DECEMBER 3, 2014
Liturgical dancing, and dancing in church
Holy Cross Church, Juhu, in the Archdiocese of Bombay on the occasion of the birthday of parish priest Fr. Lawrence Fernandes, 5th August 2014. Fr. Navin Lewis is the assistant parish priest.
DANCING DURING MASS
IS LITURGICAL ABUSE. AND SO IS APPLAUSE
Excerpts from The Spirit of the Liturgy, pp 198-199, by Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger
Dancing is not a form of expression for the Christian liturgy. In about the third century, there was an attempt in certain Gnostic-Docetic circles to introduce it into the liturgy. For these people, the Crucifixion was only an appearance. Before the Passion, Christ had abandoned the body that in any case he had never really assumed. Dancing could take the place of the liturgy of the Cross, because, after all, the Cross was only an appearance. The cultic dances of the different religions have different purposes–incantation, imitative magic, mystical ecstasy–none of which is compatible with the essential purpose of the liturgy of the “reasonable sacrifice”.
It is totally absurd to try to make the liturgy “attractive” by introducing dancing pantomimes
(wherever possible performed by professional dance troupes), which frequently (and rightly, from the professionals’ point of view) end with applause.
Wherever applause breaks out in the liturgy because of some human achievement, it is a sure sign that the essence of liturgy has totally disappeared and been replaced by a kind of religious entertainment. Such attractiveness fades quickly–it cannot compete in the market of leisure pursuits, incorporating as it increasingly does various forms of religious titillation. I myself have experienced the replacing of the penitential rite by a dance performance, which, needless to say, received a round of applause.
Could there be anything farther removed from true penitence?
Liturgy can only attract people when it looks, not at itself, but at God, when it allows him to enter and act. Then something truly unique happens, beyond competition, and people have a sense that more has taken place than a recreational activity. None of the Christian rites includes dancing.
St. John XXIII doesn’t like it when you clap in church. So STOP it! (VIDEO)
2 out of 23 responses
-The underlying point is that we need to restore reverence to our worship, and I fully agree with that sentiment. However, we can go overboard in our zeal to get there and I fear that we do this if we take Card. Ratzinger’s quotation out of context. The context was Card. Ratzinger’s opinion that Liturgical dance is inappropriate because it reduces the liturgy to a performance, “a kind of religious entertainment.” It is in this context that he states that the introduction of liturgical dance can lead to worldly outbursts of applause, such as performers would expect to get at a secular performance. The problem is not the applause itself, but rather its worldly nature. A couple of sentence later, Card. Ratzinger adds this phrase, which I think makes the sense of his criticism quite clear: “Liturgy can only attract people when it looks, not at itself, but at God.”
The inherent danger, deeply suggested by Card. Ratzinger’s phrase, of “liturgy looking at itself” is equally perpetrated by an absolute ban on applause as it is by liturgical dance. As Dr. Tracey Rowland argued at the 2013 Sacra Liturgia conference (and elsewhere), even Traddies can end up making the mistake of treating the Mass like a dramatic performance, to be critiqued and nitpicked as if it was a ballet recital, with undue emphasis on its aesthetic beauty.
I think a large dose of perspective is derived from the fact that in his discussion of liturgical dance, Card. Ratzinger even is flexible regarding what constitutes acceptable and unacceptable dance. He goes on to exempt from his criticisms those form of African liturgies accepted by the Church, which he says are not the kind of bad dancing that he disapproves of: they are “in fact a rhythmically ordered procession, very much in keeping with the dignity of the occasion. It provides an inner discipline and order for the various stages of the liturgy, bestowing on them beauty and, above all, making them worthy of God.” Ratzinger, The Spirit of the Liturgy. We would be well-advised to keep the same sane perspective and a healthy balance in mind about these related topics and thus avoid throwing out the baby with the bathwater.
–For clarification, it’s worth noting that Pope John XXIII was addressing the congregation in Italy at a Latin Rite Mass in the West; he was not attending an “Ethiopian rite form or Zairean form of the Roman liturgy.” Meaning: those of us in the West should not be applauding at a Latin rite Mass according to John XXIII and Benedict XVI. Nor should we be dancing.
In 1975*, the Vatican’s Congregation for the Discipline of the Sacraments and Divine Worship (CDSDW) issued “Dance in the Liturgy” in which it prohibited dance during liturgies in the West:
“The same criterion and judgment cannot be applied in the western culture. Here dancing is tied with love, with diversion, with profaneness, with unbridling of the senses. . . . For that reason it cannot be introduced into liturgical celebrations of any kind whatever: That would be to inject into the liturgy one of the most desacralized and desacralizing elements, and so it would be equivalent to creating an atmosphere of profaneness which would easily recall to those present and to the participants in the celebration worldly places and situations.”
In another Instruction from the CDSDW in 1994:
“Among some peoples, singing is instinctively accompanied by hand-clapping, rhythmic swaying, and dance movements on the part of the participants. Such forms of external expression can have a place in the liturgical actions of these peoples on condition that they are always the expression of true communal prayer of adoration, praise, offering and supplication, and not simply a performance. (Instruction on Inculturation and the Roman Liturgy, 42; italics added)”
Dance in the Liturgy
*CONGREGATION FOR THE SACRAMENTS AND DIVINE WORSHIP
The following essay appeared in “Notitiae” 11 (1975) 202-205, and is labeled as a “qualified and authoritative sketch.” It is the mind of the Congregation for the Sacraments and Divine Worship (presently called Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments) that this article is to be considered “an authoritative point of reference for every discussion on the matter.” Therefore, it is commended for study by diocesan liturgical commissions and offices of worship.
(This English translation first appeared in The Canon Law Digest, Vol. VIII, pp. 78-82).
THE RELIGIOUS DANCE, AN EXPRESSION OF SPIRITUAL JOY
The dance can be an art: a synthesis of the measured arts (music and poetry) and the spatial arts (architecture, sculpture, painting).
As an art which, by means of the body, expresses human feelings, the dance is especially adapted to signify joy.
Thus, among the mystics, we find intervals of dancing as an expression of the fullness of their love of God. Recall the cases of St. Theresa of Avila, St. Philip Neri, St. Gerard Majella. When the Angelic Doctor wished to represent paradise, he represented it as a dance executed by angels and saints.
The dance can turn into prayer which expresses itself with a movement which engages the whole being, soul and body. Generally, when the spirit raises itself to God in prayer, it also involves the body.
One can speak of the prayer of the body. This can express its praise, it petition with movements, just as is said of the stars which by their evolution praise their Creator (cf. Baruch 3:34).
Various examples of this type of prayer are had in the Old Testament.
This holds true especially for primitive peoples. They express their religious sentiment with rhythmic movements.
Among them, when there is a question of worship, the spoken word becomes a chant, and the gesture of going or walking towards the divinity transforms itself into a dance step.
Among the Fathers and ecclesiastical writers and in the conciliar texts there is mention of dancing, an evaluation of it, a comment on the biblical text in which there is an allusion to the dance; more frequently there is a condemnation of profane dances and the disorders to which the dances give rise.
In liturgical texts, there are at times allusions to the dance of the angels and of the elect in paradise (cf. “Among the lilies thou dost feed, surrounded by dancing groups of virgins”) in order to express the “joy and the “jubilation” which will characterize eternity.
Dancing and Worship
The dance has never been made an integral part of the official worship of the Latin Church.
If local churches have accepted the dance, sometimes even in the church building, that was on the occasion of feasts in order to manifest sentiments of joy and devotion.
But that always took place outside of liturgical services.
Conciliar decisions have often condemned the religious dance because it conduces little to worship and because it could degenerate into disorders.
Actually, in favor of dance in the liturgy, an argument could be drawn from the passage of the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, Sacrosanctum Concilium, in which are given the norms for adaptation of the liturgy to the character and the traditions of the various peoples:
“In matters which do not affect the faith or the well-being of an entire community, the Church does not wish, even in the Liturgy, to impose a rigid uniformity; on the contrary, she respects and fosters the genius and talents of various races and people. Whatever in their way of life is not indissolubly bound up with superstition and error, she looks upon with benevolence and if possible keeps it intact, and sometimes even admits it into the Liturgy provided it accords with the genuine and authentic liturgical spirit.”
Theoretically, it could be deduced from that passage that certain forms of dancing and certain dance patterns could be introduced into Catholic worship.
Nevertheless, two conditions could not be prescinded from.
The first: to the extent in which the body is a reflection of the soul, dancing, with all its manifestations, would have to express sentiments of faith and adoration in order to become a prayer.
The second condition: just as all the gestures and movements found in the liturgy are regulated by the competent ecclesiastical authority, so also dancing as a gesture would have to be under its discipline.
Concretely: there are cultures in which this is possible insofar as dancing is still reflective of religious values and becomes a clear manifestation of them. Such is the case of the Ethiopians. In their culture, even today, there is the religious ritualized dance, clearly distinct from the marital dance and from the amorous dance. The ritual dance is performed by priests and Levites before beginning a ceremony and in the open are in front of the church. The dance accompanies the chanting of psalms during the procession. When the procession enters the church, then the chanting of the psalms is carried out with and accompanied by bodily movement.
The same thing is found in the Syriac liturgy by means of chanting of psalms.
In the Byzantine Liturgy, there is an extremely simplified dance on the occasion of a wedding when the crowned spouses make a circular revolution around the lectern together with the celebrant.
Such is the case of the Israelites: in the synagogue their prayer is accompanied by a continuous movement to recall the precept from tradition: “When you pray, do so with all your heart, and all your bones.” And for primitive peoples the same observation can be made.
However, the same criterion and judgment cannot be applied in the western culture.
Here dancing is tied with love, with diversion, with profaneness, with unbridling of the senses: such dancing, in general, is not pure.
For that reason it cannot be introduced into liturgical celebrations of any kind whatever: that would be to inject into the liturgy one of the most desacralized and desacralizing elements; and so it would be equivalent to creating an atmosphere of profaneness which would easily recall to those present and to the participants in the celebration worldly places and situations.
Neither can acceptance be had of the proposal to introduce into the liturgy the so-called artistic ballet  because there would be presentation here also of a spectacle at which one would assist, while in the liturgy one of the norms from which one cannot prescind is that of participation.
Therefore, there is a great difference in cultures: what is well received in one culture cannot be taken on by another culture.
The traditional reserve of the seriousness of religious worship, and of the Latin worship in particular, must never be forgotten.
If the proposal of the religious dance in the West is really to be made welcome, care will have to be taken that in its regard a place be found outside of the liturgy, in assembly areas which are not strictly liturgical. Moreover, the priests must always be excluded from the dance.
We can recall how much was derived from the presence of the Samoans at Rome for the missionary festival of 1971. At the end of the Mass, they carried out their dance in St. Peter’s square: and all were joyful.
 Vatican Council II, Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, no. 37; C.L.D., 6, p. 44.
 In favor of the insertion of artistic dancing into the liturgy, reference can also be made to the text of Gaudium et Spes, nn. 53, 57, 58. However, the cited texts speak of manifestation of culture in general, and of art which elevates with the true and beautiful. They do not speak of dancing in a specific manner. Dancing also can be an art. Nonetheless, it cannot be said that the conciliar Fathers, when they were speaking of art in the Council, had “in view” also the reality of dancing.
N. 62 of the said constitution, Gaudium et Spes, can certainly not be appealed to in this instance. When such number speaks of the artistic forms and of their importance in the life of the Church, it intends to make reference to the artistic forms as relative to the sacred furnishings. The counterproof stands in the texts cited in the footnote: article 123 of the Constitution on the Liturgy and the allocution of Paul VI to the artists at Rome in 1964 (C.L.D., 6, pp. 64 and 735 respectively).
NATIONAL CONFERENCE OF CATHOLIC BISHOPS (BISHOPS’ COMMITTEE ON THE LITURGY) NEWSLETTER. APRIL/MAY 1982.
From these directives, from the National Conference of Catholic Bishops, all dancing, (ballet, children’s gesture as dancing, the clown liturgy) are not permitted to be “introduced into liturgical celebrations of any kind whatever.”
Facts on the Sacred Liturgy
11. Re: “liturgical dance”. On January 8, 1982, in answer to a question regarding liturgical dance, the Sacred Congregation for the Sacraments and Divine Worship referred to an article in its official journal, Notitiae, XI, 1975, pp. 202-205. “In the Byzantine Liturgy, there is a very simple dance [procession] on the occasion of a wedding, when the crowned newly married couple goes around the lectern with the celebrant…However, the same criterion and approach cannot be applied to Western culture. Here, the dance is connected with love, with amusement, with profanity, to rouse the senses, such a dance, usually, is not pure. Hence it is not possible to introduce something of that sort in the liturgical celebrations: it would mean to bring into the liturgy one of the most desacralized and desacralizing elements; and this would be seen as introducing an atmosphere of profanity, which would easily suggest to those present worldly places and profane situations. Nor is it acceptable to introduce into the liturgy the so-called artistic ballet because it would reduce the liturgy to mere entertainment… If it were the case that the suggestion of liturgical dance in the West should be accepted, there would arise the obligation that the dances should take place outside the Liturgy
at a time and place where they are not considered liturgical celebrations.
And from such dance priests should always be excluded.”
The Ten Most Common Liturgical Abuses
and Why They’re Wrong
By Kevin Orlin Johnson
2. Interrupting the Mass.
The priest has no more right to interrupt the Mass from the sanctuary than you have to interrupt it from the pews.
At the conclusion of Mass the lector or priest may make general announcements for the information of the parish; that’s specified in the Order. But no one may stop the Mass to make announcements, give financial reports, or make pleas for funds (Inter Oecumenici; Inaestimabile Donum). No one may stop the Mass for extra homilies (CSDW, Liturgicae Instaurationes 2(a)) and certainly not for other activities that are themselves unlawful, like skits or “liturgical dance.”
9. Performing liturgical dance.
Introducing dance into the liturgy in the United States would be to add “one of the most desacralized and desacralizing elements” leading to “an atmosphere of profanity, which would easily suggest to those present worldly places and profane situations. Nor is it acceptable to introduce into the liturgy the so-called artistic ballet because it would reduce the liturgy to mere entertainment” (Notitiae 11  202-205).
Liturgical Dance and Inculturation
By Most Rev. Peter John Elliott, Auxiliary Bishop of Melbourne, Australia
Liturgical dance during Mass
Is liturgical dancing permitted during Mass?
Answer: This short question opens the whole problem of appropriate inculturation and there can be no brief answer to it. The best approach would be to make a clear distinction between liturgical dancing in the West and religious dancing in other cultures in the wider world.
a) Let us begin in the West. In 1975 there was a negative reply to your question from the then Sacred Congregation for the Sacraments and Divine Worship, Dance in the Liturgy. The profane and erotic elements in dancing in the West were cited and the distracting nature of this dancing and its worldly associations were adduced as a strong reason against it.
This was a reaction against the fad of liturgical dancing in the 1970s which continued in some places during the 1980s. I well recall various attempts at liturgical dancing in those years. Some were incongruous, even embarrassing, for example, when a gowned youth was surrounded by swaying damsels just after Holy Communion and at the jubilee Mass of a very embarrassed elderly Bishop. But I have also seen this dancing carried out well; for example, children trained to dance reverently and wave palms in a Palm Sunday procession. One of France’s well-known liturgists promoted a skilled professional dancer who obviously prayed through her every gesture and movement. These last examples did not take place during Mass.
But the issue is neither skill nor aesthetic quality. Something has “gone wrong” here, and this makes many people feel uncomfortable when they see liturgical dancing. So we have to ask deeper questions that go beyond whether this is permitted according to liturgical law.
In Western society we should ask an initial question: What is liturgical dancing meant to convey? Our habit of watching someone dance, our ballet tradition, seems to cause problems once dancing enters worship. The liturgical dance becomes a spectacle. Is this meant to teach us, to inspire us or to entertain us? When it ends with applause it has obviously entertained us. It may have been done well, or, as I also recall, it may have involved the children of admiring mothers! But that applause shows that it is not liturgical. This presentation has become a form of religious ballet, a show, an item on the program. This dancing may find a legitimate place in religious theater, such as a medieval mystery play, but
not within the
action of holy Mass.
Western Context of Liturgical Dance
We may therefore ask a more basic question: What is liturgical dancing meant to do?
Here we need to take account of the modern crisis of Christian worship, which largely revolves around a disastrous overstatement of the instructional dimension of worship.
This problem still plagues us — words and more words, the altar turned into a pulpit, the personality cult of the “presider,” trite songs and rationed silence. Therefore it is interesting, and not surprising, that liturgical dancing spread in the West at the very time when ceremonial and ritual actions were being rejected and when language came to dominate Catholic worship.
Here I would honor the intentions of some who promoted liturgical dancing in the unfortunate years of “experimentation” and desacralization. They at least were trying to resacralize the liturgy by giving it back some sense of movement and ceremony. They knew that ceremonial is a specific religious spectacle where watching can be active participation. I believe they were trying to fill the vacuum left by stripped sanctuaries and Masses reduced to a talk show. One only had to listen to the rationale they presented to justify their dancing. Some described the movements of the old High Mass as a “solemn holy dance,” and there is some wisdom in that unusual perception. But when the argument shifted to the “dancing altar boys of Seville” or the swaying Shakers, this seemed to be appealing to obscure exceptions to set up a general rule.
Religious dance vs. Western liturgical dance
Putting it simply, religious dance is not a normal part of Western culture and thus
“liturgical dancing” can find no place in the celebration of holy Mass and the sacraments. This is not to exclude it absolutely from religious experience. In a reverent and skilled form, it may be appropriate in a paraliturgy, in religious theater and at grand outdoor events, such as a secondary event in Eucharistic congresses. But within the Eucharistic celebration, the ceremonial itself, the gestures, reverences and processions already there, are enough to make up our sacred “dance before the Lord.”
When we turn to the wider Church, beyond the West, we find cultures where traditions of religious dance pre-date evangelization. This is where dancing in worship seems “natural”; hence we should cease calling it “liturgical dancing.” It is religious dancing. In these countries in recent decades Christian religious dancing or movement such as swaying, rhythmic clapping, etc., has become well established and it is regulated by the competent authorities, the local Ordinary and the Episcopal conference. But I would underline
a major difference between this appropriate inculturation and what happened in the West. This is really religious dance and the people often spontaneously take part in it.
I was particularly impressed by participatory religious dancing at the procession of gifts during some liturgies celebrated in Kenya and by the rhythmic movements of the people during the procession of the gifts in Ghana—a procession involving the whole congregation.
This was a participatory activity, not an entertaining spectacle or performance, with self-conscious overtone. This activity does not come under most of the strictures of the 1975 ruling from the Sacred Congregation for Divine Worship and the Sacraments.
Therefore, in 1994 in the Instruction on Inculturation and the Roman Liturgy, from the same Congregation, we find that dancing may be incorporated into the liturgy where dance is an inherent part of the culture of the people and is not simply a performance. This activity may even be promoted in places where dancing has a religious meaning compatible with Christianity. This cultural context accounts for the positive approach various Episcopal conferences have taken to the question.
Caution on Religious dance
But the same conferences and other authorities have pointed out that even in traditional cultures a blanket approval for all forms of dance during worship must be avoided. Some dances and gestures from pre-Christian traditions relate to cults or worship of false gods, even demons, not to mention the erotic overtones of some dances that would also exclude them from Catholic worship. Borrowing from another religious culture, for example Hinduism, may also raise problems of catechetical confusion or even syncretism.
But when actions and gestures have wider cultural meanings, the Church can sometimes appropriate them, just as she has done over the two millennia of her glorious history.
Therefore, in answer to this simple question, liturgical dancing should not take place during Mass in Western societies, where dancing in this context is not part of the culture. However Christian religious dance may be appropriate, even praiseworthy, in those cultures where it is part of the cultural patrimony and where it is regulated by the Ordinary and the Episcopal conference.
The Evangelization Station, P.O. Box 267, Angels Camp, California, 95222, USA Telephone: 209-728-5598
All that follows is generally in chronological order -Michael
Catholics United for the Faith, 1997
Is liturgical dance permitted at Mass and other liturgical celebrations in western culture?
Liturgical dancing is not appropriate in western culture, according to statements made by the Vatican in 1975 and 1994.
In Dance in the Liturgy (1975), the Congregation for the Sacraments and Divine Worship specifically provided that liturgical dancing is not appropriate in western countries. In Instruction on the Roman Liturgy and Inculturation (1994), a document that is universally binding in the Church, the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments did not contradict the 1975 statement.
DISCUSSION: In 1975, the Vatican Congregation for the Sacraments and Divine Worship issued Dance in the Liturgy, a document which by its own terms should be considered as “an authoritative point of reference for every discussion on the matter.” While not liturgical law, it is still the only statement that has come from the Holy See specifically addressing liturgical dance in western culture. This document affirms that, in some cultures, dance authentically expresses religious values and therefore could be allowed in the liturgy; but it stated that:
The same criterion and judgment cannot be applied in western culture. Here dancing is tied with love, with diversion, with profaneness, with unbridling of the senses: Such dancing, in general, is not pure. For that reason, it cannot be introduced into liturgical celebrations of any kind whatever: That would be to inject into the liturgy one of the most desacralized and desacralizing elements; and so it would be equivalent to creating an atmosphere of profaneness which would easily recall to those present and to the participants in the celebration worldly places and situations.
Concerning allegedly artistic ballet movements, the 1975 document provides:
Neither can acceptance be had of the proposal to introduce into the liturgy the so-called artistic ballet because there would be presentation here also of a spectacle at which [only] one would assist, while in the liturgy one of the norms from which one cannot prescind is that of participation [by all].
Concerning the possibility of religious dance in the West, the 1975 Vatican document concluded:
If the proposal of the religious dance in the West is really to be made welcome, care will have to be taken that in its regard a place be found outside of the liturgy, in assembly areas which are not strictly liturgical. Moreover, the priest must always be excluded from the dance (emphasis original; see Bishops’ Committee on the Liturgy Newsletter, Vol. 18 (April/May 1982), 13-16; cf. Canon Law Digest, Vol. VIII, 78-82).
As noted, this statement was not contradicted by the universally binding 1994 Vatican document, which reaffirmed existing norms in the West.
Further inquiries in this matter can be directed to CUF, your diocesan liturgy office, or, if necessary, the Secretariat for the Liturgy, United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, 3211 4th St., N.E., Washington, D.C. 20017-1194.
Dance, but not in the Liturgy, says Jesuit dancer-teacher
By David Aaron Murray, Adoremus Bulletin Online Edition – Vol. VI, No. 1,
As one might expect from someone who has devoted the past twenty years of his life to performing and teaching dance, Father Robert VerEecke, SJ, is fervent about its benefits. With a Master’s degree in Dance and Liturgy from Lesley College, and another in Divinity from the Weston Jesuit School of Theology, the priest serves as Artistic Director of the Boston Liturgical Dance Ensemble at Boston College, Artist in Residence at the same institution, and pastor of St. Francis Xavier Church in Boston.
His 1984 book Dance in Christian Worship is due to be re-released this month by Oregon Catholic Press.
In a telephone interview with the Adoremus Bulletin, Father VerEecke admitted that there is a distinction between sacred dance and liturgical dance properly speaking, and he even insists that “I try to find forms outside the liturgy” with which to pray in dance. “I’m a realist about [incorporating dance into the liturgy]” he says, and adds, “After all, we [Catholics] are not Shakers”, referring to a Protestant sect once known for ecstatic dancing. He also volunteers that some promoters of liturgical dance have more good intentions than discretion, prudence or training.
In stating that he avoids dancing during the liturgy itself, Father VerEecke seems to be observing a key requirement of “Dance in the Liturgy”, the 1975 document released by the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments (and published in English translation in 1982). But the document also says that “a place for dance must be found outside of the liturgy, in assembly areas which are not strictly liturgical” — a stricture that would seem to preclude, for instance, dancing in front of the altar.
But Father VerEecke has nothing positive to say about the document*, which he finds loaded with “cultural bias”. “I agree with the document that dance has been associated in the West with entertainment and courtship, but the writer ignores the West’s many folk traditions”, he said. *Read the following Adoremus article and you’ll understand the reason why.
These folk dances presumably overcome the objection that Father VerEecke shares with the document that dance in the liturgy should not be a performance watched by spectators.
But he thinks that dance is now a part of the culture in ways that it wasn’t earlier. “I work with hundreds of young people; for a lot of them, [sacred dance] has been an avenue to God”. Getting dance into the actual liturgy, he said, is not as important as getting young people to “have a positive connection between the body, movement and spirit” rather than just “gyrating in a disco on Friday nights”.
