Sunday, July 31, 2005

A thought about clapping in church

which is an odious custom of modern times. I was reading a story to my daughter the other day, in which a young boy becomes an inspiration in holiness to a monastery on Mt. Athos. One thing struck me: when the monks recognize the greatness of the boy in their midst, they don't clap for him, but sing hymns of praise to God, from whom all gifts come. Note the many times St. Paul encourages his readers to sing psalms, hymns, and canticles. He never says "applaud one another."

There's a reason for this. To clap in church is to clap for each other, to give each other praise. This is the last place in the world where we should be praising each other. Rather, if one among us has done great things, we ought to praise God for the gift. What if, instead of clapping for the various good things we do for each other in our parishes, we sang a hymn of praise? In my church we sing "God grant you many years," and "Axios" at ordinations. Perhaps you Romans out there could learn a Te Deum? Imagine the following scene:

Fr. So-and-so: I'd like to announce that the youth group has sold enough cookies at the bake sale to finance their trip to Washington for the Pro-Life March. Isn't that great?

Congregation: "Te Deum, laudamus. . . "

Fr. So-and-so: The ladies auxilary did a marvelous job cleaning up the church for the parish festival.

Congregation: "Te Dominum confitemur."

Etc. Wouldn't that be marvelous? It would be much better than clapping, since you would be praising the one who really deserves to be praised.


Hugo said...

First post :-)

Isn't this taking things a bit too far, though? Following your examples, the youth group probably did do a lot of work, both behind the scenes and in the actual cookie sale. Several of the teens and adults gave many, many hours of their time and sacrificed money as well . . . they should be congratulated for their hard work.

It's not like they were raising money for a new hot tub for the multi-million dollar youth building :-) . . . they were doing if for a good cause, they worked hard for it, and 20 seconds of appreciation by the rest of the confregation is not asking too much. :-)

Just a comment - I've never had clapping in church be much of a problem in the parishes I've been a part of.

Blessings & Peace,

Karl said...

Hi Hugo,

The volunteers all did marvelous, wonderful things. Inasmuch as they are doing wonderful, marvelous things, they are being godlike. So let's praise God for allowing them to participate in his divine nature!

Oh, clapping isn't the worst thing in the world, but it's out of place in a liturgy.

Peace right back at you,

Finding my way said...

What about when clapping is part of the music...

Jeff Miller said...

When clapping is part of the music ...

I really like your suggestion about sayin the Te Deum instead of clapping - this really puts things into the right perspective. Clapping for others is really out of place in the Sacrifice of the Mass, though it might not be the worse thing that happens at many Masses.

Hugo said...

lol - I work at a Catholic school (PK-8 grade), and during our Friday all-school Masses there are a few songs that really start the kids clapping for the closing hymn. When I first started working there the clapping was tentative, but our priest (and our new priest as well) encouraged them, as did the choir . . . and now at least once or twice a month we finish Mass with a joyful, exuberant (sp?) song that really sets a wonderful atmosphere for the kids as we go back to the rest of the school day.

And thanks for the peace - school is starting up again - I'll need it! :-)

Blessings & Peace,

Todd said...

Karl, I think one part of the clapping phenomenon you've missed is the notion of assent and confirmation (not the spiritual terms).

In 12-Step groups, and in their pop culture parallels, talk shows, clapping is not applause for performance or a job well done, but it is an affirmation of a publicly expressed sentiment.

I've heard clapping after Mass on occasion. Most often it gives expression to a felt, but unexpressed joy. My sense it that it's closer to Oprah than narcissism.

Singing a hymn of praise would be a cool idea; soccer fans in other countries still do it. I could get into it. But as a cultural expression, I can't get too frowny faced by a few seconds of the striking of hands as opposed to the tuned vibration of throat tissues.

Kevin Miller said...

My sense it that it's closer to Oprah than narcissism.

Oprah, narcissism - tomayto, tomahto.

Liturgeist said...

May I suggest an 'Amen' to that last post? More 'Te Deum's' please!

Nah, I'm actually serious there...

Cure of Ars said...

I think its a good idea to sing praise to God instead of clapping in Church.

Brother Sebastian said...

