Hold the applause: Save the praise for God alone

Editorial Note: the article is fairly long but please be patient as the last parts (page 2 and 3) are quite interesting as they show how the public opinions on this issue by making a poll. The second point, the author, Mr. Pierce, doesn’t seem to know why the Canon contains prayers for the Pope, Bishops, church ministers and the faithful in the descending order. But in the Canon of the Roman Missal we can read:
“To you, therefore, most merciful Father,
we make humble prayer and petition
through Jesus Christ, your Son, our Lord:
that you accept
and bless ✠ these gifts, these offerings,
these holy and unblemished sacrifices,
which we offer you firstly
for your holy catholic Church.
Be pleased to grant her peace,
to guard, unite and govern her
throughout the whole world,
together with your servant N. our Pope
and N. our Bishop,
and all those who, holding to the truth,
hand on the catholic and apostolic faith.
Remember, Lord, your servants (N. and N.)
and all gathered here,
whose faith and devotion are known to you.
For them, we offer you this sacrifice of praise
or they offer it for themselves
and all who are dear to them:
for the redemption of their souls,
in hope of health and well-being,
and paying their homage to you,
the eternal God, living and true.” (new translation of 2011, Source: Here)

While the author dresses several quite important problems in the daily life of a normal parish, his knowledge of his own Church does seem to very extremely wanting. Nevertheless, his critique does provide us with a ground for further discussion.

From U.S. Catholic
By Gregory F. Augustine Pierce

We’re all part of the Body of Christ, so why are a select few soaking up all the attention at Mass?

At the end of the Christmas Eve Mass at my parish last year, the pastor said, “We’re going to have to sing one more song before we leave.” I looked at my wife, Kathy, and whispered, “Oh, no. They’re going to sing ‘Happy Birthday’ to Jesus.”

“Yes,” said the pastor, “I won’t be here next week, and I didn’t ask his permission, because I knew he’d tell me not to do this. But it’s Father Jones’ 90th birthday next week, so let’s all wish him a happy birthday.”

With that the organist and choir started up the well-known song (which is, by the way, still under copyright, but I’m sure we got permission), and the packed church rose as one and sang “Happy Birthday” to Father Jones, followed by sustained applause for all the priest’s many years of service to the church and our community.

I, however, remained seated, feeling every bit like the Grinch.

Here we were on one of the two holiest days of the year, and we had to sing “Happy Birthday” yet again to a member of the parish staff—which we do with alarming regularity. Kathy, who teaches at our parish school, was turning 60 that same week. But there was no recognition of her. There were many others in the church that night who were undoubtedly reaching similar milestones that week, perhaps including another nonagenarian or two. But at our parish the only people who are regularly sung to on their birthday (or anniversary) are those on the parish staff.

Why can’t I just take this in the spirit that most of my fellow parishioners apparently do? They seem to feel that it is nice to sing to the priests and the deacon and the music director and the pastoral associate (but not, interestingly enough, the school principal or teachers or maintenance and office staff, never mind most “ordinary” parishioners).

All of this reminds me of an old Chevy Chase routine when he was a regular on Saturday Night Live. He would come on stage and say, “I’m Chevy Chase, and you’re not,” always garnering a big laugh. No one was ever sure why, but it seemed to touch a nerve about the comedian’s feigned oversized ego and his disdain for everyone else. The joke, in other words, was on him.

There are many other things that parishes do that drive home the point that some among us are Chevy Chase, and most are not:

1. Applause for a job well done. Apparently the choir members in our parish are so insecure that they have to be thanked and applauded at least once a month. And here I thought they were singing to give glory to God and because they like to sing.

During a Stations of the Cross at our parish school last year, the priest led a round of applause for the good job the children had done. I know our children deserve to have their self-esteem built up, but is it really necessary—or even appropriate—when we have just finished recalling Christ’s passion and death?

2. Mentions in the parish bulletin. My parish used to list everyone on the staff but the flower arranger on the front page of our bulletin. The new pastor (the one who led us in “Happy Birthday” on Christmas Eve) has thankfully eliminated that list most weeks, under the theory that most of us already know who is on the staff.

3. Prayers of the faithful. Yes, I think we should pray for the pope, the bishop, and the pastor by name, and all the other ministers of the church. But do we have to do it every week, and do they always have to be first? How about a prayer for “Jane Jones, who is fighting to keep her business afloat and to continue to employ seven people,” or “Mark Johnson, who is balancing his job and visiting his aging mother in the nursing home every day”?

4. Announcements. I once went to an Episcopal church in New York City where they made all the announcements before their Mass began. When I mention this possibility to Catholic priests, their universal reaction is a jocular “But people aren’t there yet!”

The implication is that the announcements are so important that they must be done right before the dismissal, so that it is the sending forth on our mission to the world that becomes the afterthought, not the precious announcements about what is going on at the parish that week.

