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CNP Feedback - Applause

Q. Dear CNP:

I love your site! Thanks for all of your insights!

I direct a choir at our church. Sometimes the congregation likes our singing so much they clap! I would rather they didn't for obvious reasons, but the choir members think I'm crazy! "Let them clap they say! They're moved!" My response?

Supposedly there is clapping for a cantor at another Mass in the parish. I guess this is competition time! Yuck!

A. Hand Out

A. Dear Mr. Out:

Thank you for your kind words about the CanticaNOVA Publications website.

I share your feelings about applauding the choir at Mass. It's certainly wonderful that your choir is good and that the congregation enjoys their contribution to Mass. We really should not lose sight, though, of our purpose at Mass — to praise God and to glorify his name. Clapping for the choir seems to shift this focus, doesn't it.

The argument that the congregation "is moved" holds little merit. One would hope they would also be moved by Scripture proclaimed, one would hope they would be moved by the priest's homily, one would hope they would be moved by the reception of Holy Communion. Yet, would anyone dream of applauding in those situations? Of course not. Being moved and feeling "entertained" are different emotions. We applaud when we feel we've been entertained well. Perhaps the congregation has the wrong attitude about why the choir is present at Mass. The choir functions to praise God, too, just like the congregation; it may also serve to inspire the congregation, but certainly never hopes to elicit applause.

The congregation should be discouraged from showing their "gratitude" to the choir in the public way they are. Perhaps a note in the bulletin or a word from the pastor about how the choir works to praise God and inspire fellow parishioners with their ministry, neither of which are affirmed by applauding an "entertainment."

A pleasant personal greeting or a handshake to a choir member after Mass is much more appropriate. Let the choir know they're appreciated. The best possible compliment is never, "Great homily," or "The choir sounded wonderful today," but "Mass was beautiful."

Gary Penkala
CanticaNOVA Publications

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