Silence at designated times in the liturgy is very important in helping everyone to participate fully. Silence helps people to recollect themselves, to reflect, to meditate and to pray in their hearts. The following times are designated for this form of active participation - within the penitential rite, after the invitations to pray, at the conclusion of a reading, at the conclusion of the homily, and after communion.
A brief silence immediately before beginning the celebration is also commendable, to help the gathered assembly reflect on the actions they are about to carry out. This is best achieved by allowing time between the announcement of the liturgy's beginning and the commencement of the entrance song or antiphon.
Often a period of silence precedes a liturgical song. It is important that music ministers allow adequate time for the silence and not begin the song prematurely. This especially applies to the invocations of the penitential rite, the songs after the readings (responsorial psalm, Alleluia and Lenten acclamation), and the optional song of praise after communion.What the General Instruction of the Roman Missal (GIRM) Says
The Different Elements of the Mass
45. Sacred silence also, as part of the celebration, is to be observed at the designated times. Its purpose, however, depends on the time it occurs in each part of the celebration. Thus within the Act of Penitence and again after the invitation to pray, all recollect themselves; but at the conclusion of a reading or the Homily, all meditate briefly on what they have heard; then after Communion, they praise and pray to God in their hearts.
Even before the celebration itself, it is commendable that silence be observed in the church, in the sacristy, in the vesting room, and in adjacent areas, so that all may dispose themselves to carry out the sacred action in a devout and fitting manner.
The Liturgy of the Word
55. The main part of the Liturgy of the Word is made up of the readings from Sacred Scripture together with the chants occurring between them. The Homily, Profession of Faith, and Prayer of the Faithful, however, develop and conclude this part of the Mass. For in the readings, as expounded by the Homily, God speaks to his people, opening up to them the mystery of redemption and salvation, and offering them spiritual nourishment; and Christ himself is present in the midst of the faithful through his word. By their silence and singing the people make God’s word their own, and they also affirm their adherence to it by means of the Profession of Faith. Finally, having been nourished by it, they pour out their petitions in the Prayer of the Faithful for the needs of the entire Church and for the salvation of the whole world.
56. The Liturgy of the Word is to be celebrated in such a way as to promote meditation, and so
any sort of haste that hinders recollection must clearly be avoided. During the Liturgy of the
Word, it is also appropriate to include brief periods of silence, adapted to the gathered assembly, in which, at the prompting of the Holy Spirit, the word of God may be grasped by the heart and a
response through prayer may be prepared. It may be appropriate to observe such periods of
silence, for example, before the Liturgy of the Word itself begins, after the First and Second
Reading, and lastly at the conclusion of the Homily.
The Liturgy of the Eucharist
88. When the distribution of Communion is finished, as circumstances suggest, the priest and faithful spend some time praying privately. If desired, a Psalm or other canticle of praise or a hymn may also be sung by the entire congregation.
28. The liturgy of the word must be celebrated in a way that fosters meditation; clearly, any sort of haste that hinders reflectiveness must be avoided. The dialogue between God and his people taking place through the Holy Spirit demands short intervals of silence, suited to the assembly, as an opportunity to take the word of God to heart and to prepare a response to it in prayer.
Proper times for silence during the liturgy of the word are, for example, before this liturgy begins, after the first and the second reading, after the homily.
37. Even in Masses with children "silence should be observed at the designated times as part of the celebration" lest too great a place be given to external action. In their own way children are genuinely capable of reflection. They need some guidance, however, so that they will learn how, in keeping with the different moments of the Mass (for example, after the homily or after communion), to recollect themselves, meditate briefly, or praise God and pray to Him in their hearts.
Besides this, with even greater care than in Masses with adults, the liturgical texts should be proclaimed intelligibly and unhurriedly, with the necessary pauses.
Some General Norms
17. At the proper times, all should observe a reverent silence. Through it the faithful are not only not considered as extraneous or dumb spectators at the liturgical service, but are associated more intimately in the mystery that is being celebrated, thanks to that interior disposition which derives from the word of God that they have heard, from the songs and prayers that have been uttered, and from spiritual union with the priest in the parts that he says or sings himself.