(Here’s the way to know if an announcement is really important at my parish: The homilist mentions it, it leads off the announcements, and then the priest mentions it again before the dismissal. Mostly these have to do with an event at the parish that they really, really want us to attend, such as the special concert by the contemporary choir or the St. Patrick’s Day dinner.)

5. The annual blessing of parish ministers. If there is ever a time when Chevy Chase would feel comfortable at our parish, it is the annual Sunday when we all thank and bless every single person involved in any sort of ministry in our parish.

We (about half of those present) are all called up on stage—I mean around the altar—and the priest reads a special prayer over us. Then all those in the stands—I mean the pews—raise their right hands and bless us, reminding themselves in so doing that we are Chevy Chase and they are not.

All of this reflects both a poor understanding of the church and of evangelization.

It is a poor understanding of the church because it says that “the church” is really the people who work for it, either on the staff or in a church-sponsored “ministry.” The rest become onlookers and cheerleaders and donors and “the faithful,” and it is their job to make sure that we—the ones who actually run the church—feel sufficiently loved and honored.

Whatever happened to the mission of all Christians to help bring about the here-and-now kingdom of God in our daily lives on our jobs, with our family and friends, and in our community and civic affairs? Is this not worthy of praise and recognition?

It is bad evangelization because we all say we want non-churchgoers to join (or rejoin) us. But why would they do so if every time they attend Mass they are fed a steady diet of self-congratulation on our part?

On Christmas Eve my wife and I had our three young adult children with us. They went along with singing “Happy Birthday” to Father Jones, but it had to take just a little edge off the solemnity and spiritual meaning of the celebration of the creative power of the universe becoming a human being and living among us.

I believe that if we are inviting people to join us—young people who are searching for their first spiritual home or others who have been away from a faith community for a while—then maybe we shouldn’t be telling them constantly that we’re Chevy Chase and they’re not. So I just sat in my pew with my head down on Christmas Eve while everyone else sang “Happy Birthday” to Father Jones. I worried that people around me might think that I was dissing the elderly priest.

In my own way, however, I hoped I was honoring him by my silent protest, reminding myself that the church he has served so well and so long belongs to all of us, just as he always taught me.

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4 Responses to Hold the applause: Save the praise for God alone

  1. pablo says:

    Dia de mi Santo.

    The feast day of the Saint upon Confirmation of a Catholic.


    In Mexico, we have the two of the most important days of our lives as markers for celebration.

    In Catholic Mexico, your Baptism record is you legal Birth Certificate.

    It seems the soul of this Catholic gentleman is telling him he is in the wrong place if he wants to know, love, and serve God.

    I think his comments are very Catholic.

    Laypeople issuing blessings is not permitted; for a Priest to confer blessings of authority upon ‘Ministers’ is probably not supposed to happen, also.

    Pray for this man and others like him.

    His Guardian Angel is awakening his soul.

    (only Priests have the authority to bless).



  2. JabbaPapa says:

    only Priests have the authority to bless

    This is clearly untrue, but that’s just a quibble in the face of this report of some clear abuses of the Holy Mass.

    But may God bless you, and all who read this, in the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit.


  3. pablo says:

    “…[6] And when the men of Israel saw that they were straitened, (for the people were distressed,) they hid themselves in caves, and in thickets, and in rocks, and in dens, and in pits. [7] And some of the Hebrews passed over the Jordan into the land of Gad and Galaad. And when Saul was yet in Galgal, all the people that followed him were greatly afraid. [8] And he waited seven days according to the appointment of Samuel, I and Samuel came not to Galgal, and the people slipt away from him. [9] Then Saul said: Bring me the holocaust, and the peace offerings. And he
    offered the holocaust. [10] And when he had made an end of offering the holocaust, behold Samuel came: and Saul went forth to meet him and salute him.

    [11] And Samuel said to him: What hast thou done? Saul answered: Because I saw that the people slipt from me, and thou wast not come according to the days appointed, and the Philistines were gathered together in Machmas, [12] I said: Now will the Philistines come down upon me to Galgal, and I have not appeased the face of the Lord. Forced by necessity, I offered the holocaust. [13] And Samuel said to Saul: Thou hast done foolishly, and hast not kept the commandments of the Lord thy God, which he commanded thee. And if thou hadst not done thus, the Lord would now have established thy kingdom over Israel for ever. [14] But thy kingdom shall not continue. The Lord hath sought him a man according to his own heart: and him hath the Lord commanded to be prince over his people, because thou hast not observed that which the Lord commanded…”

    The Council of Trent also reserved Priestly Authority to the Priesthood alone; blessing are to be issued by Priests during functions of the Holy Ministry.

    We may of course bless our grandchildren, or our children, but blessings belong to Priests; bless your home with Holy Water, but eventually get a Priest there to do it with authority.

    This has been a Priestly function for over six thousand years.

    Shame upon anyone that would bless with the intent of usurping Priestly Authority.



  4. JabbaPapa says:

    pablo, nobody has been approving any usurpation of clerical authority 🙂


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