Q – Clapping in church has always bothered me because it seems to distract from the importance of the celebration of the Eucharist. That being said, is clapping right, wrong, or indifferent in the mass setting? Am I being difficult by not liking it?
A – Thanks for the question. I think there are some Catholics who worry too much about these things (not that you are, but I know some others do). How do we know if we are worrying too much about such things? When we allow them to be a distraction or take away from entering fully into Mass. Now, with that being said, I don’t like it either. Are you being difficult? Not really. It is when this consumes you that it is too much.
Before Benedict XVI became pope he wrote the following warning about making the Mass into entertainment:
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liturgy because of some human achievement, it is a sure sign that the essence of liturgy has totally disappeared and been replaced by a kind of religious entertainment.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 attraction fades quickly – it cannot compete in the market of leisure pursuits, incorporating as it increasingly does various forms of religious titillation (Ratzinger, Spirit of the Liturgy).
He masterfully sums up the problem with clapping in Church. Mass isn’t about our feelings, it is about worshiping God. Giving to the Trinity what is due from us. Clapping is usually done for a human achievement and is not for God. So, it is a misplaced act in most liturgies. There are some places where it is explicitly allowed though. For instance, in the Rite of Ordination for priests there is an exception for the USA where the congregation can show approval of the act of choosing the men to be ordained and one of the ways proscribed in doing so is applause.
I can certainly understand spontaneous applause during the liturgy for some big events or announcements. For instance, if the long-time pastor announces after his homily that he has been reassigned and will miss the parishioners, I can certainly understand the congregation breaking out into spontaneous applause and I would probably happily join in.
But, if the applause happens too frequently and is almost expected, then there is a problem. For instance, a priest who thanks asks the congregation to thank the choir every week is distracting the congregation from the reason they came to Mass in the first place.
But, we must remember the Church doesn’t tell us exactly how to act in every motion during Mass. So, don’t get overanxious about clapping, especially if it isn’t a regular thing. Also, there is no reason you have to participate in it if you feel uncomfortable doing so.
I hope this helps.
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