, so clapping there never bothered me, either.

    Every week at my Parish, though, I cringe a little bit when the congregation claps for the choir at the end of Mass. This has bothered me since I was in middle school! I think it’s part of the false notion of the Mass as a show.

  11. Sean says:

    This Sunday I went to a Ruthenian Byzantine Catholic ordination. The Divine Liturgy was simply beautiful, and when the new priest went up to speak at the podium and give some thanks after the liturgy the church was silent. Ten minutes later he was reintroduced by the bishop in the church hall and the congregation erupted in applause and shouts and napkin waving. The Byzantines know how to respect the dignity of the church!

  12. Bonifacius says:

    I really don’t like clapping in church at all, but I wonder about the stipulation “because of some human achievement.” Many people who clap for the newly baptized and/or confirmed and/or first-time communicants wouldn’t see that way. They’d see it as a welcoming gesture on account of the *divine* achievement wrought for the people in question.

  13. Dave says:

    As I understand it, in the EF the liturgy is considered to be “paused” while the homily takes place, while in the OF the homily is officially part of the liturgy. (Someone please correct me if I’m wrong.) Either way, I don’t think applause is appropriate in God’s house.

  14. It is a good thing that Josef Ratzinger was recently ordained. If, for example, he had been a bishop or a cardinal over the last forty years, I would be furious!

  15. Henry Edwards says:

    Other than possibly during the sermon, if for example it were announced that the president had just signed an executive order outlawing abortion — and I’ve never myself seen it even then — it’s virtually impossible to imagine applause during a TLM.

    One’s mind is so focused on God alone that clapping for something human could hardly come to mind. (Well, I do recall an absolutely stunning solo rendition of Mozart’s Allelulia at an Easter Mass once, but only outside after Mass was the soprano mobbed with acclaim.)

    Incidentally, it is true that in the EF the sermon is (and traditionally has long been) considered an interruption to rather than a part of the Mass. This is what is signified when the priest removes his maniple and sometimes also his chasuble to go the pulpit.

    As an aside, it sometimes occurs to me at a daily low Mass without sermon that it’s best that way — that it’s almost impossible for any sermon to avoid puncturing the intense sacrificial atmosphere established by the penitential prayers at the beginning of Mass.

  16. Kyle says:

    “It is not fitting that the servant should be applauded in His Masters house” Pope St Pius X

  17. Geoffrey says:

    I think it greatly depends on the nature of the applause. Let’s take the Pope for example. In a large gathering, it is the only way the faithful can manifest their love and esteem for him. In such a case he is not being “congratulated” for a “job well done” as in some choirs are, etc.

  18. Mark R says:

    When I was a Byzantine Catholic seminarian we were taught that applause was a latinization. I am glad it is apparently not even that.

  19. Dr. Eric says:

    I think I have heard other priests say of the book, “Well, that’s his opinion as a theologian. I can quote differing opinions from other theologians.”

  20. moon1234 says:

    I have seen this most during new Baptism’s and right after marraige ceremonies. In the EF these events occur outside of Mass and are not part of the Liturgy. However the ICTK priest told us he purposefully does NOT announce the couple so as not to encourage non-catholic attendees to clap. In the EF any clapping would be outside the Mass anyway.

    In the OF theses ceremonies occur DURING the Mass so clapping is all the more inappropriate. This just shows how poorly cathecized many Catholics are.

  21. Cathy says:

    I talked to my (former) pastor once about the liturgy and how the way it was celebrated at my (then) parish was making it difficult for me to focus on Christ at the altar. He told me that the Mass is a time to focus on Christ in one another. I pointed out that the Holy Father disagrees and recommended that he read Spirit of the Liturgy. He told me that he doesn’t need to read it because the Holy Father is wrong about the liturgy and that there aren’t going to be any liturgical changes in our diocese because the Archbishop and the priests are “against the Holy Father” (this was shortly before Summorum Pontificum). This priest has a reputation for being one of the more orthodox in my diocese. I gave up and started going full time to the TLM. I wish I could move to another diocese.

  22. Lucy says:

    Yesterday, at our EF Mass, we had a first Holy Communicant. After Mass was over, but before the priest left, he welcomed the little girl and half the congregation clapped for her. I was uneasy and did not clap. I agree with the above, clapping in God’s house just isn’t appropriate.

