Catholic Transcript Magazine of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Hartford Connecticut

As we celebrate the 175th Anniversary of the Archdiocese, we look back… on July 20, 1971 when parishioners settled on a site for the new St. Thomas the Apostle Church, Oxford.
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The Merry Catholic

Sunday Mass was coming to a close, and the children’s choir belted out the recessional hymn in fine style. When the last note concluded, most of the folks still left in the pews offered up heartfelt applause for the musical tykes. As the clapping subsided, a woman in the pew behind me muttered, “There should never be clapping at Mass! It’s offensive to God.”

Wait. What? Did she really say that? Letting the children’s choir know that we appreciate their hard work is offensive to God?

Later that day, out of curiosity, I did a Google search and typed in the phrase, “Is it OK to clap at Mass?” Wow, I didn’t realize this was such a volatile topic. There were over 3.8 million search results. Many of the links brought me to website articles with titles such as, “Flawed Applause,” “Wrap the Clap!” and “Confessions of a Conflicted Catholic Clapper.”

Is it possible that God is offended when parishioners express thanks to a group of youngsters who worked hard to prepare the music for Mass? After all, the Bible clearly says, “All you peoples, clap your hands; shout to God with joyful cries” (Psalm 41:7). It doesn’t seem that there’s anything wrong with clapping.

However, there is a strong sentiment in the church that frowns on clapping during Mass. And the person cited most often by these folks is Pope Benedict XVI. Before he became pope, back when he was known as Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, he said, “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liturgy because of some human achievement, it is a sure sign that the essence of liturgy has totally disappeared and been replaced by a kind of religious entertainment.”

Hmm, it seems it all depends on why we’re clapping. The verse from Psalm 41 clearly indicated the clapping is directed toward God. Clapping and shouting to God is rarely done in suburban parishes in the United States, but in many Catholic communities clapping and shouting are quite common expressions of praise and worship. But this clapping is not “applause,” in the sense of offering approval to other people.

“Catholic Answers” is a terrific website with information about all things Catholic (www.catholic.com). The following question was sent in: “When is it appropriate to applaud at Mass?”

Here is the answer they offered:

“There is no church document specifying applause as an appropriate liturgical response to music, singing, homilies or announcements of gratitude by the presider.

“Although the church does not explicitly state that applause is inappropriate at Mass, that may be because such a stricture used to be enforced by Western society. As a matter of traditional Western etiquette, it used to be severely frowned upon to applaud in church because church services are worship offered up to God and not entertainment to be critiqued by the assembly.

“Now that society has generally lost the sense that applause is inappropriate in church, I suspect that the church may soon have to speak on the matter before people take the idea to its logical conclusion and begin to boo when they are insufficiently entertained at Mass.”

Well, that’s interesting, isn’t it? It never dawned on me that people might boo something they don’t like at Mass. But the way our culture is going nowadays, with college students being encouraged to throw hissy fits whenever they hear an idea they don’t agree with, I suppose booing at Mass could happen.

So I’m not quite sure what to think about clapping at Mass. All I know is, those kids worked really hard and sounded so nice when they sang. And I suspect if Jesus were sitting in the pews that Sunday morning, Jesus would’ve clapped heartily, no matter what was muttered by the lady in the pew behind him.

Bill Dunn is a freelance writer who resides in Torrington. His most recent book is titled The Gospel According to Morty. He can be contacted via his blog at MerryCatholic.

alertAt the Spring Assembly of the U.S. bishops, Cardinal Joseph Tobin suggested that a delegation ofbishops go to the border to see for themselves what was happening to newly arrived immigrants, families and children. On July 1 and 2, Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, president of the U.S. bishops conference, and five other bishops conducted a pastoral visit to the diocese of Brownsville, Texas. Stops included Mass at the Shrine of Our Lady of San Juan del Valle with the community, a visit to anHHS/OBR Shelter and Mass for the families there, a visit to the Customs and Border Patrol processing center in McAllen, TX, and a press conference at the end of their visit. Catholic News Service accompanied the bishops on their border trip. 

  1. Backgrounder and analysis of the bishops’ trip to the border: Cardinal DiNardo told CNS, “You cannot look at immigration as an abstraction when you meet” the people behind the issue.
  2. At final press conference, Cardinal Daniel Dinardo said the church was willing to be part of any conversation to find humane solutions because even a policy of detaining families together in facilities caused “concern.”
  3. Bishops serve soup to immigrant families at a center run by Catholic Charities and listen to their stories. Scranton Bishop Joseph Bambera said he found hope in hearing the people in the room talk about what’s ahead. They didn’t speak of making money but of finding safety for their children, he said, driven by “the most basic instinct to protect your family.”
  4. At an opening Mass he Basilica of Our Lady of San Juan del Valle-National Shrine near McAllen, Texas, Bishop Daniel Flores of Brownsville told Massgoers, “The bishops are visiting here so they can stop and look and talk to people and understand, especially the suffering of many who are amongst us,”

A delegation of U.S. bishops goes on a fact-finding mission at the U.S.-Mexican border to learn more about Central American immigration detention.

Following their visit to an immigrant detention center, U.S. bishops said they are even more determined to call on Congress for comprehensive immigration reform.