Clap happy at mass

“Hello — if this is “ministry” then it is not about the musicians and their “performance,” and it should not be applauded as though they’d provided entertainment breaks. Should we applaud the ushers? Should we applaud the priest and deacon?

I keep waiting for one “music minister” — just one — to announce before mass, “we appreciate the sentiment behind the applause, but really, it’s not what we’re here for, and we really wish you would just sing out with us during the recessional, and then make your thanksgiving. The applause really is not appropriate.”

So far, I haven’t heard anyone say something like that, but if they won’t, I wish the pastors would. Too often, and always meaning well, our priests facilitate the increasingly annoying and unavoidable clap-clap-clappiness of mass. Let’s clap for the children who went downstairs to hear the Word! “Yay!” Let’s clap for the musicians! “Yay!” Don’t forget the greeters! “Yay!”

It’s obnoxious and it completely belies the idea of selfless service, which I am sure really IS behind the actions of all who volunteer their time.”

— Elizabeth Scalia, justifiably ticked off about clapping during mass.

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29 responses to “Clap happy at mass”

  1. As a Cantor and occasional trumpet player, I want to hide behind the music stand when it happens. Perhaps it’s a matter of catechesis of the congregation? As a church musician I know my role is to facilitate the sung parts of the liturgy for full and active participation of the congregation, but do they know they’re supposed to be participating?

  2. I can remember this being a discussion when I was in college back in the early ’80’s and there was quite a bit of acrimony around it. For a while, we had a music minister who felt that the choir should perfrom during commuion and chose music that was difficult or impossible to sing and featured soloists. He even made “Amazing Grace” too hard for most people.

    He was eventually removed by the acclaimation of the rest of us and replaced with someone who DID say something- she told all of us that this was not about performance but about service and glorifying God, that we should not expect or even want applause since we were acting as ministers of music and that any of us who were in this for personal glory could leave. Then, at the first mass where she led us, she made an announcement before mass started that “The music ministry requests that you sing and worship with us – that is all the recognition we need. We are here to serve you and God – not to perform for you”. And, the one time the congregation applauded, she asked them not to.

    So, take heart, people who understand the role of the music ministry are out there – you just have to keep looking for them.


  3. I remember back when I converted to the RC church a few years back, there was a special Mass at St. Pats for all of the RCIA candidates in all of the parishes of the diocese. The service started with a separate round of applause for EACH of the RCIA leaders of every parish who were announced. I’m talking about thirty five separate roaring rounds of applause. I remember laughing because it was so ridiculous, and turning to my friend and sponsor, a traditional, Latin-loving young priest, who smiled and said to me, ‘Yep, this is the Catholic church you are joining. After you are confirmed, you gotta be part of the change so that crap like this stops.’

    I try to do my part by never clapping in my own parish when called upon to do so. I’m not really sure what else I can do.

  4. This is why I far prefer to be in the loft. Having the musicians in front of the people, even off to the side, simply invokes an aura of performance. Put the choir where it belongs.

  5. Clapping along with the music is fine, as far as I’m concerned, but as a liturgical musician, I cringed every time the assembly applauded us at the end of Mass. Similarly, I used to cringe when members of the assembly would say to me, “I just love to hear you sing – that’s why I come to the 11:00 Mass!”, as if receiving Jesus in His Word and in His Body and Blood wasn’t enough. Also, if the assembly is listening to the musicians perform, then they aren’t participating. Musicians who are performers need to set aside that mindset when singing or playing at Mass. Playing licks on the guitar during the Responsorial Psalm, or under the Eucharistic Prayer, belting out a too-loud harmony, and having three guitars when one or two would do, and dramatic arm motions to cue the audience to start or stop singing are examples of the performance mode. I have been guilty of this in the past, but now that I am mostly in the assembly, rather than in the sanctuary, I know how distracting it can be. I hope that I will be forgiven for my performances in the past, and that if I ever resume music ministry, I will be more transparent.

  6. Mass isn’t entertainment, you clap when you’re entertained. I think it’s inappropriate. IMO.

  7. I’m totally with you on this one Elizabeth.

    Clapping during or for any part of the mass is no different than “clapping after prayer”, which means if we clap for even the best of a musician, should we not give at least an 8 hour clapping standing ovation for the Eucharistic prayer? After all, Jesus just arrived.

    I like to think of it the same way I think of TALKING before during and after mass, no differnet than if we were standing under the cross at Calvary, ignoring the world changing event, by discussing last night’s reality TV show or our upcoming trip to the beach.