  23. Deirdre says:

    The statement (which I haven’t read in context) doesn’t seem to preclude all applause during the liturgy, but applause which comes about because of some human achievement. So. Does applauding new priests, new Catholics, and newlyweds fall into the category of applause-because-of-human-achievement?

  24. Maggie says:

    We clapped *four times* in Mass yesterday.
    1) A 60th anniversary blessing for an elderly couple
    2) Graduating seniors (our town’s HS graduation was that afternoon)
    3) we reached a fundraising goal
    4) the teen/youth choir, who provided the music

    If I didn’t know better I would’ve thought I was a Broadway musical.

    Right on, Papa B!

  25. Don says:

    Thank you for this reminder–it can’t be said enough “It’s about Him”, and not us. At a recent bishop’s installation as well as at a prominent seminary over Holy Week a number of people found it necessary to turn to the choir loft and applaud. They think they are at the symphony. Then there was a beautiful Mass with schola and orchestra I attended last year (very unusual in these parts–where the priest prior to the beginning of the Mass announced to the overflowing congregation that applause was NOT appropriate at any time. That tone enhanced the beauty and majesty of the Mass.

  26. I wonder what Benedict XVI thinks of the applause which frequently accompanies his Masses.

    At the April 2009 Papal Mass in Yankee Stadium, his homily was interrupted by several rounds of applause. He politely paused, but did nothing to encourage it. No big smiles, hand gestures, or waves.

  27. Also, I think one can differentiate spontaneous applause by the congregation and applause that is encouraged by the words or actions of the priest. The latter is much more problematic in my view. Likewise, if the “spontaneous” becomes routine, it’s time for the pastor to engage in some liturgical catechesis.

  28. VIVA IL PAPA!!!!!!

    “We” (and I use we as simply being there ..in the presence of the “faith community” ) applaud at some inane item atleast weekly.

    These same individuals will cite the psalms that say “Clap your hands al ye nations shout”

    But the psalm doesnt talk about the congregation, it talks about God…not you in the pews…God…. What does it take for people to get this?
    I get so annoyed at the response “Well, if you are moved blah blah blah”. Mass isnt about you, and the minute you praise someone else in frant of Almighty God, you have just told God how truly important you think HE is .

    It all goes back to Eucharistic understanding. If you understand WHO is with you there, rather then what or what it symbolizes, then you approach in fear and trembling. When you drag God down to your level, he becomes one of the boys, and thus, you effectively prioritize him lower.

    Yes , Christ is our Brother, yes, Christ is our friend. But he is also God incarnate, and requires the proper disposition when encountered. Moses Hid his face, Elijah hid his face….the apostles prostrated themselves. Paul was blind for a time…. HOw is it Vatican II suddenly changed 3000 years of scripture? It didnt… we just arent collectively taught as well as we need to be.

  29. Dominic says:

    Applause broke out five times in the course of Archbishop Lefebvre’s sermon at the ceremony of episcopal consecration on June 30th, 1988.

  30. Chironomo says:

    As the director, I wrote to the other musicians who serve in various capacities in our parish to avoid presenting musical selections in such a way that they encourage or elicit applause. Dramatic “Taa-daaa” endings, quck-cut endings (Ahhhhhhhhhh-LE-LU-IA!! followed by dead silence), and held out long dramatic ending notes (particularly painfully high ones) are a sure way to cause the assembly to break into applause. IT’S NOT THEIR FAULT…the musicians should know better. If the assembly applauds (for the music) the fault lies with the musicians.

    No matter how beautifully and skillfully one would present, for instance, a chanted Introit I cannot imagine anybody even considering applause. The music doesn’t call for it. But when you present music that calls for applause, don’t be surprised when you get it.

  31. RichR says:

    I drew up a reference sheet for our schola cantorum that briefed the men on expected postures during Mass, and I was sure to include this quote from Ratzinger. People are generally very enthusiastic when the chant group makes an appearance (there really is a hunger for this type of stuff, but the establishment continues to use the OCP materials), and by the end of the Mass they want to tell the pastor “Bring them back”, so they applaud. We don’t encourage it, and after a few appearances we ask the pastor not to make mention of us at the end of Mass.

    Honestly, it’s nice when we are treated as if we are a natural part of the liturgy and not something “special”. It sends the subtle cue to the people that this is not a performance, too.

  32. “Comment by William H. Phelan — 8 June 2009 @ 2:29 pm”

    Please tell me you’re being sarcastic.

