Thursday, May 10, 2007


One more rant about the mass that I attended in Chicago and then I will move on.
I promise.
I think.

At the end of the train wreck the celebrant blessed us and the deacon gave the injunction, “Go in love to love and serve the Lord and one another!” to which the people responded, “Thanks be to God!” Fearing that was not enough, the celebrant added, “Have a nice day!” The hymn was announced and we sang. At the end of the song, which along with every other song we sang could be found under the subject heading, “I, Me,” everyone broke out into applause.

It seems that we have become an applauding Church. I find this disturbing. Once again the question must be asked, “Why are we here?”

When I was younger (and even more idealistic) and directing the choir, Fr. Ozemik whom I looked up to (I took my confirmation name in part after him) acting very out of character asked the congregation at the end of mass, “Didn’t the choir do a fine job? Let’s give them a round of applause.” Not usually one to counter elders I none-the-less marched in to the sacristy and said rather sternly, “Don’t you ever do that to me again. This is my ministry and unless you are going to clap for the servers and the women who ironed the linens, and the men who volunteered to fix the pews, and Mrs. C who mended your vestment, and the ushers, readers, EMEs, and everyone else who had a role in this mass including the congregation don’t you ever do that again!”

Surprisingly he took it very well. More amusedly I think than anything else. But we never clapped again and once or twice he suggested to people that if they liked the music they should go tell the choir.

I spoke about this to a seminarian yesterday at lunch. He was equally as irritated. “We used to do that at my (Catholic) high school," he said, “We were told not to clap during the mass anymore so we took up a bunch of time afterwards to acknowledge everyone after mass and clap for them. ‘And now for the choir . . .and now for the EMHC . . .’ I don’t know why we didn’t clap for the congregation that did a great job praying or for Jesus Christ who was kind enough to show up.”

Now, I am not a complete prude. There are times that I clap in church. When I was in Zimbabwe a traditional way to great another person was to bow slightly while making a kind of clapping motion with you hands. This they did when Christ became present on the altar, greeting his as a person (is that cool or what?) No problem there.

If the pope comes to visit? No problem. Rite of acceptance? No problem. Sign of special welcome or accomplishment of great significance? No problem. Fulfilling your (in many cases paid) ministry? Problem.

1. This is your gift to the community and to God.
2. You are not giving more, your giving your part (which just happens to be at the liturgy.)
3. It promotes the erroneous idea that those who participate in extra ministries at the mass are some how more fully engaged than “the guy in the pew.” This is already a horribly ingrained idea in the Church as innumerable mass planning meetings are designed around “how to get more people involved.” Rather we should be educating our people that they are already involved in the most important way that they can be. Gads is this important. (Full – Active – Conscious.)

Ah well.

However, if you ever hear me preach and you are inclined to clap, go ahead.

Yes, I am kidding.


Adoro said...

Well said!

Little secret...that's one of the reasons I don't sing anymore. (Although Father recently talked me into it so it seems I may begin cantoring again... *sigh*).

The parish I grew up in was clap-happy, applauding everything. I used to sing in the choir (we were really good), I cantored, I played my flute, to sometimes include some very complicated music, etc. Our church applauded every Sunday, and it really fed my pride. It was as though WE were the "stars" at Mass, not Jesus.

Mass became a "performance", not worship.

Of course, that performance attitude is very fitting for people who think they are gonig to mass to be entertained.

* sigh *

The church I go to now does, on occasion applaud the choir, or other things, but it tends to be on special occasions. The last time was the Easter Vigil, and given what went into the Mother of all Liturgies, Father handled that very well, it was very organized...and very appropriate. Given that we were celebratign Easter and joy was really palpable in the church that night, well, I'm not sure anyone could have contained themselves, anyway. LOL!

Anonymous said...

Fr. V., I don't know how you on the other side of the podium know so well what we in the pews are experiencing, but you've captured so much of it, and are listening to the rest of it very seriously. Thank you. (No applause, but maybe blowing you a kiss.)

Our (unpaid) folk choir is very applaudable, and their a capella "Panis Angelicus" brings chills, as their "Behold the Lamb of God" with a haunting solo brings tears -- my knees get weak every Lent the moment that one begins, they move us closer to that Original, "Father, forgive them..," and they've involved their children and others of the parish along with their instruments.. and for at least 20 years, have always deeply researched their music and rehearsed every week religiously.. We are so thankful, it's actually ludicrous to applaud because it goes well past that; but nonetheless, those of us who are super-aware of whenever there are no bells and smells and profound bows feel very uncomfortable to applaud at Mass (and there are more and more reasons -- altar servers going away to college, mission speakers, Catholic Charities, Knights, two making their First Communion). In the Easter vigil, the choir directress keeps the music going until all are out the doors, because she is humble. Even she is uncomfortable with it. She, too, feels we are shorting Him something (as adoro te devote notes), and as Fr. V. says, shorting others something.

