St. John XXIII doesn’t like it when you clap in church. So STOP it! (VIDEO)

Joseph Card. Ratzinger – now Benedict XVI – wrote in his Spirit of the Liturgy:

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liturgy because of some human achievement, it is a sure sign that the essence of liturgy has totally disappeared and been replaced by a kind of religious entertainment.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

I spotted this today at NLM from my friend Greg DiPippo.

His translation of the Italian in the video, below:

The fourth Sunday of Lent, John XXIII was once again among the crowd, at Ostia. (about 15 miles to the south-west of Rome.) Thousands of people were waiting for him along the street, in the piazza, in the church. They wanted to see him, to applaud him. They did not know that afterwards, he would rebuke them, in a good-natured way, in his simple , spontaneous, familiar way of speaking.

“I am very glad to have come here. But if I must express a wish, it is that in church you not shout out, that you not clap your hands, and that you not greet even the Pope, because ‘templum Dei, templum Dei.’ (‘The temple of God is the temple of God.’)

Now, if you are pleased to be in this beautiful church, you must know that the Pope is also pleased to see his children. But as soon as he sees his good children, he certainly does not clap his hands in their faces. And the one who stands before you is the Successor of St. Peter.”

How about this.

If there is applause for the pop-combo at “liturgy” in your “worship space”, get a copy of Spirit of the Liturgy and mark the passage I quoted above.  Give it to the priest.  Then send him a link to the YouTube video, above.


A priest wrote, asking:

What about all the clapping at the Mass of Christian Burial for St. John Paul II?

You mean that Mass which was celebrated out in the big parking lot in front of the Basilica?

St. John XXIII was in a church.  Benedict XVI was talking about “human achievement” (e.g., a well-sung solo).

So, what about it?

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. Eliane says:

    Clapping does not break out at EF masses. Ever. The phenomenon is strictly tied to the Novus Ordo, and Catholics have been so uncatechized for so long that most are offended when instructed not to clap during liturgy. I recently saw an intrepid priest offer the reminder when the congregation broke into applause for an Ave Maria sung during Holy Communion, then heard complaints that he was just too conservative.

  2. Legisperitus says:

    I also like the part about not greeting.

  3. LarryW2LJ says:

    Our Director of Sacred Music basically put it this way to our congregation (I am paraphrasing). Fortunately, we have an awesome choir, and some people would burst out into spontaneous applause.

    “Our music is our prayer. Just as we don’t applaud when you kneel and pray, we don’t expect or want you to applaud when we pray, muscially. What we would like, would be for you to join in with our prayer and sing also.”

  4. Mike says:

    In a nearby parish I sometimes go to for their TLM, the beloved pastor made an announcement at the end of the liturgy (he was not the celebrant): he was being reassigned. Not one person applauded, in thanks for his wonderful ministry, at the end. Coming from a clapp-happy parish, this blew me away.

    I believe it was St. Chrysostom who said, “the servant should not be applauded in the Master’s house.”

    This story has a good ending, as the new pastor is fantastic, and continues the fine ministry of his predecessor.

  5. What a find. This deserves as much exposure as possible. The Bear’s parish is clap-happy.

  6. Polycarpio says:

    The underlying point is that we need to restore reverence to our worship, and I fully agree with that sentiment. However, we can go overboard in our zeal to get there and I fear that we do this if we take Card. Ratzinger’s quotation out of context. The context was Card. Ratzinger’s opinion that LITURGICAL DANCE is inappropriate because it reduces the liturgy to a performance, “a kind of religious entertainment.” It is in this context that he states that the introduction of liturgical dance can lead to worldly outbursts of applause, such as performers would expect to get at a secular performance. The problem is not the applause itself, but rather its worldly nature. A couple of sentence later, Card. Ratzinger adds this phrase, which I think makes the sense of his criticism quite clear: “Liturgy can only attract people when it looks, not at itself, but at God.” The inherent danger, deeply suggested by Card. Ratzinger’s phrase, of “liturgy looking at itself” is equally perpetrated an absolute ban on applause as it is by liturgical dance. As Dr. Tracey Rowland argued at the 2013 Sacra Liturgia conference (and elsewhere), even Traddies can end up making the mistake of treating the Mass like a dramatic performance, to be critiqued and nitpicked as if it was a ballet recital, with undue emphasis on its aesthetic beauty.