  33. Since i am a church musician…

    I will comment on Chironomo. Yes… people will applaud at “dramatic” music. Yes, it is probably the musicians fault somewhat for picking it,


    Alot of it is disposition of the choir… If they are humble in carrying out their task… and if they “performers” are actually engaged in the liturgy, then they will be treated as just another piece. When the choir doesnt bother to kneel during consecration, and is more worried about the next “piece”, well then they are going to be treated like a dog and pony show, and not a piece of the liturgy.

    Cantors too (again speaking from experience). There is a way you can sing a psalm, that is truly cantor like, and there is a way you can perform a psalm. When you perform a psalm you just missed the point, no matter how much you claim you are doing it for him. When you show boat, you show boat, no beating around the bush

  34. jennifer eva says:

    Our parish (northernmost LA diocese) claps after the last song after the blessing which although clearly outside of liturgy, it disturbs. Especially when my almost 3 year old wants to clap and say YEAH ALL DONE! I don’t know whether to laugh at the obvious oddity of the gesture or cry at how much work is made for me to educate my kids. After many months, I can say he doesn’t clap, but as most three year olds in the OF – he still says yeah, all done. On a positive note, my first child received her Sacrament of Penance and will have First Communion next week!


  35. Kimberly says:

    Cardinal Francis Arinze 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]

  36. Andrew says:

    This past Sunday was the first mass in which our newly-ordained deacon participated as such. At the end of mass (the time when announcements was made) the parish priest (a very solidly orthodox one) congratulated him and we appluaded.

    This is about the only instance when I find clapping in church apprpriate.

    And just to illustrate the character of the parish and that pass in particular, the next thing was the Salve Regina, sung in Latin by the schola, before the procession out of the church.

  37. Roland de Chanson says:

    Years ago I was at a Christmas Eve midnight mass, novus ordo obviously, and after the choir completed a pedestrian rendition of the Hallelujah Chorus, the pew puppets on cue burst into applause and even leapt up to a standing ovation. I remained seated. Then from the pew directly in front of me a guy, also seated, stuck his fingers in his mouth and whistled several times. I actually burst out laughting quite audibly. The guy was clearly mocking the morons who were cheering.

    It is the only novus ordo “service” where I actually did not come away angry. Anger is a deadly sin. I avoid the near occasions of sin. I shun the novus ordo.

    Now, what I would really applaud would be Ratzinger celebrating the True Mass publicly in his own diocese.

  38. Maureen says:

    I agree with Chironomo. There is indeed a way for singers and musicians to pull down silence at the end instead of applause, but it’s not something most people learn. Yet.

  39. Lucy says:

    After reading all these posts, what do we come away with ? Is it or isn’t it appropriate to clap in church? Are there times that it’s acceptable – such as welcoming a new family whose child just received First Holy Communion, as was my experiece this past Sunday? Is it okay to clap for a new priest after his first Mass? Is it okay to clap for the elderly couple who have navigated 60 years of marriage? What’s the answer?

  40. Dino says:

    In my parish, NO only in English or Spanish,
    we have more than enough minor abuses, handholding around the altar, multiple use of the orans posture in the pews, all of which I try to ignore, but I still cringe every Mass when the congregation breaks out in applause for whichever translation is used for Ite, Missa est.
    A nun has suggested that the applause is to signal relief from the craziness.

  41. Hidden One says:


    It’s perfectly OK to clap and generally applaud anything worthy of applause, outside of liturgical contexts and outside of the Church. Within liturgical contexts and within the church building, it is entirely inappropriate to celebrate man and his achievements.

  42. mike says:

    What I come away with

    The liturgy is a solemn occasion so clapping is not appropriate. If folks are so wired that they absolutely need to clap then they may “gather” in the church hall after Mass where they can express their feelings without disturbing the focus of worship.

    I have often thought that us super christians really ought to budget more than our usual 50 minutes for praise and worship and carry on after Mass with the protestant songfest, hugfest, touchfest, backslapfest, pre-schooler-Q&Afest, etc. This would also be an occasion for free food and drink.

    What we need is a church-approved third part of Mass: Mass of the Catechumens/Mass of the Faithful/ MASS OF THE SNUGGLES: after the final blessing, dudes can process out of church and directly into the basement/courtyard/lawn for snacks and other stuff. Why contain “church” to the habit of liturgical precision?


