The Applause at Mass has to Stop

Katrina Fernandez has one of those posts up that makes you want to cheer and staple to the doors of a church.

Kids are already told every day in school their self esteem and self importance is more valued than being literate. Now they get to come to mass and have Fr. Well Meaning reinforce this narcissistic behavior too. Forget that other guy. What’s his name. Oh right. Jesus.

It was so bad these masses began to embarrass my son. He sang in the choir because it gave him joy and he liked expressing his love of God in this manner. He’s wanted to serve the mass since he was old enough to talk and the choir was the only way he could do so until he was old enough to be an altar server.

His, and my own, final straw was when Fr. Well Meaning made the kids stand up, before the final blessing, and receive a round of applause for their “performance”.

Oh, and the parents of the other kids in the choir. Seriously folks? I can see taking pictures of your tikes first time singing. But showing up at mass every single time with a camcorder!? Performance, indeed.

Yep, yep, yep, to all of it, but I have to jump on that last point about applause, every freaking week, at the end of mass for “the music ministers.”

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.

Fernandez finishes:

Look, kids aren’t stupid. They are spiritually capable of so much more than ‘Jesus loves me’ and ‘Shine, Jesus, Shine”. They are also fully capable of understanding that the mass isn’t about them, but that Other Guy. Jesus. And they are happy to have the focus on Him.

They really are. We really should stop condescending to kids, and we should certainly stop trying to convince them that they’re the center of the universe. It’s not good for them. Or us.

Read it all — watch the video!

About Elizabeth Scalia
  • Kalus He

    How about attending the tridentine mass so you won’t have to hear that sort of crap?

  • Ronsonic

    “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?”

    Yes, we should applaud the priests and ushers and deacons and altar servers and everyone else involved. Just not with the clapping of hands then and there.

    I admit to some ambivalence on this. Our attitude should be reverent, but that doesn’t always mean somber. There is joy and brotherhood and appreciation of others at the Mass. People express this by clapping. I would prefer we didn’t. But I’m sometimes wrong and I’m reluctant to criticize so many others who are otherwise orthodox and correct in the faith.

  • Kalus He

    MacCheese on post 9, if wedon’t burst into applause for the miracle of transubstantiation that happens at EVERY MASS then why want to applause for anything else, really?

    God’s house is a house for prayer NOT for speaking to silly people before or after the mass, not for applauding, not for anythng like that.

    Once our churches were silent and then the whole “community” crap came in through the open window and were at this awful point. Don’t feed the fire.

  • Tom T OblSBCam

    Right on Elizabeth, I agree 100%. When my wife and I first moved where we are now a suburb of Phila.We
    attended a guitar Mass that was very disturbing to me being a traditionalist. But to make matters worse Immediately after Mass projection screens wen`t up
    all around the Alter which is set up so that the celebrants are sitting in three chairs behind the alter
    and the tabernacle is off to the side somewhere,
    and so they wen`t up with slides of young children
    who were involved in some kind of activity to constant
    rounds of applause. I found out later that this Parish is run by Missionaries of the Sacred Heart instead of our regular diocesis priest and their order is very progressive and liberal. Our solution is to attend a small Church about 2 miles further away where Mass is said by an old Priest (75) who is about as orthodox
    as you can get, without the Latin.

  • David

    Arrrgh. I’m not crazy about the clapping, etc. But the anger and outright hatred written here is shameful. When I harbor such thoughts I feel ashamed. And I definitely don’t post them publicly to encourage others to embrace such sinfulness.

    For heaven’s sake, be thankful that your fellow congregants are at mass. Praise God for increasing the number of the faithful, flawed as they may be. And pray, pray, pray that we all seek to avoid dissent and division.

    Somehow, someway you had best learn to not just tolerate them, but love them. After all, you’re going to spend eternity with them!

  • Miguel

    I can not attend a “Novus Ordo” mass any more. The reverence found in the Latin Mass (Extraordinary Form) is almost completely missing. There’s either clapping, or choir in the front, liturgical “enhancements”, people dressed like they’re going to the park – or coming from a park, talking before and after mass as if we were in a concert hall… the list goes on. The only Novus Ordo Mass that I attended that was properly done, I believe in the true “spirit” of Vatican II, was one celebrated in Latin.