As a "recovering clapper", I do confess that I once enjoyed clapping during Mass. In fact, I felt really good doing so. We clapped for very good reasons, mostly joyful (I remember one joyous ordination at which there was much clapping). As I grew up, I began to loathe clapping for "music ministry" and announcements during Mass as it seemed distracting. Now, the idea of clapping during Divine Liturgy seems so alien that it is unimaginable. Clapping just doesn't have much to do with worship, which is my focus and joy during the Liturgy. I think the difference is that the focus at Mass was on everyone feeling "good" whereas the focus at Divine Liturgy is communal worship of the Trinity with those in Heaven (which is far more satisfying, by the way).

TLG said...

I get a little annoyed when they try too hard to give everybody a slap on the back and thank them for their time (or thank me for my time, etc). Somehow it comes off as insincere if you do it too much. I put a LOT of time into music at church. Not jsut at church, but with private lessons, etc. Where the heck's my applause for mastering a difficult piece that I won't sing in front of anyone at church, just so that it'll be easier for me to learn some dorky gloria (they've been doing some really stupid and pedantic music lately) quicker. I dont' know... when mass is over I take a side door out. I dont want to talk to anyone about it, or get applause or whatever. To a degree, I DREAD running into people and talking to them.

LOL i dont know.. I do so much for everybody in my life... church, family... and if I get a thankyou, i'm thrilled. I guess I'm used to anyone saying boo about what I do. It doesn't stop me from doing it. We're not 3 year olds that need positive reinforcement to remember to use the big potty or something. I just feel so condecended to sometimes

Old Oligarch said...

My two cents. Karl, you're right on.

Jenstall said...

In 12-Step groups, and in their pop culture parallels, talk shows, clapping is not applause for performance or a job well done, but it is an affirmation of a publicly expressed sentiment.

I haven't been back in the Church long and I spent a lot of time 12-stepping before my return. My first reaction to clapping at Mass was to think that it was 12-step influenced.

Oh, and the clapping at 12 Step Meetings drives me almost as nutty as the clapping at Mass. It is soooo mechanical. Just makes me wince.

C.J. said...

I'm with TLG. I hang out in the loft til most (if not all) of the folks are out of the parking lot.

Applause in church is just so wrong! The truth is, I'm not singing for the congregation, but for God. It's sung prayer.

I suppose we can deal with applause after the invocation at a ball park, but in church? O spare us!

Mike said...

Well, as Cardinal Ratzinger said in 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."

I think that says it all...

Todd said...

Except that clapping isn't always about entertainment.

Bernard Brandt said...

For a contrarian point of view, with Scripture, to boot, may I suggest this:

O clap your hands, all ye people; shout unto God with the voice of triumph.

For the LORD most high is terrible; he is a great King over all the earth.

He shall subdue the people under us, and the nations under our feet.

He shall choose our inheritance for us, the excellency of Jacob whom he loved. Selah.

God is gone up with a shout, the LORD with the sound of a trumpet.

Sing praises to God, sing praises: sing praises unto our King, sing praises.

For God is the King of all the earth: sing ye praises with understanding.

God reigneth over the heathen: God sitteth upon the throne of his holiness.

The princes of the people are gathered together, even the people of the God of Abraham: for the shields of the earth belong unto God: he is greatly exalted.

--Psalm 47

Nonetheless, as per the foregoing discussion, we might want to ask, in most parishes, just who the clapping is for: if for God, then fine. If for the choir, or the entertainment, may I suggest going to a concert instead?

RICH said...

Too many churches have clapping in church. I wish we could do some thing about it.
To finding my way: That's sick!

bjs said...

The Catholic Catechism defines the Mass as the "continuation of Calvary." If this is the case, who was clapping and being joyful? The Romans who were crucifing Him.

Pope John Paul II said that "Any defintion of the Mass without the word 'sacrifice' is incomplete."

The Mass is a celebration; but it is the celebration of the sacrifice on Calvary. To me, this makes applauding the "youth group" on their "cookie sale" irreverent.

Saint John of the Cross said that those who try to make the Mass joyful, and in a since entertaining commit "spirutal gluttony."

The Mass is mundane in nature. There should be reverence, silence, and respect for what's going on.

One of the reasons that we have such a blatant lack of respect in Mass (such as clapping in church) is that the liberals have made the Mass casual. They have taken the sacredness from Mass. Is it no wonder that 60% don't believe in the true presence? Is it no wonder that people are loosing their faith? The casualness of Mass has caused it to lose its meaning.

As Catholics, we should stand up for reverence in Mass. We should lead by example. Only by the display of our beliefs by showing our reverence and lack of casualness in Mass will belief in the true presence come back.