    I think a large dose of perspective is derived from the fact that in his discussion of liturgical dance, Card. Ratzinger even is flexible regarding what constitutes acceptable and unacceptable dance. He goes on to exempt from his criticisms those form of African liturgies accepted by the Church, which he says are not the kind of bad dancing that he disapproves of: they are “in fact a rhythmically ordered procession, very much in keeping with the dignity of the occasion. It provides an inner discipline and order for the various stages of the liturgy, bestowing on them beauty and, above all, making them worthy of God.” Ratzinger, The Spirit of the Liturgy. We would be well-advised to keep the same sane perspective and a healthy balance in mind about these related topics and thus avoid throwing out the baby with the bathwater.

  7. incredulous says:

    Our parish is particularly fond of clapping right after communion. It’s only one or two people who start it and the rest follow like sheep. So, how can the Pastor allow two people to take 800 astray? I would take the two aside and re-catechize them as to what Mass is. Then, it would be used as a “learning moment” to learn the congregation about the Holy, Bloodless Sacrifice that has just occurred. That way the Pastor can be “pastoral” and lead his bleating, clueless sheep to green pastures and fertile fields.

    Please please please STOP clapping in church. This is almost as bad as the same person carrying on a conversation on her cell phone during the mass. What exactly do people think they are doing at Church? How about handing out judge placards like at the olympics to the entire Bod so that the participants can express their ratings in a more somber manner other than clapping approval?

  8. Former Altar Boy says:

    Applauding the guitar-tambourine-electric piano “song group” at the end of Mass is one (of several) reasons I quit attending the “New Order” years ago. I couldn’t help but think: This man just performed a miracle, changing bread and wine into the Body and Blood of Our Lord, and you want to applaud that sorry excuse for a choir?

  9. Mike says:

    “As Dr. Tracey Rowland argued at the 2013 Sacra Liturgia conference (and elsewhere), even Traddies can end up making the mistake of treating the Mass like a dramatic performance, to be critiqued and nitpicked as if it was a ballet recital, with undue emphasis on its aesthetic beauty.”

    You know, I only go to a TLM about every seven weeks, and I have never, ever, felt like critiquing the Mass that way. Perhaps she’s right. But I think she’s somehow really “off”…

  10. Pingback: Hold the Applause | The American Catholic

  11. acardnal says:

    I lost some respect for Tracey Rowland when she made comments belittling those who attend the TLM/EF because of the clothing they wore.

  12. acardnal says:

    Polycarpio, for clarification, it’s worth noting that Pope John XXIII was addressing the congregation in Italy at a Latin Rite Mass in the West; he was not attending an “Ethiopian rite form or Zairean form of the Roman liturgy.” Meaning: those of us in the West should not be applauding at a Latin rite Mass according to John XXIII and Benedict XVI. Nor should we be dancing.

    In 1975, the Vatican’s Congregation for the Discipline of the Sacraments and Divine Worship (CDSDW) issued “Dance in the Liturgy” in which it prohibited dance during liturgies in the West:

    “the same criterion and judgment cannot be applied in the western culture. Here dancing is tied with love, with diversion, with profaneness, with unbridling of the senses. . . . For that reason it cannot be introduced into liturgical celebrations of any kind whatever: That would be to inject into the liturgy one of the most desacralized and desacralizing elements, and so it would be equivalent to creating an atmosphere of profaneness which would easily recall to those present and to the participants in the celebration worldly places and situations.”