  43. To David L. Alexander: Some years ago, Cdl. Avery Dulles was being asked on TV how the Church seemed to allow some serious aberrations in the 60s and 70s and they were cited. His reply? “Oh, that was the age of experimentation. They are not allowed anymore.” The “age of experimentation” was precisely the years my wife and I were bringing seven children into the world and the abuse we took from other catholics(sic) was considerable. “The Church changed the rules. You don’t have to follow those teachings anymore”. My solution? I am in an FSSP chapel with most of my family and our “pope” is a thirty-three year old Frenchman. We’re just fine. Thanks for asking. P.S. As the Notre Dame item proved, the Big Church is a perished fraud.

  44. Kat says:

    What is appropriate?

    Hmmm,well,let’s go back to before certain aberrations were introduced:

    Did you ever hear (or hear of, if you weren’t alive then) clapping, cheering, talking, or carrying-on inside a Catholic Church, where the tabernacle was in the center and it was clearly God’s house? Yes, I even mean when it came to newcomers, and reception of various Sacraments. I’m only 43, but I even daresay the bride and groom were not “announced” as the new couple inside the church. Isn’t that what the reception and reception line were for?

    Just wondering…

    Just private-revelation and old-fashioned stories (perhaps many from Ireland?) but I have read of some interesting tales of churches “haunted” by souls in purgatory, who are condemned to spending their purgatory inside a church, making up for their misbehavior in front of Our Lord in His house! Thought-provoking, if not ever able to be proven!

  45. Adam says:

    If we were to have met our Risen Lord on the third day, would we have clapped for Him? Or would we have bowed down in worship?

  46. sitting on my hands says:

    So, have you thought of how many peole will have their feelings hurt, feel left out, unappreciated when our pastor stops the following:

    At the end of every Mass we hear:

    “Let’s thank our altart servers (clap), the ushers (clap), the greeters (clap), the lectors (clap), the eucharistic ministers (clap), the choir (clap, our musicians (clap), the group who cleaned the church this week (clap, and the other dozen or so people who made this celebration possible for you.” (clap, clap, clap)

    This is followed by my absolutely favorite dismissal (it makes me see red, lots of red, almost like blood…and my head is about the explode) “Go in peace to serve one another.”

    Really, what will these people think when they are not the end all and be all of the Holy Mass?

    I suppose our pastor would then have to say: “Give a hand to the Father(clap), and of course let’s give the Son a big round (clap), and last but not least, how about a cheer for the Holy Spirit!” Way to go Guys! (clap, clap, clap) Oh, and they’ll be back next Sunday(clap more) hope you too will be here for another special celebration of us as a faith community. Have a nice day!”

    Sound of guitars, electric piano, and other heavenly sounds…

  47. gusdelaney says:

    God forbid that any liturgy contain any sign of human celebration or joy. After all, liturgies are not supposed to be fun! Those of us who are prone to clapping and smiling and even, God forbid, laughing during a liturgy should be banned…right?

  48. gusdelaney says:

    Oh how horrible. To think that a litugy might contain a smidgeon of human emotion and joy is terrible. I am shocked, shocked. I suspect that there are heretics out there who may even crack a smile during mass. Those of us who have been known to laugh during mass, at a pastor’s joke or his terribel homily should be burned at the stake!

  49. Greg Hessel in Arlington Diocese says:

    Don’t laugh but in the Arlington Diocese this clapping phenomenon is not unheard of…it happened at St Timothy’s after some guy sang a solo at the end of Communion.

  50. mfg says:

    Clapping at Holy Mass during the unbloody Sacrifice of Calvary–or even in Church, in the House of God–is in the spirit of vatican II: misplaced, obtuse, blasphemous, profane, irreverent, misguided, and dare I say, downright ignorant. Clapping at the ballgame or concert is appropriate and great fun if the players have played well, and therein lies the difference, human as opposed to The Triune God. I have not had to endure the travesty of clapping at Holy Mass since I discovered the Indult Mass in 2005, and now I attend the FSSP TLM exclusively. Te Deum Laudamus. I will not step foot in a church where I even suspect there might be clapping. 40 years of gritting my teeth and fighting nausea and praying, Forgive them, Lord, they know not what they do, is enough.

  51. Fenton says:

    Now can he write something about bongos and goofy night-club style homilists?