  • BHG

    My good (Protestant) mother taught me: It’s God’s house. If He wants to applaud, He can, but it is bad manners to applaud unless He starts it first… :-)

  • elcid

    This is just the spirit of Vatican II and the protestant influence, it’s my understanding some protestants where involved in the new mass structure, someone correct me if I am wrong.
    There has to be a reform of the reform, this post VCII protestant look and feel has got to go, it’s distracting while attending mass and trying to maintain some solemnity.

  • Kris, in New England

    I find the manner in which people dress to go to Mass far more offensive than organized or spontaneous applause.

    Shorts, dime-store flip flops and t-shirts … really? Grubby hooded sweatshirts and ripped jeans … really? How is that respectful of the Eucharist and Christ’s sacrifice. You don’t have to be dressed up as if you are going to a black tie affair but come on … what about what an average person wears to work these days? It’s not all suits/ties anymore is it…if you are showing that much respect for the rules of your employer, why can’t you show the same respect to Our Lord?

    Our parish has a very active music ministry – including a Praise Band that plays once a month. We are blessed with some of the most gifted cantors I’ve ever heard; they move me deeply each week, sometimes to tears sometimes to grins. For me, singing is a form of prayer and while I agree that organized applause is not appropriate – feeling moved so deeply by someone’s singing or playing that you are inspired to applaud for them – I find very uplifting. Because in that spontaneity, you are acknowledging the gifts that God has bestowed upon them.

  • OrangeCountyKevin

    You folks should just attend the traditional Latin Mass. No clapping to be heard of, just worship of our blessed Lord. No need to continually reinvest the sacred mass to keep people’s attention…

  • Howard


    Hey, “The Old Rugged Cross” is a fine hymn; my only objection is that it is not really an Easter hymn. It fits more with Good Friday, but there should be a minimum of singing, so maybe the Exaltation of the Holy Cross would be better.

    Regardless, it does not even begin to be an excuse for leaving Mass early. If it doesn’t meet your lofty standards, then don’t sing; it’s not required. It is expected that you be present for the whole Mass, though, rather than appear just before the Gospel and disappear immediately after Communion, as far too many do.

  • friscoeddie

    Wow, I see that the suburban, bourgeois, country club Catholics want it all their way. Please get out of the way when the Latinos bring a joyful liturgy to your town. Your adult children will not be present anyway.

    [I love the assumptions you make. You must know a lot! Admin]

  • Tom T OblSBCam

    No one is angry or hateful towards the congregants
    who attend Novus Ordo. Please don`t judge us who
    are traditionalists and believe the Celebration of the
    Holy Eucharist should be done with greater reverance
    and concentration on God. After all it`s not about us
    and our talents, it`s about HIM. Our Lord is who we
    are therefore. In others words this is not a performance it is devout and humble worship and it`s
    not the congregants fault, it`s the priest and ministers that have tried to make it all more prostentant.
    You are absolutely correct. They had protestant clergy helping to write councils for VatII. I forget who they were but I`ve seen a picture of them at the meetings with Pope Paul VI. All the arguments today
    in Rome center around Dignatatis Humanae however
    that is a discussion for another time. Pax

  • judemary

    Really u guys don’t know what we suffer here in Africa… Am from Nigeria, and eastern part, what we see here everyday concerns this clapping of a thing not just at the end of the mass but after the HOMILY! That is most annoying cos after the Homily, i don’t know whether we should be meditating or applauding? Mostly i feel like whipping the faithfuls for such attitude, and i bet u it has become a habbit dardly i don’t know when it’s gonna stop cos most people love it. But i don’t and i will never cos the EUCHARIST is suppose to have some peace and silent atmosphere like in the old as we were taught…

  • Denita

    Great post. Not only do I dislike “Protestant-type” music at Mass, but do you realize some churches play “Morning Has Broken?” Cat Stevens, who sang the song, converted to Islam. Just saying.

    [Well, it's not Cat Stevens' song. He didn't write it. And it's a wonderful song about Eden. It's just usually done badly -admin]

  • tempus fugit

    I attended a Catholic gospel Mass a predominantly black parish in Harlem last year. (St Charles Borromeo) There’s a lot clapping and dancing but that seems to be the natural instinct of the locals who worship there. That said, a good half of the packed church was white European tourists come to see a show, that’s all. I must admit it is quite a s show, particularly this one priest Fr. Goode who could give James Brown a run for his money.

    I had no idea at the time that Catholic churches even held this type of gospel-singing Mass.

  • Mary Beth

    The applause and the gushing about my voice is getting to the point where I no longer want to share my talents at Mass. People have even told me during Mass how beautiful my voice is! It is very embarrassing for me, and despite how I tell people that it is the Holy Spirit singing through me to lead the congregation, they still pretend like I’m a performer. Its very stressful on us (the music ministers) as well!!!!!

