One of the most irritating occurrences in the Catholic Church today is either the call to applaud some event, person, etc., or the spontaneous burst of applause. I’ve been in parishes where even the choir is applauded. It takes away the dignity of the liturgy and brings it down to man’s level rather than uplifting our hearts upwards, towards God.
Joseph Card. Ratzinger – now Benedict XVI – wrote in his 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liturgy because of some human achievement, it is a sure sign that the essence of liturgy has totally disappeared and been replaced by a kind of religious entertainment. ” (Spirit of the Liturgy p. 198)
Well, he wasn’t the first Pope to speak out on ‘audience participation’ in the church. Saint John XXIII had something definite to say about the practice, too.
One fourth Sunday of Lent, John XXIII was 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.”