  52. Fenton says:

    Dear Gusdelaney,

    Can’t you give the Lord ONE HOUR a week of solemn, devout, interior worship? Must there always be noise in our lives? Must the Mass be about making US feel happy and squishy inside? Is it not about the sacrifice our Lord made on our behalf? Is it not too much to ask that we approach the altar of God on our spiritual knees? If we truly believe that the Mass is a sacrifice, how can we possibly turn it into a festive event?

    Read the writings of our Popes on this…to a man they all say the same thing: the Mass is a Sacrifice and we should approach it as such; imagine yourself at the foot of the Cross along with our Blessed Mother and John.

    I doubt they clapped their hands…

  53. TNCath says:

    So, is clapping for the Pope a recognition of a “human achievement” or for recognition of the fact that the man walking down the aisle is the Vicar of Christ? Many times I have been guilty of applauding the Holy Father at Masses when he was celebrant and was processing either up or down the aisle at St. Peter’s. However, I never recall doing so at Mass itself. However, I distinctly remember watching and hearing on TV those in attendance at Pope John Paul II’s funeral clapping and shouting “Santo subito!” after Communion. Then Cardinal Ratzinger calmly waited for the cheering to die down before he continued with the Prayer after Communion Was this applause for Pope John Paul for his “human achievement?” I am not sure that these events were what Pope Benedict had in mind. However, I do think that he is certainly correct that the Mass does get reduced to “religious entertainment” when applause takes place for “human achievements” such as a couple’s wedding anniversary, a server serving Mass for the first time, a special musical selection by the choir or instrumentalists, or, worst of all, welcoming visitors to Mass.

  54. gusdelaney says:

    The Eucharist is about JOY. It is a “celebration” People express JOY in various ways, some make noise. To judge people based on their particular way that they elect to celebrate is the antithesis of The Gospel Message. Sing Joyfully to the Lord, Clap, Dance, Smile, Laugh. If we all followed that advice maybe there would be a few more people in the pews.

  55. BLC says:

    The idea of clapping during Mass is profoundly alien to me. Thank God I have never actually seen it happen. I don’t understand what would motivate people to do so – usually in Mass people are too busy focusing on the worship of God and the sacrifice of the Mass.

  56. Lori Ann says:

    In response to gusdelaney above:

    Been there and done that, and it doesn’t work. Its fleeting and does not focus on the fact that the Mass is also a sacrifice. The joy comes from knowing and believing that the God of the universe would condesend to come to us and allow us to receive Him under the appearance of bread. There could be total silence in the church, yet hearts could be joyfully appreciative of the Gift and the Giver. I doubt there was any dancing and clapping at the foot of the Cross, and I would almost think that there would also have been a very solemn tone at the Last Supper, given what Our Lord said and did at that time. Finally, I don’t know of anywhere in the New Testament that describes people’s reactions to the Risen Lord as “dancing” or “clapping”. But, it is said that their “hearts were burning” as two of them heard Him speak to them on the road to Emmaus. Our Lord and what He told them was more important than their need for self-expression. It should be about Him. We worship HIM and should not be distracted with celebrating each other.

  57. pdt says:

    As a choir member and cantor, I’ve learned to endure the applause that seems to be the de rigueur of the post-Mass moments. Often it is even precipitated by the celebrant, which makes me feel a bit like a player in the Tonight Show Band.

    Just once I would love to hear the celebrant explain to the congregation that applause is misplaced — the choir’s ministry is to sing the liturgy, not entertain the crowd. And crown this comment with a request that all join in prayer on behalf of all those who perform the many ministries, and a suggestion that in lieu of applause a kindly personal ‘thank you’ outside the church might be nice.

    Like that’s ever going to happen.

  58. newtrad says:

    I have to believe that a First Holy Communion or Wedding or Baptism is a joyous occasion in the eyes of God. I agree clapping during the liturgy is inappropriate but at the end of the liturgy to be so solemn that we can not praise God for what He has just done, I think that goes too far. It does not take away from the Passion to celebrate the Resurrection at the appropriate time. How can God’s house be restricted to no smiling, no joy for someone just received into the Church, or receiving Our Lord for the first time. This seems uncharitable towards God and His Church. I don’t think this is what the Pope was saying at all. I think he is talking about cheering for the choir or something like that. Just my .$02.

