October 01, 2007

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.


Blogger Terry Nelson said...

Good post - I've always hated that stuff, at my local parish we clap for everything - well, they do.

(Now if I wrote this I would have used a saucier title, like: "I hate the clap" or "The new epidemic: 'The Clap'" - see how my mind works?)

October 01, 2007 3:46 PM  
Blogger Terry Nelson said...

But your title is good too.

October 01, 2007 3:48 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

I'm on your anti-clapping team, Cathy!

In the 1980s I was heavily involved in a new age organization that had a corporate position that "standing o's" were bad. The rule was that clapping was allowed for only five or ten seconds to acknowledge the speaker, no matter what they said.

It made clapping mandatory, but it cut it off long before it degenerated into rhythmic applause that had lost its purpose.

While many new age organizations no longer exist, this one is still there. Maybe because of its anti-clapping rule.

October 01, 2007 4:15 PM  
Blogger swissmiss said...

Maybe these clappy folks can be weaned off of clapping gradually, starting with a one-handed clap.

I guess I haven't experienced this too much. Sometimes at parishes I visit during the summer they clap after a guest speaker, usually a missionary making an appeal, but haven't heard much clapping.

October 01, 2007 6:59 PM  
Blogger Cathy_of_Alex said...

Thanks everyone-LOL!

A special thank you to you, Terry. Thanks to you I now have the clap on the brain. So you are saying all we need are antibiotics to combat this menace?

October 01, 2007 7:38 PM  
Blogger Allison said...

Sounds like you could live near me...it's everywhere, this hootinanie!

What ever happened to the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass? It is such a blessing when we DO find it!

October 01, 2007 8:55 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

oh my life clapping at Mass!

October 02, 2007 12:14 PM  
Blogger Cathy said...




October 02, 2007 3:11 PM  
Blogger Cathy_of_Alex said...

+JMJ+: That's a good way of putting it: hootananny

Ma: I know what you mean! LOL! I know you aren't applauding at Cantius during the Mass!

October 02, 2007 6:24 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yes, at my parish we are clap happy too. We always clap after mass for the choir, for any speakers, and yesterday we clapped and extended our hands in blessing for our new catechists for this year. I don't mind clapping for the catechists, because so many stepped forward when we were in dire need!
Good post as always.

October 02, 2007 7:26 PM  
Blogger Cathy said...

Cathy -
My priest would throw something at me, there's no doubt in my mind.
Once, we were having a "Sacred Music of Bach" lecture and concert. The lecture was downstairs and then we went up to the church for some music. The FIRST thing Father said was, "I know we're Catholic and we don't applaud in church - BUT --- I have removed the Blessed Sacrament from the Tabernacle, as you can see, and so you can feel free to clap for these hard-working musicians."
I dug that. Of course, many people were still very hesitant to clap (old habits) and it wasn't prolonged and there wasn't hootin' and hollerin', just more like golf clapping...But still - I CLAPPED IN CHURCH!

October 03, 2007 8:46 AM  
Blogger Cathy_of_Alex said...

Ma: Golf clapping-LOL! The Pastor removing the Blessed Sacrament was exactly the right response IMHO. Plus, he stated right up front what he was going to do and why. Cool guy, your Pastor.

October 03, 2007 1:13 PM  
Blogger Bobby said...

Serena warned me about standing ovations after I launched one after her performance at a recital. After that incident, I stopped launching it and my venerable voice teacher has taught me ethics in applause.

October 04, 2007 7:32 AM  
Blogger bearing said...

Boy, do I wish I'd had the idea to grab the microphone and announce "Don't clap. It's not about us." back when I was in the choir at my old parish.

'Course I would've had to have the guts, too.

October 05, 2007 12:54 PM  

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