Dance in the Liturgy


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REVEREND FATHER JUDE BOTELHO, Director, National Institute of Social Communications, Research and Training (NISCORT);;;



Most Rev. Salvatore Pennachio, Apostolic Nuncio to India;

Federation of Asian Bishops' Conferences (F.A.B.C), FABC Office of Social Communication;; 159.

From Hinduism to Catholicism [Read in the context of pages 107-115]

After a series of dreams about Mary, a local Hindu couple has joined the Church - Katie Bahr, Catholic Herald

Uma and Kumar Krishnan received the sacraments of Baptism, Communion, Confirmation and Catholic Marriage on the same day at St. Mary of Sorrows from Parochial Vicar Father Stefan Starzynski.
It was three years ago when Uma Krishnan says she first dreamed of the Virgin Mary. It was January 2006 and she was living in Singapore with her husband, Kumar, and her son, Karthi. In her dream she saw a "very humble lady" surrounded by candles.
She and Kumar were devout Hindus and they knew the lady in Uma's dreams was not a Hindu god. They knew little of Christianity, but they thought this lady might be the Blessed Mother. Still, because they came from a long tradition of Hinduism in India, they didn't give the dream much thought.
Later that year Kumar got a job that took him to San Diego. A few months later, he found a new job in McLean. Uma and Karthi joined him that December.
This past April, Uma began to have more dreams of Mary.
One night she dreamed she was walking into a church she'd never seen before. Once inside, she turned right and found a little room where there were red candles and a statue of Mary.
The second night, she was in the same room, but this time she saw a big cross made of palm leaves.
Another night, she dreamed she was in a boat. On her right was a black woman with dark hair and on her left, a lady wearing a blue scarf and holding a Bible. The woman in blue showed Uma some verses to read to make her worries disappear. In her dream, Uma read the Bible verses and both women disappeared.
Uma and Kumar talked about the dreams and, by the fourth night, they decided to visit a church to see what was happening.
Kumar typed "St. Mary Church Fairfax" into Google and entered the address from the first result into his GPS device. The address was for St. Mary of Sorrows Church in Fairfax.
When they got to the church, Uma was shocked. On the outside, it looked just like the church she had dreamed about the first night. When they went inside and turned right, there was a small chapel with red votive candles, a statue of Mary and a cross. It was just like her dreams. Uma started to cry.
"The moment was so touching," Kumar said. "We were not even Christians and we were not even worshipping when we got such a thing. We were Hindus and we didn't exactly know how to pray, but we just sat there and said, 'Thank you. Thank you for all these visions and thank you for bringing us here. We don't know what to do, you tell us, you guide us, show us what has to be done.'"
After the first visit to the church, a few days passed and Uma and Kumar didn't return. Instead, they went to their Hindu temple.
Uma had another dream. She saw the statue of Mary on the outside wall of the church. Mary's arms were out and there was a bright light coming from behind. In Uma's mind, the statue seemed to be saying, "Come back to me."
When Uma told Kumar, they decided to go to St. Mary of Sorrows that day. It was a Wednesday, and this time, they went into the main meeting room, where the Charismatic Prayer Group gathered. They shared their story and prayed with them.
After that, Uma and Kumar began to attend Mass and the Charismatic Prayer Group every week.
Uma's dreams continued, but the couple also started experiencing strange "spiritual disturbances." Uma would have nightmares, and during the day, alone at home, she would hear strange laughing, heavy breathing or footsteps. Sometimes she would feel a pressure on her neck and would have trouble breathing.
The disturbances were so bad that Uma was afraid to be alone.

Kumar would drop her off at St. Mary of Sorrows when he went to work in the morning and she would stay at the church all day. Frightened, Uma and Kumar talked to Father Stefan Starzynski, St. Mary of Sorrows parochial vicar.

Starzynski told them the disturbances might be coming because they were moving away from Hinduism.