  59. Central Valley says:

    This is yet another abuse allowed in the Diocese of Fresno by Bishop John T. Steinbock. I would forward the posting to the bishop and his inner circle but it would only be deleted.

  60. JC says:

    I haven’t the time to skim through all the posts right now, but Cardinal Arinze gave a very detailed discussion of this subject early in his tenure at CDW:
    1. Applause is praise for the individual, not God.
    2. An individual does not deserve praise for receiving a Sacrament: God deserves the praise for giving it.
    3. Praise for other things (musical quality, secular achievements, etc.,) do not have their proper place at mass. “That’s what parish halls are for,” said Cardinal Arinze.

    I can see how, sometimes, there might be situations where applause is not totally uncalled for (e.g., perhaps a rousing homily), but I think the salient point is to *consider* what we’re doing at such moments.

    But one thing Cardinal Arinze said about a lot of these issues– applause, “liturgical dance,” certain kinds of music at Mass–and I think things like talking in Church apply, too–is that it’s not just a lack of appreciatoin for the solemnity of Mass. It’s also a lack of Catholic community (or what liberals call “the Catholic ghetto”).

    People want “praise and worship” music at Mass because that’s all the time they devote to God.

    People always complain ,when told to observe silence at Mass, “This is the only time I get to talk to my friends.” They must be great friends, then! That you’d give them time that should be reserved to God, but you wan’t make time during the week to call them on the phone.

    Cardinal Arinze says we need more of a sense of Catholic community, and doing things in our non-Mass time. You want spiritual dance? He asks, then go do it at the parish hall. Have your awards ceremonies and congratulations then. Have your folk group play praise and worship music at Coffee and Doughnoughts. Most certainly, have your conversations with your friends then.

  61. Dear all,

    I remember some thunderous applause from the congregation at Archbishop Dolan’s installation, and a year earlier, during Pope Benedict XVI’s visit to St. Patrick’s.

    I am quite certain that such occurrences are neither inappropriate, nor the intended object of then-Cardinal Ratzinger’s criticisms.

    The point is that the “no applause” rule is not inflexible – and the important thing is to make sure that the (save me!) spirit of the rule is followed.

  62. Jeff M says:

    Spontaneous applause is one thing, but one parish I occasionally have to go to ends every Mass thus:
    “Give a big hand to the cantor!” Clap, clap, clap…
    “And let’s show our thanks to the Eucharistic Ministers (sic)” Clap, clap, clap…
    “And let’s have a big round for the lectors!” Clap, clap, clap…
    Then the cantoress says:
    “And let’s show Father Ed our appreciation for celebrating this Mass!” Clap, clap, clap…
    Then Fr. Ed says:
    “Give yourselves a big hand for being here today!” Clap, clap, clap…

  63. Yes, Jeff: that is silly, and the proper object of JCR’s/PBXVI’s criticisms.


  64. wsxyz says:

    I am quite certain that such occurrences are neither inappropriate

    How can you be “quite certain” of that? Was there thunderous applause from the “congregation” at Cardinal Spellman’s installation?

  65. I think that, more often than not, the choice of music is to blame. I would say that “classical music,” especially, can provoke applause. My sense is that most “classical” selections are too secular for Mass. THEY DRAW ATTENTION TO THEMSELVES, by their very nature. Gregorian chant is best; that is the position of the Church. There are some other pieces, as well, that strike the appropriate tone.

    For this reason, I avoid so-called “choral Masses.” When I know there will be violins and trumpets at a traditional Latin Mass, I will stay away. Not because the people will applaud; I know they are educated enough to refrain from that. It is because this type of music does not seem fitting for worship. Again, it draws attention to itself.

    Needless to say, I try to attend the Extraordinary Form exclusively.

  66. Dominican says:

    I have always been anti-applause having been “raised” in the 70’s and 80’s with the EF. However, my first Mass at St. Peter’s with JPII and applause broke out at the end of the Ordination Mass, well, it was a totally different thing. There was this sense that there was so much JOY that we had to applause.

    I was at the Papal Mass at Yankee Stadium and most of the applause seemed to start in our section (Boston). It was the sense that that we wanted the world watching to know that we affirmed what the Holy Father was saying. The applause broke out when he spoke in defense of life and about vocations to religious life.

    Later, when I saw the TV footage I was glad we did because as we applauded the cameras panned the crowd and there were a lot of people just sitting and not applauding. Now, that doesn’t mean they didn’t support what the Holy Father said but it sure didn’t look like they did.