    Futhermore, why is it NOT charity to tell speak out on this? I refuse to clap, under any circumstances. The only place where no clapping or talking EVER takes place, at least that I have experienced, is when the priest sets the tone, both before and after mass, by gentle reminder that “we are in the presence of the Eucharist, and are gathered in prayer in silence. Please refrain from talking until you are outside of the church.” Even after the blessing, he says “I ask that you all walk out in silence, as many are still in prayer.”

    It works every time!

    p.s That same priest asked a person to leave who’s cell phone rang during the Eucharistic prayer, AFTER he made the announcment at the beginning of the mass to quiet all cell phones. He actually stopped the mass until the guy left, (probably never to return, I dare say), but fwiw, I never heard a cell phone ring anywhere near that place ever again.

  8. Wow, people must belong to way clappier parishes than I do! We usually clap once a year during Mass, at the Easter Vigil, when Father introduces the new members after they have been baptized and/or confirmed. We’re not stuck up or sticks-in-the-mud, it just isn’t the custom for church.
    However I’m glad they don’t kick people out of Mass here for a cell-phone ring. Happened to me once, I thought I left my phone at home but it was in my purse. Usually people try to turn them off; but once in a while we all go brain-dead.

  9. Every time the congregation applauds at the end of mass I want to turn around and give a “thank you, thank you” wave. After all – if they are applauding one liturgical minister, shouldn’t they applaud them all, including the congregation?

  10. Next someone will suggest the liturgical dancers are not supposed to be applauded for their fine work or that the clowns for the clown mass are to be sent home without applause. Come on, where is your “spirit of Vatican II” reform minded love for the Church that was supposed to be if only women could have been pope. Next you will be saying that glass chalices are a problem, you only want male servers, and that Mary was indeed a Virgin. Mass is all about us, not God, or didn’t you all get the message..

  11. “Next someone will suggest the liturgical dancers are not supposed to be applauded for their fine work or that the clowns for the clown mass are to be sent home without applause.”

    I have never been to one of those Masses. Where are they held?

  12. I think one of the first times in recent memory I ever heard a congregation applaud a homily was a few years back when I visited a parish in Southern California. It was, I think, one of the traditional Franciscan Missions — why does San Juan Capistrano come to mind. Mind you, the preacher was the pastor and it was a very extraordinary homily.

    After Mass, I asked a lady who sat near me if she was a local parishioner and when she replied “Yes,” I asked about the applause. She smiled — “Our pastor only get’s that recognition on occasion — maybe once a year — but he has to deserve it. We don’t want him to get a big head but we do want to recognize something extraordinary.”

  13. On occasion, I am invited by a good friend who is a senior pastor in an African American Pentecostal Church to attend his worship services. These folks believe that worship is a conversation with the Divine and, as a result, not only will you hear shouts of “Amen” and “Alleluia” to affirm an important point in the preacher’s message but clapping is considered a “praise offering of joy unto the Lord.”

    Don’t participants in masses organized by the Ministry to the Catholic Charismatic Renewal do similar things?

    BTW: in just the past few days, a very widely respected Polish priest mentioned to me that Catholic Pentecostalism is on the rose not only in Italy but also in Russia !

  14. St Boniface San Francisco we clap for the homily, choir, and after ite missa est, for visitors , birthdays and anniversaries and other ‘stuff’ as needed. In Rome they clap for Papa .. Why not pack away your middle class, suburban, bourgeois country club manners. It’s a big tent Church folks..

  15. my response changed when I read #17 ed

    I used to go to a parish that clapped for visitors and at the end for “good news events” such as birthdays. it was not out of place and fit the demeanor of the parish. the parish I sing at now uses applause more sparingly – mostly to show acceptance of the choir.

    the other parish also clapped in time to a few numbers. this parish, though equally suburban, is more”white collar” and reserved.

    at least they stay until the end of Mass and don’t duck out as they recieve Communion.

  16. A community comes together….prays, celebrates, worships, sings,connects with each other, connects with God. It is joy filled and some are moved to applaud. What’s to hate about that?

  17. What’s to hate?

    You settle yourself, you become still and listening in your heart, you respond from within the depths of God, you hover with the angels….

    And then, instead of slipping into another prayer, people start beating your ears with their hands. Not a very nice return for the singer, and certainly not very nice for anybody deep in liturgical prayer in the rest of the congregation.

    I realize that this world is designed for the extroverts, but apparently nowadays introverts are not even to be allowed to flee to Jesus in His House, or spend an hour with Him at Mass. They keep hiding Him and taking Him away from us. And don’t say, “ooh, just go to Adoration”, because you know perfectly well that’s not the same as the Mass, the highest form of prayer that exists upon the earth.