  • Chantal

    I agree……NO CLAPPING PLEASE PEOPLE – we are not watching a show but we are in the House of God, let s focus on God.

  • Steve bielski

    Well, I’m glad you and Kat said it, and not Fr. Corapi….if he were to say it, it wouldn’t be humble and obedient. It’s nice to pick and choose what to obey and what to trash…

    [What a silly thing to say. If Corapi said it, I'd agree with it. I'd agree if Voris said, too. Or for that matter, Pfleger. -admin]

  • Jacqueline Y.

    Thank you for this post. Sadly, at our parish, clapping has escalated, and reverence has declined.

    By the way, the poet Eleanor Farjeon, who wrote the lyrics to “Morning Has Broken”, converted to the Catholic faith late in life. She also wrote “People Look East”, which is sung during Advent. I think both songs are appropriate for Mass.

  • Anglican Peggy

    We had the opposite problem in my old Anglican parish, although I think it was a good problem to have.

    The rector is a man of strict discipline when it comes to worship and has a laser-like focus on what it is all about. He is, of course, entirely correct about it. Mass at this Anglican parish is a kind of master class in worship taught every Sunday. I could not say enough about what I learned about it while I was there.

    But there were a couple of times when the choir or soloist presented us with something so stunning that it was a major struggle not to break out with applause. I would get the feeling of the whole congregation straining against the impulse because Father D would never stand for such a breach in the proper focus of our worship of God! No one wanted to face his ire.

    So I just wanted to speak for those pockets in Christiandom where these things still would NEVER happen. Thank God for such as these who are truly shepherds watching out lest their sheep stray.

  • n1tr0narc

    In the Philippines, it has become practice for about 10 years now to have a round of applause after mass as part of “praise and worship”… the priests would say the mass is ended let us have a round of applause for the love and greatness of the Lord! This I guess came about becauseof the Charismatic movement.

  • Teresa Beem

    Well put and I agree…

  • class factotum

    they sung “Gather at the River” penned by Baptist pastor in 1864, “The Old Rugged Cross”, another Protestant hymn and “Morning has Come”. They probably sang “Amazing Grace”

    I would be so happy to sing those songs instead of the Marty Haugen drivel that populates the abysmal “Gather” hymnal. I am convinced that the deal at the Reformation was that we got the real estate and the Protestants got the music.

    [I too like some of those old Protestant hymns. Our modern music is just too awful. I can't go to one parish here because it all sounds like campfire music and it just doesn't float my boat as worship. Might be great music for a community get-together in the basement while making smores or something, but I can't get into it at mass. -admin]

  • Mark

    Fortunately, I can say that our Priest has sucessfully nixed applause for ministers of music, by simply stating it’s inappropriate. He does welcome new alter servers, the occaisonal visiting college student (violin player for example) and visiting priests, and they are “greeted” and thanked by the parish with moderate applause. But, the instances are infrequent, and in my mind not completely inappropriate.

    When I visit my family in Las Vegas (I’m a native), they insist I attend Mass at my sister’s parish. I hate it. It seems to me to be all about performers (albeit talented ones) showing off their skills…but women and young girls dancing around waving gauzy streamers during communion about a decade ago was definitely over the top. They seem to have toned it down since then. Thankfully, it’s only every few years that I attend Mass there.

  • FernWise

    In the Druid tradition I’m in it is VERY common to make singing offerings to our Gods. So when we have visitors who are unfamiliar with our ritual format we simply explain both our format before the ritual and explain why applause is not appropriate. Which, in our case, is that 1 – the offering is to the Gods, not the human audience and 2 – it dissipates the magical energy we are working to build up at that point of the ritual.

  • Wsquared

    David, nobody hates the Novus Ordo. The Novus Ordo can indeed be done well and with reverence. I’m from Philadelphia, and the Cathedral of Sts. Peter and Paul has a wonderful choir with solid hymnody. No happy-clappy junk.

    I am fine with the Novus Ordo, and have heard it celebrated in both the vernacular and in Latin. I like the Extraordinary Form just a tetch better, though, and I attend it whenever I can so that I can better learn what the Mass is all about. So I don’t so much dislike the Novus Ordo as I dislike a badly celebrated Novus Ordo.