    There are just times when applause “fits” and is genuine.

  67. ssoldie says:

    This is great, I have a little book: “No Applause In Church” by Neil Kevin, August 1947, and have had numerous discussion’s on clapping at the Mass , then comes out “Spirit Of The Liturgy”,enough said.

  68. AnPiobaire says:

    Likewise, that pesky Alleluia should be banned. Wikipedia says: :The Hebrew word Halleluya as an expression of praise to God was preserved, untranslated, by the early Christians as a superlative expression of thanksgiving, joy, and triumph”. We’re Catholics and should not be required to show those sorts of emotions. I would suggest, indeed, that we all veil our faces at church to avoid the occasion of a possible smile breaking out on our lips. Oh! I just thought… manacles! That way we would not be tempted to let our hands touch AND we’d be prevented from receiving in the hand! Kill two birds, (and the Spirit) with one stone!

  69. Ken says:

    At a concert in a church, the proper and customary preparation by the priest-sacristan is to remove the Blessed Sacrament, keep the tabernacle door open and extinguish the main sanctuary candle.

    Reason? Things like applause will occur at a concert.

    If people wish to treat a church like the set of Oprah, then at least empty the tabernacle (assuming there is one and there’s something in it) beforehand.

  70. Fr. Totton says:

    I remember a sentiment (I will have to paraphrase) from Fr. Rutler’s biographical look at the Cure d’Ars. He said the Holy Cure would have considered applause vulgar, but the applause he would rather is the sound of footsteps in the direction of the confessional, just as the preacher descends silently from his pulpit. Fr. Rutler said it in a much more poetic manner, but still, it was a great point!

  71. Kimberly says:

    gusdelany – “To judge people based on their particular way that they elect to celebrate is the antithesis of The Gospel Message.”

    Does that mean that what ever anyone thinks is joyous to them they should be able to do? Some people think that breaking out a beer, or dancing on the tables is joyous. Where do you stop? Seems to me that you are judging those who FEEL the joy in thier heart but contain themselves so that others can pray, meditate or listen.

  72. I am not Spartacus says:

    If clapping during Mass to signify approval is ok, then booing during Mass must be ok to signal disapproval.

    There are times, many of them, when I feel like booing the Priest who does not say the black…and a crescendo of catcalls and laughter is what almost all music performed in the OF is deserving of.

  73. Andrew, medievalist says:

    Applause for the unique sacraments (i.e. baptism and ordination) does not, IMHO, seem too out of place. In this case, since God rather than man effects the sacraments, we are thanking and praising Him with our applause. I simply can’t help but applaud for baptisms since they are nothing less than another soul saved!

    Beyond these, however, applause is directed towards the works of man and has no place in the liturgical action. Certainly, have a great and loud party afterwards (but that might slow down people in the rush to the parking lot).

  74. I am not Spartacus says:

    God forbid that any liturgy contain any sign of human celebration or joy.

    Can’t you exerience joy interiorly?

    After all, liturgies are not supposed to be fun!

    Amen !!! If you could hear me, I’d clap.

  75. gedsmk says:

    surely just because this opinion is in a book by someone who then became Pope doesn’t mean it’s infallible, does it? Are you going to quote the passage where he talks about Mass facing the people, or about communion in the hand as well? I happen to think that there are moments when applause is completely appropriate, and where the lack of same actually causes a certain amount of rupture. Who could forget the incredibly moving applause when the bearers paused holding JPII’s coffin at the end of his Requiem Mass? And what about dance while we’re at it? Totally appropriate in some places but not in others; it’s all a question of context.

  76. I am not Spartacus says:

    And what about dance while we’re at it? Totally appropriate in some places but not in others; it’s all a question of context.

    October 2003

    Cardinal Responds to Questions on Liturgy

    Wide-ranging questions on the Liturgy were answered by Cardinal Francis Arinze at a conference in July sponsored by the Apostolate for Family Consecration.

    Has liturgical dance been approved for Masses by your office?

    There has never been a document from our Congregation for Divine Worship and Discipline of the Sacraments saying that dance is approved in the Mass.

  77. Jim of Bowie says:

    Mr. Altieri,

    I watched Archbishop Dolan’s installation mass. It was all about worship of Dolan. Worship of God was almost an afterthought. I think that’s exactly what Pope Benedict was talking about.

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