Losing or Deepening a Sense of the Sacred III

I was somewhat critical of Bishop Seratelli’s opening piece on the topic of loss and recovery of a sense of the sacred. I think he does better this week, outlining some positive steps for recovering a sense of the sacred. He doesn’t directly address clergy or musicians–where most parishes could have the greatest immediate impact. But there are some good ideas, even if they’ve been promoted before:

Chewing gum in Church, loud talking, beach attire and immodest dress simply do not belong!

We’ve recently hashed out the immodest dress thing. Practically every Catholic parish in North America deals with it in some way. It’s easy to suggest the ideal of decorum, but much harder to achieve success.

On silence, long promoted by progressive liturgists, we have some affirmation:

In this pregnant silence, that Word becomes flesh. Mary remains the model of the disciple before the Word of God.  She reminds us that we need moments of silence for God to enter our life.  We need those moments in our personal prayer and in the Liturgy.

I suppose a bishop would see a good bit more of this than the average pastor:

Today it has become commonplace at the end of the Liturgy to recite a litany of gratitude for all those who, in some way or another, have made the celebration beautiful.  No doubt there is a way to express gratitude at the end of Mass.  But is it possible that each time applause breaks out in the Liturgy at the end of the Mass for someone’s contribution, we lapse into seeing the Mass as a human achievement?

The Confirmation Masses and other special parish events a bishop sees are hardly commonplace to the regular members of a parish. As is true for Mass announcements, there is a captive audience, and it’s easy to be tempted to take advantage of that audience to say things of importance. I’ve struggled against that urge of colleagues and parishioners for years. I likely always will.

Sometimes even during the Mass after someone has sung a beautiful hymn, there is spontaneous applause.  At such a moment, does not the real meaning of Liturgy lapse into some kind human entertainment?

Not always. Maybe not too often. Applause would have at least two definitions if the act itself had an entry. It does signify affirmation of a performance. But it also can serve as an affirmation of an overall experience, including the sentiment of raising one’s hearts and souls to God.

My thing with applause: at Mass I don’t acknowledge it.  I wouldn’t start it, but I’m not concerned about stopping it once it gets started, especially if the halt causes even more of a break with the intent of liturgy.


About catholicsensibility

Todd lives in the Pacific Northwest, serving a Catholic parish as a lay minister.
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2 Responses to Losing or Deepening a Sense of the Sacred III

  1. Gavin says:

    What churches are there with “beach atire”? Maybe it’s because I’ve never been to a church by a beach, but I have never seen such a thing. Everyone loves to go on and on (and on..) about people wearing beach clothes to Mass, but I don’t see these people around.

    Regarding applause, I really don’t mind if it’s something of importance. If a choir works hard, they should get acknowledgment every now and then, even if it is forced. Applauding the head of the budget committee after they ask for money is, however, inappropriate. And I’m not talking applauding in the middle of Mass after a nice offertory. I’m talking at Easter or something the priest pointing out to the congregation that those people in the back aren’t just wasting everyone’s time with music. Although I suppose I’d rather have too little applause than too much.

  2. Liam says:

    Applause are cheap.

    Personal thanks are welcome and appropriate.

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