As an example of religious dance’s acceptance, VerEecke said that a dance at the Archdiocese of Boston’s “kickoff event” at Foxboro Stadium, featuring a contemporary dance piece performed to the music of the Christian rock group Jars of Clay, “was very well-received by Cardinal Law”.
Who’s dancing in church, and why?
Dancers performed before the Pope during his visit to St. Louis in January 1999. Does that mean that “liturgical dance” is O.K.?
By David Aaron Murray, Adoremus Bulletin Online Edition – Vol. VI, No. 1,
“[The Dionysian cult expresses] the deep desire of the individual to be freed from the fetters of its individuality, to immerse itself in the stream of universal life, to lose its identity, to be absorbed in the whole of nature; the same desire as expressed in the verses of the Persian poet Mualama Jalaluddin Rumi: ‘He that knows the power of the dance dwells in God’…. In the delirious whirl of the dance and of the orgiastic rites, our own finite and limited Self disappears. The Self, the ‘dark despot’ as it is called by Rumi, dies; the God is born.” – Ernst Cassirer, The Myth of the State. Yale UP, 1946.
During his January 1999 visit to St. Louis, the pope smiled and nodded as two circles of women bearing candles swirled on the stage in front of him, one made up of schoolgirls in leotards and flowing robes, the other, nuns in habits.
So “liturgical dance” must be OK right?
Actually, the “candle dance” took place before a prayer service at the Youth Rally, not at a Liturgy, so the dance was not precisely “liturgical”.
The organizers evidently observed a 1975 Vatican document usually known as “Dance in the Liturgy”, issued by the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments. It was first published in English in the April/May 1982 Bishops’ Committee on the Liturgy newsletter (at the Vatican’s request).
The BCL introduction to the document says that it is to be considered “an authoritative point of reference for every discussion on the matter” of liturgical dance. Despite its generally positive comments about “religious” dance in some cultures, it is unequivocal about the place of dance in Christian worship:
“If the proposal of the religious dance in the West is really to be made welcome, care will have to be taken that in its regard a place be found outside of the Liturgy, in assembly areas which are not strictly liturgical.” (Emphasis added) 1
However, the distinction between liturgical and non-liturgical sacred dance may have been lost on the thousands of observers at the Youth Rally. Such performances probably do much to legitimize the whole idea of “liturgical dance”. The terms “sacred dance”, “religious dance”, and “liturgical dance” are often used interchangeably by their promoters, although they do not mean the same thing.
As a pop-culture phenomenon, “liturgical dance” seems entrenched. Hundreds of “liturgical dance” groups in all denominations of Christianity, as well as in other faiths, have flourished in the nineties. A recent web search of the term “liturgical dance” yielded 657 web sites. Courses, and even degrees, in the subject are offered at universities.
A 40-year-old group called the Sacred Dance Guild serves as an inter-denominational clearing-house, offering links to dance groups of all faiths. A Lutheran dance site proclaims, “Liturgical Dance is [sic] an ancient worship element often used by the early Christians as part of their worship services”. A site put up by a Baptist dance coordinator insists that “To worship God in dance is biblical. The Bible commends it (Psalms 149:3; 150:4). Scripture gives many references to the use of dance as a form of joyous celebration and of reverent worship”. One Jewish sacred dance site even offers something called “dance midrash”, by which the meanings “in between” lines of Scripture are “explored” in dance.
Most of these sites contain articles defending liturgical or sacred dance. These often assert that sacred or liturgical dance is necessary to counteract the negative repression of the body in Christian or Western culture. Some proclaim that dance in the Christian liturgy was widely practiced in an ideal earlier period in the ancient world, or the early Middle Ages, or before Trent (take your pick). The villains who squashed all this creativity usually turn out to be some combination of the Council of Trent, the pope, and/or the Protestant Reformers.
The Encyclopedia Britannica offers slightly contradictory testimony. One of its two entries on the topic flatly proclaims that “Liturgical dancing, widely spread in pagan cults, was not practiced in the early Church; vestigial remnants of this ancient practice, however, have been admitted in liturgical processionals.”2
The Encyclopedia’s other entry, however, says that
“[This] attitude was not completely dominant and some leaders felt that sober and decent dances could play an important role in religious worship. In the 4th century Saint Basil asked, ‘Could there be anything more blessed than to imitate on earth the ring-dance of the angels?’
Processional, circle, and line dances were included in many church services and can still be seen in some services in Toledo and Seville, Spain.”3
Catholic presence in “sacred dance”
Some Catholics are enthusiastic participants in the ecumenical world of sacred dance. Father Robert VerEecke, SJ has directed the Boston Liturgical Dance Ensemble for the past twenty years, and serves as chaplain and Jesuit Artist in Residence at Boston College, as well as pastor of Saint Francis Xavier Church in Boston. (See interview with Father VerEecke.)
Father VerEecke‘s specialty is dance he says is based on the Ignatian Spiritual Exercises, to “explore the power of dance to communicate the ‘interior movement of the Spirit’“. Father VerEecke regularly takes part in dance events sponsored by the Sacred Dance Guild, where he shares the bill with dancers such as Preeti Vasudevan, a Hindu dancer whose presentation ends with “learning about one of our main Hindu gods and the dances that surround him and the country of India”.4 [Visit
to understand what Fr. VerEecke’s got himself into]
“Liturgical” dance never part of Latin-rite tradition
The CDW document begins by taking due note of positive references to dance as an expression of joy in the Bible and the writings of saints: “among the mystics, we find intervals of dancing as an expression of the fullness of their love of God … [t]he dance can turn into prayer which expresses itself with a movement which engages the whole being, soul and body. Generally, when the spirit raises itself to God in prayer, it also involved the body”.5
However, “Dance in the Liturgy” stresses that “the dance has never been made an integral part of the official worship of the Latin Church” (emphasis added). Although folk dances often became part of feast days in the past, all such events “always took place outside of liturgical services”. None was officially sanctioned by church authorities, even in reported cases in past centuries in which bishops may have taken part in quasi-liturgical folk dances.
In other words, for Latin-rite Catholics there neither is, nor ever has been, any such thing as legitimate “liturgical” dance that is, dance sanctioned as part of the Liturgy. The phrase “liturgical dance” should be avoided, as it tends to legitimize the concept.
A question of “inculturation”?
“Dance in the Liturgy” squarely faces the question of whether certain provisions of Sacrosanctum Concilium might be used to justify liturgical dance. The relevant passage reads:
In matters which do not affect the faith or the well-being of an entire community, the Church does not wish, even in the Liturgy, to impose a rigid uniformity; on the contrary, she respects and fosters the genius and talents of various races and peoples. Whatever in their way of life is not indissolubly bound up with superstition and error, she looks upon with benevolence and if possible keeps it intact, and sometimes even admits it into the Liturgy provided it accords with the genuine and authentic liturgical spirit.6
The document gives several examples of traditional cultures in which “dancing is still reflective of religious values and becomes a clear manifestation of them”. These include Ethiopian religious dance, performed by “priests and Levites”; a simple dance performed by bride, groom and celebrant in Byzantine wedding liturgies; and the movements accompanying prayer in some forms of Judaism.
Although “Dance in the Liturgy” does not mention African cultures other than the Ethiopian, dance is in fact widely incorporated into Catholic liturgies all over the African continent. Dancers from Africa have performed before the Holy Father in Rome. Reporting from Rome on the 1994 African Synod for America magazine, Jesuit father Thomas Reese**, a senior fellow at the Woodstock Theological Center, exulted over the dancing:
Saint Peter’s re-echoed with the sound of tam-tams and xylophones, of castanets and gongs, and of songs and prayers in Kinyarwanda, Yoruba, Mendumba, Lingala, Swahili, Akan, Igbo, Hausa, Malagasy, Kikuyu, Bwamu, Arabic, Kikongo, Bassa, and more… **Yet another liberal Jesuit. Benedict XVI removed him from America
ten days after his election.
Tourists who wandered in expecting a typical papal Mass stood with mouths agape as young men and women danced down the center aisle at the presentation of gifts. And even crusty old cardinals admitted that this joyful celebration was reverent and prayerful. Yes, the African synod was good for Africa and good for the universal Church.7
“The most desacralized and desacralizing elements”
Although dance in Africa and perhaps a few other cultures has always been a part of sacred worship, its meaning is completely different from that of Western dance. Dance in Africa is not individualistic performance, but traditional and communal, stemming from a pre-Christian belief in getting in touch with ancestors. The concept of dance as “self-expression” is Western (and late-Western at that).
Those passages in “Dance in the Liturgy” that speak approvingly of liturgical dance are plainly directed at traditional cultures. The document cannot be seen as advocating the introduction of liturgical dancing in cultures where it is an innovation.
This point is made forcefully by the document itself, when it sharply contrasts the situation in the West with these traditional cultures:
However, the same criterion and judgment cannot be applied in the Western culture. Here dancing is tied with love, with diversion, with profaneness, with unbridling of the senses: such dancing, in general, is not pure. For that reason, it cannot be introduced into liturgical celebrations of any kind whatever: that would be to inject into liturgical celebrations the most desacralized and desacralizing elements; and so it would be equivalent to creating an atmosphere of profaneness which would easily recall to those present and to the participants in the celebration worldly places and situations.8
In response to the argument that “it could be deduced from [Sacrosanctum Concilium] that certain forms of dancing and certain dance patterns could be introduced into Catholic worship”, the document insists that:
two conditions could not be prescinded from. The first: to the extent in which the body is a reflection of the soul, dancing, with all its manifestations, would have to express sentiments of faith and adoration in order to become a prayer. The second condition: just as all the gestures and movements found in the Liturgy are regulated by the competent ecclesiastical authority, so also dancing as a gesture would have to be under its discipline.9
Debate over meaning, authority
The first of these conditions isn’t, in practice, much of a check against promoters of liturgical dance; it merely leads to endless and inconclusive debate about what really expresses “sentiments of faith and adoration”. Indeed, such a view is believed by some to be supported by a paragraph in the 1994 document, Instruction on Inculturation and the Roman Liturgy, released by the CDW. Paragraph 42, which addresses permissible adaptations in the Liturgy, says
Among some peoples, singing is instinctively accompanied by hand clapping, rhythmic swaying and dance movement on the part of the participants. Such forms of external expression can have a place in the liturgical actions of these peoples on condition that they are always the expression of true communal prayer of adoration, praise, offering and supplication, and not simply a performance.10
Although the word “dance” is not used here, the passage is interpreted by some as giving permission for liturgical dance as long as it expresses “adoration, praise”, etc. Some replies to questioners from diocesan offices of worship clearly reflect this thinking. For example, a 1994 letter from the Chicago Archdiocesan Office of Worship responded to a complaint which cited “Dance in the Liturgy” by claiming that Notitiae, the official publication of the CDW where the document had been published, “is not a legal document. While the Congregation may offer its interpretation of Church norms in Notitiae, it is not as such a legal or credal instrument” (emphasis added).
The Chicago letter gave its own “interpretation” to the CDW instruction by saying that “the question of dance being addressed” by “Dance in the Liturgy” is merely the kind of dance one would find in a ballroom or nightclub. It’s unlikely that the Congregation intended to comment on movement and gesture in Liturgy. After all, isn’t the procession really a form of dance, as it is ordered movement with music? 11
Here we see the sliding scale in interpreting Vatican documents used by some liturgists.
The strong admonitions against liturgical dance in “Dance in the Liturgy” are dismissed as not binding, while the merest suggestion of approval in the “Inculturation” document is taken as carte blanche for initiating this innovation.
Hula liturgies in Honolulu
The issue of dance in Catholic Liturgy came to a head in Hawaii two years ago. The Church in Hawaii seems to have tolerated dance in Liturgy for some time. A January 9, 1999 story on NandoNet
(NandoNet is no longer online), an electronic news service, claimed that:
The dance [hula] has now been performed during all types of church services, including First Communion, weddings and funerals, by both men and women. It was even performed at [Bishop Francis X.] DiLorenzo’s installation as bishop in 1994.12
A February 1998 article in the Honolulu Star-Bulletin described a meeting of the 40-year-old Sacred Dance Guild at Chaminade University, a Catholic college in Hawaii. The article featured Brazilian santeria dancers explaining how dancers seek to get in touch with orishas (pagan gods), and an “Afro-Caribbean” dancer explaining, “People dance to get themselves into a trance. With movement and drumming, you can connect with that part of the goddess in yourself. That is my connection, finding the places where we resonate with those deities. Part of the quest is self-realization.”
One participant in this New Age smorgasbord, according to the article, was Marianist Brother Dennis Schmitz, who said that “we have some form of liturgical movement every week” at the Sunday Mass at the campus chapel. The article added that “the Rev. Mario Pariante, St. Louis High School President, participates.”12
In 1997, however, a Maui woman complained to her bishop, and then to the Vatican, when she was offended by a hula performance during Mass, apparently a regular occurrence.
The complaint resulted in a ruling from the CDW reiterating the ban on dance in Liturgy. The incident received sensationalized coverage from the Hawaiian press, which spun it as an example of authoritarian Rome clamping down on local spiritual traditions. Articles likened the Vatican’s ban on dance to the suppression of Hawaiian native traditions by Yankee missionaries in the 1820s.
Is it “dance” or “sacred gesture”?
After Honolulu Bishop Francis DiLorenzo met with CDW officials during his regular ad limina visit in 1998, the Honolulu Star-Bulletin proclaimed that Bishop DiLorenzo “is allowing hula and other native Hawaiian ‘sacred gestures’ to be performed during Roman Catholic services.”
Did the CDW in fact reverse its ruling or allow an exception? The Hawaiian press thought so.
The Honolulu Advertiser proclaimed on December 29 that “the church is promoting openness and inclusiveness in the best tradition of the Islands. Accommodation rather than fiat has thankfully carried the day.”13
The Associated Press’s headline of January 9, 1999 read “Vatican eases stance on native Hawaiians’ sacred gesture during Mass”. The accompanying story said that Bishop DiLorenzo’s new guidelines were issued “with the Vatican’s approval”.14 “Catholic pastors can allow hula as prayer” read the headline in the December 22 edition of the Honolulu Star-Bulletin.15
But the carefully worded statements offered by Bishop DiLorenzo and his spokesmen by no means support such an unqualified conclusion. The bishop in fact reiterated the CDW’s ban on dance, telling the Star-Bulletin that the Congregation asked the diocese to abide by current liturgical law, which bans dance in the liturgy in accordance with the 1975 document. Sister Mary Lange, speaking for the diocese’s Office of Worship in June 1998, told parish priests that, according to the Vatican instruction, “there should be no dance of any kind in the churches of the Diocese of Honolulu.”16
Bishop DiLorenzo did attempt to distinguish between banned “dance” and permissible “sacred gesture”, as other bishops have done. But it is not always clear what this means. For example, Bishop Daniel Walsh of Las Vegas, responding to a parishioner’s question, acknowledged that he has “allowed a certain amount of dancing that expresses reverence to God and acceptance of our offering to Him. That is not a secular dance, but rather religiously inspired dance. I do not think that it shows any disrespect of the Lord or for the Eucharist when it is done with reverence and devotion.”17
Patrick Downes, editor of the Honolulu diocesan paper, The Catholic Herald, and a spokesman for the diocese, avoided saying outright that the Vatican had revoked its ban. According to one press account, he said that “Prayer would be praise, petition, thanksgiving, penitence. If these cultural sacred gestures express these things properly and respectfully, the bishop is allowing it in worship in his jurisdiction.”18
To another reporter, Downes denied that there had been any official ban on hula dancing at Mass, and described the Vatican directive as “not an official pronouncement; it’s more advice on how to proceed.”19
The entire exchange between the diocese of Honolulu and the Vatican was presented in the media in an ambiguous way that perpetuates confusion. Hula advocates can promote hula dancing as “sacred gesture”, claiming official sanction. But if questioned, the diocese can claim that it was misunderstood, and that “liturgical dance” as such was not permitted.
Clearer lines needed
What makes the issue of liturgical dance so vexed, as the Hawaiian case shows, is that the application of some parts of “Dance in the Liturgy” depends on judgments about what is or is not an authentic part of culture and what is or is not “dance”. But in these hyper-politicized times, such questions are hot buttons that can provoke strong reactions.
Advocacy of liturgical dance would seem to involve liturgists in some contradictions. Dance performances make most of the congregation spectators something most liturgists vehemently oppose when other liturgical issues are discussed; kneeling during the Communion rite, for example.
In order for dance to express “full and active participation”, everyone would have to be involved, as they are in some African cultures. Yet the West has never had a tradition of communal dance that expresses worship. Indeed, most authentic communal folk dances in the West (which were never religious and were frequently targets of complaint by ecclesiastical authorities) died out long ago.
Furthermore, simple processions and traditional ritual gestures are now identified by some liturgists as “dance”. The entire Liturgy has even been described as “choreography” by some liturgists.
The current attempt to promote dance as part of Catholic Liturgy embodies several contradictory tendencies, among them ethnic particularism and the “rediscovery” of a putative collective cultural identity; the individualistic “quest for the self” common to many New Age spiritualities; and the calculated neo-pagan effort “to be absorbed in the whole of nature” and to express “the god/dess within”.
At present, the performance of “liturgical” dance — even within the Mass itself — is being strenuously promoted by many influential liturgists. This can be seen as an effort to create cultural “facts on the ground” to support the argument that, whatever may have been the case in the past, “liturgical dance” is now an established part of contemporary Catholic “culture”.
Unless clearer lines are drawn between what is genuine “inculturation” and what is an innovation aimed at forcibly changing both traditional ritual practices and essential beliefs, we can expect that “liturgical dance” performances at Mass will be promoted with increasing energy and with increasingly divisive results.
1. Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, “Dance in the Liturgy” (or “The Religious Dance, An Expression of Spiritual Joy”); English translation, BCL Newsletter, April / May 1982. http://www.ewtn.com/ library/CURIA/CDWDANCE.HTM (hereafter referred to as “Dance in the Liturgy”).
2. “Liturgical Dance,” Encyclopedia Britannica.
3. “Changes in attitude toward dance,” Encyclopedia Britannica.
4. Sacred Dance Guild Festival 99 web page, http://www.us.net/sdg/fest99.html
broken link 6/24/2005
5. “Dance in the Liturgy”, ¶5.
6. Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy [Sacrosanctum Concilium], no. 37, C.L.D., 6, p. 44; cited in “Dance in the Liturgy,” ¶16.
7. Reese, Thomas J., S.J. “The African Synod: You Had to Be There.” America, June 4, 1994; http://www.georgetown.edu/centers/woodstock/reese/america/a-saf2.htm
8. “Dance in the Liturgy”, ¶5.
9. Ibid., ¶16.
10. Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, Instruction on Inculturation and the Roman Liturgy, ¶42.
11. Father Ronald J. Lewinski; private communication, March 30, 1994.
12. Tigh, Michael. “Vatican eases stance on native Hawaiians’ sacred gesture during Mass,” Associated Press story on Nandonet, January 09, 1999.
14. Kreifels, Susan, “Catholic pastors can allow hula as prayer,” Honolulu Star-Bulletin December 12, 1998. http://starbulletin.com/98/12/22/news/story8.html
15. Quoted by Tigh.
17. Private communication, October 9, 1998.
19. Adamski, Mary. “Vatican to send Hawaii rules on hula,” Honolulu Star-Bulletin, December 19, 1998; http://starbulletin.com/98/12/19/news/story2/html
Has liturgical dance been approved for Masses by your office?
Adoremus Online Edition – Vol. IX, No. 7, October 2003
Wide-ranging questions on the Liturgy were answered by Cardinal Francis Arinze at a conference in July 2003 sponsored by the Apostolate for Family Consecration.
There has never been a document from our Congregation for Divine Worship and Discipline of the Sacraments saying that dance is approved in the Mass.
The question of dance is difficult and delicate. However, it is good to know that the tradition of the Latin Church has not known the dance. It is something that people are introducing in the last ten years — or twenty years. It was not always so. Now it is spreading like wildfire, one can say, in all the continents — some more than others. In my own continent, Africa, it is spreading. In Asia, it is spreading.
Now, some priests and lay people think that Mass is never complete without dance. The difficulty is this: we come to Mass primarily to adore God — what we call the vertical dimension. We do not come to Mass to entertain one another. That’s not the purpose of Mass. The parish hall is for that.
So all those that want to entertain us — after Mass, let us go to the parish hall and then you can dance. And then we clap. But when we come to Mass we don’t come to clap. We don’t come to watch people, to admire people. We want to adore God, to thank Him, to ask Him pardon for our sins, and to ask Him for what we need.
Don’t misunderstand me, because when I said this at one place somebody said to me: “You are an African bishop. You Africans are always dancing. Why do you say we don’t dance?”
A moment — we Africans are not always dancing! [laughter]
Moreover, there is a difference between those who come in procession at Offertory; they bring their gifts, with joy. There is a movement of the body right and left. They bring their gifts to God. That is good, really. And some of the choir, they sing. They have a little bit of movement. Nobody is going to condemn that. And when you are going out again, a little movement, it’s all right.
But when you introduce wholesale, say, a ballerina, then I want to ask you what it is all about. What exactly are you arranging? When the people finish dancing in the Mass and then when the dance group finishes and people clap — don’t you see what it means? It means we have enjoyed it. We come for enjoyment. Repeat. So, there is something wrong. Whenever the people clap — there is something wrong — immediately. When they clap — a dance is done and they clap.
It is possible that there could be a dance that is so exquisite that it raises people’s minds to God, and they are praying and adoring God and when the dance is finished they are still wrapped up in prayer. But is that the type of dance you have seen? You see. It is not easy.
Most dances that are staged during Mass should have been done in the parish hall. And some of them are not even suitable for the parish hall.
I saw in one place — I will not tell you where — where they staged a dance during Mass, and that dance was offensive. It broke the rules of moral theology and modesty. Those who arranged it — they should have had their heads washed with a bucket of holy water! [laughter]
Why make the people of God suffer so much? Haven’t we enough problems already? Only Sunday, one hour, they come to adore God. And you bring a dance! Are you so poor you have nothing else to bring us? Shame on you! That’s how I feel about it.
Somebody can say, “But the pope visited this country and the people danced”. A moment: Did the pope arrange it? Poor Holy Father — he comes, the people arranged. He does not know what they arranged. And somebody introduces something funny — is the pope responsible for that? Does that mean it is now approved? Did they put it on the table of the Congregation for Divine Worship? We would throw it out! If people want to dance, they know where to go.
Liturgical place of dance subject to differing directives
By Patricia Lefevere, National Catholic Reporter, September 17, 2004
Patricia Lefevere, a longtime contributor to NCR, lives in New Jersey.
The state of liturgical dance in the Catholic Church is in suspension. And as any professional dancer knows, suspension can be an uncomfortable pose if held too long.
Rome has maintained what many regard as a ban against liturgical dancing in the Western church since 1975. For Kathryn Mihelick, an award-winning Ohio dancer and teacher, the prohibition has lasted too long.
Considered the authoritative Vatican reference on the subject is a 1975 essay, “The Religious Dance, an Expression of Spiritual Joy,”* published by the Congregation for the Sacraments and Divine Worship in the Vatican journal Notitiae II.
The essay established two essential conditions for the acceptance of liturgical dance: The dance would have to express sentiments of faith and adoration in order to become a prayer and its gestures and movements would have to be regulated by the competent ecclesiastical authority. *See page 2 of this file.
While the congregation left the door open to dance as a legitimate form of liturgical expression in non-Western cultures, it found that dancing in the West “is tied with love, with diversion, with profaneness, with unbridling of the senses.” As such it is not “pure,” and “cannot be introduced into liturgical celebrations of any kind whatever.”
Mihelick has danced in many cities and several dioceses across North America before bishops, priests, religious and laity — both within and outside the context of the Mass. In a telephone interview from her home in suburban Akron, Mihelick told NCR that clergy and laity have affirmed the power of her dancing and that of her Leaven Dance Company “to inspire and lift hearts to the Lord.” She co-founded Leaven in 1989 with Andrea Shearer when the two taught dance at Kent State University in Ohio.
Mihelick, member of Holy Family Parish in Stow, has retired from Kent but still serves as Leaven’s artistic director. In 1999 she won a grant from the Ohio Arts Council to organize an ecumenical conference on sacred dance.
With her pastor’s approval, she decided to hold the event at Holy Family. Performers would include sacred dancers from Native American and African-American religious traditions as well as Indians from the subcontinent. Announcements were posted, rehearsals begun and a lighting contract signed.
Soon her parish and the Newman Center at Kent State began receiving protest calls. A week prior to the dance concert the Vatican faxed Bishop Anthony Pilla of Cleveland, indicating that such an event could not take place in a Catholic church. “We moved into the school gym,” Mihelick said.
