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At the parish I'm visiting (within the archdiocese of Vancouver), after singing the recessional hymn (during which the cross, the priest and the altar helpers walked along the nave to the front of the church), the congregation always claps.

What is the meaning of this? Is this an official part of the Latin rite liturgy?

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  • I don't know which parish and mass you were at, but at Holy Rosary Cathedral in downtown Vancouver, people sometimes applaud after the organ postlude if it's particularly stirring. This happened frequently with the previous organist who was very, very good, but I've heard it with the new organist who took over after he retired. May 23 at 0:45
  • @Ward-ReinstateMonica It is just like Cardinal Ratzinger mentioned applause is done as a replacement by a kind of religious entertainment. It is totally unnecessary and not desired by some. I have seen the faithful at Holy Rosary Cathedral clapping at jokes in a sermon! It is cool and modern, but totally untraditional. After all it is a Catholic mass....
    – Ken Graham
    May 23 at 4:21
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    @KenGraham At the parish that I visited 4 times in a row, the atmosphere was prayerful and respectful, including the homily. Only during announcement just before the final benediction there was some light-hearted moments, although still respectful. Today the priest reminded the congregation that with the coming summer attire should STILL be appropriate for worship since Jesus the King is in the sanctuary (he compared it with if Queen Elizabeth were present). In this parish there is no postlude and the clapping was consistent every week and feels like a standard practice, not spontaneous. May 23 at 6:03
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    There was lots of fun stamping during Easter by the congregation at an Eastern Rite monastery I visited once. But I think clapping is done for a different reason. There is a liturgical reason for stamping, there's no liturgical working for clapping; it divorces the congregation from the reality that the liturgy is the work of the people.
    – Peter Turner
    May 23 at 13:57
  • they clap here in Australia as well
    – Nigel Fds
    May 24 at 0:20

2 Answers 2

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No, it isn't a part of the liturgy.

Then-Cardinal Ratzinger said in his 2002 book, 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. Such attraction fades quickly – it cannot compete in the market of leisure pursuits, incorporating as it increasingly does various forms of religious titillation.

P.S.

It is hard to answer this, as it seems to necessitate that the answerer show that an action/gesture is not present in the liturgy. It's proving a negative. It is certainly absent from any missal, but I can't tell if the GIRM mentions it. So the best I could do to provide a sourced answer was to show it's condemnation by authority (in this case a prefect of the CDF and later pope)

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  • But what I saw happened only at the very end, just before the mass attendees dispersed after mass. At that point, the procession has been completed (the priest is already out the door). At no point within the mass was there clapping. My first impression was that it could be for Jesus. Are you saying it was intended for the musicians / choir? If so, what was the origin of the practice? May 22 at 23:20
  • @GratefulDisciple Honestly I just don't know how to answer this academically, lol. Some congregations just do things that aren't official, for better or for worse. May 23 at 0:51
  • @SupportiveDante Thanks. Here's the Canadian GIRM, no mention of applause or clapping. So seems you're right, it's not prescribed nor prohibited. May 23 at 6:08
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    @GratefulDisciple, I don't want to sound rude, but I have to ask this because it is completely out of my mindset: why would you applaud for Jesus? I'm the organist at my church, so it's totally comprehensible for me to sing and play music to praise the Lord; I may understand (but I would not do it myself) to have more explicit expressions of joy, like dancing. But why would you applaud for Jesus? Applause is for acknowledging a feat, not to give praise.
    – Simone
    May 23 at 14:30
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    @Simone I was raised Protestant Reformed, so the Catholic liturgy is new to me. "Why would you applaud for Jesus?" Jesus did perform a feat, celebrated in mass: giving his life for us (Isa 53, honors given in v. 12). But If the applause is directed to the music team, wouldn't it be similar to how in concert halls the applause is postponed until all movements have been performed? Anyway, after reading the 2 answers, it is obvious that in Latin rite it's out of place, although at the parish I'm visiting it's limited to the very end (none in the homily, etc.). May 23 at 15:47
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Meaning of clapping at the end of mass?

Hic est Domus Dei et Porta Coeli. (This is the house of God and the gate to heaven).

Every once and awhile we can come across such Latin mottos on the facades of our Catholic churches. This should inspire our intellects to realize the nature of the edifice we are entering into. This is not an auditorium or an entertainment site, but a building set apart for the Divine Worship of the Blessed Trinity. Our Lord resides in the tabernacle of each Catholic church, thus an atmosphere of reverence should be maintained at all times.

Even the Good Pope St. John XXIII asked the faithful not to clap in in church, as it is the Temple of God!

The fourth Sunday of Lent, John XXIII was once again among the crowd, at Ostia. (about 15 miles to the south-west of Rome.) Thousands of people were waiting for him along the street, in the piazza, in the church. They wanted to see him, to applaud him. They did not know that afterwards, he would rebuke them, in a good-natured way, in his simple , spontaneous, familiar way of speaking.

“I am very glad to have come here. But if I must express a wish, it is that in church you not shout out, that you not clap your hands, and that you not greet even the Pope, because ‘templum Dei, templum Dei.’ (‘The temple of God is the temple of God.’)

Now, if you are pleased to be in this beautiful church, you must know that the Pope is also pleased to see his children. But as soon as he sees his good children, he certainly does not clap his hands in their faces. And the one who stands before you is the Successor of St. Peter.” - St John XXIII Asks the Faithful Not to Applaud in Church

Father Edward McNamara Goes on to express the following about clapping in church:

First of all, the Roman liturgical tradition is usually sober in its external manifestations. This holds true even in those Catholic cultures that are exuberant in the demonstrations of popular piety such as the processions of Latin America, the Iberian Peninsula and southern Italy where applause, cheers and the like are regular features.

After the homily, the liturgy recommends a moment of silence in order to reflect upon and assimilate the message. Applause easily breaks the concentration and makes it harder to gather one's thoughts and bring them to bear on the essential questions of living the Gospel.

When applause is neither common nor expected a priest can prepare the homily with greater freedom, both regarding the doctrine he wishes to transmit and the best means of delivery. In other words, although he should always strive to prepare an excellent homily from the rhetorical point of view, not having to worry about applause makes him less subject to the temptation of striving more to please than to instruct and exhort toward sanctity.

Not being expected to applaud also frees both priests and parishioners from the danger of making subtle and not-so-subtle comparisons among priests. Father X's homily received timed respect; Father Y got a standing ovation, while Father Z's preaching on Christian morals got the silent treatment. I am exaggerating, of course, but the point is that any element that might induce disharmony should be avoided.

The best reaction to a well-thought and delivered homily is a decision to move forward and grow as a Christian. If this is lacking, then all external applause is just so much fluff.

In his book "The Spirit of the Liturgy" the then Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger wrote: "Whenever 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" (Page 198).

The context of the present Pope's remarks was regarding applause after so-called liturgical dancing; it did not directly address our present case of applause as a sign of respect and agreement to the message of the homily. The principle involved, however, of not applauding the merely human achievement of one of the liturgical actors could be a good rule of thumb for deciding when applause is appropriate or not.

Applause at Homilies

I have noticed an increase of this behaviour in Catholic Churches recently, even amongst traditional priests. It is like no one desires to take the issue on and thus I feel it will continue and spread to other parishes, for good or for bad.

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