    In another Instruction from the CDSDW in 1994:
    “Among some peoples, singing is instinctively accompanied by hand-clapping, rhythmic swaying, and dance movements on the part of the participants. Such forms of external expression can have a place in the liturgical actions of these peoples on condition that they are always the expression of true communal prayer of adoration, praise, offering and supplication, and not simply a performance. (Instruction on Inculturation and the Roman Liturgy, 42; italics added)”

  13. acardnal says:

    Link to “Dance in the Liturgy” from 1975. Interestingly, the USCCB interpreted this document to include prohibitions against the use of clowns in liturgies, too:

  14. Pingback: 'Catholic' Fashion Style -

  15. Reconverted Idiot says:

    I’m reminded of Mass once when I was young. During the homily priest was recounting something from his earlier years of ministry, when my dad interrupted and asked “Father, may we clap?” (it was a “please Lord, let the floor open and swallow me up” moment for me and my siblings, I can assure you). The priest simply responded “I would rather you didn’t.”

    Now, occasionally I visit a friend in another parish, and so attend Mass locally there, which has this practice of taking the children out for the first half, bringing them back in at the conclusion of the homily. The returning children then line up along the front of the altar, displaying their ‘colouring’ work or whatever, while one of them reads something at the lectern. Cue applause. What’s the right approach here? (It is an N.O. Mass).

    On the subject of the children going out, I was so pleased for one youngster who decided she didn’t want to and stayed put, sitting well-behaved and participating all the way through.

  16. Reconverted Idiot says:

    incredulous wrote: ‘Our parish is particularly fond of clapping right after communion.’

    I try so hard not to be distracted by stuff during mass — kids crying and the like — I try to see it as a kind of exercise. Sometimes I silently utter a quick prayer to the Lord to comfort that crying child, or ease that tickling cough :o)
    However, the one area where I really struggle to be patient with distractions is right after communion. For me it is the most important period of prayer and reflection, often bordering on the mystical. I’ve changed seats on returning from the altar rail in order to be as far away from any distractions as possible. I think I should positively lose the plot with whoever started clapping (Lord, please preserve me from such a test).

  17. incredulous says:

    Former Alter Boy,

    Our folks don’t even wait until the end of mass. If the post Communion song is particularly inspiring, and more so than receiving Christ at communion, while half the congregation is on their knees reflecting on the great gift of the Eucharist and asking for God’s grace to help us fight our internal demons until next week, the music critics are at a heightened state just looking for that opportunity in a now dead silent church to lead THEIR sheep in a round of applause.

    The absence of correction by the Celebrant leaves a wide open door for Satan to just co-opt the entire parish and the entire prayer of the Holy Sacrifice. I literally cringe when I hear that first hand clap. I really wish we would introduce Gregorian chant at that point.

    I feel like I’m at a Potential “Church” service and am waiting for the Priest to come down from the rafters on a zipline in order to better glorify the sacrifice at Calvary.

  18. LeGrandDerangement says:

    Tracey Reynolds “made comments belittling those who attend the TLM/EM because of the clothing they wore”? Does she mean veils, dresses, and suits? Perhaps she would prefer the T-shirts, shorts, and sandals I see at the NO Masses in the upper Midwest.

  19. andia says:

    The only time I have heard applaus in church was when a newly married couple was presented to the community and when we were saying good bye to a much loved priest. I would hate to think that expressions of welcome ( the new couple) or love ( for the priest) were wrong. If a church/parish is supposed to be community then sometimes the community is going to express their feelings, even if that expression is not “tidy”

  20. Imrahil says:

    I’m not going in for lawbooks here, but I don’t think that would be wrong.

    If, on the other hand, the priest in a festive celebration gives welcomes to what in secular context would be “guests of honor” (the mayor along with spouse… the local school principal along with spouse… the representative along with spouse… you get the idea), I do opine applause would be wrong. We are not giving a banquet.

  21. Luvadoxi says:

    What I find interesting is that in the PCUSA church I raised my children in and to which my husband still belongs, there is never any applause. And this is a very save-the-earth, upper middle class, reduce-reuse-recycle group. No applause. If the children’s choir sings, they can see the beaming faces of their parents. If a visiting pastor is recognized, there is respectful silent acknowledgment. It works! Worship is for worshipping God. That’s just understood there. It can be done!

  22. Pingback: It Makes Me Sick When People Clap In Church. Here’s Why! | Chastisement 2013

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