After the conference she went to Pilla, making the case that dance has been part of a long Catholic tradition — one that continues in much of the world. “Christ redeemed us with his naked body — not with his mind,” she argued. Pilla advised her to take up the matter with the U.S. bishops’ liturgy committee.
Mihelick set to the task with passion. She studied the latest General Instruction of the Roman Missal, the pastoral constitution Gaudium et Spes and the 1994 Vatican document, “The Roman Liturgy and Inculturation.” She read messages addressed to artists from Vatican II as well as more recent ones by Pope John Paul II. She made her way through several books and articles on sacred dance. “Bishops don’t have time to do this research,” she said.
Out of it came a 16-page position paper in which she urged the prelates to revisit the issue and to try to understand dance as an authentic form of prayer.
Mihelick said she understood the two-year deferment of her paper: Bishops had weightier matters in the wake of 9/11, wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, and the sex abuse crisis. When liturgical dance finally made their agenda last June, the liturgy committee reiterated segments of the 1975 text and chose not to pursue the question.
Mihelick said she still wants clarification on the issue and guidelines from the bishops and the Vatican. Otherwise, the laity will continue to be “confused,” she said, having seen sacred dance during papal Masses around the world, yet being told this form of worship is forbidden in their parish.
By Patricia Lefevere, National Catholic Reporter, September 17, 2004
Linda Telesco feels closest to God when she dances. To create beauty “with one’s very person is truly communing with the divine. With dance it is more than the sense that one is creating beauty. … It is that one becomes the beauty,” she said.
What makes dance such a meaningful spiritual endeavor for Telesco, who directs Spirit Dance, an ecumenical and interfaith company she began in 1993 in northern New Jersey, is that “dance is always about the now. It’s a perfect expression of Emmanuel, of God with us. In this time. In this place. Now.”
When dancers look at the Mass, it is not hard for them to spot its sacred choreography. If one were to enter a church–a complete stranger to Catholicism, but not to dance–one would easily discover the dance. The genuflection when done properly is a plie, dancer Johan van Parys said. Making the sign of the cross, kneeling, standing, sitting, processing, bowing, confessing, anointing, blessing, sharing a kiss of peace, a handshake, hug or nod of peace all involve movement.
“So whether you’re for or against liturgical dance, you already have it. You can always expand on the movement and take it to a higher level,” said van Parys, director of liturgy and sacred arts at the Basilica of St. Mary in Minneapolis. “My desire is to integrate it within the liturgy, not shove it down people’s throats.”
Having danced in Catholic churches for a dozen years, Telesco knows that dance can offer a “refreshing new perspective on liturgy. It can be an awakening, creating the sense of change that worshipers associate with the creative power of God.”
However, Telesco said, not all people will listen, hear or respond in the same way. She has danced in parishes where the pastor has “dared not look” at her dancers or has chosen to keep his eyes in a book during the dance. But being uncomfortable may be a sign that one is in the presence of prophecy, she said. “Those most uncomfortable are those who probably are most in need of the message.”
Telesco and her current four-person troupe dance several times each month. Nearly all of the 15 dancers who’ve worked with the company since its origin have been Catholic. “I think that speaks to the Catholic sensibility and the Catholic imagination,” Telesco told NCR In an interview at her office in Tenafly, N.J., where she works part-time as media director for the Society of African Missions.
Telesco began dance training at 10 and has studied at the Martha Graham School of Dance and the New York Conservatory of Ballet. She danced for Carla DeSolo’s Omega Liturgical Dance Company at New York’s Cathedral of St. John the Divine. “I always felt fully engaged with something greater than myself in the dance studio,” she said.
Though dance has been around in the church for centuries, it is now theoretically forbidden in the West.
A 1975 document from the Congregation for the Sacraments and Divine Worship said that while liturgical dancing may be permissible in non-Western cultures, dancing in the West “is tied with love, with diversion, with profaneness, with unbridling of the senses.” As such it is not “pure,” the congregation said, and cannot be used in liturgy.
Despite the apparent ban, dancers still dance in Catholic churches in many parts of the United States. According to Kathryn Mihelick, a liturgical dancer who has raised the issue with the U.S. bishops (see accompanying story), the acceptability of liturgical dance is determined as much by current practice and precedent as it is “by outdated liturgical documents.”
She pointed to bishops in California and Hawaii, “who have stood up to the Vatican in support of dance.” In her home archdiocese of Chicago, liturgical dance was a part of all the Masses during the recent Festival of Faith at Navy Pier, Mihelick said.
Dancers “also need to rely on the support of our pastors,” said Georgia Amdahl, artistic director of the St. Paul City Ballet in Minnesota. Amdahl has danced at Advent, Lent, Easter and Pentecost services at St. Mark’s Parish in St. Paul, and has introduced many of the parish children to sacred dance. “You have to take it seriously and reverently. You are interpreting God’s Word with movement and for that you need trained dancers,” she told NCR.
Despite the church’s affirmation of the gifts of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, Telesco wonders whether some priests and bishops really believe what they say about the values of these gifts when they “create a hierarchy of gifts, question the appropriateness of one of the gifts or even hide and restrict them.” Telesco’s Spirit Dance has danced the Lord’s Prayer, the psalms, processionals, anthems and scripture stories as well as other parts of the Mass.
Van Parys lives with the tension of being trained as a classical and modern dancer and yet being constrained not to use dance in the Mass. “I live in a world that doesn’t use it, chooses not to use it and, I think, would be very uncomfortable using it in the liturgy,” the dancer told The Catholic Spirit, newspaper of the St. Paul and Minneapolis archdiocese.
Van Parys said he regrets that celebrities like Britney Spears and shows like “Chicago” have “taken dance hostage. It takes a leap of faith for people to pen the word ‘liturgical’ next to the word ‘dance.'”
While he takes seriously the dangers of profanation, he remains puzzled over how an “incarnational church” can be “almost schizophrenic when it comes to images of the body.”
His first experience of the power of liturgical movement came in his teens when he and his brother attended a youth gathering at which they used sign language to pray the Lord’s Prayer, expressing it both in words and in body.
Van Parys went on to get master’s degrees in art history and in theology and to teach at the Catholic University of Louvain in Belgium. When he came to the University of Notre Dame in 1989 as a doctoral candidate in its Center for Liturgy, he met Indi Dieckgrafe, who was new to the dance program–which she now directs–at St. Mary’s College in Notre Dame, Ind. She became his dance partner. Together they have developed and performed liturgical and sacred dances.
On the first anniversary of 9/11 they collaborated on “A Song for Peace.” Dieckgrafe choreographed the work, which was seen by more than 2,000 persons in the packed Basilica of St. Mary. The corps of nine women and two men planted themselves strategically among the assembly. In silence they started — one dancer at a time — to stand on the seat of their respective pews and to deliver a peace message in the extended gestures of American Sign Language. “We became the message of peace, joining together, filling the sanctuary, then the altar space and going out among all the people,” Dieckgrafe told NCR.
The basilica’s parish is diverse: Among its 5,000 members, Africans, Asians and Latin Americans mix and meet with inner city and suburban Minnesotans. Among the Africans are many Liberian immigrants for whom dance is as natural to their liturgy as is music.
It is van Parys’ hope that “when all our churches become microcosms of the church universal, there will no longer be a church in the West, per se,” and thus no longer a reason to exclude dance from its liturgy, he said. “I want what’s happening in the church in Africa and elsewhere to be reflected in our church here. I want us to be a global parish.”
Dieckgrafe sees hope on the horizon. For 15 years she has directed the St. Mary’s College Liturgical Dancers, a corps of six to 10 student dancers who work closely with the school’s campus ministry. The Sisters of the Holy Cross, who administer the college, strongly support the dancers, she said.
Dieckgrafe is also optimistic about Catholic Dance, an online group with more than 100 dance members. Dancer Michele Marie White of Chicago co-founded the group in 2002, along with Kathryn Mihelick of suburban Akron, Ohio. Catholic Dance promotes networking, dialogue and prayer among supporters of liturgical dance. Its members advocate for dance in church and to find ways of improving movement ministries within the church.
In White’s view, “doing good liturgical dance is one of the hardest things you can do. Every time I dance in a Catholic church, it’s liturgical dance on trial. You can’t move too far outside the realm of what’s familiar or you’ll distract people from their prayer.”
A trained dancer, White is president of the Lakeshore Chapter of the Sacred Dance Guild, which includes dancers in Illinois, Indiana and Wisconsin. The Sacred Dance Guild, founded in 1958, counts more than 600 members in local chapters across the nation and abroad.
Telesco, who is a guild member, said she hopes opportunities for liturgical dance will spread to more parishes.
“As a society and a church, I wish we could do more to bring these arts into everyday life, to take them to our nursing homes, health centers and schools.” If her prayer were to be answered, “so many could live more joyfully.”
Liturgical dancing. With a Key 1975 Article
Rome, October 5, 2004
Answered by Father Edward McNamara, professor of liturgy at the Regina Apostolorum Pontifical University.
Is so-called liturgical dancing allowed in English-speaking countries where traditionally dancing is not regarded as culturally proper? Can it be carried out during solemn occasions such as the celebration of the Mass? — F.Y., Auckland, NZ
A: The document that comes closest to being an official commentary on this theme hails from an essay published by the official organ of the then Congregation for the Sacraments and Divine Worship, Notitiae, 11 (1975) 202-205. This article is labeled as a “qualified and authoritative sketch.” It is considered by the congregation as “an authoritative point of reference for every discussion on the matter.” Therefore, it is commended for study by diocesan liturgical commissions and offices of worship. (The English translation below first appeared in The Canon Law Digest, Vol. VIII, pp. 78-82.)
The article was later republished with permission in the April/May 1982 Newsletter of the Bishops Committee on the Liturgy of the National Conference of Catholic Bishops, which consequently published directives that “all dancing, (ballet, children’s gesture as dancing, the clown liturgy) are not permitted to be “introduced into liturgical celebrations of any kind whatever.”
Although not specifically mentioned in the instruction “Redemptionis Sacramentum,” dance can be included in the overall prohibition on introducing elements not contemplated by the liturgical books.
On some recent occasions a certain form of dance has been introduced within the context of papal liturgies on the occasion of regional synods of bishops or canonization ceremonies. But these were usually associated with elements of African or Asian culture and are to be considered as special exceptions in virtue of the Pope’s universal mission.
On recent occasions Cardinal Francis Arinze, prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Sacraments, has publicly criticized certain forms of introducing dance into Western liturgy especially in forms which reduce the sacred rite to a spectacle.
I am also aware that he has reiterated these criticisms privately to the bishops of several countries during their five-yearly “ad limina” visits to Rome.
The 1975 article from The Canon Law Digest follows:
THE RELIGIOUS DANCE, AN EXPRESSION OF SPIRITUAL JOY
[See pages 2 through 4 of the present file]
On “Liturgical Dance”
Cardinal Francis Arinze, prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, has publicly criticized introducing dance into the Liturgy, as it risks reducing this sacred rite to a spectacle.
In an address in 2003, for example, the cardinal responded to a question on “liturgical dance”: “There has never been a document from our Congregation for Divine Worship and Discipline of the Sacraments saying that dance is approved in the Mass”; and he noted that “the tradition of the Latin Church has not known the dance. It is something that people are introducing in the last ten years — or twenty years”.
(See Cardinal Responds to Questions on Liturgy
AB October 2003)
There has not been an express ruling from the Holy See against so-called “liturgical dance” — primarily because, as Cardinal Arinze also observed, dance-like movements during processions are customary in some countries, and thus may be a legitimate form of “inculturation” of the Liturgy in these regions. This kind of
ritual dance has been introduced into several papal liturgies in recent years — on occasions usually connected with African or Asian culture. These are special exceptions, however, that are to be seen in the context of the Holy Father’s unique universal role, not as precedent-setting liturgical variations.
But the Holy See has addressed the matter of dance, constantly stressing the proper distinction between permitting indigenous cultural traditions
and introducing innovations into the celebration of the Liturgy.
First is the 1975 commentary on “religious dance” in an essay in Notitiae, the official publication of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments. The essay appeared in Notitiae, 11 (1975) 202-205; and was published in English translation, “The Religious Dance – an Expression of Spiritual Joy”, in The Canon Law Digest, Vol. VIII, pp.78-82.
This article, which appears below, is called a “qualified and authoritative sketch”, considered by the Congregation “an authoritative point of reference for every discussion on the matter”, thus it is commended for study by diocesan liturgical commissions and offices of worship.
“The Religious Dance” was later reprinted in the Newsletter of the Bishops’ Committee on the Liturgy in April/May 1982. The BCL also published directives that dancing, (ballet, children’s gesture as dancing, the clown liturgy) is not permitted to be “introduced into liturgical celebrations of any kind whatever”.
In the Holy See’s 1994 Instruction on authentic “inculturation” of the Roman liturgy, Varietates legitimae, there is a reference to dance gesture in certain cultures:
42. Among some peoples, singing is instinctively accompanied by handclapping, rhythmic swaying and dance movements on the part of the participants. Such forms of external expression can have a place in the liturgical actions of these peoples on condition that they are always the expression of true communal prayer of adoration, praise, offering and supplication, and not simply a performance.
The motive for urging a practice that is alien to the Catholic liturgical heritage is also worth considering. In “Jesus Christ, the Bearer of Life A Christian Reflection on the ‘New Age’“, jointly issued by the Pontifical Councils for Culture and for Interreligious Dialogue in 2003 to caution Christians about false religious practice, dance is mentioned as one of the methods used by followers of the quasi-religious “New Age” movements to achieve “cosmic consciousness”, “self-realization” and “enlightenment” (126.96.36.199), along with yoga and other movement and exercise programs. This document cautions that “It is essential to see whether phenomena linked to this movement, however loosely, reflect or conflict with a Christian vision of God, the human person and the world”. (6.2)
While “liturgical dance“
is not expressly mentioned in the 2004 Instruction
it would be included in the general prohibition against introducing elements not contemplated by the liturgical books; furthermore, any changes in the rites that may be proposed by any conference of bishops must always have prior approval by the Holy See.
Where do I go? [Dancing in the Liturgy of the Holy Mass]
February 21, 2005
This past weekend I attended the Religious Education Congress in Anaheim, California.
While, I enjoyed several of the workshops, some of the speakers didn’t hold everything the Church held. It seemed this extended beyond the workshops. At the three Masses I attended there was liturgical dancing when the presider entered carrying jars of incense, when the table was prepared (which the dancers prepared) and after Communion. As far as I know, liturgical dancing isn’t allowed in the Latin Church unless it’s an organic part of that culture. At the Congress, it seemed only the “Samoan” Mass qualified. I know I can express my complaints to the bishop under Redemptionis Sacramentum, but there seems little point since the closing Mass was not only attended by the Bishop of Orange, in whose diocese this was held, was presided over by Roger Cardinal Mahoney. Also, there were several bishops from Canada, England, and Vietnam. Many enjoyed the dancing (I closed my eyes most of the time), but I can’t help but think the solemnity of the Mass was pushed aside to keep the “grace” of the Congress going and to entertain us. So, where do I go, what can I do? –Miguel
Yes I agree with what you have said and feel as you do.
Unfortunately there isn’t a whole lot that you can do since ultimately it is the priests’ and bishops’ decision whether or not to disobey to the instructions. Of course you can and should express your disappointment. I know it doesn’t seem like a lot, but the more people that do, the more likely you will see positive action. –Jacob Slavek
Liturgical Norms and Liturgical Piety
Adoremus Bulletin Online Edition – May 2005 Vol. XI, No. 3
Cardinal Francis Arinze Addresses Liturgists
Liturgical Norms and Liturgical Piety – “The people of God have the right that the liturgy be celebrated as the Church wants it”.
On April 8, Cardinal Francis Arinze, prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and Discipline of the Sacraments, was to have addressed the Gateway Liturgical Conference, co-sponsored by the Archdiocese of St. Louis, and was scheduled to bless the new Adoremus office. The death and funeral of Pope John Paul II made this impossible, of course; but his prepared address was read to the gathering by Monsignor James Moroney, executive director of the US Bishops’ Committee on the Liturgy. Cardinal Arinze graciously granted permission for his address to appear in the Adoremus Bulletin. – Editor
The Holy Eucharist occupies a central place in the public worship of the Church and in her life. Its celebration therefore should receive from all of us the greatest attention. I am for that reason happy to learn that this Gateway Liturgical Conference is devoted especially to attention to the worthy celebration of the Holy Eucharist, in accord with the Holy Father’s encyclical letter Ecclesia de Eucharistia, and the instruction of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, Redemptionis Sacramentum. This is also very much in line with the spirit of the present Year of the Eucharist.
In developing the theme assigned to me, “Liturgical Norms and Liturgical Piety”, I intend to begin by examining why there should be liturgical norms at all, how what the Church believes and how she prays are related, and who has the authority to issue norms for the liturgy. It will then be time to spell out what we understand by liturgical piety. Creativity is an issue which often comes up with reference to the liturgy. It should be examined. The desire to make liturgical celebrations interesting also deserves to be looked into. Some people want to introduce dances into the liturgy. The discussion of this tendency cannot be avoided. We shall conclude by asking ourselves whether observance of liturgical norms is a call to formalism or rubricism or rather a promoter of faith and piety.
2. Reasons for Liturgical Norms
The sacred liturgy is an exercise of the priestly office of Jesus Christ. It is the public worship performed by the Mystical Body of Christ, by the Head and His members. (cf. Sacrosanctum Concilium [SC] 7)
Liturgical celebrations have some elements which are of divine institution. Such are the essentials of the seven sacraments. There are elements which are of ecclesial institution. In deciding on these elements the Church takes great care to be faithful to Holy Scripture, to honor the tradition handed down through the centuries, to manifest her faith and rejoice in it, and to lead all the faithful to worship of God, following the example of Christ, and showing love and service of one’s neighbor. Between these two we can speak of a third: namely, those elements of the liturgy which are found from early days in all or almost all of the great liturgical traditions and which must therefore go back at the very least to a period close to the apostles, and perhaps even to Our Lord. While we may not have certain knowledge on the matter in a given case, it is a strong reason for avoiding hasty innovation or neglect. (cf. Varietates Legitimae [VL] 26-27, General Instruction of the Roman Missal [GIRM] 397, Liturgiam authenticam [LA] 4-5, Redemptionis Sacramentum [RS] 9)
Liturgical celebrations should be experiences of the traditional faith that is confessed, celebrated and communicated, of hope that is expressed and confirmed and of charity that is sung and lived.
Since liturgical celebrations are public acts performed in the name of the universal Church, with Jesus Christ Himself as the Chief Priest, it follows that as the centuries roll by, the Church has necessarily developed norms according to which, her public worship is to be expressed. Liturgical norms protect this treasure which is Christian worship.
They manifest the faith of the Church, promote it, celebrate it, and communicate it. They also manifest the nature of the Church as a hierarchically constituted family, a community of worship, love and service, and a body which promotes union with God and holiness of life and gives sinners hope of conversion, forgiveness and new life in Christ.
Moreover, liturgical norms help to protect the celebration of the sacred mysteries, especially the Holy Eucharist, from being damaged by additions or subtractions which do damage to the faith and which may at times risk making a sacramental celebration invalid. The people of God are thus guaranteed celebrations in line with the traditional Catholic faith and they are not left at the mercy of someone’s personal ideas, feelings, theories or idiosyncrasies.
Pope John Paul II is very insistent on the important role of norms regarding the celebration of the Eucharist. “These norms are a concrete expression of the authentically ecclesial nature of the Eucharist; this is their deepest meaning. Liturgy is never anyone’s private property, be it of the celebrant or of the community in which the mysteries are celebrated”. (Ecclesia de Eucharistia [EE] 52) Love for the Church leads a person to observe these norms: “Priests who faithfully celebrate Mass according to the liturgical norms, and communities which conform to those norms, quietly but eloquently demonstrate their love for the Church”. (ibid) Our respect for the mysteries of the Christ leads us to respect these norms: “No one is permitted to undervalue the mystery entrusted to our hands: it is too great for anyone to feel free to treat it lightly and with disregard for its sacredness and its universality”. (ibid)
3. Lex orandi, lex credendi
The sacraments sanctify people, build up the Body of Christ and give worship to God. Because they are signs, they also instruct. They not only presuppose faith, but by words and objects they also nourish, strengthen and express it. That is why they are called “sacraments of faith”. (cf. SC 59)
The faith of the Church has expressed itself in how the Church prays and especially in how she celebrates the Holy Eucharist and the other sacraments. There are words and concepts which have acquired a deep meaning in the Church’s life, faith and prayer along the centuries. Examples are person, trinity, divine majesty, incarnation, passion, resurrection, salvation, merit, grace, intercession, redemption, sin, repentance, forgiveness, propitiation, mercy, penance, reconciliation, communion and service. There are gestures and postures which help to express what the Church believes. Examples are the Sign of the Cross, bowing, kneeling, standing, listening and going in procession.
“The Church’s faith precedes the faith of the believer who is invited to adhere to it. When the Church celebrates the sacraments, she confesses the faith received from the apostles”. (Catechism of the Catholic Church [CCC] 1124) This is a strong argument in favor of great care in the wording, gestures and norms of liturgical celebrations.
The relation between the faith of the Church and her liturgical celebration has been encapsulated in the ancient saying, lex orandi, lex credendi (the law of prayer is the law of faith), or legem credendi lex statuat supplicandi (let the law of prayer determine the norm of faith). This statement of Catholic faith is credited to Prosper of Aquitaine of the 5th century. (Ep. 8) It is quoted in the Indiculus or the Pseudo-Celestine Chapters. Pope Celestine reigned from 422 to 432. (cf. Ds 246)
The Church believes as she prays. The liturgy is a constitutive element of the holy and living tradition of the Church. (cf. Dei Verbum 8) That is why the Church does not allow the minister or the community to modify or manipulate any sacramental or even general liturgical rite. “Even the supreme authority in the Church may not change the liturgy arbitrarily, but only in the obedience of faith and with religious respect for the mystery of the liturgy”. (CCC 1125)
Redemptionis Sacramentum is strong on this point: “The Church herself has no power over those things which were established by Christ Himself and which constitute an unchangeable part of the liturgy. Indeed, if the bond were to be broken which the sacraments have with Christ Himself who instituted them, and with the events of the Church’s founding, it would not be beneficial to the faithful but rather would do them grave harm. For the Sacred Liturgy is quite intimately connected with principles of doctrine, so that the use of unapproved texts and rites necessarily leads either to the attenuation or to the disappearance of that necessary link between the lex orandi and the lex credendi“. (RS 10)
4. Authority over the Liturgy
The above reflections lead us to ask who has authority over the sacred liturgy. Who decides on the texts, the ceremonies, the norms? We cannot afford to be vague on this.
The Second Vatican Council is not ambiguous: “Regulation of the sacred liturgy depends solely on the authority of the Church, that is, on the Apostolic See and, as laws may determine, on the bishop. In virtue of power conceded by the law, the regulation of the liturgy within certain defined limits belongs also to various kinds of competent territorial bodies of bishops legitimately established”. Then the Council adds the warning: “Therefore, absolutely no other person, not even a priest, may add, remove or change anything in the liturgy on his own authority”. (SC 22)
These rulings are not a sign of lack of respect for anyone. They follow from the fact that the liturgy is a celebration of the universal Church. “The prayers addressed to God by the priest who presides over the assembly in the person of Christ are said in the name of the entire holy people as well as of all present. And the visible signs used by the liturgy to signify invisible divine things have been chosen by Christ or the Church”. (SC 33)
From these considerations it follows that a do-it-yourself attitude is not acceptable in the public worship of the Church. It does damage to the Church’s worship and to the faith of the people. The people of God have the right that the liturgy be celebrated as the Church wants it. (cf. RS 12) The mysteries of Christ should not be celebrated as personal taste or whim may indicate. “The ‘treasure’ is too important and precious to risk impoverishment or compromise through forms of experimentation or practices introduced without a careful review on the part of ecclesiastical authorities”. (EE 51)
5. Liturgical Piety
When we say piety, we think in general of the honor and reverence given to someone who is in some way responsible for our existence and well-being. Therefore the virtue of piety refers first of all to God who is our creator and constant provider. But we can also talk of piety toward our parents, near relatives, country, tribe or people.
