Applause in Church

I remember during the papacy of Pope Benedict XVI, someone would come out before Mass began (in the Vatican) and instruct the congregation that there was to be no applause, please turn off cell phones, etc. etc. I’m not sure if they still do that at the Vatican or not. But it made a big difference. Mass is not a show.

A lot of people nowadays like to stay around after Mass to applaud the musicians. Sometimes I am tempted to join in, particularly if the organist has played a rousing postlude with skill. But even though Mass is technically over, it’s not a good idea: the musicians are not there to put on a show. They should be singing and playing as an offering to God, and we should help them make it an offering to God, not put the attention back on them. Applause in church is just not a good idea, whether during or after Mass!

God the Father, stationed in front of a very impressive organ. He seems to be saying quite clearly: NO APPLAUSE!

God the Father, in front of a very impressive organ. He seems to be saying quite clearly: NO APPLAUSE! (Photo taken by me in the Cathedral of Bruges, Belgium.)

Here is a good (and well-circulated) quotation from Cardinal Ratzinger on the subject, from his magisterial work, The 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liturgy because of some human achievement, it is a sure sign that the essence of liturgy has totally disappeared and been replaced by a kind of religious entertainment. Such attractiveness fades quickly – it cannot compete in the market of leisure pursuits, incorporating as it increasingly does various forms of religious titillation. I myself have experienced the replacing of the penitential rite by a dance performance, which, needless to say, received a round of applause. Could there be anything farther removed from true penitence? Liturgy can only attract people when it looks, not at itself, but at God, when it allows him to enter and act. Then something truly unique happens, beyond competition, and people have a sense that more has taken place than a recreational activity. (pp. 198-199)

I’ll never forget a certain Mass when I was in seminary, when the schola sang this piece rather flawlessly – when sung well in the right setting at the right time, it will take your breath away; we were all pretty much agasp. You could hear a pin drop; the silence afterwards was poignant – and beautiful. Thank God no one applauded! It would have ruined that moment, taken our attention away from the beauty that entered deeply into our souls, diverted our attention from the Lord we had just received in Holy Communion, and turned the whole thing in on ourselves and the musicians.

When you’re tempted to applaud at Mass or afterwards, stop and say a prayer of thanksgiving to God instead! 

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13 Responses to Applause in Church

  1. hashtagcatholic says:

    How about applauding the newly Confirmed Catholics? Or the great job so-and-so did?

  2. Bee says:

    Nothing, (except maybe when the school age children take a bathroom break at the Consecration and walk out of Mass at that time) upsets and annoys me more than applause during or after Mass. Recently I was at a Mass where a visiting priest used the homily to solicit funds for a charity, and after his rousing and bleeding heart guilt trip speech, (and passing out of envelopes right after he was done, waiting a few minutes, then having ushers collect them) the congregation applauded. I would have left, but it was right in the middle of Mass.
    Another parish where I worked for a while made a big deal about catering to “singles” and “young adults.” The music and singing was top notch, often with paid performers, and much to my dismay, applause for their performances, and almost BOWING by the performers (lots of grinning by them). I was really scandalized. Sometimes the priest would actually invite the applause by saying, “How about a hand for our musicians today?”
    Sometimes I think to myself about Mass nowadays, when a priest adds all kinds of “welcome everybody’s” and “have a good weekend everybody’s” and extraneous announcements at the end of Mass, well, I think, “Geez. All I want to do is pray. You’d think when I come to Mass I’d just be able to pray. Not be entertained. Not socialize. Just pray. To God.”
    I have found a parish that is a little far for me where the priests never, ever diminish the worship of God. But it’s worth the travel time. I would love to support and attend my neighborhood parish, but I just can’t. So sad.

  3. Mary Cameron says:

    I agree with you so very much about the inappropriate applause. I wish my pastor would read your blog.

    I also am disturbed by the musicians’ talking loudly and laughing while rehearsing on the “stage” (which we formerly called the “sanctuary”) in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament. The choir loft was removed in the last wreckovation, but there is an entire school building to rehearse in.

    Anyone who comes to Mass early for adoration or to say a rosary is out of luck.
    I usually travel an extra 22 miles in order to attend an EF Mass, because of such issues in my own parish church (which is within walking distance).

    • Priests need to be courageous in admonishing about not talking in front of the Blessed Sacrament, and more consistent in not doing it themselves (I am guilty), but lay people need to do their part and encourage each other and admonish each other as appropriate also. The fact is: much of the time we wimp out and don’t ever do anything. May the Lord grant us all a greater respect for and unawareness of his Real Presence.

  4. Lisa and Dave McCord says:

    We appreciate this message so much. We will not applaud at Mass, and our children always say, “everyone is clapping, why aren’t you?” Thank you for sharing…now we can say, “Father Jerabek says we should not applaud during Mass.”

    • Ha! If that works! But I’m sure at some point they will say, “But why…?” and perhaps you can tell them about respecting the sacred etc. God bless!

  5. The only thing more unnerving than applause after music is applause after a homily. Are they applauding the message or the messenger?

  6. love that quote from Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI….I never clap at Liturgy ever. The Master should never be applauded…in Byzantine Liturgy applause doesn’t happen

  7. Renee G says:

    We do not join in spontaneous applause in Mass…. I also tend to refrain when the priest/bishop asks us to applaud but I feel awkward as if I’m disobeying. For instance, this past weekend we were encouraged to applaud the Webelos who were presented their religious award in Mass

    • Mass really should be a catch-all for all of our other stuff also. It’s not a good place to have award ceremonies. Well, we have work to do, don’t we!

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