Singing Happy Birthday at Mass

I’m so sick of my parish. Every week, there is some liturgical abuse or irreverence, and I am losing the ability to overlook these behaviors.

Today, right before the closing recessional hymn, the choir broke into a few bars of “Happy Birthday,” it was Father’s 75th birthday.

Afterwards, in the parish hall, before cutting his birthday cake, Father politely commented that it wasn’t appropriate–that it was a liturgical abuse–to sing happy birthday during Mass. Very slightly uncharacteristically (escpecially at church), I blurted out, “Thank you, Father!” I couldn’t believe it. He’s a very sweet old man, but I’ve never heard him correct anyone. It was kind of like the response one gets when the permissive parents finally correct their bratty kid.

The common thread to all these irreverences and abuses is that it seems to me that these people are worshipping themselves, not Jesus. It seems to me the only appropriate day to sing Happy Birthday at Mass is Christmas Day.

While I’ve never heard a Happy Birthday sung in Church, before the closing recessional hymn is the time our lecter or priest makes announcements or shares information with the parishioners. Some of those announcments can bring applause or alittle laughter, but at that point in the mass I don’t really have a problem with it. I think it is the only time during the mass that anything like that should be done, and it really should be held to a minimum.

And really, I don’t consider those parishoners to be like bratty little kids. I’m sure there hearts were in the right place, and I’m sure the father knew that to…

This morning our parish also sang “Happy Birthday” to our pastor as he is celebrating his birthday, Tuesday or Wednesday. Thought you might be in our parish but we don’t have large families and our pastor is 20 years younger than yours.

Please don’t get me started. That’s one of the things that has caused me to leave Mass in a bad mood in the past. I think I’ve overcome this problem through a lot of prayer and confession.
But boy, I just cannot tolerate this behaviour in front of our Saviour.
And, and, and, …
I’ll stop.

Parish hall during coffee would be MUCH more appropriate.


The priest at my parish used the birthday song during his homily today to prove some point about Holy Week. He actually had us sing it too. My priest is a good man but he likes to be humorous a little to much during mass for my liking. He likes to yuk it with the alter boys during mass too. I just keep telling myself don’t complain and be happy you have a priest. He is leaving after Easter for another assignment so I hope the new priest is a little more formal with mass. I guess I’m old school.

A friend over birthday cake also mentioned that technically it wasn’t a liturgical abuse. So I guess they get off on a technicality.

And they probably meant well. Perhaps my choice of the “bratty kid” simile was misleading. But it also clarifies why we call the parish priest, “Father.” The Father is supposed to be the leader of well-meaning but often oblivious parishioners. Unfortunately, too many priests it seems take a laissez-faire or democratic approach.

Too bad you have no big families in your parish. Are they illegal in Canada? I consider six to be medium sized. Maybe we’ll have more. But then we are getting old.

Thanks for your support. For some reason, this incident really bothered me.

The parish hall would be better for all kinds of things. The way I see it, any time there is a likelihood of applause, awards, and so forth, parish hall is the way to go. The responsibility is on the priest. People in this entertainment culture simply don’t know better and probably think that people like me are uptight. I’m not, but that’s often what they think.

This one throws me, and frankly I’m a bit skeptical. I can’t quite imagine the connection between Palm Sunday and birthdays. I’d be curious if there actually was a connection. Or was your priest nipping on the communion wine? (unconsecrated, of course)

dad_o_six;5038328 It seems to me the only appropriate day to sing Happy Birthday at Mass is Christmas Day

Nope. That’s liturgical abuse.

If I look around my parish, the few who could sign themselves “Father of 6” are in their 70s. Of families with parents 45 and under, I think the largest we have is 4 and that was due to the last addition being twins.

No, it’s not illegal, in fact a few provinces are paying bonuses for each child in an effort to increase their birthrate.

I know it sounds odd but he was using it to tell how we should feel during Holy Week. I’m not sure of the connection. It was very strange though. I hope our new priest is a lot more of a straight shooter and old school.

So…he corrected them. What’s the problem if they don’t do it again? What other things are you sick of? Have you spoken to your pastor about them, or are just complaining to us about them ;)?

A nearby parish not only sang Happy Birthday to a local priest who says Mass there on occasion, but the pastor also played some song from the 50’s over the PA with the priest’s name in it (Charlie). This stuff went on for at least 5 minutes. I went to the bathroom and hung out there until the music was over.

The mass is technically over once the deacon says “Go in peace, the mass is ended.” The recessional hymn, again technically, is not part of the mass and not mentioned in the GIRM. So if they sang Happy Birthday following the dismissal they are not violating any rubrics since the mass is ended.

These are not necessarily abuses, but the following is a list of the top ten things that drive me crazy about my parish.
10. Our youth group is conjoint with the Episcopalians.
9. We have three lectors at each mass. A few are excellent; most are incomprehensible.
8. We have three LEMS at each mass. Personal preference, but this practice can seem artificial to me.
7. We have three altar servers at each mass. Over half are girls, and I seriously doubt they are preparing for the possibility of one day being priests.
6. As a result of 9, 8, & 7, the entrance processional is as long as the aisle.
5. The choir loves the OCP. There are especially fond of, “Sing a New Song unto the Lord.”
4. The choir includes at least one distinctly Protestant hymn each week. Maybe my mind is slipping but I sometimes forget I’m at a Catholic Mass.
3. About once a month during the homily, the whole congregation applauds a new volunteer or award recipient. Each week, some of the children entertain the after-mass prayerful by ringing the bells on the altar.
2. I do believe that Father is authentic and gentle, but his homilies lack gusto. They neither teach dogma nor comment meaningful on anything that happened after 1973.

  1. This summer, our parish will close and join a larger–and for all my complaining actually much worse–new parish. In forty years, not a single man or woman from our parish(es) has taken holy orders.

In other words there are no abuses. edited]

We have a priest in residence at our parish who was a late vocation after the death of his wife. Before the final Blessing, he asks anyone with birthdays, anniversaries, etc. coming up to stand and be recognized. We usually wind up singing Happy Birthday. Drives me crazy, but I’ve learned to up with it.
While I’m at it, whenever we have a speaker up to announce a retreat or a new ministry or something like that, they ALWAYS get applauded, and I just don’t know why. Is that appropriate? What is the proper procedure to make announcements of this sort?

Does something have to rise to the level of liturgical abuse for it to be a problem? What about songs that Rome has specifically deemed inappropriate due to terminology? What about songs with specifically Protestant theology, such as Amazing Grace? Why is it okay to involve mumbling and too rapid and often mispronouncing readers when others are clear and accurate? I’m glad you edited your earlier name calling, but if you want to criticize, maybe you could start with my conclusion–that this all leads to a general atmosphere where the Catholic church ceases to inspire, dwindles, and merges with the other Christian denominations and/or generic spirituality.

Also, Zab, why would sing happy birthday to Jesus be a liturgical abuse? After all, the mass is supposed to be about Him, isn’t it?

Like you said, “Does something have to rise to the level of liturgical abuse for it to be a problem?” The song “Happy Birthday” is not sacred music.

It seems like everything happened the way it was supposed to happen. The parishoners wanted to do something nice for the priest, so they sang him Happy Birthday in church. He corrected them in a way that was both gracious and clear, so they understand that he’s thankful, but they won’t do it again.

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