As a Christian virtue, piety is one of the gifts of the Holy Spirit. It moves us to worship God who is the Father of all and also to do good to others out of reverence for God. Piety leads us to love the sacred liturgy, to look forward to its celebration and to participate in it with love, faith and devotion. With the Psalmist we sing: “How lovely are your dwelling-places, Lord Sabaoth. My whole being yearns and pines for the Lord’s court. My heart and my body cry out for joy to the living God”. (Ps 84:1-2) Liturgical celebrations become attractive to the pious person. The church bell which rings for Mass is a welcome sound: “I rejoiced that they said to me, ‘Let us go to the house of the Lord’. At last our feet are standing at your gates, Jerusalem!” (Ps 122:1-2) The pious soul has sheer joy in being in the church and more still in joining in divine worship: “Better one day in your courts than a thousand at my own devices, to stand on the threshold of God’s house than to live in the tents of the wicked”. (Ps 84:10)
Liturgical piety, as a beautiful manifestation of the virtue of religion, is at once a compound love of God, faith in Him, adoration, respect, reverence, sheer joy in His service, and a desire to serve Him as best we can. A spirit of faith and reverence which shows itself also in the faithful observance of liturgical norms is most favorable to the promotion of liturgical piety.
6. Creativity in Liturgical Celebrations
One may now ask whether there is any room for creativity in the liturgy. The answer is that there is, but it has to be properly understood.
First of all, it is necessary to bear in mind that the public worship of the Church is something that we receive in faith through the Church. It is not something that we invent. Indeed the essentials of the sacraments are established by Christ Himself. And the detailed rites, including words and actions, have been carefully worked out, guarded and handed down by the Church along the centuries. It would, therefore, not be the proper attitude for an individual or a committee to keep thinking and planning each week how to invent a new way of celebrating Mass.
Moreover, a priority at Mass and other liturgical acts is worship of God. The liturgy is not a field for self-expression, free creation and the demonstration of personal tastes. Idiosyncrasies tend to attract attention to the person rather than to the mysteries of Christ being celebrated. They can also upset, puzzle, annoy, mislead or confuse the congregation.
Nevertheless, it is also true that the liturgical norms do allow some flexibility. With reference to the central and most important liturgical action, the Mass, for example, we can speak of three levels of flexibility. First, there are in the Missal and the Lectionary some alternative texts, rites, chants, readings and blessings from which the priest celebrant can choose. (cf. GIRM 24, RS 39) Then there are choices left at the competence of the diocesan bishop or the Conference of Bishops. Examples are regulation of concelebration, norms regarding the distribution of Communion under both kinds, the construction and ordering of churches, translations and some gestures. (cf. SC 38, 40; GIRM 387, 390) Some such alternatives require recognitio from the Holy See. The most demanding level of variability concerns inculturation in the strictest sense. It involves action by the Conference of Bishops, after the conducting of deep interdisciplinary studies and recognitio from the Holy See.
Redemptionis Sacramentum is therefore able to say that “ample flexibility is given for appropriate creativity aimed at allowing each celebration to be adapted to the needs of the participants, to their comprehension, their interior preparation and their gifts, according to established liturgical norms”. (RS 39) The last phrase is important: “according to established liturgical norms”. The paragraph of Redemptionis Sacramentum concludes with a recall of the crucial observation that “it should be remembered that the power of the liturgical celebrations does not consist in frequently altering the rites, but in probing more deeply the word of God and the mystery being celebrated”. What the people are asking for every Sunday from their pastor is not a novelty but a celebration of the sacred mysteries that nourishes faith, manifests devotion, awakens piety, leads to prayer and incites to active charity in daily life.
7. Making the Mass Interesting
Many priests are concerned with making the Eucharist celebration interesting. And they are not wrong. The Mass is not a dull carrying out of rituals. It is a vital celebration of the central mysteries of our salvation.
Care should be taken to prepare well for each celebration. The texts to be read, sung or proclaimed should be well studied in good time. The vestments and all altar fittings and furnishings should be in good taste. The people who carry out the roles of priest celebrant, altar servers, leader of song, readers of lessons, etc., should be at their best. The homily should give the people solid liturgical, theological and spiritual nourishment. If all that is done, the Mass will not be dull.
But when all is said and done, we have to come back to the fact that the Mass is not there to entertain people. Such horizontalism would be out of place. People do not come to Mass in order to admire the preacher, or the choir or the readers. The priority movement or direction of the Mass is vertical, toward God, not horizontal, toward one another. What the people need is a faith-filled celebration, a spiritual experience which draws them to God and therefore also to their neighbor. As a by-product, such a celebration will capture the people’s interest and attention.
It is also useful to remark that repetition of faith formulae and symbols, or of familiar words and gestures, need not make a liturgical celebration uninteresting. It matters, however, to what extent these formulae are understood, hence the importance of catechesis. In our daily lives, is it uninteresting for us to repeat our names or those of our loved ones? Do we not love our national anthem and sing it with piety? How much more that this has to do with our Christian identity!
If it helps to repeat, may I recall that liturgical celebrations allow for flexibility, provided that this is done according to approved norms. Redemptionis Sacramentum itself exhorts the bishop not to stifle alternative choices provided for by the liturgical norms: “The bishop must take care not to allow the removal of that liberty foreseen by the norms of the liturgical books so that the celebration may be adapted in an intelligent manner to the church building, or to the group of the faithful who are present or to the particular pastoral circumstances”. (RS 21) It is for this reason that the bishop does well not to be tempted to introduce unnecessary restrictions in his diocese, such as ordering that only one particular Eucharistic Prayer be used at Mass. The bishop’s authority is never firmer than when he uses it to ensure that the general norms which safeguard the tradition are observed.
A general advice about whether the liturgical celebration is interesting or not is, to simply celebrate it with faith and devotion and according to the approved norms, and leave the rest to God’s grace and people’s cooperation with it.
8. Dance in the Liturgy
Some people want to introduce dance into the sacred liturgy. The Latin Rite liturgy has not had any such practice. We have therefore to ask those who want to bring in the dance to state their case.
If they say that the reason is to make the Mass interesting, the answer is what we have just considered. We come to Mass to worship God, not to see a spectacle. We have the parish hall and the theater for shows.
Others say they welcome some dance in order to express fully our prayer, since we are body and soul. The answer is that the liturgy indeed appreciates bodily postures and gestures and has carefully incorporated many of them, such as standing, kneeling, genuflecting, singing, and giving a sign of peace. But the Latin Rite has not included the dance.
It is not easy for dancers not to draw attention to themselves. Granted that some very refined dances in some cultures can help to elevate the mind, is it not true that for many people dances are a distraction rather than a help to prayer?
Dances easily appeal to the senses and tend to call for approval, enjoyment, a desire for a repetition, and a rewarding of the performers with the applause of the audience. Is this what we come to Mass to experience? Have we no theaters and parish halls, presuming that the dance in question is acceptable, which cannot be said of them all?
Is it true that in many parts of Africa and Asia there may be a cultural habit of graceful body movement which, with due study and approval of the local Church, may go down well within a liturgical celebration. The Ethiopian rite has known graceful rhythmical movements and the procession for the Gospel. The Roman Rite Mass approved for the Democratic Republic of the Congo has similar entry movements.
But this is very different from what the ordinary person in Europe or North America thinks of when the concept of dance is evoked. Can we blame people who associate dance with Saturday evening, ballroom, theater or simply, innocent enjoyment? The liturgical books approved by the bishops and the Holy See for Europe and North America understandably do not authorize the importation of dance into church, let alone the celebration of the Eucharistic Sacrifice. (See the article in the official bulletin of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments: Notitiae 106-107, June-July 1975, pp. 202-205. Editor’s note: this article is available on the Adoremus web site at www.adoremus.org/Dance.html)
9. Formalism and Ritualism Not the Goal
From all that has been said above, it follows that an exhortation to be faithful to liturgical norms is not an invitation to formalism, ritualism or rubricism. People are not being invited to a dry and soulless carrying out of external actions. Jesus our Savior already, quoting the prophet Isaiah, condemned those who do not internalize in their spirit the external rites they carry out:
This people honors me only with lip-service, while their hearts are far from me.
Their reverence of me is worthless;
The lessons they teach are nothing but human commandments. (Mt 15:8-9, Is 29:13)
Liturgical celebrations are not primarily the observance of norms but rather the celebration of the mysteries of Christ by the Church and in the Church, with faith and love and with respect for tradition. The observance of norms is a consequence and fruit of faith and respect. It is not the final object of worship. It is a quality of it.
Moreover, liturgical norms are not arbitrary laws or regulations put together to please some historian, or aesthetist, or archaeologist. They are manifestations of what we believe and what we have received from tradition, from the “norm of the holy Fathers” (cf. SC 20, GIRM 6), from what generations of our predecessors in the faith have said, done, observed and celebrated. To know that we are doing, saying, hearing and seeing what millions of Christians have done throughout the world for hundreds of years and are doing today, should help us enter better into a committed and prayerful participation. Moreover, by conforming our entire person to all that the liturgy represents, we undergo a transformation and become ever closer to God.
Interior prayer and sacrifice have priority. Hence the importance in liturgical celebrations of quiet preparation, silence, reflection, listening and personal prayer. “A merely external observation of norms would obviously be contrary to the nature of the sacred liturgy, in which Christ Himself wishes to gather His Church, so that together with Himself she will be ‘one body and one spirit'”. (RS 5)
At the same time it needs to be repeated that the spirit of rejection of rules and regulations which would then be regarded as a violation of one’s autonomy, needs to be corrected. It is wrong and unreasonable to maintain a spirit of “Nobody is going to tell me what to do”. This would be a false understanding of liberty. “God has not granted us in Christ an illusory liberty by which we may do what we wish, but a liberty by which we may do what is fitting and right”. (RS 7)
It is a blessing and a privilege for us to belong to the Church which in her sacred liturgy celebrates the mysteries of Christ and has Christ Himself as the Chief Priest in every liturgical act. Let us pray to the Most Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of our Savior, to obtain for us a growing understanding of the reasons for liturgical norms, willingness to observe them and the grace of daily growth in liturgical piety, love of God and commitment to love and service of our neighbor.
+Francis Cardinal Arinze
April 8, 2005
Cardinal Mahony Online!
March 31, 2006 @ 11:15 a.m. PST
On Friday, March 31, 2006, ChurchWerks.com hosted an online chat session with Cardinal Roger Mahony from the main Exhibit Hall at the Religious Education Congress in Anaheim, Calif. Our thanks to Ellie Hidalgo of The Tidings for help with moderating the chat. Thanks to Steve McBrady of ChurchWerks for arranging this session and to Collin McBrady for his monitoring and providing the transcript. EXTRACT
Moderator: Welcome to ChurchWerks Chat with Cardinal Mahony…
Mariette: Does Your Eminence believe there is a place for liturgical dance in the US Church?
Cardinal Mahony: Liturgical dance should never dominate or overwhelm the celebration of the Eucharist. It must be tasteful, and must always lead us to deeper prayer and reflection. A good rule: if liturgical dance leads to applause by the participants, then it failed.
The Cardinal’s position is that he was not firmly opposed to liturgical dance. He insisted on safe conditions for its use. But, one cannot be entirely safe in these matters. Dance introduced into a religious programme simply isn’t conducive to reverence and prayerfulness.
Apostolic Exhortation on the Eucharist, Papal liturgical ceremonies under review
The Church around the World
In June Pope Benedict XVI will receive the final proposal from the recent Synod of Bishops for the drafting of his Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation on the Eucharist. The commission of 12 cardinals and bishops from around the world, led by the secretary of the Synod of Bishops, Archbishop Nicola Eterovic, will meet in June to present the Holy Father with a final proposal based on the 50 propositions that were made at the conclusion of last October’s Synod.
According to a Vatican source, the commission will approve “a proposal and a plan for liturgical reform”, to be made public in the Apostolic Exhortation the Holy Father will tentatively issue in October 2006.
The Vatican source said the exhortation would include an invitation to greater use of Latin in the daily prayer of the Church and in the Mass – with the exception of the Liturgy of the Word – as well as in large public and international Masses.
The document would also encourage a greater use of Gregorian chant and classical polyphonic music; the gradual elimination of the use of songs whose music or lyrics are secular in origin, as well as the elimination of instruments that are “inadequate for liturgical use,” such as the electric guitar or drums, although it is not likely that specific instruments will be mentioned.
Lastly, the Pope is expected to call for “more decorum and liturgical sobriety in the celebration of the Eucharist, excluding dance and, as much as possible, applause.”
Papal liturgical ceremonies under review
Benedict XVI is reviewing plans for papal liturgical celebrations, according to the Vatican’s top liturgist.
Archbishop Piero Marini, the master of ceremonies for papal liturgies, spoke on this subject on 20 March, during a visit to Milan for the publication of his book, Liturgy and Beauty. Archbishop Marini revealed that Benedict XVI was more demanding than his predecessor in watching plans for liturgical celebrations at the Vatican.
“With John Paul II I had a bit more freedom,” he said. “We had an implicit pact, because he was a man of prayer and not a liturgist.” With the new Pope, “I have to be more attentive because he is an expert on liturgy.”
Archbishop Marini said that he and the Pope were carrying out a re-examination of papal liturgical celebrations. He regularly sends his notes to the Pope, who returns them with corrections, suggestions, or a note of approval.
Since 1987, Archbishop Marini has made plans for all major papal liturgical celebrations. During that time he became a figure of some controversy at the Vatican, with some prelates objecting to the ceremonies he has devised.
after canonisation ceremonies that incorporated traditional African and Indian dance elements in October 2003, Cardinal Francis Arinze, the Prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship, spoke of “uncontrolled creativity” and a “too fertile imagination”. Archbishop Marini has also been criticised for downgrading the use of Gregorian chant and polyphony in favour of more contemporary and popular music.
Archbishop Marini became involved in liturgical affairs as a young priest, serving as personal secretary to the late Archbishop Annibale Bugnini, the principal architect of liturgical changes in the wake of Vatican II. His approach has been criticised by those who favour a more traditional approach – including, in the past, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger.
The history of past disagreements between the current Pope and his chief liturgist had caused some observers to predict that Archbishop Marini would soon be replaced as the papal master of ceremonies. But nearly a year after the Pope’s election he remains at his post.
Dancing at vespers
April 3, 2007
My adult son was part of a Catholic Church choir that sang at vespers in the church. At the end or near the end of vespers, it was announced that liturgical dancing was going to take place. Having heard about the abuses where liturgical dancing takes place at Mass, he left the choir and came home. Could you tell me if liturgical dancing is allowed at vespers? Does this depend on what the local Bishop decides? This took place in a Catholic church at vespers and not at Mass and this was in the U.S.
There is a quick answer to your question: ABSOLUTELY NOT. The very idea of so-called “liturgical dancing” at the solemn vespers makes my blood boil. Vespers is a quiet and reverent and sacred time. To disturb that with dancing nonsense is an affront to God and a violation of liturgical law.
I think we ought to bring back horse-whips and flogging to deal with such idiocy. –Bro. Ignatius Mary OMSM
& LITURGICAL TERRORISM –
Outrage over Liturgical Dance
By Fr. Alvaro Delgado, May 2007
a priest who stands in persona Christi to offer the sacrifice of the Mass, I felt disappointed and betrayed when liturgical dancers appeared at the Mass that opened our diocesan synod. The believers present for this Mass deserved to partake of the liturgy under the proper rubrics outlined by the Holy See. It would not be an exaggeration to say these believers were ambushed by an act of spiritual and liturgical terrorism.
Three sets of liturgical dancers waltzed up the aisle at the time of the Presentation of the Gifts. First, three or four young girls and a boy, about 11 or 12 years old, pranced to the altar twirling lit candles through the air in a circular motion. The candle-bearers circled the altar and placed the candles in front of the altar. A second wave of youngsters, holding bowls of incense aloft, also paraded to the altar, repeating the same pattern.
Then came the climactic dance. A boy and a girl, about 14 or 15 years old, came up the center aisle, bearing gifts of bread and wine. I looked for our bishop, and the deacon seated at his side, to rise from their chairs, walk to the front of the altar, and receive the gifts. But they both stayed put. The boy and girl circled the altar, carrying the bread and wine. Finally, they stopped, dead set in front of the altar, facing the people, and hoisted the bread and wine above their heads. Solemn looks crossed their faces as they fixed their gaze upward on the gifts for a long moment. Then they placed the gifts on the altar and returned to their seats. Moments later, the bishop proceeded to the altar and made the official, liturgical offering of the gifts to God. He lifted the gifts above his head, exactly as the boy and girl had done, as seen by hundreds of worshipers from the pews.
With few exceptions, the Holy See has said “no” to liturgical dance.
James Akin, in his book Mass Confusion, notes that the Congregation for the Sacraments and Divine Worship, in an authoritative 1975 document, cited specific cultures in which liturgical dance has enhanced the liturgy and reflected the religious values of those cultures. But liturgical dance has never been part of the liturgical tradition of the Latin Church, and never been deemed appropriate in the West.
The documents states: “Conciliar decisions have often condemned the religious dance because it conduces little to worship and because it could degenerate into disorders.” The document adds that pseudo-ballet, or “interpretive dance,” which has been tried in liturgy, is also prohibited.
The Rev. Alvaro Delgado
is pastor of St. Edward’s Catholic Church in Stockton, California. Previously, he spent 17 years as a newspaper journalist.
2 out of 4 comments
-The few occasions when I have seen liturgical dance, it was outside my diocese while traveling, in dioceses that wouldn’t surprise anyone. Dance is present where the bishop tolerates widespread disobedience and heterodoxy.
But it was usually middle aged women in white leotards–who obviously had more self esteem than sense. Too much detail. OK, don’t wear a chapel veil, but at least veil the rest with appropriate clothing. What is veiled is holy. We don’t want to see your cellulite.
Something else must be stated: that boy dancer is obviously gay and every homosexual-ephebophile priest in attendance is making a note of his name for later follow-up. The Lavender Mafia will probably recruit him into the priesthood.
No self-respecting straight man would participate in such a thing.
After the Scandal, you would think the media would be all over it, for the grooming behavior this boy is automatically being subject to. Dance could be the new method to identify potential houseboys for the rectory.
When in Africa, I will happily dance the Rosary with the Africans. It’s appropriate and non-liturgical. Even in Africa, they don’t dance during the liturgy.
What would be an appropriate dance for a wedding? A bump and grind? A strip tease? To Madonna’s Like A Virgin?
Deliver us, Lord, from every evil!!!
-I should add…you can’t say dance is unscriptural. Salome danced for Herod so that Herodias could demand the head of John the Baptist. I guess you could take it as a warning that if you oppose liturgical dance, the feminazi-WOC types will demand your head on a platter.
VATICAN OFFICIAL DECRIES OPPOSITION TO SUMMORUM PONTIFICUM
Rome, November 5, 2007 (CWNews.com) – In an interview with the Italian Petrus web site, Archbishop Albert Ranjith Patabendige, the secretary of the Congregation for Divine Worship, acknowledged that the papal document, Summorum Pontificum, has been met in some dioceses with criticism and resistance. In some cases, the Sri Lankan prelate said, the hostility amounts to “rebellion against the Pope.”
Reminding the interviewer, Albert Bruno, that every bishop swears allegiance to the Roman Pontiff, Archbishop Ranjith said that “everyone, and particular every pastor, is called to obey the Pope, who is the successor to Peter.” He called bishops to follow the papal directive faithfully, “setting aside all pride and prejudice.”
Archbishop Ranjith complained that in some dioceses, bishops and their representatives have set out policies “inexplicably” limiting the scope of the Pope’s motu proprio. He charged that the resistance to the Pope’s policy has been driven by “on the one hand, ideological prejudices, and on the other hand pride– one of the deadliest sins.”
Early in October, in an address to the Latin Liturgy Association in the Netherlands, Archbishop Ranjith had delivered an equally blunt assessment of the response to Summorum Pontificum, saying that bishops were being “disobedient” to the Pope, and stifling the impact of the motu proprio by their policies. Diocesan bishops “do not have this right,” he said, and bishops who defy the Pope’s authority are allowing themselves “to be used as instruments of the devil.”
[…] From an interview granted by the Secretary of the Congregation for Divine Worship, Archbishop Malcolm Ranjith Patabendige, to Bruno Volpe, of the papal news website Petrus:
[…] “See, I do not wish to criticize the ‘Novus Ordo’. But I laugh when I hear it said, even by friends, that in a [certain] parish, a priest is ‘a Saint’ due to his homily or to how he speaks. The Holy Mass is sacrifice, gift, mystery, independently of the celebrating priest. It is important, fundamental even, that the priest be put aside: the protagonist of the Mass is Christ. I do not understand, thus,
the Eucharistic celebrations transformed in shows with dances, songs, and applause, as it frequently happens with the Novus Ordo.“
Bruno Volpe: Monsignor Patabendige, your Congregation has repeatedly denounced these liturgical abuses…
Archbishop Ranjith: “True. There are so many documents, which have nonetheless painfully remained dead letter, [which] have ended up on dusty shelves or, even worse, in wastebaskets.”
What’s Behind Liturgical Abuses? Interview with Leader of Traditional Mass Community
By Alexandre Ribeiro EXTRACT
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, April 9, 2008 (Zenit.org) The bishop of a Brazilian community that celebrates the Mass according to the 1962 missal contends that abuses in the liturgy can be attributed to the lack of a serious spirituality. Bishop Fernando Arêas Rifan, apostolic administrator of the St. John Maria Vianney Personal Apostolic Administration in Brazil, spoke with ZENIT about the richness of the extraordinary form of the Mass.
Q: What indications do you give for avoiding scarce attention and respect for the liturgy?
Bishop Rifan: Speaking of the abuses following the liturgical reform, the then Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger lamented that the liturgy degenerated into a show, in which they seek to make religion interesting with the help of stylish elements, with momentary successes in the group of the liturgical “manufacturers” [in the] introduction to the book “La Réforme Liturgique” by Monsignor Klaus Gamber, page 6 and 8. […]
I think that the central point of the abuses was indicated by Cardinal Ratzinger himself: the door left open to a
false creativity on the part of the celebrants [in an] interview in “L’homme Nouveau,” October 2001.
Behind this is the lack of a serious spirituality, [the idea that] to attract the people, novelties should be invented. Holy Mass is attractive in itself, because of its sacredness and mystery. Deep down, we’re dealing with the diminishment of faith in the Eucharistic mysteries and an attempt to replace it with novelties and creativity. When the celebrant wants to become the protagonist of the liturgical action, abuses begin. It is forgotten that the center of the Mass is Jesus Christ.
The current secretary of the Congregation for Divine Worship, Bishop Albert Malcolm Ranjith, laments: “Holy Mass is a sacrifice, gift, mystery, independently of the priest who celebrates it.
It is important, I would say fundamental, that the priest draws back: The protagonist of the Mass is Christ. I don’t understand, therefore, the Eucharistic celebrations transformed into shows with dances, songs or
applause, as lamentably happens many times with the Novus Ordo.”
Applause at Homilies
Rome, January 20, 2009 (Zenit.org) Answered by Legionary of Christ Father Edward McNamara, professor of liturgy at the Regina Apostolorum university.
Q: The parishioners in our church used to be spontaneous in their reactions to excellent homilies that the priests deliver. The parishioners, sometimes, respectfully applaud after the homily, either to communicate that they are in agreement with the priest, or to offer their appreciation. However, when a newly ordained priest came, and this happened after a homily he gave, he gravely scolded the people for the impropriety of their action and reminded them that they are attending a Mass and not a performance. From then on, people’s spontaneity is gone; occasionally, applause would be heard, but one can sadly sense the hesitation. Could you enlighten us on the propriety of people applauding after the homily? D.B., Denver, CO
A: First of all, it is a very hopeful sign of overall improvement in the quality of homilies that the faithful consider them worthy of applause.
That said, the young priest was correct in stating that, in general, applause is to be discouraged
during Mass. […]
In his book “The Spirit of the Liturgy” the then Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger wrote: “Whenever applause breaks out in the liturgy because of some human achievement, it is a sure sign that the essence of liturgy has totally disappeared and been replaced by a kind of religious entertainment” (Page 198).
The context of the present Pope’s remarks was regarding applause after so-called liturgical dancing; it did not directly address our present case of applause as a sign of respect and agreement to the message of the homily. The principle involved, however, of not applauding the merely human achievement of one of the liturgical actors could be a good rule of thumb for deciding when applause is appropriate or not.
Liturgical Renewals: should we continue?
The link is not opening now. Hence I have copied the information from the Konkani Catholics site
Posted on: Feb 10, 2009 12:21 PM by Austine J. Crasta, Mangalore, owner-moderator of Konkani Catholics
Have liturgical renewals, which adapted Indian music, dance and other cultural elements in the Mass, helped the Church’s growth?
The Mass is not a museum of the world’s culture. It is common knowledge that Inculturation in India has, even before it was released, far exceeded the vision of the Second Vatican Council as outlined in “Varietates legitimae”, the Fourth Instruction for the Right Implementation of the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, issued January 25, 1994.
With such an extreme, an average Catholic today does not even realize that the very fact that the liturgy is celebrated in the vernacular is an expression of the Church’s inculturation/adaptation.