But Adoro, go ahead and cantor -- it's a gift and beautifully offerable. At applause, at least you will know that it's just part of a bigger thank you that we can't or don't articulate otherwise.


sattvicwarrior said...

It seems that we have become an applauding Church. I find this disturbing. Once again the question must be asked, “Why are we here?”
I SAY...
thanks for shareing:)

Anonymous said...

Fr. V.

I agree with you so much. I used to sing in the choir and it always just annoyed me to be thanked for the service when i was trying to worship. i don't like to "roll the credits" even when I was the recipient of some credit.

Have you ever read the book "Why Catholics Can't Sing"? If not I imagine you would enjoy it.

Anyway, yeah, I just grin and bear it when the celebrant says "and have a nice day" or rolls the credits. ITS NOT ABOUT US! I want to say.

Then there is the peace during mass. I go to a church with a lot of elderly folks and the peace is really a strain for them. Sometimes they come across a little cold, but I know where they're coming from. ITS NOT ABOUT US! It's about God! And bringing us back into it at the wrong time, or to receive credit, seems to take away from that somehow.

Yet it also seems that most parishes don't have any kind of cofee hour, socializing, or Sunday school like protestants have. When we're not running one another over in the parking lots, we're generally only nice to each other during the preace. So I don't know what the answer is; but I hear you.


Odysseus said...

Let's give a big hand to Fr. Valencheck, everybody!

All right!

Adoro said...

Clap, clap, clap clap.....

Woo hoo!


Oh....right....sorry *blush*

paramedicgirl said...

As long as people clap with just one hand, I see no problem with it. ;}

Seriously, there is way too much focus on human achievement at Mass. Why should we seek applause? To elevate us in the eyes of others? Please!!! We are there to worship God, and there is already too much focus on horizontal worship.

In Seattle at Fr. Corapi's Lenten Retreat this year, the priest said NOT to clap for the choir, (who were incredibly outstanding). He said, "They need your prayers, not your applause." That statement applies to all of us.

Anonymous said...

And bringing us back into it at the wrong time... seems to take away from that somehow. Yes, W.C., that's it.

Sattvicwarrior, I don't want you to think we aren't weighing your goodwill in trying to save us from believing in God, but we're alright, don't worry.

Back to what W.C. said of social events.. true. Which is why I took on post-Mass coffees for 3 years and then accepted the newly-created Social Events chair in my final year on the Council (newly-created upon my "uh, yes.") We got together for a number of big do's, and the biggest one of all -- we booked an outdoor pool with a pavillion and cookout stuff and games, meats were bought only the night before, no rain for 7 weeks, forecast was "overcast for a while" -- was rained out at a time when I couldn't even make an announcement. Never has it downpoured more, I think, than on that very day, hence, I have some silver hairs. But they're worth it, because it is very important for us to visit with one another outside of Mass.

But trust me, all it takes is one (and I mean anyone's!) "uh, yes" to get it all fired up and moving.

Anonymous said...

Father, I hope some day you become Pastor at a Catholic church in Westake. Our folks applaud everything. And now, we are told to introduce ourselves to those aound us before Mass starts. And 95% do the Orans position for the Our Father.


Fr. V said...

WC - Yes! I've read that book and recommend it further to anyone interested. We had a retreat here not long ago and the guy who gave it said there is no other group of people on earth who, while not wearing watches, can tell when 45 minutes is up. Where do we have to go so badly?

P.G. - Corapi is so cool. "Uh yes" has got me on so many comminites. It can be dangerous too!

Anonymous said...

It so happens my pastor (an otherwise great one) rolled the credits at the Mother's Day mass today. My toddler wasn't really feeling well. His eyes and nose were totally irratated, either from pollen or virus. Tears and snot soked through all our back-up tissues by the time mass was ended. 'Diddy go home' he kept saying. 'Almost time, I said'. We stood up for the blessing, and then father sprung the credits roll. Sheesh. My toddler grabbed my hand was was in the aisle trying to pull me out begging 'diddy go home' as Fr. talked about all the wonderful work of the christian education folks and the children's choir. I could tell he meant no harm, he was genuinely brimming over with appreciation for another happy Easter season. Finally the blessing came and the procession to crown the statue of Mary began. Either he forgot or omitted to ring the bells due to the procession. This was tragic as my todler LOVES the bells when we leave church. We stood outside with my toddler and my 9 mos old all packed up staring up at the bell tower waiting for the bells I knew wouldn't ring. But it was a beautiful day and I knew waiting a few more minutes would avert a tantrum. 'Diddy bells?' My toddler asked. 'Bells all done,' I said, knowing that this week we forgot to roll those particular credits.

All the Best, -B

Anonymous said...

Let's Give It Up For Yumi, Mike Huckabee, Miku,Le Arch En Ciel, Visual And Oshrei Kei and Kanon and Hiroto!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!