    Not all contemporary music is necessarily awful– “Take and Eat” sums up the Eucharist very well. But I agree that stuff like “City of God”and “Let There Be Peace on Earth” are beyond the pale. Out they should go.

    As for the clapping, I’m not fond of it. As for spontaneous clapping, I think that depends, too: at my parish once, the cantor sang this awful Josh Groban song, “You Raise Me Up,” and really loudly at that. And to add insult to injury, it was after communion. While we were trying to pray. And people applauded spontaneously. Prayer is never as easy as it sounds, given that it’s an interior exercise. So I’m not sure I really appreciate the spontaneous applause in this circumstance.

    But, there is hope on the horizon for those who are concerned about happy-clappy, hippy-dippy music that dumbs Christ down (if you think the kids are capable of more than “Shine, Jesus, Shine,” so are we!). Check out (Corpus Christi Watershed), which has some beautiful chant– newly written, too, which may be sung in either Latin or English.

  • Andy H.

    The masses of my youth are yet green in my memory as was my time as an altar boy back then. We were a community without all the need for self-actualization via external approbation, guitars, handshaking, applause, acrobats, tap dancers, puppet shows and whatever circus act our Father O’Showbiz cares to introduce.

    What next, cheerleaders at funeral services?

  • RevRuthUCC

    I’m a Protestant pastor who has mixed emotions about applause in worship because I am a musician myself.

    We’re blessed to have much talent in the congregation and I work hard to make sure that those who sing or play instruments in church know that God is the one for whom we sing or play – and that those in the sanctuary are “overhearing” our offerings. Our sacred dance choreographer does the same thing when she works with our dance troupe. None of us expect applause for our offerings and it can be embarrassing at times; indeed, the highest praise is often a collective sigh after 15 seconds of intense silence at the end of a song.

    On the other hand, I am often reminded that people applaud because it is the most comfortable way for them to show how they have been touched with God’s spirit during that particular offering – it being decidedly uncomfortable for most members of my Pennsylvania Dutch/German congregations to shout or even whisper things like “Praise God!” and “Hallelujah!”. I can and do sometimes offer verbal praise, but I, too, am sometimes moved to applause, particularly if tears have come to my eyes and I’m too choked up to speak from the beauty of what I’ve been privileged to overhear.

    As to celebratory applause for birthdays and accomplishments, I have no trouble with that at all in worship. We are, after all, family, and what better way to recognize milestones within the Family of God but with prayers of thanksgiving and the joyful noise of celebration?

  • Ben Anderson

    It’s interesting you bring this up during the current SSM / Dolan / NYS bishops discussion. I attended a mass at the cathedral in Rochester, NY. For outsiders, Rochester, NY is where priests are promoted for speaking in favor of homosexuality and sent packing if they speak the truth. The national Catholic media continues to fumble this story and not report the truth. Anyways, I bring this up because Archbishop Dolan was invited to a mass at the cathedral by Bishop Matthew Clark (who subversively promotes the homosexual agenda through the Catholic Church). In spite of this and other radical progressive views and dictatorian style leadership or Bishop Clark, Archbishop Dolan DURING MASS stopped to have everyone applaud for Bishop Clark. It lasted far too long. Bishop Clark returned the favor to Archbishop Dolan later on. The hypocrisy of our bishops and the national Catholic media’s lack of desire to cover the truth (the WHOLE truth) has left me shaking my head.

  • Tom T

    Ben, I sure wished you did`nt mention Rochester and Bishop Matthew Clark. There is an article in RenewAmerica dated May 23 called “Liberal Woman Rule Rochester.” Not everyone is ignoring what is going on in N.Y. Bishop Clark has been at logger heads with Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger as far back as
    1982 when then Cardinal Ratzinger Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith told him to remove his impramatur from a book he wrote about
    sexuality-homosexuality. As of May11 2011 Clrak has
    appointed 5 woman religious in charge of 11 Churches and several of them are players in the Womans Ordination Conference. Six lay woman run
    12 Churches and these lay administrators “direct the pastoral care of their parishes and they are in charge and answer to the bishop. Priests assigned under lay administrators serve as `sacramental ministers`or assisting priests and are little more than pez machines. The administrator calls all the shots, often delivers the homily, wears an alb, sits in the sanctuary with the priest, stands up to deliver the commentary during Mass and some have even performed the preliminaries of Baptism. These administrators preside over parish council meetings in violation of canon law, and of course they list their name at the top of the parish bulletin.” Add all this to Bishop Hubbard`s looking the other way while Cuomo who supported gay marriage, is openly pro- abortion and has a live- in girl friend recieves Holy Communion in the Cathedral in Albany, and add the obvious absence of Archbishop Dolan during the fight over gay marriage( he was at a Bishops meeting in Washington although he did manage to call a radio station) and you kinda have to wonder where it will all end. New York is in sad shape as are some other places. You have to wonder where it is all going. Pax

  • Dan.