Given such poor understanding, a spirit of endless experimentation continues to drive the inculturation efforts in a perpetual quest for a “new way of being church”! Thanks partly to the fight over the rites and the hybridisation attempts to ‘create’ an “Indian rite”!
From the dropping of the Proper chants of the Mass (Introit, Offertory, and Communion) to the abhorrence of every trace of Latin, from the introduction of liturgical dances to bold and sacrilegious experimentation with the “matter” for the sacred host, the liturgy in India is only losing its sense of the sacred, to say the least.
When liturgy becomes man’s work, then God becomes the spectator as we journey to the Jerusalem of our invention, not the one above.
July 16, 2009:
Nowadays I feel really saddened as to how new things are introduced during Liturgy, Recently I saw a video of a Worship Dance during Consecration; it really disturbed me. Is it right? There were Bishops on the podium and I hear from my friends that the bishops have no problem with all this, so why are we making a fuss? Can you enlighten us? –Sunita Mascarenhas
Your question concerns “liturgical dancing”. And to the best of my knowledge there has not been any official document directly dealing with the question of liturgical dancing for the universal Roman rite.
This could be interpreted in two ways:
1. That dance was never approved for inclusion in the Roman liturgy, OR,
2. That dance was never prohibited in the Roman liturgy.
And so we have two groups of people, one holding on to the first interpretation, the second holding on the second in order to justify liturgical dances which they may already be involved with.
However, it is an important liturgical principle that nothing should be introduced in the liturgy arbitrarily, especially those elements which are not foreseen by the liturgical books.
It follows therefore that dancing, general speaking, is an element foreign to the Roman liturgy.
HOWEVER – please note this carefully – the 1994 Instruction “Legitimate Differences” on Inculturation and the Roman Liturgy, does provide for the possibility of including a native form of dance in the liturgy in those places – especially African and Asian missions – where such dancing is part of worship traditions of that culture:
“Among some peoples, singing is instinctively accompanied by handclapping, rhythmic swaying and dance movements on the part of the participants. Such forms of external expression can have a place in the liturgical actions of these peoples on condition that they are always the expression of true communal prayer of adoration, praise, offering and supplication, and not simply a performance.” [Varietates Legitimae, 42]
This is to be understood as a concession given to mission territories and not as a blanket endorsement for including dance in the liturgy everywhere. Two conditions cannot be dispensed with in this case:
1. The form of dance to be introduced in the liturgy, with all its manifestations, would have to express sentiments of faith and adoration in order to become a prayer; and
2. Just like any other liturgical gestures and movements, this will have to be under the watchful supervision of the competent church authority. [cf. 1975 commentary on “religious dance” by CDW]
Dance, in the West, does not generally have the qualities that can justify its admission into the liturgy. Hence, in the West, any form of religious dancing is better done outside the liturgy.
In Mangalore too, the Bishop has ruled that we do not have any fitting form of dance in our culture that can/needs to be admitted into the liturgy. Hence liturgical dancing in the diocese of Mangalore stands prohibited.
The option however remains open in other mission contexts under the supervision of the Church but permission granted there does not automatically apply to or justify the practice of liturgical dancing introduced elsewhere.
Finally, the caution given in the 2003 document “Jesus Christ, the Bearer of the Water of Life: A Christian Reflection on the ‘New Age'” too should be borne in mind so that the pseudo-religious dancing mentioned as one of the methods used by followers of the quasi-religious “New Age” movements to achieve “cosmic consciousness”, “self-realization” and “enlightenment” (188.8.131.52), along with yoga and other movement and exercise programs, is not confused for an authentic religious practice benefiting the worshipping community. –Austine Crasta, moderator
Living the Eucharistic mystery
(Homily at the Closing Solemn Mass of the FABC* IX Plenary Assembly in Manila, 16 August 2009)
4. Eucharistic Celebration and Inculturation
The Second Vatican Council calls for healthy inculturation also in matters liturgical. “Even in the liturgy, the Church has no wish to impose a rigid uniformity in matters which do not involve the faith or the good of the whole community. Rather, she respects and fosters the spiritual adornments and gift of the various races and peoples” (Sacrosanctum Concilium, 37).
Asian cultures have many values highlighted in our discussions in the past six days; such as a sense of the sacred and the transcendent, contemplation, mysticism, silence, a sense of living traditions and organic development and gestures and postures which enhance celebration. The Colombo Liturgical Convention of September 2008 already mentioned gives importance to this question in paragraphs 1 to 6 of his final statement.
Liturgical inculturation is demanding. The Bishops’ Conference of the country in question has first to set up a multi-disciplinary study committee of theologians, liturgists, biblical scholars, musicians, ethnologists and experts in literature, which ponders over a cultural question indicated by the bishops and eventually makes a recommendation to the Bishops’ Conference. After adequate study of the document, the Bishops see if they can gather at least two-thirds of their votes in favor. If the outcome is positive, the Bishops bring the entire matter with their proposals to the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments. Only when this Congregation gives its recognition may the cultural element in question be introduced into sacred worship.
The major Church documents that give directives on how inculturation is to be made are Sacrosanctum Concilium, 37-40, the 1994 Instruction: Roman Liturgy and Inculturation, and Chapter IX of the General Instruction on the Roman Missal.
If these directives are followed, the local Church will be spared questionable or downright mistaken innovations and idiosyncracies of some enthusiastic cleric whose fertile imaginations invents something on Saturday night and whose uninformed zeal forces this innovation on the innocent congregation on Sunday morning.
Dance in particular needs to be critically examined because most dances draw attention to the performers and offer enjoyment.
People come to Mass, not for recreation but, to adore God, to praise and thank him, to ask pardon for their sins, and to request other spiritual and temporal needs. The monasteries may be of help in how graceful body movements can become prayer. The Colombo statement quoted above remarks: “When pastoral zeal combines with cultural and religious sensitivity, new ground is broken. On the contrary, hasty and un-reflected changes weaken or damage the religious significance and life-transforming power of worship” (Colombo Statement, 6).
*Federation of Asian Bishops’ Conferences
August 17, 2009
Cardinal Francis Arinze, who served as prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments from 2002 to 2008, warned the bishops of Asia in an August 16 homily against liturgical “idiosyncracies” and false conceptions of inculturation.
Cardinal Arinze also sounded a cautionary note against liturgical dance.
Preaching in Manila at the closing Mass of the plenary assembly of the Federation of Asian Bishops’ Conferences, Cardinal Arinze — Pope Benedict’s special envoy to the meeting — encouraged Asian bishops to foster Eucharistic adoration and reverence:
Adoration manifests itself in such gestures in genuflection, deep bow, kneeling, prostration and silence in the presence of the Lord. Asian cultures have a deep sense of the sacred and transcendent. Reverence in Asia to civil authorities sometimes shows itself in clasped hands, kneeling, bows, prostration and walking away while facing a dignitary. It should not be too difficult to bring and elevate this cultural value to honour our Eucharistic Jesus.
The fashion in some parts of the world of not installing kneelers in churches should not be copied by the Church in Asia.
After praising Asian cultures’ sense of the sacred, Cardinal Arinze warned against false conceptions of inculturation and urged observance of liturgical norms.
The way in which Holy Communion is distributed should be clearly indicated and monitored and individual idiosyncracies should not be allowed. In the Latin Rite, only concelebrating priests take Holy Communion. Everyone else is given, be the person cleric or lay.
It is not right that the priest discard any of the vestments just because the climate is hot or humid. If necessary, the Bishop can arrange the use of lighter cloth. It is altogether unacceptable that the celebrant will opt for local dress in the place of universally approved Mass vestments, or use baskets, or wine glasses to distribute the Holy Eucharist. This is inculturation wrongly understood.
“It is the tradition of the Church that during the Mass the readings are taken only from Holy Scriptures,” Cardinal Arinze continued. “Not even the writings of the Saints or Founders of Religious Orders are admitted. It is clear that the books of other religions are excluded, no matter how inspiring a particular text may be.”
Cardinal Arinze exhorted the continent’s bishops to follow the Church’s norms for liturgical inculturation, so that “the local Church will be spared questionable or downright mistaken innovations and idiosyncracies of some enthusiastic cleric whose fertile imaginations invents something on Saturday night and whose uninformed zeal forces this innovation on the innocent congregation on Sunday morning.”
“Dance in particular needs to be critically examined because most dances draw attention to the performers and offer enjoyment,” he continued. “People come to Mass, not for recreation but, to adore God, to praise and thank him, to ask pardon for their sins, and to request other spiritual and temporal needs. The monasteries may be of help in how graceful body movements can become prayer.”
Concerts in Churches/Liturgical Dance
“Fidelity to the teachings of the Church is nothing less than fidelity to Christ”– Fr. Thomas Euteneuer, Human Life International
Note: In this report I may occasionally use bold print, Italics, or word underlining for emphasis. This will be my personal emphasis and not that of the source that I am quoting.
Can a secular group come in and perform secular music in a sanctuary or around an altar especially in the context of the same outside group staying to perform directly after a liturgical service, so it seems like a continuation of the service? Mary
No. “Churches cannot be considered simply as public places for any kind of meeting. They are sacred places, that is, ‘set apart’ in a permanent way for divine worship by their dedication and blessing. The church remains the house of God, and the sign of His dwelling among men. It remains a sacred place, even when no liturgical celebration is taking place.”
“The principle that the use of the church must not offend the sacredness of the place determines the criteria by which the doors of a church may be opened to a concert of sacred or religious music, as also the concomitant exclusion of every other type of music. It pertains to the ecclesiastical authority (bishop) to exercise without constraint its governance of sacred places, and hence to regulate the use of churches in such a way as to safeguard their sacred character.”
“When the proposal is made that there should be a concert in a church, the Ordinary (bishop) is to grant the permission per modum actus. These concerts should be occasional events. This excludes permission for a series of concerts, for example in the case of a festival or a cycle of concerts.”
“Only those things which serve the exercise or promotion of worship, piety and religion are to be admitted into a sacred place; anything which is not in accord with the holiness of the place is forbidden. The ordinary, however, can permit other uses which are not contrary to the holiness of the place, in individual instances.”
“The musicians and the singers should not be placed in the sanctuary. The greatest respect is to be shown to the altar, the president’s chair and the ambo. The Blessed Sacrament should be, as far as possible, reserved in a side chapel or in another safe and suitably adorned place.”
What is the status of liturgical dance? Mary
Notitiae Vol. XI (1975) pp. 202-205 states: “Dance has never constituted an essential part in the official liturgy of the Latin Church. If local Churches have introduced dance, at times even in temples, this was on occasion of feasts in order to show feelings of jubilation and devotion. But the dance always took place outside the liturgical actions. Conciliar decisions have often condemned the religious dance, as not befitting worship, and also because it could degenerate into disorders… hence, it is not possible to introduce something of that sort in the liturgical celebration; it would mean bringing into the liturgy one of the most desacralized and desacralizing elements; and this would mean the same as introducing an atmosphere of profanity, which would easily suggest to those present worldly places and profane situations.”
This report prepared on April 25, 2010 by Ronald Smith, 11701 Maplewood Road, Chardon, Ohio 44024-8482, E-mail: <email@example.com>. Readers may copy and distribute this report as desired to anyone as long as the content is not altered and it is copied in its entirety. In this little ministry I do free Catholic and occult related research and answer your questions. Questions are answered in this format with detailed footnotes on all quotes. If you have a question(s), please submit it to this land mail or e-mail address. Answers are usually forthcoming within one week. If you would like to be on the report e-mail list, please send me a note!
Å Let us recover by penance what we have lost by sin Å
Liturgical dance perverts the meaning of the liturgy
Semper Fi Catholic –
Always Faithful To The Truth Who Is Christ
Posted by Denise, Site Administrator, December 16, 2010. EXTRACT
James Akin cites three conditions in the 1975 document that must be met where liturgical dance is allowed:
(1) it cannot take place during the liturgy;
(2) it cannot take place in strictly liturgical areas, such as the sanctuary;
(3) priests must not participate in the religious dance.
The Church understands that liturgical dance perverts the meaning of the liturgy by turning an act of worship into a performance. This is particularly important in our Western culture, a culture steeped in narcissism and enamored of entertainment.
The Church understands that every symbol, every gesture, every movement of the liturgy carries meaning.
That’s why the Church lives by the axiom Lex orandi, lex credendi — the way we pray and worship has a profound impact on what we believe.
The image of the teenage boy and girl at the altar, with gifts aloft, is now fixed in the minds and subconscious of the worshipers present at that synod Mass. I know I can’t erase it from my mind. As I told my bishop in a letter of protest, this liturgical moment will influence the synod delegates’ view of liturgy and Church in a most powerful way.
Proponents of liturgical dance say we’re made to worship God in body, soul, and spirit — with our whole being. But with liturgical dance, people’s minds are fragmented by the attention they pay to the “performers.” Liturgical dance becomes a distraction, an act of sensory stimulation. The pleasure of seeing Junior at the altar hoisting a decanter of wine overwhelms the duty to lift our souls to Almighty God.
liturgical dance undermines the primordial objective in true worship of God: To adore and place our whole being before Him who transcends our human existence.
We live in a culture that says entertain me, titillate me, stimulate me. If I’m not being entertained, I’m bored; if it’s not fun and pleasurable, it’s not worth the time or effort. In this culture, it can be exceedingly difficult for the believer to lift up his eyes to God, to worship Him, to prostrate and bend the knee before Him, to surrender to Him in an act of humble adoration.
The impetus of worship becomes not, “What can I do for God?” but rather, “What can God do for me?”
In his book The Spirit of the Liturgy, then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger and future Pope Benedict XVI warns against the “creativity” of the community becoming the driving force in Western liturgy. The liturgy is not to be subject to any human control or contrivance. Narcissism has no part in the worship of God. Ratzinger writes: “In these rites I discover that something is approaching me here that I did not produce myself, that I am entering into something greater than myself, which ultimately derives from divine revelation.”
Ratzinger compares the liturgy to a plant that grows and develops in an organic way. It is not a “specially contrived production,” not like a piece of technical equipment that is manufactured.
The presence of liturgical dancers at the synod Mass was, however, a “specially contrived production” in disharmony, in disjunction with the Church’s liturgical practice and teaching Tradition. A boy and girl mimicked the actions of the priest at the holy altar by lofting the bread and wine above them. This liturgical abuse was nothing less than a propaganda ploy to advance an agenda for women priests, whether used wittingly or unwittingly at this particular Mass. It traces its origins to the very liberal annual religious education congress sponsored by the Los Angeles Archdiocese, where a similar liturgical dance was presented this year.
It is reminiscent of Mother Angelica’s account of being ambushed during World Youth Day at Denver in 1993, via a television image of a “female” Christ-figure carrying a cross during the Stations of the Cross. Somebody choreographed that episode to advance the agenda for women priests. The image was beamed to millions of viewers on Mother Angelica’s Eternal Word Television Network. On a smaller scale, the same thing happened to those who attended our diocesan synod Mass.
Then-Cardinal Ratzinger makes it clear that God is the primary Actor in the Eucharistic liturgy, through which He seeks to transform us. We are drawn into the action of God, and everything else is secondary, Ratzinger writes. “The almost theatrical entrance of different players into the liturgy, which is so common today, especially during the Preparation of the Gifts, quite simply misses the point. If the various external actions (as a matter of fact, there are not very many of them, though they are being artificially multiplied) become the essential in the liturgy, if the liturgy degenerates into general activity, then we have radically misunderstood the ‘theo-drama’ of the liturgy and lapsed almost into parody.”
Ratzinger recounts how, around the third century, heretical Gnostics and Docetists attempted to introduce dance into the liturgy. “For these people, the Crucifixion was only an appearance. Before the Passion, Christ had abandoned the body that in any case he had never really assumed. Dancing could take the place of the liturgy of the Cross, because, after all, the Cross was only an appearance. The cultic dances of the different religions have different purposes — incantation, imitative magic, mystical ecstasy — none of which is compatible with the essential purpose of the liturgy of the ‘reasonable sacrifice.'”
We can argue that modern liturgical dance, like the Gnostic-Docetist attempts of old, detracts from the heart of the Mass, which is the sacrifice of Christ, the sacrifice of the cross. Modern man will do anything and everything to escape the cross and replace its pain with something soothing, something pleasurable to the senses. In a culture that tells us to avoid pain, inconvenience, and hardship at all costs, the liturgy it creates will of course be a feel-good, entertaining experience.
The future Pope writes that it is inappropriate to spruce up the liturgy with “dancing pantomimes” whose performances frequently spark applause. He writes: “Wherever applause breaks out in the liturgy because of some human achievement, it is a sure sign that the essence of the liturgy has totally disappeared and been replaced by a kind of religious entertainment… I myself have experienced the replacing of the penitential rite by a dance performance. Which, needless to say, received a round of applause. Could there be anything further removed from true penitence?”
These days, applause threatens to overrun the liturgy at every turn. One pastor at an Elk Grove, Calif., parish allowed liturgical dance, which caused predictable applause. He admonished the congregation for applauding, saying it was inappropriate for liturgy. He tried liturgical dance again, and the congregation again applauded. What was he thinking?
First Communion Masses easily turn into applause-fests. In Colusa and Angels Camp, Calif., every child is applauded for receiving First Communion, and so is every person who had the smallest part in training, teaching, and organizing the First Communion Mass. The focus of the Mass turns to what we have done, how we have acted, and how we should be rewarded. Worship, surrender, thanksgiving, and adoration before God becomes merely an afterthought, as then-Cardinal Ratzinger warns.
At a Pentecost celebration in the San Francisco East Bay several years ago, I experienced the epitome of the narcissistic applause-fest. In theory, on the liturgical calendar, we celebrated the gift of the Holy Spirit received by the disciples, the birth of the Church. But attention in the homily focused almost exclusively on Catholic Schools Week, and the teachers who were singled out at this Pentecost Mass with awards were showered with repeated applause. The Holy Spirit was overshadowed by human actors, the teachers, all of whom were feted and applauded. This was a mockery of the liturgy of Pentecost, a liturgy of thanksgiving for the gift of God received.
At Funeral Masses, the sacred paschal mystery of our Lord Jesus Christ is often a footnote to secular eulogies that canonize the deceased and draw exuberant applause and laughter. The liturgy becomes simply a going-through-the-motions of an irrelevant spiritual ceremony with no bearing on people’s real lives, a prelude to the main, secular event that is this-worldly, “relevant,” and entertaining.
The virus of narcissism has spread even to the Hispanic community, a community of traditional piety and reverence. Cameras flash away at Baptisms and quinceañeras, the coming-of-age Masses for 15-year-old girls. The participants in the liturgy become the center of attention, simpering and preening for the camera.
Liturgical dance is seen to add spice and interest to the Mass, helping make the Mass a viable, attractive consumer product in the American market. This leads us further down the road traveled by many Protestant churches, where the goal is an ever-larger share of the religious consumer market.
Religion becomes not the worship and adoration of God but a place to feel good. A place to be massaged, affirmed. A place for the wounded psyche. A place offering spiritual therapy and diversion rather than substance and a reorientation to God, to the transcendent.
A recent article in the Los Angeles Times referred to the Internet Evangelism Coalition, an amalgamation of different Protestant groups that promotes use of the Internet to spread the Gospel. The Coalition says you shouldn’t sound preachy and you should avoid “churchy jargon” such as “ministry,” “salvation,” “redemption,” and even “faith.” The way to attract nonbelievers? Present church as an upbeat, uplifting community of friends.
A specialist in church advertising was quoted as saying that people often perceive church as boring, judgmental, and irrelevant. He said: “New media’s a great way to reposition ourselves.” While we’re at it, throw in a few dancers to keep the people from getting bored. More than 60 percent of Protestant churches spice up their services with video clips on large screens, the article notes. But to what effect?
As a Catholic priest, I felt betrayed by the spectacle of liturgical dancers because the symbolism of the priest acting in persona Christi was diminished. If you diminish the priest, you diminish the importance of Jesus Christ. Remember that the boy and girl who brought up the bread and wine did not present the gifts to the celebrant at the Mass, the bishop, standing as the liturgical representative for Jesus Christ. They had no need of someone to receive the gifts for placement on the altar. So it seemed liturgically redundant for the bishop to hold the gifts and offer them up a second time.
The visual impression, its impact, was unmistakable. If a man who is a priest can offer the Body and Blood of Christ at the Mass, then why can’t a layman, why can’t a woman? Why only a priest? As I wrote to my bishop, one could conclude that anybody can lead the celebration of the liturgy. Why, then, a need for an ordained priesthood?
Why then the need for a Mediator between God and man, the Lord Jesus Christ? Reduce the importance of Jesus Christ and the community takes center stage. We’re left with a community feeling good about itself, entertaining itself, making itself feel good. And we’ve whittled away the importance of adoration and worship before Almighty God, through Jesus Christ, the High Priest of the liturgy.
Pope ousts ‘loose living’ monks of Rome’s Santa Croce monastery
Tom Kington, May 25, 2011
It sounds like something out of Father Ted: a renowned monastery in Rome where monks staged concerts featuring a lap-dancer-turned-nun and opened a hotel with a 24-hour limousine service has been shut down by the pope.
As part of Benedict XVI’s crackdown on “loose living” within the Catholic church, 20 or so Cistercian monks are now being evicted from the monastery at the basilica of Santa Croce in Gerusalemme, which hosts some of the church’s holiest relics. “An inquiry found evidence of liturgical and financial irregularities as well as lifestyles that were probably not in keeping with that of a monk,” said Father Ciro Benedettini, a Vatican spokesman. “The church remains open but the monks are awaiting transfer.” Reports saying the monks amassed large debts have also emerged, but Benedettini declined to give further details of the Vatican report, which was signed off in March.
The monks’ days have been numbered since 2009, when the Vatican sacked their flamboyant abbot, Father Simone Fioraso, a former fashion designer who built up a cult following among Rome’s fashionable aristocratic crowd as well as show business worshippers such as Madonna, who prayed at the church in 2008.
In 2009 Anna Nobili, a nightclub dancer who became a nun, was invited to perform her “holy dance” before an audience including archbishop Gianfranco Ravasi, head of the Vatican’s cultural department. For her performance Nobili, who says she uses dance as a form of prayer, lies spread-eagled in front of the altar clutching a crucifix or twists and turns as in pole-dancing routines.
Dating back to the 4th century, Santa Croce in Gerusalemme was built to house relics brought back from the Holy Land by the mother of Emperor Constantine. They include items described as nails and splinters from the cross, thorns from Jesus’ crown, and a bone from the finger St Thomas pushed into the wounds of Christ.
The monks living there now had opened a shop selling organic produce from their kitchen garden, but this was shut down in 2009 amid accusations of their having secretly stocked the shelves from a neighbourhood grocery.
The Italian newspaper La Stampa said that VIP guests were also encouraged to stay at a hotel opened at the Santa Croce monastery which offered a 24-hour limousine airport service.
In 2008 Fioraso hosted a week-long, televised, reading of the bible with religious figures, politicians and celebrities reading tracts, starting with Pope Benedict himself. But a year later Fioraso was ousted, despite protests from parishioners who defended his “patience, dedication, sacrifice and passion”.
The Vatican’s removal of the monks to other monasteries, ending their 500-year presence at the basilica, follows Benedict’s hard line with other wayward orders, including the Legionaries of Christ, run by the Mexican priest Marcial Maciel Degollado, who fathered numerous children, was disciplined over sexual abuse allegations and was banished to a life of penitence. The basilica was supported by the Friends of Santa Croce, a who’s who of Roman society run by an Italian claiming descent from Charlemagne. Italian press reports have speculated that the inspectors from the Vatican suspected homosexual relations between monks at the monastery.
In China too, desecration of the Sanctuary
Rocking the way to heaven
May 30, 2011, Source: UCAN
This rock band does more than just play rock music to entertain young people in southern China.
They use their music to bring Catholics closer to God and tell others about their faith.
Margaret, the rock band, has its genesis in Sacred Heart of Jesus Church in Nanning, in the Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region in 2010. Its members, aged 20-26, comprise a vocalist, two guitarists, a bass guitarist, a synthesizer player and a drummer. Three of them are Catholics.
Nicholas Zhang Xiongtao, the 24-year-old Catholic vocalist, said they owe it to the parish for giving them a room for regular practice… With support from the parish priest, Father John Baptist Tan Jingtuan, they have performed at Christmas, Easter and other Church feasts. This Easter they organized a rock concert at the church.