  18. The most significant time that I experienced clapping in a Catholic Church was at a wedding thirty years ago. As the newly married couple came down the aisle (to the music, “Sing a New Song unto the Lord” by Dan Schutte), the congregation broke out in applause. The couple considered it an affirmation of their vows by the community.

    P.S. I was the bride.

  19. Klaire

    Re: the priest, “who asked a person to leave who’s cell phone rang during the Eucharistic prayer.”

    If the guy is anything like me, he may have forgotten that he had brought the cell phone with him or was distracted with something else (like maybe praying) when Father was making his non-liturgical comment before Mass.

    I would say that Father needs to review his notes from his seminary class, Being Pastoral 101.

  20. Ed Gleason: Clapping for the pope in Rome is a custom, true — one that occasionally gets out of hand — but it doesn’t happen during Mass that I’ve noticed. The homily, birthdays, anniversaries, and graduations are all human achievements and should not be drawing attention away from God. They can be recognized some other time.

    “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. ”

    Joseph Ratzinger, The Spirit of the Liturgy, p. 198

    PS: I’m sure the happy-clappers at St. Boniface are way cooler than uptight bourgeois suburbanites — but it’s not at all cool to remind people of that fact. If anything’s middle class, it would be your fretting over class distinctions.

  21. Romulus, as a founder of Rome you ought not tell the Poles, Italians, and Bavarians to ‘cool it’ clapping for the Pope. Poles were especially happy-clappers.. If there would be an American Pope [which will never happen] what would you do with the Yanks in Rome waving flags with ‘we are number one’ shouts??. maybe it would be American exceptionalism or another tenet to be embraced ?..

  22. Clapping, in moderation, doesn’t bother me. When I was in the choir, at the Eastr & Christmas services we were applauded, and I was pleased. Thus, I disagree with most of the two dozen posters above. Notice. I said, “in moderation:. though.

    Maureen (#20), reminded me of something else that annoys me. One church I visit, they are ALWAYS (except during Mass) saying the Rosary aloud. When I want to pray privately, this certainly distracts me !

  23. Ed, I don’t recall any incidence of their clapping during Mass. Outside of Mass, they can clap all they want. The Mass is not all about you.

  24. Katie Angel,

    I think that there is a place for the choir to sing music that the congregation cannot sing. The way I see it, the choir should be doing one of two things, either leading the congregation in song by singing with the congregation, or drawing the congregation up into the song of heaven by singing music that is beyond the ability of most of the congregation to sing. I think there is a place for music in the liturgy that the congregation joins with their hearts and souls rather than their voices. But note, I said that there is a place for this mode of “music ministry,” I don’t think it should all be like this. And simply making songs unsingable that the congregation could otherwise sing does not count.

    But neither is a performance.

    And I think there is another element to clapping. Remember what Jesus said about those who receive their reward on earth.

  25. Will 14, if you have not witnessed or seen anything on liturgical abuse including liturgical dance, you haven’t been paying attention or might not be aware of all the various forms of abuse we have had in the liturgy of the mass for the past 40 years.

    Here is a sampling of things during that time..

    But it is not like old things of the past now corrected…you can go to the 2010 liturgy at the LA religious education conference. This is a mass??? Watch as much dissent and abuse of the liturgy as your soul can take with up to 12 you tube videos. Keep in mind that they put this out for all to see.

  26. This comment by Fred (25) is sort of “off-topic” but I want to respond.

    “Maureen (#20), reminded me of something else that annoys me. One church I visit, they are ALWAYS (except during Mass) saying the Rosary aloud. When I want to pray privately, this certainly distracts me !”

    The Rosary is not a public ceremony of the Church; it is a sanctioned private devotion that has universal appeal. What that also means is that what prayers are included (the EWTN sub-cult of additional prayers come to mind) or whether there are 15 or 20 decades is all unimportant.

    What is important is the note above from Fred “(except during Mass”). The public worship of our church ALWAYS over-rides such sanctioned private devotions.

    I have also noted, in one parish I am familiar with, is that there are a lot of late-comers at Mass. I used to attribute that to the common wisdom that folks always like to come late to Mass until I checked around. Those folks did not want to be there during the time the Rosary was prayed publicly — for whatever reason. I suspect there were some, like me, who find the version this congregation’s prayer group uses too unconventional and non-traditional. I much prefer the simpler form I learned as a child than the longer and more cultic version in use in this parish.

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