    Spontaneous applause is OK by me. But the “let’s hear it for guitar-zan” just doesn’t cut it. Not even for the monkey.

    I’m not much for the “new” music at Mass. For that matter, I’m not thrilled with much of the music at Mass. But some of the older stuff (sounds like it was written by Brits or such) is pretty well done, good music with decent lyrics.

    But overall, I’m just not too happy with music at Mass. I go to a 5PM Saturday Mass and most often the only real singing person is our organist/pianist. Partly because the music is kinda awful, I guess.

    I thought it was kinda cool, though, a while back when we actually started singing the Agnus Dei (in Latin, of course).

    But then, I’m 62 and there’s a lot of pre-Vatican II still in me.

    And no, I don’t like shaking hands at the “sign of peace.” I’m a bit germophobic. But at least we don’t have to hug each other.

  • Don Evanson

    Tolstoy’s Father Sergius, in the novel of that name, struggles with the question of whether he serves people for love of God, or serves God for love of people. As a member of a male religious chorus, I understand the question.

  • Terry

    Thankfully, we are discouraged by our new priest from even saying good morning to the congregation before reading the epistle and all announcements, birthdays, or whatever else where applause might erupt must wait till after the Mass has ended.

    Homilies are either scriptural or we are preached a little philosophy from “Bernard Lonergon’s Insight”,….fascinating stuff.

    We (our parish) seem to be reverting more towards a pre-Vatican II Mass, Eucharistic Adoration and much more is now offered to us after a long absence. There is a renewed enthusiasm for the Mass for many after enduring 30 years of Modernist Jesuit’s preach social justice while they ignored the double-standards allowed for so-called victims groups. I for one can not wait for my next chance to worship God.

  • Ryan Ayala

    I agree. Clapping during the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass can be extremely distracting for me. However, I have mixed feelings…We had an instillation Mass for a new pastor and we clapped for him. Would that be okay?

    Nevertheless, Cardinal Ratzinger in his book Spirit of the Liturgy warns the faithful that the liturgy should never close in on itself. Clapping tends to have that kind of effect. The Mass should always reach out to the divine.

    Just my thoughts.

  • Kristine

    I suppose if you have a congretation that applauds at every little piece of ministerial participation as if it were all a show, this could be an issue. But at times, our congregation is genuinely moved to applause. Like poster 79 said … we don’t shout amen or alleluia … but at times may want to. So applause is the next best thing. And when I receive the body and blood of Jesus–in my heart, I am clapping. Not as in “yea you go God, good job!,” but as in “Oh My God! How Wonderous You are! Thank You! Again and again!” Posts like this one just starts the let’s-all-judge-each-other com box flow. Our parish has other things to worry about than people occassionally audibly expressing their appreciation to music or a homily that moves them closer to the Lord.

  • Jan

    What can we do about New York? We can’t let this continue…..because of the rippling effect. It will eat away at the faith of some…Faith needs to be fostered and protected and formed and deepened….and…..

  • ND Envirochick

    Our pastor is on vacation during July, and this is the conversation I heard this morning upon entering our church:

    Parishioner: Who’s the priest today?
    Sacristan: (identifies our “guest priest”)
    Parishioner: OK, I guess I’ll stay.

    Because, you know, it’s all about who’s celebrating the Mass. And then our deacon had us “thank” the visiting priest by clapping for him at the end of Mass. It was one of those days.

  • Tom T

    Cheer up people. Help is on the way. According to an article in CNS May 16 2011 called “Popes reform of the reform in Liturgy,” changes to the Mass are on the way. Cardinal Koch the top ecumenist stated that
    Summorum Pontificum and the easing of restrictions on the celebration of the Tridentine (latin) Mass is just the beginning. The long term aim is to combine the Novus Ordo with the Tridentine rite into a common rite. According to the Holy Father there has been some problems with the post VatII in that there seemed to be a “neglect of the paschal mystery in the Eucharistic celebration.” The Pope also stated that post VatII should not be considered a rupture to
    tradition but an organic process of growth. So you see
    the Pope hears ya. The changes, they are a coming.
    Stay tuned. Pax