The church not only serves as a stage, but also an excellent interactive space between the musicians and the audience, Zhang said, adding that this is the biggest difference of performing inside a church…
He Hua’nan, a non-Catholic rock musician who took part in the concert said, “Performing beneath the crucifix was a joyful experience.” …Thanks to Father Tan’s explanation to parishioners and the purpose of promoting rock music inside the church as a tool for evangelization, many have gradually accepted the importance of their work. But some still have reservations. Lin Haijin, 31, said the Easter concert was a bit extreme. “I wished there could have more of a religious atmosphere,” she said. He Songhuan, 63, said the church is a strange place for a rock performance. He suggested the parish consider other ways to attract young people.
“Liturgical Dancing at its Worst”
The above dance was conducted around the Blessed Sacrament.
Below, you can find some pictures of these prohibited Western dances that have become commonplace in Latin rite Catholic churches. All of them were performed in the sanctuary/before the altar either during or outside of holy Mass.
“Ignatian Retreat” Mass
in which Fr Robert Ver Eecke, a Jesuit priest dances, Boston, Massachusetts
“Dancing Girls” at the Cathedral of St. Raymond in the Joliet Diocese
Women perform dances in the sanctuary and even step onto the main altar at St. Sebastian’s Church, Akron, Ohio. Their liturgical dance had the approval of Bishop Anthony Pilla of Cleveland
The ‘Rock’ Church
St. Alphonsus Liguori Catholic Church in St. Louis, Montana, calls itself the “rock” church. The name takes its origin from a special type of rock used to construct the building. We call it “rock” church in a second meaning due to the rock and roll or rock-like dances that frequently take place during Mass in that church. [This is a
Its liturgies often feature teenagers and girls in extravagant clothing performing rock dance routines during the Mass.
Watch a video of another dance inside the rock church:
2 out of 1,196 responses:
-The Holy Mass is supposed to represent Calvary. That’s why is called Sacrifice of the Mass. None danced in Calvary during Christ’s crucifixion. This is an abuse.
-What has our mass come to? This is pagan.
Praise dance at St. Alphonsus Liguori “Rock” Church in St. Louis
St. Alphonsus Liguori “the rock” Church
video, Traditionalists are not happy over these abuses. The same video can be found at
with the following comments, first by the one who posted the clip, and then by viewers.
I have selected 5 of the 15 comments:
-I give credit (or blame) to Spirit Daily* for bringing this to my attention. It is three minutes long and insufferably hard to watch. I hope the rebuilding of this Church does not include a stage to facilitate this sort of thing.
Based on the video, it is not absolutely certain in my mind that this is taking place during Mass, but it sure does look like it.
Hey, didn’t this place get hit by lightning recently? Posted by Thettiman, [a Traditionalist] September 27, 2007
*a Catholic site run by Michael H. Brown
–Once again this place is NOT CATHOLIC! At best they are a sad version of Pentecostalism. I for one can’t understand why our beloved Archbishop puts up with that kind of VOODOO in a so called Catholic church.
Personally, I think they should be told to straighten up or get out. They took the archdiocese $100,000.00 to fix their temple of Protestantism, but for some reason can’t follow the Churches directives. Sin of PRIDE! PRIDE! We need to stand up and expose these so called liberal parishes and their priests. It’s a new day faithful Catholics. Let’s not let this pass us by… Mother of Perpetual Help pray for these poor misguided souls. Archbishop, DO SOMETHING PLEASE. This kind of place is misguiding souls, and could very well lead them into eternal damnation. –Anonymous
–HOW DARE YOU CRITICIZE OUR CHURCH WHEN YOU KNOW NOTHING ABOUT US AND WHO WE ARE? WE ARE A HISTORICALLY AFRICAN-AMERICAN CHURCH RUN BY THE REDEMPTORISTS! WHY DON’T YOU ATTEND SUNDAY SERVICE WITH US BEFORE YOU PASS JUDGMENT.
WE ALSO HAVE OVER 100 COMMUNITY MINISTRIES THAT WE RUN AND FACILITATE EACH YEAR. THE BIBLE ENCOURAGES PRAISE TO GOD IN ALL FORMS. WE ALSO BRING OUR BIBLES TO SERVICE EVERY SUNDAY AND READ THEM DAILY. THAT’S WHY I CHOSE THIS CHURCH AFTER BEING IN CATHOLIC INSTITUTIONS SINCE I WAS 6. THE TEACHINGS I LEARNED IN THOSE YEARS SICKENED ME TO THE POINT THAT I CONSIDERED CONVERTING TO JUDAISM TO FIND THE TRUTH. I FINALLY FOUND IT WHEN I CAME TO THE ROCK.
REMEMBER–“JUDGE NOT, LEST YE BE JUDGED”. –ROCK4EVER
–No need to shout. No one made any comment about your parish except the obvious and scandalous liturgical abuses that regularly take place there. Are you saying that the dance in that video only happened once, or that it has been discontinued? That would be a relevant piece of information. I am glad you have over 100 ministries. Now, if you could have Catholic Mass on Sundays to go with them, Masses celebrated as the rubrics of your Church call for, then you would have a great situation. Otherwise, to the extent that you intentionally deviate from the Catholic Mass, you by definition have a protestant service. Thettiman
-There is nothing wrong with wanting to praise God, but that does not mean that you have the right to disrupt what is His most beautiful Sacrament. The mass is an established event that unites the universal church through the one Body of Christ. No matter what, that is the most important liturgical event that ever takes place. The transubstantiation takes place only when you have a valid mass, and an explicit separation from the rubrics would clearly make this a form of liturgical abuse. That is not to say that worshipping God outside of mass in other ways is to be discouraged. All that we do should be done “all for the greater honor and glory of God.” I hope that you see why it is not logical to criticize those who want to defend the liturgy, when they are perfectly capable of saying that you are offending the beliefs of the universal church. If you want to call a Sunday Service Catholic, then it must be a valid liturgical form. There must be Communion (with very few exceptions) and a Priest must lead the Mass according the rite laid out in the Roman Missal. Otherwise, do not refer to the event in any way as a liturgy. –Anonymous
February 17, 2005, Youth Day at the Religious Education Congress in Los Angeles takes place under the direction of Card. Roger Mahony. A dancing group of high-school girls perform in semi-transparent dresses
Photos from the Archdiocese of Los Angeles website
Here we have a Traditionalist site saying that the immediately-above pictures were taken “during the Mass”. To me, it appears to be outside the Eucharistic service.
Those pictures are taken from radical Traditionalist sites that condemn the entire Novus Ordo (post Vatican II) Mass and not just the aberrations and abuses that are taking place in parishes across the globe in the guise of experimentation and innovation. I am in possession of many more pictures, most of them worse — if such a thing is possible — than those shown on the previous pages.
I include pictures from a number of Traditionalist authors/web sites in this and related studies because they are the main source of evidence of such abuses in the Liturgy of the Mass. The pre-Vatican Council II or Tridentine Latin Rite Masses provided absolutely no scope for such aberrations. Traditionalist writings endeavour to show that after the Conciliar reforms opened the doors to ‘aggiornamento’, innovation in and experimentation with the Liturgy of the Novus Ordo Mass — which was neither the intention nor the spirit of the Council — led to these abuses.
Unfortunately, the Traditionalists do not admit to the latter, while the Bishops fail to check — and Rome is exceedingly slow to condemn –the former.
What the Traditionalist sites don’t mention is that even Rome condemns these horrible “liturgies”.
Watch this video of
“liturgical dancing” in the church — with a Bishop in attendance
October 15, 2007
10 out of 84 viewers’ comments
-This was what was witnessed by hundreds of Catholic worshippers, after Holy Mass. Keep in mind that the Bishop has nothing to do with the planning of liturgical celebrations. I will leave my commentary out of this description.
Sancte Petre, ora pro nobis! Pacislander – who posted the video clip.
-The bishop has EVERYTHING to do with the planning of celebrations and if he doesn’t he’s negligent, and STILL responsible for the sacrilege and scandal.
-Much thanks for posting videos like this! Please inform the public as to what Catholic Parish this is, so that other Catholics may write to the Archbishop and settle this disturbing matter. I can just hear the clapping noise in the background. Quite revolting!
-Back in 1999, John Paul II had people from various Asian countries dancing at a Mass when he was in India.
-That was not the Holy Father who put those dancers in – it was his master of ceremonies, Piero Marini, who is now out of a job for a very good reason…
-Are you aware that the Vatican is against liturgical dance, “real” or otherwise? Pacislander
-1. It’s hurting the liturgy and what the liturgy is, as well as the sanctity of the sanctuary.
2. it’s not a matter of likes, it’s a matter of what is or is not appropriate. Pacislander
-Cardinal Arinze (pro multos annos) has already definitively spoken on this.
-Being the Prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship, he would be the final arbiter
-Sure he “spoke” on it…that is ALL the Vatican II hierarchy ever does in regards to ending the so called abuses. They issue statements to pacify the dumbed down laity and then they let the “abusers” go on their merry way. Wake up Catholics, its time for a new counter revolution against the heresies.
-Anyone who thinks that this is Catholic does not deserve to call himself Catholic. This is an Abomination in the eyes of God!!!! Paganism!!!!
Only beauty will save us
By Sandro Magister June 6, 2011
THE CULT OF THE AVANT-GARDE AND THE CULTURE OF DEATH
by Jean Clair, Paris, Courtyard of the Gentiles, March 25, 2011
In 2009, at a little church in Finistère, a stripper, Corinne Duval, in the course of a contemporary dance performance subsidized by the Ministry of Culture, ended up dancing naked on the altar.
The question of liturgical dancing is raised here by two Protestant-influenced Malaysian Catholics
DANCE IN WORSHIP
Why is Liturgical dancing such a rarity in the Catholic Church?
By Aneel David Kannabhiran [Malaysia], Cover story 2, June 2003
Let them praise his name with dancing…. – Psalms 149:3
Why is dancing as a form of worship such a rarity in the Catholic Church?
Dancing is more common in Charismatic or Evangelical churches. Catholic masses in contrast, are more contemplative in nature. Is anything that is “too charismatic” therefore not appropriate?
In the Bible, dance was used as an expression of joy at worship or festivals.
Moses’ sister, Miriam, led the women of Israel in a dance after the tiny nation had miraculously crossed the Red Sea–Ex.15:20. David is said to have danced before the Ark of the Covenant as it was being brought into Jerusalem: David … danced before the Lord with all his might– 2 Sam.6:14.
Other biblical references of dance are Psalms 30:11 and 150:4, Ecclesiastes 3:4, Jeremiah 31:4 and 31:13.
Vatican’s Congregation for Divine Worship and the Sacraments addressed the issue of “Religious Dance” in their Notitiae II document  (“The Religious Dance, an Expression of Spiritual Joy” 202-205).
Theoretically, it could be deduced…that certain forms of dancing and certain dance patterns could be introduced into Catholic worship.
Nevertheless, two conditions could not be prescinded from:
The first: to the extent in which the body is a reflection of the soul, dancing with all its manifestations, would have to express sentiments of faith and adoration in order to become a prayer.
The second condition: just as all the gestures and movements found in the liturgy are regulated by the competent ecclesiastical authority, so also dancing as gesture would have to be under its discipline.
Notitiae further states
that dance in Western culture:
…is tied with love, with diversion, with profaneness, with unbridling of the senses; such dancing, in general, is not pure.
For that reason it cannot be introduced into liturgical celebrations of any kind whatever.
History of Suppression
Liturgical dance historian Linda Coleman, in her book Worship God in Dance states: “Critics within the clergy during the medieval period like the Bishop of Hippo warned against ‘frivolous or unseemly dances’ and insisted on prayer not dance”.
Coleman goes on to say in her book, “Catholics and Protestants in the post-Reformation period firmly attempted to close the door on creative expression of dance in the liturgy.”
Marion D’Cruz, head of The Five Arts Centre in Kuala Lumpur and active in contemporary dance and performing arts within and without the church for 43 years, has this experience to share:
“Once when I was performing an offertory dance with children for their first communion in a church in Kuala Lumpur, the parish priest did not allow the children to perform beyond the communion railing, even though there was a huge raised space before the altar. They could only perform in the aisle fronting the first pew, so nobody could see them except for people in the front row. It was a great disappointment for the kids.”
Michael Voon, a dancer whose main passion is liturgical dance, says, “It’s still a touchy subject among most Catholic priests to allow dancing anywhere near the altar.”
Marion has observed a lot of self-censorship when performing and choreographing dances for church, “especially among young people,” she says, “because they’re ‘trained’ to be scared. It’s a terrible thing to see them stifling their own creativity.
“Once, I was choreographing these girls in at a church in Klang. As we were using Indian traditional music and costumes, the girls were afraid the congregation might object to their dance being ‘too Hindu'”, she said.
“I think inculturation is very powerful in dealing with Christianity in our part of the world, making it much more potent and meaningful,” she added.
Michael insists that Christian choreographers must be able to make wise decisions on what types of gestures and costumes are appropriate and reverential to God, thus eliminating criticism from the congregation.
Marion agrees but says, “it doesn’t mean you put yourself in a situation where you are scared to do anything ‘different'”.
When one is performing liturgical dance, Marion believes one has to keep in mind the context, but not to the extent of worrying what the congregation is going to think.
Marion, who has choreographed public performances featuring themes that exemplify the vision and mission of Christians – immigrants, corruption, the ISA and women’s issues among others, adds, “One of the best ways of doing liturgical dance is by taking a hymn and interpreting the words of the hymn.”
Dance of God
Michael added, “When I was in St. Peter’s Square in 1990 attending Mass presided by the Pope, I remember him clearly saying, “Pray … prayer is the dance of God”.
“I then cut down on my dance performances and found the necessity to pray. Then prayer facilitated much movement within. My heart was dancing joyfully though not a limb was in motion.”
Michael’s sentiments are exemplified by Gloria Weyman, past dance director at Thomas More College, USA, in her book “I am a Happy Liturgical Dancer”: If liturgical dance is a prayer, it is necessary that the dancer be praying. We can dance as a prayer only if we pray as a dancer.
In this spirit, Michael and fellow dancer Foh Chun Meng are attempting to make inroads into the Catholic Church in promoting liturgical dancing.
Michael and Foh are the only two Catholic members of the Christian Dance Fellowship of Malaysia [CDFM].
Shall We Dance?
Michael hopes that one day the Catholic clergy will allow liturgical dancing to be a regular feature at masses.
“The Eucharist could be revered through dance, but the Church is still too steeped in tradition to allow this,” he said.
He also hopes the laity will someday have a Performing Arts Ministry and called upon all prominent Catholic performers and artistes to join him in conducting performing arts workshops and classes for the laity.
To this end, Foh is embarking on a quest to provide dance lessons* to Catholics open to learning dance as a means to worship. “As part of our objective to outreach to the parish youth, St. Francis Xavier’s Church in Petaling Jaya is introducing dancing as a form of worship,” Foh said.
However, Michael stresses that, “If the dance does not enhance the liturgy and help the people to pray better, then we should not dance in church.”
With additional reporting by Fiona Pereira. Thanks also to Michael Voon for research references.
*The dance classes are held every Saturday, except the last Saturday of the month in Bilik Tony de Mello, St. Francis Xavier’s Church at 2.30pm. For more information, contact Foh at 012-3153268.
Here we have good-intentioned Malaysian Catholics who are determined to ensure that liturgical dancing becomes an integral part of every Holy Mass. It is not surprising that their dance classes are conducted at a hall named after Tony de Mello, the Jesuit whose books were posthumously banned by Rome. It is also not surprising that they perceive the issue as one of “inculturation“.
FR ANTHONY DE MELLO-WRITINGS BANNED BY THE CHURCH
I now summarize what we have learnt from the priests, Bishops and Cardinals and even our present Pope emeritus Benedict XVI, in the above articles:
“Liturgical dance” is not expressly mentioned in the 2004 Instruction
Redemptionis Sacramentum. There has never been a document from the Congregation for Divine Worship and Discipline of the Sacraments saying that dance is approved in the Mass.
“Dancing is not a form of expression for the Christian liturgy. None of the Christian rites includes dancing”– Pope Benedict XVI
The tradition of the Latin Church has not known the dance.
“Liturgical dancing” can find no place in the celebration of holy Mass and the sacraments.
Liturgical dance can be included in the overall prohibition on introducing elements not contemplated by the liturgical books.
“It is totally absurd to try to make the liturgy “attractive” by introducing dancing”– Pope Benedict XVI
Proponents of liturgical dance say we’re made to worship God in body, soul, and spirit — with our whole being. But with liturgical dance, people’s minds are fragmented by the attention they pay to the “performers.” Liturgical dance becomes a distraction, an act of sensory stimulation.
Hence, liturgical dance undermines the primordial objective in true worship of God:
To adore and place our whole being before Him who transcends our human existence.
Modern liturgical dance, like the Gnostic-Docetist attempts of old, detracts from the heart of the Mass, which is the sacrifice of Christ, the sacrifice of the cross. Modern man will do anything and everything to escape the cross and replace its pain with something soothing, something pleasurable to the senses.
By the spectacle of liturgical dancers, the symbolism of the priest acting in persona Christi is diminished. If you diminish the priest, you diminish the importance of Jesus Christ.
Religious dance in church conduces little to worship and it could degenerate into disorders.
“Most dances draw attention to the performers and offer enjoyment” –Cardinal Francis Arinze, former prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments
Dance of any kind must always take place outside of liturgical services at a time and place where they are not considered liturgical celebrations.
It can never, under any circumstances, take place in the sanctuary of the church.
“Some priests and lay people think that Mass is never complete without dance. The difficulty is this: we come to Mass primarily to adore God — what we call the vertical dimension. We do not come to Mass to entertain one another. That’s not the purpose of Mass. The parish hall is for that. Most dances that are staged during Mass should have been done in the parish hall.
And some of them are not even suitable for the parish hall. I saw in one place — I will not tell you where — where they staged a dance during Mass, and that dance was offensive. It broke the rules of moral theology and modesty. Those who arranged it — they should have had their heads washed with a bucket of holy water!
Why make the people of God suffer so much? Haven’t we enough problems already? Only Sunday, one hour, they come to adore God. And you bring a dance! Are you so poor you have nothing else to bring us? Shame on you! That’s how I feel about it” -Cardinal Francis Arinze
Priests must always be excluded from the dance.
Most of the articles in the preceding pages concern liturgical dance or secular Western dance in the Latin Rite Church in the Western world.
However when it came to discussing such dances in the wider Church in respect of Africa and Asia with their indigenous religious and cultural traditions, the inevitable topic of “inculturation” surfaced. The issue immediately becomes sensitive and controversial.
Cardinal Arinze spoke about religious dances that are native to the African and Asian continents and which have been permitted on occasion, but only “as exceptions”:
“In some countries, in a legitimate form of “inculturation” of the Liturgy in these regions, ritual dance has been introduced into several papal liturgies in recent years — on occasions usually connected with African or Asian culture. These are special exceptions” -Father Edward McNamara, professor of liturgy at the Regina Apostolorum Pontifical University.
With few exceptions, the Holy See has said “no” to liturgical dance.
Even in these exceptions, “Liturgical dance should never dominate or overwhelm the celebration of the Eucharist. It must be tasteful, and must always lead us to deeper prayer and reflection. If liturgical dance leads to applause by the participants, then it failed.” -Cardinal Roger Mahony
Though the Second Vatican calls for
a healthy inculturation
in matters liturgical, in such an inculturation one must be faithful to the major Church documents that give directives on how this inculturation is to be made. They are Sacrosanctum Concilium, 37-40, the 1994 Instruction: Roman Liturgy and Inculturation, and Chapter IX of the General Instruction on the Roman Missal.
Cardinal Francis Arinze, former prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments
warned the bishops of Asia
against liturgical “idiosyncrasies” and
false conceptions of inculturation, in an August 2009 homily at the closing Mass of the plenary assembly of the Federation of Asian Bishops’ Conferences in Manila.
He also sounded a cautionary note against liturgical dance:
“Somebody can say, “But the pope visited this country and the people danced”. A moment: Did the pope arrange it? Poor Holy Father — he comes, the people arranged. He does not know what they arranged. And somebody introduces something funny — is the pope responsible for that? Does that mean it is now approved? Did they put it on the table of the Congregation for Divine Worship? We would throw it out! If people want to dance, they know where to go.”
“The best approach would be to make a clear
distinction between liturgical dancing in the West and
religious dancing in other cultures in the wider world.
“When we turn to the wider Church, beyond the West, we find cultures
where traditions of religious dance pre-date evangelization.
This is where dancing in worship seems “natural“; hence
we should cease calling it “liturgical dancing“. It is religious dancing.
In these countries in recent decades Christian religious dancing or movement such as swaying, rhythmic clapping, etc., has become well established and it is
regulated by the competent authorities, the local Ordinary and the Episcopal conference. But
I would underline a major difference between this appropriate inculturation and what happened in the West.
This is really religious dance and the people often spontaneously take part in it. This activity does not come under most of the strictures of the 1975 ruling from the Sacred Congregation for Divine Worship and the Sacraments.
Therefore, in 1994 in the Instruction on Inculturation and the Roman Liturgy, from the same Congregation, we find that dancing may be incorporated into the liturgy where dance is an inherent part of the culture of the people and is not simply a performance. This activity may even be promoted in places where dancing has a religious meaning compatible with Christianity.” –Most Rev. Peter John Elliott, Auxiliary Bishop of Melbourne
“But the same conferences and other authorities have pointed out that even in traditional cultures a blanket approval for all forms of dance during worship must be avoided. Some dances and gestures from pre-Christian traditions relate to cults or worship of false gods, even demons, not to mention the erotic overtones of some dances that would also exclude them from Catholic worship. Borrowing from another religious culture, for example Hinduism, may also raise problems of catechetical confusion or even syncretism.” -Most Rev. Peter John Elliott, Aux. Bishop of Melbourne
IN INDIA – DANCING BY PRIESTS, DANCING IN LITURGICAL AREAS AND AT HOLY MASS
I now wish to examine evidence on the use of dance in the Indian Church and understand whether it is in the category of permissible inculturated religious dancing of the type envisioned by the Bishop of Melbourne or if they are, to quote him, “gestures from pre-Christian traditions [that] relate to cults or worship of false gods, even demons, not to mention the erotic overtones of some dances that would also exclude them from Catholic worship.”
I will concern myself with the type of dances that are commonly performed in churches in India.
Having lived for many years — in the 80s and early 90s — in the north of India, I can vouch that I never had the misfortune of being subjected to any sort of dancing in the liturgy except at the Pope’s Mass in Delhi in 1986. The only dances that were performed in connection with the Eucharistic services were the folk dances of tribals; and they preceded the Holy Mass. The dancers accompanied the celebrant to the foot of the altar and dispersed to their seating places.
I cannot say how things now are in the northern dioceses, but I am pessimistic seeing that the older Bishops have retired and been replaced by younger men who have been exposed to the liberal and ashram theologies that I have written about in a number of reports.
After moving to Tamil Nadu, I am constrained to attend low-key Masses on major feast days and take great care to avoid the popular main masses which are conducted in Tamil, the local language, because they are heavily “inculturated”. I might add also that the same applies to almost all parish and diocesan functions — often bi-lingual — that incorporate the celebration of the Holy Mass. If the reader gets the impression that I have a problem with “inculturation”, the reader is wrong. I’m all for it. But I’m opposed to most of what passes for inculturation; “Hinduisation” is more apt a word. Since “inculturation” is addressed by me in a separate report, I will refrain from explaining here why these Masses distress me.
OVER EIGHT YEARS AGO, I SENT THIS LETTER TO NINETEEN (19) PRIESTS:
VERY IMPORTANT FOR ME
Dear Reverend Fathers,
At a particular Mass,
1. There was Bharatanatyam dancing during the offertory.
2. During the Doxology at the end of the Eucharistic prayer, nuns performed ‘arati‘ with light, camphor, flowers and incense.
Could I have your opinion on whether, according to liturgical guidelines for the Mass, these are aberrations, or not?
In case you respond to me, please be assured that your identities will NOT be revealed to anyone else.
Thanking you, Michael
Unlike as is usually the case against my queries, only five responded. This, apparently, is a very delicate issue.
Their replies were affirmative regarding the first question – on Bharatanatyam.
To the second, they said that the arati is permitted in the Indian-rite of Mass. The examination of what the significance of the arati truly is will be taken up in a future report along with other matters of “Indianisation”.
Meanwhile it is hoped that this study will enlighten our priests and laity that much if not most of this “Indianisation” is a euphemism for Hinduisation or Brahminisation.
In 2005, a member of the Konkani Catholics yahoo group list raised a question on this dancing:
From: Deepak Ferrao
Sent: Wednesday, December 07, 2005 11:24 PM Subject: [KonkaniCatholics] Regarding Liturgy
Liturgy is one aspect, which is given due importance and is given a lot of reverence. I understand there are many norms also which are been laid down for our Liturgy. I wanted to know whether so-called liturgical dancing is allowed in our Liturgy. What I actually mean is that we may have observed a kind of dance by some lay people (which may be the culture there in that particular state) during the procession of priests as they walk towards the altar.
