Monkey See Monkey Clap
In the Twin Cities we have a long cherished tradition of giving every performance a standing ovation. It can be the biggest waste of your hard earned money and free time you’ve ever seen and paid for and 9 times out of 10 you are going to be the only one still sitting down at the conclusion. That is, if you choose to “take a stand” by refusing to go along with the clapping crowd and be the broken monkey.
Remember The Goodbye Girl? (I know. I hear you. Last week, she was dissing Barry Manilow and now she has the audacity to mention Bread??) The MOVIE. (Some of you are still groaning. Calm yourself.) Remember that appalling gay-themed production of Richard III from the film? Seriously, that production would have received a standing ovation in the Twin Cities.
Is it really the production that people are applauding? Or, is it a self-congratulatory expression of how (Minnesota) Nice we are? Oh, we feel sorry for you, poor things. We know you really tried. We know it was crap but we’ll give you a Standing O anyway. Or, is it to show how hip and enlightened we are? Or, is it because everyone else is doing it and you don’t want to be the non-team player? It could be that we are just starved for quality theater but what do you expect from a sing-along dinner theater production (which are really popular here)? Friel at the Abbey?!?
My former dissident parish has the lamentable habit of replacing homilies with outside speakers. The speaker was nearly always given a standing ovation. Didn’t matter what they said or didn’t say. Didn’t matter if they made any kind of logical sense. Didn’t matter if they rambled on. Definitely didn’t matter if they dissed the Church. Someone would always try and get a Standing O going. Frequently, the entire crowd would go along.
I grew to absolutely despise the obligatory standing ovation. You can probably tell that I still do. Ovations have become absolutely meaningless since they are given out all the time. The only way they can become meaningful again is if they go on over 5 minutes. I cringe to think of that day happening but I can see it coming. Pretty soon we will have ovation length contests. Mark my words.
At my former parish, it began to occur to me that it was not always the speaker's message or the speaker that was being applauded. Somewhere along the line, the adulation switched sides. The community was applauding itself for its “englightenment” and, yes, for “pulling a fast one” on the big, bad, old, white guys in the office at the East end of Summit Avenue (that’s the Chancery for my non-local readership). Hey, we have so and so dissident speaking at our parish while all the other Catholics have to listen to Father drone on about the Gospel. Or, hey, all of our political speakers are Democrats (DFL) and look how we get away without the IRS noticing! Yee-haw!
One of the ah-ha! moments on my road to reversion was when I realized that a lot of people were coming to church only to hear the speaker but not to worship God. God was an afterthought. I knew that way of thinking was wrong. I knew we should only be going to church to praise and thank God.
There is still applause at Holy Mass even after I left my dissident parish. My current parish has the lamentable habit of clapping at the end of Mass for the musicians. I’m too busy kneeling down for my closing prayers to bother. But, I am internally cringing and fighting my anger. I have to brace myself at the end of the Mass for the obligatory monkey clapping.
It infuriates me that some of us can’t serve Christ without soliciting a round of applause for their “efforts”. If you crave adulation when you serve Christ rather then just accepting the service itself for the honor that it is, then you need to be doing something else. Try praying-silently.
Now some people will claim: I did not solicit the applause it just happened. Perhaps. But, have you ever tried to stop it? I’ve yet to see the musicians at my parish speak up and tell people to stop. Or, Father saying something about it being inappropriate.
If you want to applaud someone at Holy Mass, how about giving a big round of applause to The Christ for dying for you so that your sins may be forgiven? No, I’d really rather you didn’t applaud. I don’t think Jesus requires your adulation to sustain Him. Your adoration, however, He does enjoy. How about just sticking to the prescribed Adoration already present in the rubrics of Holy Mass? Interestingly, I don’t see applause listed.
I was at the Mass of the Archangels event over the weekend just past. The closing Mass was celebrated by Coadjutor Archishop John Nienstedt. It was very well done. Properly celebrated and then at the end: oh, yes. A entire litany of people that must be thanked was read off by the Pastor of the parish. Naturally, as all good monkeys do, the round of applause and cheering began. To top it all off, His Excellency got a standing ovation. I sat there. Lone holdout. I’m not sure why His Excellency got a standing ovation: for his fine singing voice? the fact that he showed up? the fact that the parish invited him? he’s a Tigers fan? all of the above? I amused myself by wondering if His Excellency will get a standing ovation at every parish in the Archdiocese (Heh) or if when he returns to said parish in a few years time will they still be clapping? (Heh) You know how it is when you start a new relationship and everyone’s in love and then you really get to know someone and then not everyone thinks it’s a good production anymore? What am I saying? They’ll still clap. They may not like it, but they’ll clap. All it takes is just one person to start it.
That’s just it. Perhaps all it takes is just one person to remain in their seat for the inappropriate ovations to stop.