Universalis, your very own breviary in pixels...

Sunday, 28 October 2007

No, no, you're too kind...

Yes, sometimes when my efforts are applauded at Mass (this happens with some frequency, and i detest it,) I feel as if I should do the falsely modest feint at self-deprecation a theatrical diva of my acquaintance used to do -- she had an almost operatic way of bowing, putting her hand to her heart and looking at the audience through doe eyes with an expression of almost pained surprise at their reaction that was calculated to, (and often did,) bring them to their feet.
Nice piece by Lee Podles, several years ago, on the phenomenon http://www.touchstonemag.com/blogarchive/2003_09_28_editors.html

Some old grumps at the Vatican (with whom I am in deepest sympathy) are trying to end what they consider abuses in the liturgy, including the minor one of applause,St. John Chrysostom was the recipient of applause at his sermons; he told his congregation they would better putting their energy into following his teachings rather than applauding them. I dislike applause at mass, and it is not sour grapes because I have been the recipient of it at mass on one or two occasions.The problem with applauding people at mass (especially the musicians) is that:it makes the mass look like entertainment provided for the congregation;the musicians etc. should not be trying to impress the congregation but should be praying to God.The last thing I would want to be is applauded for prayer. It is spiritually disastrous.When I was in Santa Fe for Indian Market, I attended the Indian Mass. The Indians explained that they would be doing the beginning of the Buffalo Dance of Thanksgiving to the Great Spirit after communion, that this was a prayer, not entertainment, and that the congregation should not applaud. At the end of the mass the clueless Archbishop Sheehan got up and asked everyone to give the dancers a big round of applause. The Indians were miffed, but Sheehan, like many Catholics, sees the new liturgy as being at least in part entertainment, to which the proper response in our culture is applause.

The only misstep is referencing an article in the reliably bone-headed Ministry & Liturgy, which offers this gem:
"Any decision to ask the assembly to change its behavior should be made by the liturgy planning committee. There must be a consensus that this change is desirable and that the timing is right. It might send the wrong message to ask people not to clap during the Easter season; some might interpret this as a desire to “quiet” the celebration. "


Anonymous said...


But not all applause is for gratitude at good entertainment. Often, people applaud in affirmation or support. When President Bush, for example, delivers the State of the Union address, he's frequently interrupted, and not because he's a good orator.

When spontaneous applause breaks out at Mass, I'm inclined to accept it.

That said, I agree with you that applause leaves me less than pleased personally, especially when it's been coaxed out of a worshipping congregation.

Sir Monocle said...

I'm in an Episcopal church. Lately the pastor and vestry have encouraged me to bring the choir up front for the anthem - that is when it is an unaccompanied anthem. Indeed, people love to SEE the choir. My experience has been that when we do this, applause is the immediate response. Wheile they do a tremendous job... I personally hate receiving applause for an anthem. The anonomous writer above makes a great point. I just hope it's genuine and my congregation doesn't feel "coaxed" into giving it just because I've paraded my choir up to the altar!