I came across the website zenit.org which gives news from Vatican and which also has some question and answers about Liturgy. This is what it has to say:
“The article is labeled as a ‘qualified and authoritative sketch.’ It is considered by the Congregation as ‘an authoritative point of reference for every discussion on the matter.’ Therefore it is commended for study by diocesan liturgical commissions and offices of worship. (The English translation below first appeared in The Canon Law Digest, Vol. VIII, pp. 78-82.)”
“The article was later republished with permission in the April/May 1982 Newsletter of the Bishops Committee on the Liturgy of the National Conference of Catholic Bishops, which consequently published directives that “all dancing, (ballet, children’s gesture as dancing, the clown liturgy) are not permitted to be ‘introduced into liturgical celebrations of any kind whatever’.” It also says a little later after some explanation:
“certain forms of dancing and certain dance patterns could be introduced into Catholic worship. Nevertheless, two conditions could not be prescinded from.
The first: to the extent in which the body is a reflection of the soul, dancing, with all its manifestations, would have to express sentiments of faith and adoration in order to become a prayer.
The second condition: just as all the gestures and movements found in the liturgy are regulated by the competent ecclesiastical authority, so also dancing as a gesture would have to be under its discipline.”
I would want to know that the cultural dance that is being incorporated in our Liturgy, does it express sentiments of Faith and Adoration?
The reason I have this confusion in my mind is that I feel that some of our Indian culture and tradition may have been handed down by some non believers or even by pagans who had been idol worshippers.
How far can this liturgical dancing be justified? Deepak Ferrao
Dear Group Members,
I believe Deepak seems to be referring to the post on ZENIT by title “Liturgical Dancing” which may be found at : http://www.zenit.org/english/visualizza.phtml?sid=59931
I’m providing the link for the reference of members who wish to help Deepak with a response. Austine, Moderator.
The moderator did not answer the question.
One Konkani Catholics member responded as follows
Hi Deepak, I think the liturgy would be more meaningful if dances are introduced that make sense to the rest of the congregation. For e.g. if we say incorporated the Bharata Natyam - we could not justify it as our cultural dance because it has no part or parcel of our Mangalorean culture. It would make great sense in Nagapattinam or some Tamil city where Bharata Natyam is in vogue and understood.
With Vatican II there has been some relaxation towards local cultures. Before that of course since the Catholic Church was universal with a myriad of cultures the Roman culture (Latin et al) was used to have a common bond for all Catholics even though Latin for that matter was not even the official language of Italy. I for one feel that if we culturally do a welcome dance it would look good and strike a chord in us. We are not dancing to a pagan god/goddess but to the Lord and Master of our lives and our Supreme Creator God the Father as we know him of the bible!
In New Zealand for e.g. before a major mass the Maori Haere Mae Welcome is sung by a Maori female - something that is done to welcome a visiting dignitary to a marae or meeting house.
To the rest of the Konkani Catholics group – any ideas to add? Ron Porob December 11, 2005
The moderator did not moderate the discussion by pointing out either that “Liturgical Dancing” is not permissible at Holy Mass or that Bharatanatyam is a Hindu temple dance.
My letter of February 6, 2006, which was posted in Konkani Catholics
I just want to inform Deepak and all of you that in my studies and write-ups on different aspects of Inculturation, the aspect of worship through use of Indian dance forms is yet to be taken up by me. However, I have been collecting information on the subject in preparation for that article. [And I would welcome more].
For the moment all I can say is that in the name of Inculturation, a lot of liturgical abuse is taking place, and one area is dance during the Eucharistic celebration.
Another thing that I can boldly state in this forum is that Bharatanatyam is not a dance form that can be used by Catholics, not at Mass, not even before or after Mass, not ever.
If anyone knows Fr. Jerry Sequeira SVD who used to excel in these temple dances and finally gave them up and founded the Divine Call Centre, Mulki, he will understand the issue better. Just last month there was a deliverance case at a charismatic programme in Chennai where the evil spirit was a manifestation of Bharatanatyam.
Michael Prabhu, Metamorphose Ministries, Chennai
1. Watch this video of ex-priest Fr. Francis Barboza SVD of Gyan Ashram, Archdiocese of Bombay, and his ensemble perform the Bharatanatyam temple dance in front of the high altar, July 17, 2008
At Musica Sacra International Marktoberdorf, 1996, “dancing the life of Jesus with Hindu Bharata Natyam Dance”
Francis Barboza used to teach Bharatanatyam till he left the priesthood, married a Hindu, a dancer herself,
and settled in the US.
2. Fr. Joachim Andrade SVD, the Provincial of the Congregation of the Divine Word for the Southern Region of Brazil also dancing before the altar
Trained at Gyan Ashram, Mumbai, he teaches Bharatanatyam at own school of dance, Ravi Santosh Performing Arts, located in Curitiba, Brazil.
Below left: note the huge idol of Shiva [Nataraja] in the background and a little icon of the Virgin.
Centre: the occult yin/yang, extreme left on backdrop, with the symbols of all religions. Syncretism!
Padre Joachim é professor de dança clássica indiana
Below, Fr. Joachim Andrade SVD doing Bharatanatyam before the tabernacle
3. Another example of SVD religious promoting Bharatanatyam/performing dance during the Liturgy of the Mass: one in Tizza, Ghana, another in Holy Spirit church, Eichstatt, Germany.
Ghana Province SVD Newsletter August – November 2008
Immediately after the Holy Communion there was a cultural dance inside the Church. This dance is called bawaa. Xylophones and drums are normally used to produce the bawaa music. Usually, the dancers dance around the players of the instruments with the male and female dancers intertwined. Some of the con-celebrating ministers joint the dancers to exhibit their dancing capabilities. That made the celebration a very colorful one.
(The writer himself participated. He danced so well that he earned about GH 11.00 cedis for the official dancers. Let us not forget our roots!). –Fr. Martin K. Ninnang SVD
The group also was at Mass for Pastoral workers
in Eichstatt and performed using local drums from Ghana which moved all to dance. A song composed by Rev. Bro Stephen Domelevo, SVD entitled “Walking Together: we are all to walk together” became the most popular song for the youth and old in all the parishes. –Stephen Domelevo, SVD
4. Kalai Kaviri, Tiruchirappalli [Trichy or Tiruchi], Tamil Nadu
was started in Tiruchirappalli by
Fr. S. M. George
(now elevated as Monsignor) in 1978. He was its director 1977-2002. Kàlai Kàviri
started a dance school,
Natyapalli, in October 1983, offering diploma courses in
and Mohini Attam.
About Kàlai Kàviri
Kàlai Kàviri is both a Troupe of 12 dancers and the name of the College of Fine Arts of 260 full-time students from which the Troupe is drawn.
SPIRITUAL DRAMA FOR ALL FAITHS
Kàlai Kàviri has been the dance performer for 45 Hindu temple festivals in the last ten years as well as cathedral and church functions too numerous to mention.
Kàlai Kàviri has performed for Pope John Paul II in Rome, as well as for Hindu and Buddhist leaders;
Kàlai Kàviri is fostering a twin policy of encouraging Hindu students to enroll and also of encouraging Christians to adopt traditional dance in spite of some cultural resistance among both Christians and Moslems. In both ways, there has been success. While the College has grown rapidly in the last ten years, 53% of its students have been Christian and 46% have been Hindu.
Church Liturgy and Inculturation
[I]t is Kàlai Kàviri’s prime duty to bring the Church into the main stream of the Indian culture… As a first step, we integrated these within the communication apostolate of the Church. We started by using Indian dance, music, drama and literature to communicate the Good News and social development values… We searched for ways to contribute to the art of dance, Bharatha Natyam, and South Indian Classical Music, which have been generally ignored by the Church in the past… The idea of giving systematic training in dance inspired us to start a Part-Time School for Bharatha Natyam in 1983…
All these contributions by Kàlai Kàviri over 25 years in the field of promoting fine arts have given a new cultural image to the Church. The pioneers of inculturation in the 17th, 18th centuries and the post Vatican period were within the Church circle. By contrast, Kàlai Kàviri’s cultural contributions have been flowing as a major force outside, to merge with mainstream Indian heritage. Kàlai Kàviri has thus made the presence of the Church a fully Indian contributing force in the cultural field.
Who are they? The Kàlai Kàviri-ni quartet
Liturgical dance in sacred spaces
Bharathanatyam’s roots are in sacred dance even though there have been successful efforts to secularise it.
Kàlai Kàviri’s wide repertoire has been adapted:
either for temple hall stages for which the Kàlai Kàviri main troupe is a regular and popular performer, some 50 temples in India over the last decade and already eight in the UK; or for the sanctuary of cathedrals and churches both during and after liturgical services, whether eucharistic or otherwise.
For instance for six parts of the Mass, there are special dances which have been described as three dimensional psalms and which could also be used as part of Evensong.
Using them, the main troupe has danced twice for Pope John Paul II in 1987 and 1990; or with inter-faith potential when interspersed with readings from different scriptures or reflection or meditation.
Some “Public performances of Kalai Kaviri-Ni” in churches
Rochester Cathedral – Sunday Eucharist, 30 Sept 2007 11am
St Bede’s RC Church, Basingstoke, Sunday Parish Mass, 1 July 2007
St Swithun’s RC Church, Yateley, Hampshire, Sun 29 April 2007
Leeds University RC Chaplaincy Mass, Sun 22 April 2007
St Austin RC Church, Parish Mass, Wakefield, Sun 15 April 2007
Holy Trinity RC Church, Parish Mass, Brook Green, Hammersmith, London W6, Sun 22 Oct 2006
The Trichy link
Some of the most entertaining things to happen within the Link have been the visits to Leicestershire by two Indian dance groups with links to Trichy.
Kalai Karvari [sic] are a dance group based in Trichy and they visited in 2006, working with St Paul’s Secondary School in Leicester and then performing at the Methodist Church in Oadby.
Nrityavani … are becoming good friends having spent two visits with us. They are based in Bangalore, but are linked to Kalai Karvari and their choreographer, Virgine Jesica, comes from Trichy. During their last visit in 2007 they … also danced during Mass at Sacred Heart Church, Leicester. They are charged by the Bishop’s Conference in South India to use dance to explore how liturgy can be more meaningful and relevant in Indian society. They also challenge cultural prejudices, often having Jesus portrayed in dance by a female dancer… Anglican Canon Michael Rusk
5. Nav Sadhana Kala Kendra, Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh; a tri-diocesan enterprise
Nav Sadhana Kala Kendra
Nava Sadhana Kala Kendra is a college of dance & music situated in a beautiful tiny long stretched pollution free green suburb, near Tarna, Shivpur, of the cultural city – Kashi … It was founded by the honourable Bishops of UP, Uttaranchal & Rajasthan in July 1996 to promote Indian Arts & Culture. One of the thrusts of this college is to train the students to achieve certain professional quality in Bharatnatayam & Hindustani Vocal Music…
Nav Sadhana Kala Kendra dance troupe performing in Mumbai
Posted by: “Bombay Catholic Sabha, Kalina” MangaloreanCatholics@gmail.com
Thu Dec 9, 2010 7:40 am (PST)
Digest no. 2204
Students of the Nav Sadhana Kala Kendra, Varanasi, UP are performing in Mumbai at different parishes/ schools till Dec 13th. The students come from different faiths & through Bharatnatyam/Hindustani vocal music perform drama with a biblical background all very tastefully done under the able guidance of Fr Paul. Don’t miss their shows.
9th Dec morning performing at St Anne, Fort.
9th Dec evening performing at The Holy Name Cathedral, Fort.
10th Dec morning at St Anthony’s High School, Vakhola
10th Dec evening at St Anthony’s Church, Vakhola.
11th Dec morning at St Blaise High School, Amboli.
11th Dec evening at St Blaise Church, Amboli.
12th Dec evening at St Michael’s Church Mahim.
6. The NBCLC – the National Biblical, Catechetical and Liturgical Centre, and
Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India [CBCI] site
In October 1966, C.B.C.I. instituted the Commissions for Catechetics and Liturgy and decided to start the Centre to organize and animate liturgical and catechetical renewal in India. In 1971 the Centre’s area of service and research was broadened and became known as the
National Biblical, Catechetical and Liturgical Centre. It was “set up in Bangalore to promote and co-ordinate the renewal of Christian life in the Church according to the principles outlined by Vatican II council.”
Its present chairman is
Most Rev. Thomas Dabre, the bishop of Vasai and former Chairman of the CBCI’s Doctrinal Commission. Its present director is
Fr. Cleophas Dominic Fernandes.
Institute for International Theological Education: NBCLC, Bangalore
N.B.C.L.C. has been at the forefront in the work of inculturation and of the promotion of the arts in religious and spiritual practice. They are home to the liturgical dance troupe
… as well as many gifted pastoral theologians.
At N.B.C.L.C. we will have discussions on inculturation,
attend a mass which includes the use of traditional Indian Dance…
dancing during mass to celebrate the harvest, photo: Annette Kletke
Points to note: there is dance during the Mass; “traditional Indian Dance” means Bharatanatyam temple dance -Michael
Bharatanatyam by the Nrityavani troupe – at the altar
during the Liturgy of the Holy Mass
Maundy Thursday Observed at NBCLC in Indian Style
By Jessie Rodrigues, April 06, 2007
Bangalore: Maundy Thursday was solemnly observed in NBCLC, Bangalore in Indian Style* with hymns, bhajans and shlokas in English, Hindi, Kannada and Konkani on Thursday, April 5. *The Indian Rite Mass
Fr Thomas D’Sa
and nine concelebrants offered the Mass.
The ceremony started with a
dance depicting the Last Supper, by Nrityavani troupe.
The Indian Rite of the Mass
You are at St. Ann’s Church, Toronto, Canada. It is July 2, 2006 during Sunday Mass. The co-celebrating priests are Fr. Thomas D’Sa from India and the parish priest of St. Ann’s. Fr. D’Sa is the Director of the National Biblical Catechetical Liturgical Centre, NBCLC, a department of the Conference of Catholic Bishops in India, which officially endorses and promotes this Indian Rite of the Mass. The Mass was announced in the parish bulletin as the “Indian Order for the Eucharistic Celebration.” It was also announced on the Archdiocese of Toronto’s website.
The Mass is conducted following the rituals of a puja, a Hindu worship service.
A group of girls dance and sing during parts of the Mass, their words and actions having symbolic meaning in Hinduism. They belong to a group called Nrityavani [the voice of the dance] directed by Fr. D’Sa.
In the first part of the Mass, equivalent to the Prayers at the Foot of the Altar, the girls dance and sing in honor of the Holy Trinity, the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. However, the chant features the mantra “OM,” the supreme vibration in Hinduism. OM also represents the Hindu trinity Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva.
At other parts of the Mass, fire, incense and flowers are offered on plates as shown, during the Consecration. This gesture in the Hindu religion is made to honor an external deity or the divine inner consciousness of a person. The name of the ceremonial is arati, which signifies that the goddess Arathi is appeased by the offering of fire, incense and flowers.
At the Our Father, preceding the Communion, a Hare Krishna chant is sung. After Fr. D’Sa says the Our Father (four times), the response is indeed “Hare Krishna.” Now, Hare Krishna means “O energy of the lord (hare), O lord (Krishna), engage me in your service.”
During the Mass both priests sport a white dot between their eyebrows. The most common meaning of this dot is to proclaim oneself Hindu.
The Indian Rite of the Mass presented by Fr. D’Sa is the fruit of decades of effort by the Indian Bishops Conference to “inculturate” the Catholic Faith to the pagan religion of India… In reality it is a syncretist ceremony that incorporates pagan deities in the Holy Sacrifice.
*See MANTRAS ‘OM’ OR ‘AUM’ AND THE GAYATRI MANTRA
In adopting forms of expression alien to our Liturgy, … have they made sure of the specific Hindu ideology underlining those forms? Will it not be said that we are adapting ourselves to one type of Indian culture that is specifically Hindu?
–† Valerian Cardinal Gracias of Bombay
Hindu “Mass” Sparks Violent Altercation in Toronto Churchyard
By Cornelia R. Ferreira
The flyer below reads: Roman Rite Liturgy of the Eucharist with religious cultural adaptations of India approved by the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India. DIVYA YAGAM Indian Order of Eucharistic celebration St. Ann Church (corner De Grassi St. and Gerard St. East) Presider: Fr Thomas D’Sa Director of the
National Biblical Catechetical Liturgical Centre (CBCI) Bangalore, India
The “Indian Rite of Mass” was in full swing at St. Ann’s Church in Toronto, Canada, on Sunday, July 2, 2006…
It should be noted that the event was advertised on the Archdiocese of Toronto website although there is no “Indian Rite” or “Ordo” that has official Vatican approval. Also, there is no exclusively “Indian” religion or culture, as many religions co-exist in that country.
The “Mass” concocted in 1969 by the Indian bishops has always been a Hindu-Catholic syncretic hybrid, the version at St. Ann’s being an obvious adaptation for Western audiences. As for dance during Mass, which has always been forbidden, even the Sacred Congregation for Divine Worship, in 1975, said dance “desacralizes” the liturgy, “introducing an atmosphere of profanity.”
The service (photographed and video-taped by the intrepid band of traditionalist protesters) was a consciousness-raising workshop, with Fr. D’Sa explaining the significance of each dance and ritual. Though cloaked in Catholic terminology, the explanations made it clear that he would be conducting Hindu worship or puja, with the barest essentials of the Mass grafted onto it…
It was announced that Fr. D’Sa and his dance troupe were on a workshop tour. They had been in Europe and their next stop was the University of Winnipeg (“Celebrating Spirituality and Dance,” as advertised on Winnipeg’s Archdiocesan website).
A little background on the troupe is in order. Named “Nrityavani,” which means “the voice of dance,” it is an official organ of the Indian Bishops’ Conference. It was devised “to inculturate Catholicism through dance” – in other words, to Hinduize Catholic liturgy and belief worldwide, through its adaptations of Indian classical dance, which is an expression of Hinduism.
Directed by Fr. D’Sa, Nrityavani features Catholic dancers as young as nine, and at least one dancing priest. 
On April 1, 2006, the Indian bishops honoured Sri Sri Ravi Shankar‘s* Jubilee with a function at the NBCLC… Following NBCLC Director Father D’Sa’s welcome speech and Hindu devotional songs, Nrityavani dances depicted that “Wisdom is divine and the divine gifts are to be distributed freely.” […]
Let us now return to the Hindu Ordo Mass at the century-old St. Ann’s Church in Toronto. Site of a Native Peoples’ Parish for two decades, it had already been desecrated by Canadian Indian rituals. Before the Mass, Father D’Sa announced he would be explaining the dance gestures and postures as used in “the Indian culture.” He said the Entrance Procession would be preceded by an opening dance honouring the Blessed Trinity. The three barefooted Nrityavani dancing girls positioned in front of the altar were introduced respectively as representing, by their gestures, the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
Another abomination took place at the Our Father. Instead of reciting the prayer together as a congregation, the people were asked to sit down while the girls launched into another interpretive dance number. Most gestures were completely unfathomable, with the exception of receiving bread and forgiving trespasses (a shove, hurt feelings, forgiveness, hugs all around). The musical accompaniment was a
chant! Father D’Sa intoned the words “Our Father” four times. The response each time was the mantra “Hare Krishna”; towards the end of the prayer, the mantra was repeated over and over. Krishna, the reincarnation of Vishnu, who represents the Absolute Lord, is said to have seduced 16,000 women, and a whole occult, erotic literature has been developed around this aspect of Krishna. 
The Blessed Trinity Dance featured the chanting of the magic (occult) mantra OM as each “Person” of the Trinity came “on stage.” […] Father D’Sa was the main celebrant, and the pastor of St. Ann’s the concelebrant… After the Great Amen, the dancing girls performed a triple arati of flowers, fire and incense to the accompaniment of more pagan chants whilst the celebrants held aloft the consecrated Sacred Species.
3. Victor J. F. Kulanday, The Paganization of the Church in India, 2d rev. ed. (San Thome, Madras: 1988).
6. Father Aidan Turner, “Man of Vision Bring [sic] Indian Dancers to Mass,” in “Diocesan News,” The Voice, thevoiceonline.org, August 2005.
7. Ibid.; http://www.st-augustines-high.lancsngfl.ac.uk/index.html (click on News, “Recent Events,” Nrityavani, June 1, 2005). The website lauds the troupe for spreading the Gospels “via Asian Dance,” thus disguising its Hindu-evangelizing nature even further.
17. John B. Noss, Man’s Religions, 3d ed. (New York: The Macmillan Company, 1963), pp. 287, 289-90. Kulanday, pp. 82-83, 151.
*See NEW AGE GURUS 1 SRI SRI RAVI SHANKAR AND THE ‘ART OF LIVING’
Fr Thomas D’Sa Bids Adieu to NBCLC by Jessie Rodrigues July 29, 2008
After serving for 7 years, it was time for Fr Thomas D’Sa to bid goodbye to NBCLC, with the new director taking charge Sunday, July 27. Saying adieu to Fr D’Sa was a heart-breaking experience for the people in and around NBCLC, though his successor, Fr Cleophas D Fernandes, of Mumbai diocese is a very able and committed person with vast experience.
Archbishop [Bernard] Moras [of Bangalore], in his speech, praised Fr D’Sa and said he would be remembered for his valuable contributions to NBCLC especially the… ‘Nrityavani‘ dance hall… The Archbishop thanked the diocese of Bareli, and Bishop Anthony Fernandes for the gift of Fr D’Sa to NBCLC.
Comment in Daijiworld, self-praise from the new director of NBCLC:
Very good report of the event. Congratulations on the website. Interesting and relavant news and views. Great job and looking forward to your assistance at the NBCLC. –Fr Cleophas Fernandes, Bangalore August 1, 2008
The “squatting” altar is replaced by a table, again presided over by the Archbishop of Bangalore.
The B-dance is gone, but the Nrityavani troupe is still all over the sanctuary of the NBCLC temple.
Bangaloreans Pay Rich Tribute to Chiara Lubich
by Jessie Rodrigues March 16, 2009
Bangalore, Mar 16: A programme was held at the NBCLC on Saturday March 14 by Focolare* to mark the first death anniversary of Chiara Lubich. The event began with a power point presentation on Chiara’s life of sacrifice and compassion.
This was followed by a welcome dance by Nrityavani of NBCLC after which the Holy Eucharistic celebration was offered by Archbishop Bernard Moras of Bangalore, with Fr Glen and Fr Cleophas [NBCLC director] being the concelebrants.
Priests, nuns, and many others participated in the event. Archbishop Moras appreciated the model life led by Chiara and added that the Focolare movement is an example of love in unity as people from all over the world converging under one roof. Carmen and Rey talked of Chiara’s teachings and quoted some of her valuable teachings. Posters of Chiara were on display and the programme concluded with high tea at 6 pm.
The Focolare completes 25 years in India
By Margaret Francis The Examiner, The Archdiocesan weekly of Bombay, January 21, 2006, full page report. EXTRACT
November 27, 2005 marked an important milestone in the life of the Focolare Movement* in India.
St. Andrew’s Auditorium, Bandra was bustling with activity and universal brotherhood as it was the venue for the programme… It was the Silver Jubilee of the Focolare Movement in India! …Mass was celebrated by Cardinal Ivan Dias together with two more Bishops and a number of priests from different parts of India…
The programme was interlaced with artistic interludes. A professional Bharata Natyam dancer performed an exquisite dance beseeching God to come into his soul and transform his mundane existence into one of divine glory of worshipping the Lord. The audience watched the dance with reverence and awe, particularly because it was done by a Christian artiste and this form of dance has for a long time, been part of the Hindu culture…
Inter-religious Dialogue, one of the most beautiful fruits of the Focolare Movement, is an important tool for building unity. Various personalities who have been working with the Focolare for the progress of inter-religious dialogue in India were interviewed. A hymn of praise to God our loving Father, whom we can all call upon by whatever name our faith teaches us, was sung by one of the eminent professors of the Hindu-Christian dialogue. And as a gracious conclusion to a programme so profoundly full of grace, Cardinal Ivan Dias bestowed his blessing with encouraging words to the Focolare…
*For a detailed study, see FOCOLARE, ‘THE WORK OF MARY’-IS IT GOOD FOR CATHOLICS?
A photograph of the aberration that has become commonplace – performance of dance during Holy Mass, performance of dance by priests and performances in the holy sanctuary. It was taken in St. Joseph’s Church, Tutzing, Germany, and the dance troupe is the NBCLC’s Nrityavani.
I could not find out if the man in the picture is a priest or a lay person, but how much difference does it really make when one stops to digest the extent and gravity of these serious aberrations?
Music and Dance from India in churches
We have been enjoying personal connections to two dance groups from India, from Varanasi and Bangalore since a few years. Once a year the dance groups come to visit Europe and visit us in Austria.
Here are the descriptions for the dance troupes:
Foto gallery – In churches
Fr. Saju George Moolamthuvuthil SJ, Kolkata/Kalai Kaviri, Trichy
The Dancing Jesuit
From “The blog of an English Catholic priest”, Fr. Nicholas Schofield, June 18, 2006
St Ignatius Loyola, St Aloysius Gonzaga and St Edmund Campion would be rather surprised to learn that the man in the picture is actually a Jesuit, Fr Saju George, S.J., the so-called ‘dancing priest,’ who begins his English tour later this week.
This includes concerts at the Balaji Temple, Birmingham and Farm Street Jesuit Centre in London as well as performances during Sunday Mass
at St Catherine’s, Bristol (Fr Saju will provide a dance of self-offering, a Gospel meditation and a thanksgiving dance or Keerthanam after Communion).
Fr Saju is attempting to ‘Christianize’ Bharatanatyam, a sacred dance which (in recent centuries) was often performed by prostitutes in Hindu temples – so much so that it was abolished in 1947. As Fr Saju explained to Brendan McCarthy in this week’s Tablet*, [a Catholic newspaper] this ban led to its ‘spiritual reinvigoration.’
The dance, he said, involves a commitment of the whole person, body and soul. Everything that is danced is in praise of God. God may be Shiva or Krishna – or one of the other gods of the Hindu tradition…
Jesuit Fr. Saju George too is, as were the priests we examined on the previous pages, performing his Bharatanatyam recitals during the Liturgy of the Mass. Also, as in the case of the SVD priests seen earlier, he is encouraged by his fellow-Jesuits and superiors. Fr. Saju George is the “Research Director” of Kalai Kaviri.
Sacred dance ideal for today’s Catholic worship by
July 22, 2006
A Jesuit dance ensemble from Boston College regularly performs and provides instruction in matters pertaining to liturgical dance.
They are not entirely unique in this undertaking. As a recent article in The Tablet of London indicated there is a remarkable Indian Jesuit by the name of Saju George who believes in the profound relationship of the sacred with Indian classical dance. He is an expert in Kuchipudi and, more especially, Bharatanatyam. Bharatanatyam is originally a Hindu temple dance…
Michael Higgins is the president and vice-chancellor of St. Thomas University in Fredericton, N.B.
3 comments at this blog
1. Mr. Higgins forgets that Liturgical dancing is not appropriate in western culture, according to statements made by the Vatican in 1975 and 1994. In Dance in the Liturgy (1975), the Congregation for the Sacraments and Divine Worship specifically provided that liturgical dancing is not appropriate in western countries. Instruction on the Roman Liturgy and Inculturation (1994)
is a document that is universally binding in the Church.
IN CORDIBUS JESU ET MARIÆ, Secretman July 26, 2006
2. O. K. As sick as it is here you go. Those dancing Jesuits.
Polycarp July 26, 2006
Watering down Catholic Doctrines – Mixing with Hindu dancing liturgies – what’s next? Kama Sutra before the Kiss of Peace?
GBS0535 July 26, 2006
3. He [Fr. Saju George] is a fool …oops! I guess according to Jesus I’m not supposed to call him that. It’s so tempting however.
sgnofcross July 26, 2006
Nritya Sadhana – Bharathanatyam by the ‘Dancing Priest’ [U.K.]
Fr Saju George Moolamthuvuthil, a Jesuit priest from Kerala, trained in Chennai and now working in Kolkata, was one of the two opening dancers at the Festival of India in Moscow, 1999. He has performed on some 60 solo and 25 group Bharatanatyam stages in India, Germany, Bangladesh and Thailand, with both Christian and Hindu themes. Having
also danced before Pope John Paul II in New Delhi, he has thus raised Bharathanatyam to the realm of Christian prayer and worship.
We are informed by another Jesuit who is a liberal and a New Age sympathiser,
The Dancing Jesuit
By Francis Gonsalves, S.J., National Catholic Reporter, Vol. 2 No. 42 March 29, 2005
that “As an example of the efficacy of dancing in liturgy, Saju alludes to a
1989* offertory dance during the Pope’s Mass in Delhi“. *This should be February 1, 1986 -Michael
Church Revolution in Pictures
New Delhi, India – November 7, 1999 – Visit of Pope John Paul II
At a Mass celebrated at Nehru Stadium, Indian young women bringing the Offertory gifts perform a dance before a large audience.
Pope’s visit to India
The New Leader, November 16-30, 1999 UCAN News EXTRACT
On 7 November, Pope John Paul II celebrated a Mass with 60,000 people. Before the Mass, a group of 60 young women danced to a Sadri tribal language song as they led 180 bishops, about 800 priests and altar servers to the specially designed dais at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium… Forty young women performing a semi-classical dance then led cardinals of the papal delegation, archbishops and more altar servers to the dais.
Once seated, the Pope held a candle from which five women lighted their candles and then lit a five-wicked Indian brass lamp in front of the altar…
During the offertory, six Bharatanatyam classical Indian dancers led 10 people from different parts of Asia for the offering of gifts. During the Doxology at the end of the Eucharistic prayer, seven white-clad young nuns performed “arati”, a sign of veneration with light, camphor, flowers and incense to the accompaniment of a Tamil spiritual song.
See the Traditionalist report with picture above. It says, “women bringing the Offertory gifts perform a dance” but it appears the arati is being performed. The “Bharatanatyam classical Indian dancers” may have led the Offertory procession and not performed during the Holy Mass proper. The other dancers performed tribal dances preceding and outside of the liturgy itself.
In this video, we watch Fr. Saju George dancing in homage to Shiva in the sanctuary of a church
Un jesuita danza para Shiva en una iglesia de Viena, July 16, 2009
The Spanish title translates as “A Jesuit performing a Shiva dance in a church in Vienna”
The introductory posting dated July 16, 2009 translates as “The Jesuit Saju George performs a dance at the Scottish Church (Vienna) for the faithful of the city in homage to the Hindu god Shiva on 18 May.“
3 out of 38 comments
1. It is a Christian dance but the title is misleading (maybe intentionally). We have seen it in Brussels’ Saint Michel’s Church in September 2010 performed for the Jesuits, General Adolfo Nicolas and the Belgian Provincial Paul Favereau, 300 people, Jesuits, friends, and it was fantastic. It is not dancing for Shiva but for God. EDITED
2. Why doesn’t he do it in the parish hall, outside church?
3. Que horror Señor hasta cuando permitireis este tipo de sacrilegios de aquellos que proanan tus ordenes religiososas y hcometen barbaridades en contra de la fe. Mirad que el Señor nos advierte de estos pútridos idolatras que ademas son sacrílegos, que verguenza para San Ignacio.
In a church in Leuven, Belgium, Fr. Saju George, encouraged by the Jesuit Father General Adolfo Nicholas, dancing before the altar
Jamshedpur Jesuits Vol. 58 No. 10, October 2010
We had the Welcome Days for all the International students on 23 and 24 September at the University of Gent. The academic year 2010-11 began officially on 27 September.
On 25 and 26 September
Father General Adolf Nicholas
visited both the Jesuit Provinces in Belgium. He was in Brussels on 25 with the Jesuits of the French speaking region of Belgium. The Province had arranged a presentation of Bharatnatyam (classical dance)
Fr. Saju George from Kolkata Province on the occasion of Father General’s visit to their Province. His performance was
absolutely splendid and was appreciated by all.- P.M. Anthony SJ
This is a YouTube video clip of the sacrilege committed by the Father General and Fr. Saju George
http://www.jesuites.be/-Le-saviez-vous-.html [larger link]
Le saviez-vous? danse religieuse exécuté par George Saju, jésuite indien
3:00, September 25, 2010
Le Père Saju George, jésuite de la Province de Calcutta conclut pour nous la “Journée de Province” du 25 septembre par un spectacle de “Danses sacrées bengalie et chrétienne“.
8. ‘Dancing Jesus’ in the New Indian Bible
http://thecandideye.wordpress.com/2009/09/24/dancing-jesus/ September 24, 2009 http://bharatabharati.wordpress.com/2009/12/20/dancing-jesus-in-the-new-indian-bible-sds/ December 20, 2009
July 26, 2009 EXTRACT
Dancing Jesus illustration in The New Community Bible published by The St. Paul’s Society, 2008, and released by the Catholic Bishops Conference of India. The “Indian Bible” as it is called, contains invented and interpolated phrases such as “he will dance with songs of joy for you” for Zephaniah 3:17, and numerous quotations from the Vedas, Upanishads, and Puranas. The vedic and puranic slokas are
described as sourced from “Indian scriptures”, not Hindu scriptures.
“Dancing Jesus” on page 1608 of the New Community Bible
The newfangled Bible has been strongly condemned by Hindus in India and abroad, and by many Christians in India who regard it as blasphemous. It is designed to subvert and subsume the Hindu scriptures to the Christian scriptures, and assist in the mission of “fulfilling” Hinduism in the saving truth of Jesus Christ.
The Shankaracharya of Kanchipuram Sri Jayendra Saraswati made special mention of the Indian Bible to the Vatican’s representative Cardinal Jean-Louis Pierre Tauran at a private interfaith meeting in Mumbai on June 12, 2009. He demanded that the Indian Bible be withdrawn and that the Catholic Church cease and desist from further use and abuse of Hindu dress, scriptures, symbols, and rituals.
This ministry led a crusade to have the New Community Bible withdrawn because of its heretical and syncretistic commentaries and drawings. There are 21 reports on this issue at our web site. –Michael
And here’s the dancing deity of Hinduism:
Images of Classical Indian Dance
In the form of the Lord of Dance, Shiva is known as Nataraj and is worshipped by all Classical Indian dancers.
Conversion is an Act of Violence
By Swami Dayananda Saraswati
Religion and culture are not often separable. This is especially true with the Hindu religious tradition.
The greeting word, namaste, is an expression of culture as well as religion. Even though a religious mark on the forehead is purely religious, it is looked upon as a part of Hindu culture. Rangoli (patterns drawn on the ground with rice flour) at the entrance of a Hindu house is not just cultural; it is also religious.
Indian music and dance cannot separate themselves from the Hindu religious tradition. There is no classical dance, bharata natyam, without Siva Nataraja being there.
The classical, lyrical compositions of Meera, Tyagaraja, Purandara, Dikshitar and many others are intimately connected to the Hindu religious traditions.
9. Carnatic music performance by Fr. Paul Poovathinkal CMI
in a Catholic Church before the altar
Love Thy Neighbor
October 3, 2010
At a “Christian Carnatic music” concert at a church in New York, performed by Father Paul Poovathinkal
The stage was set in the apse of the church, under a beautifully ornamented vaulted ceiling, as for any Carnatic music concert. There was a violinist, a mridangist, and a ghatam player. Father Poovathingal was dressed in his priest’s white robe. The concert began with a lovely song in Reethigowla, Amaldayapara Arul Kuraya in Tamil, a composition of Vedanayagam Sastriyar in praise of Lord Jesus.
There’s a Jesuit priest, quite an old person, who’s also very into Carnatic music, a Fr. Chelladurai
who has a doctorate in Carnatic music if I am not mistaken and has written a few books on the subject as well, “The Splendour of South Indian Music” –Prithi Devotta October 4, 2010
The following link provides detailed information on Fr. Paul Poovathinkal CMI‘s training in Carnatic music at Hindu institutions and under Hindu gurus. I am not reproducing the dreary details.
I am copying the portion that says that he sang an ode to the elephant-god Ganpati [Ganesh].
About Dr. Fr. Paul Poovathingal, The Singing Priest 2009 US and Europe (Carnatic) Concert Tour
Music concert at Rashtrapathi Bhavan Thrissur 21.07.07
Fr. Paul started his concert with the famous keerthana ‘Vatapi ganapathim’*. Then ‘Salathulla Salamulla’ taken from the Holy Koran set to ‘Anandabairavi’…As soon as the performance was over the first citizen of the country was so impressed by the performance that he called Fr. Paul for a personal meeting and congratulated him on the unprecedented performance. He went on to describe his performance as ‘one which is opening new vistas in the tradition of Carnatic music‘.
*Watch this YouTube video http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DOk0Y7T6UNc sung by Yesudas, and another by M. S. Subbalakshmi at http://www.hindudevotionalblog.com/2009/02/vathapi-ganapathim-bhajeham-lyrics-ms.html
Vathapi Ganapathim Bhajeham is a favourite choice for singing at the commencement of any Hindu religious programme to obtain the blessings of the Hindu deity Ganpati.
About 125 Bishops of the Latin Rite in India, the Conference of Catholic Bishops of India (CCBI) had their biennial meeting 6-12 January 2011 at the Sacred Heart Seminary, Poonamallee, Chennai. “Catechetical Education” was the theme of the meeting. The seven-day plenary began January 7. On January 9, the prelates attended a public reception by the Madras-Mylapore archdiocese at which Tamil Nadu state Chief Minister M. Karunanidhi was invited to preside. Karunanidhi is an avowed atheist. The Bishops are the successors of St. Peter and owe sole spiritual allegiance to Jesus Christ. But guess who welcomed the atheist and the disciples of Christ at the public reception at St. Bede’s School grounds in Santhome? Ganpati did.
The procession of Bishops led by the Apostolic Nuncio to India, Salvatore Pennacchio, moved to the venue from the Cathedral Basilica of St. Thomas to the unmistakable Carnatic
music of Vathapi Ganapathim Bhajeham!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Take a break. If you’ve watched the horrible videos of the Bharatanatyam-priests, you may now be comforted by the mind of the Church: watch Cardinal Francis Arinze speak on Liturgical Dancing
December 26, 2008
SOME CORRESPONDENCE PRECEDING THE RELEASE OF MY REPORT ON BHARATANATYAM. THE FIRST 138 PAGES WERE SENT TO A SELECT FEW FOR REVIEW
Sent: Saturday, January 22, 2011 10:17 AM Subject: Re: BHARATANATYAM…
Dear Michael, I went through your article. It is simply marvelous though it is too deep for me to understand. I got a broad idea of the issues. They are well-captured. Praise God for the wisdom and understanding He has given you and the silent and tireless work you do for the church.
Sent: Sunday, January 23, 2011 10:59 AM Subject: RE: LITURGICAL_DANCING…
Dear Michael, Thanks for your report and true love for the Church. It is very sad to know that these practices are not only spread but also rooted in the church through out the globe. Saddest thing is the Hindu temple devadasi spiritual dance Bharatanatyam during the liturgy. Bharatanatyam in western churches during liturgy is very strange and unbelievable. People want to beautify liturgy with modern and eastern practices no matter if it is coming from pagan religions. The entire Indian catholic church hierarchy has lost the focus on Jesus. One side the true teachings of Vatican are not reaching the people. On the other hand priests convince the people that error is right. One way or other Catholics have fallen into the trap of occult new age practices and I hold the Indian church hierarchy responsible for this. Unfortunately retreat centers, charismatic renewals, catholic youth movements are silent on this matter. Nobody is daring to talk against new age practices. Good priests are not allowed to speak on this subject because of fear of their superiors. Charismatic renewal is an utter failure if they don’t talk against these practices. If we keep silence now then we are responsible before our God.
Dear Fr. Jerry,
Angela and I are grateful to you for your thoughtful Christmas greetings, invitation, etc. I have been extremely busy with my ministry and could neither write nor respond to anyone. Kindly excuse me.
I have a most important and serious request. After more than 10 years of collecting information on Indian priests who are promoting Bharatanatyam in the Church in India as well as overseas, I think that I have all the information that I need. Out of hundreds of photographs of these priests dancing in the sanctuary / at the altar and during Holy Mass, I have selected 92 photos so far and put them in my report. There are also YouTube video links included.
The article will be a major one and includes all aspects of the problem of Liturgical Dancing and the Bharatanatyam-exponent priests. It will also seriously assess the problem of the “deliverance” that is required to be done on those who have been oppressed by the spirit-deities of the dance. Several striking testimonies of priests, etc. are included.
This report will hopefully have a great impact on the abuses going on at Mass and in parish functions, even at higher levels. It will be circulated by mid-February.
I have included information on how these “classical dance forms” are not Indian but Hindu, yet are still being propagated by the CBCI through the NBCLC, and a number of institutes like Sandesha in Mangalore, etc.
Nothing is left out except one thing. YOUR STORY.
I have already included your name as the only priest to have abjured Bharatanatyam.
I have met you on two occasions when you were with the SVD order which appears is fully into this dangerous “art form”, and I personally requested you to give me information against it. But both times you refused me.
I have in my possession a Konkani audio of your talks in which you warn Catholics to stay away from yoga, chanting “OM”, etc. I have yet to include quotes from it in any of my articles.
I now not request you but beg of you, now that you are a DMS priest, to please put down your experiences about what Bharatanatyam is all about from your perspective, how it spiritually affects Catholics in an evil way, why you abjured it, what were the Catholic felicitations and government of India awards that you received and what you did with them, who encouraged and supported you [both within and outside the Church] to get into and also get out of this it, who advised you to quit it, and any other information that might help me to warn Catholics and the Church in India and in Rome.
Please give dates and names if possible.
As St. Paul wrote, we do not have a spirit of timidity!
My work is already being used as a reference by EWTN, Catholic Answers Live radio, Revival Radio hosts and speakers, etc., and the viewership of my web site is growing.
Your positive support will be a huge nail in the coffin of Bharatanatyam dancing in the Church worldwide. What we do is going to save souls. There are at least two of my close family who have trained in this dance years ago. I have so far got one person to abjure it, fearing possible intergenerational evil influences.
I intend to campaign against Bharatanatyam dancing in the Church just as I did successfully against the St. Pauls’ New Community Bible from July 2008.
Please stand by me just by obliging to give me what I ask of you. This will be my final request. I would come to Mulki to meet you to beg of you in person, but my work is so heavy that I have little time for even food or sleep.
Love, Michael Prabhu www.ephesians-511.net
Subject: Fw: BHARATANATYAM – REMINDER, PLEASE
Dear Michael Prabhu
Greetings to you in the name of Jesus. I have been receiving your mail regularly. I apologise as I could not reply to you due to my regular commitments. Our mission of preaching the Word of God all over Mangalore and Goa is in full swing. Hence I am unable to write to anyone. I am happy that you are also busy with your research and in cleansing the unwanted elements that have come into the body of Christ, the Church. I am praying for you, Michael.
Now to come to the point that you have asked me, it is now more that 15 long years that I have given up my Indian dance, Carnatic music and Indianisation and inculturation. My faith is strong in Jesus and it can be only proclaimed through the Word of God and life witness. All the other aspects like culture, language, traditional liturgies, etc are not expressions of faith. It is the truth that we have to proclaim and accept and live in our lives. “God is truth”- John 3:33, “Jesus is truth”- John 14:6, “Holy Spirit is truth”- John 16:13 and the “Word of God is truth”- John 17:17. My entire ministry is to lead people to worship God in spirit and truth (John 4:24). Hence I don’t see why we have to dilute the message and give importance to a medium of communication rather than the message. I could not communicate the true Gospel message with the so called complicated expressions like classical dance, music or traditional art forms. Why waste lots of money on complicated style of dances and music and art forms and entertain only the elite, when these really do not enlighten, but only entertain a few. Jesus used simple life situations and parables and he powerfully communicated the truth of the kingdom of God. So we are in the same ministry of Christ, with the message of love, mercy and compassion.
Why I gave up classical dance and music is because they did not glorify God but they glorified me and my society [SVD]. They are only myths and not truth and cannot be applied to our lives.
I personally request you, Michael, not to give reference to any of my audio talks because it may cause lot of hatred between religions. So please don’t mention anything I said about Om, yoga or any other religion. We have to rise above all these myths and experience truly the Divine within and then only share God’s love with others. We have to find life in Jesus and do what he did. (Luke 4:18-20). I hope I am clear to you. God bless you. Fr. Jerry.
Richard Mascarenhas Sent: 08 February 2011 05:33
Subject: FR. JERRY SEQUEIRA DODGES ANSWERING MY QUESTIONS ABOUT BHARATANATYAM DANCE
Dear Richie, This is the shocking reply to me from Fr. Jerry Sequeira! What do you have to say? Love, Michael
Sent: Tuesday, February 08, 2011 10:28 AM
Subject: RE: FR. JERRY SEQUEIRA DODGES ANSWERING MY QUESTIONS ABOUT BHARATANATYAM DANCE
Dear Br. Mike, Peace of Christ.
On one hand I am happy to hear that Fr. Jerry speaks so eloquently about witnessing for Christ in the way it should be, just as it was done all these earlier years so successfully and powerfully without Indianisation and inculturation. The Scripture quotations can be taken as proof of his commitment to proclaiming the Word of God as it should be…
Well, I am not surprised of what he wants you to do in the final part of his mail. It is along expected lines. If I remember right, I had mentioned to you in our chat on the audio tapes, that having put it on the audios, he had stopped mentioning it in any of his teachings in order to keep free from trouble from people of other faiths. Now, while he is so sure of Jesus and what he taught, probably he failed to read that Jesus took a clear stand on the issues then prevailing.
Frankly, you cannot expect it from our priests these days. They will talk and preach a lot but certainly not what is relevant. So, Bro. Michael, don’t be surprised. It’s a pity; he could have helped a great deal but has turned his back. Today, Fr. Jerry wants to rebuild his empire and would certainly not want to land in trouble neither with the hierarchy in the Church nor with the fundamentalists in society. Besides, there are hordes of the faithful whose faith is based not on what the Church is teaching, but on the priests. It’s more about of followers of Fr. Jerry of Mulki, Fr. Mathew of Potta, etc., something St. Paul tried to weed out at the very early stage of the Church.
One other thing I would like to know from you, since you mention that Fr. Jerry is a DMS priest, Fr. Jerry is banned from active ministry in the Church. In defiance, he went about building his new ministry. Is this ban lifted?
God save us and the Catholic Church. With Love, Richard, Muscat-Oman
Sent: Tuesday, February 08, 2011 9:49 PM
Subject: Re: FR. JERRY SEQUEIRA DODGES ANSWERING MY QUESTIONS ABOUT BHARATANATYAM DANCE
I knew this. Earlier he was speaking openly against nuns, priests, bishops who practice Hindu culture. Now he doesn’t talk against nuns or priests who do these practices. He was earlier a big obstacle for the SVD because he was talking openly.
Subject: BHARATANATYAM DANCE
Dear Fr. Jerry, I sent your response to just two people so far, along with a copy of my letter to you.
This is what they have to say to me about your stand. Regards, Michael Prabhu
FR. JERRY SEQUEIRA DMS DID NOT RESPOND. NOTE THAT IN HIS LETTER TO ME, HE CAREFULLY AVOIDED THE USE OF THE TERM “BHARATANATYAM“. HE ALSO DID NOT SAY THAT CATHOLICS MUST NOT DO BHARATANATYAM. HE FEELS THAT IT IS SIMPLY UNNECESSARY BECAUSE IT “DOES NOT GLORIFY GOD”. EVEN THE PROPHETS ARE TURNING TIMID!!!!!
Is your Mass valid? Liturgical abuses
By Bruce Sabalaskey, 2001
5.3 Performing Liturgical Dance
Dance is not allowed whatsoever. The document Dance In The Liturgy contains a full explanation. To summarize:
“[In western culture] dancing is tied with love, with diversion, with profaneness, with unbridling of the senses: such dancing, in general, is not pure.”
“For that reason it cannot be introduced into liturgical celebrations of any kind whatever: that would be to inject into the liturgy one of the most desacralized and desacralizing elements; and so it would be equivalent to creating an atmosphere of profaneness which would easily recall to those present and to the participants in the celebration worldly places and situations.”
The Bishops have expressly prohibited any and all forms of dancing in the Liturgy.
NATIONAL CONFERENCE OF CATHOLIC BISHOPS (BISHOPS’ COMMITTEE on the LITURGY) NEWSLETTER, APRIL/MAY 1982: “FROM THESE DIRECTIVES, from the NATIONAL CONFERENCE of CATHOLIC BISHOPS, all dancing, (ballet, children’s gesture as dancing, the clown liturgy) are not permitted to be ‘introduced into liturgical celebrations of any kind whatever.’”
DANCING AND BHARATANATYAM IN THE MASS
PROFANING THE ALTAR-BIRTHDAY CELEBRATIONS AND DANCING INSIDE THE CHURCH
APPLAUSE, JOKES, AND SAYING GOOD MORNING AT MASS
Categories: Liturgical Abuses