He told them not to worry and that they'd be okay if they just went toward the one, true God.
"Even as Hindus they were coming to the prayer groups and the healing Masses and praying the rosary every day, so I think something was trying to stop them from entering the Faith fully," Father Starzynski said.
Kumar and Uma decided to get rid of all of their Hindu belongings and devote themselves entirely to Catholicism.
Because of their circumstances, the parish had a team of four parishioners teach the couple a condensed version of the traditional yearlong Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults program. Uma and Kumar went to the program every Saturday to learn about the sacraments and to discuss the Bible.
"It sounded like Mary was calling them to us and I felt like we had a responsibility to them," said Father Starzynski. "They told me they wanted to become Catholic and they were so excited and eager that I thought this was an opportunity to be flexible."
By the end of August, the group decided the family was ready to become Catholic. Sept. 12, Uma, Kumar and Karthi were baptized and the couple received the sacraments of confirmation, Communion and marriage.
In the days leading up to the ceremonies, Uma and Kumar feel they received lots of help from Mary.
Though they had a very limited budget and hardly any time to plan, Uma and Kumar wanted to have a nice wedding ceremony. They only had $400 to spend on a wedding dress for Uma, but their son found a perfect dress for $399. Then, after deciding wedding photographers would be too expensive, a photographer from the parish offered his services for free.
Before the baptism and wedding day, Uma had another dream. This time Mary was standing outside the historic St. Mary of Sorrows Church, with a big smile on her face. She was holding two wedding rings and three rosaries - red, orange and yellow. The couple decided to use those colors in Uma's bouquet and on the wedding cake, all donated by fellow churchgoers.
On the actual day, the whole parish was invited to see Uma and Kumar receive the sacraments. A reception was held in the hall of the historic church, decorated with red, orange and yellow flowers.
"Even though we hadn't planned things, God had planned for us," Kumar said. "He planned everything so perfectly and he took care of everything, right down to the photographs. It was like he has predicted this marriage for us. We are so glad and so thankful and so lucky to be here."
Father Starzynski said Uma and Kumar's conversion story shows that God works in mysterious ways. He felt honoured that he could be there to help the family.
"I think it speaks to how beautifully God can work and does work," he said. "It makes you think, are we flexible enough to understand the ways God may work that are outside the box that we have constructed?"
Since they received the sacraments, Kumar and Uma say the disturbances and nightmares have stopped. Uma feels stronger and is able to stay home by herself with no fear.
"We feel like the Holy Spirit in her has just given her this total protection," Kumar said.
The couple says they are constantly impressed with the parish community.
"I feel like I've been wandering all over the place and that I've come home," Kumar said. "I never heard of such good people, such good Catholic people."
And through it all, Uma's dreams of Mary continue. "Whether it's good or bad, we want to share them with everybody so everybody knows about it," Kumar said. "Some may take it badly, but we want to share it. We are very fortunate. I feel lucky, I feel honoured and I feel blessed."
The Ten Most Common Liturgical Abuses And Why They're Wrong [Read along with SECTION A]

By Kevin Orlin Johnson EXTRACT

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 [1975] 202-205).
[Read along with SECTION A]

What's Behind Liturgical Abuses? Interview with Leader of Traditional Mass Community

By Alexandre Ribeiro EXTRACT

RIO DE JANEIRO, Brazil, April 9, 2008 ( 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.
Cardinal Edouard Gagnon was of the same opinion. "It cannot be ignored that the [liturgical] reform has given rise to many abuses and have led in a certain degree to the disappearance of respect for the sacred. This fact should be unfortunately admitted and it excuses a good number of those people who have distanced themselves from our Church and their former parish communities [in] "Fundamentalism and Conservatism," interview with Cardinal Gagnon, "Zitung -- Römisches," November-December 1993, page 35.
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. 161.

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."
The solution to the abuse is in the norms given by the Magisterium, above all in the document "Redemptionis Sacramentum" of March 25, 2004, which asks that "everyone do all that is in their power to ensure that the Most Holy Sacrament of the Eucharist will be protected from any and every irreverence or distortion and that all abuses be thoroughly corrected.

This is a most serious duty incumbent upon each and every one, and all are bound to carry it out without any favoritism" -- No. 183.

But, as Bishop Ranjith says, "there are a lot of documents [against these abuses] that unfortunately have remained a dead letter, forgotten in libraries full of dust, or even worse, thrown into the waste basket."
[Read along with SECTION A]
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.
Q: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
A: 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."1
"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."2
"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."3
"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."4
"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."5

Q:What is the status of liturgical dance? Mary
A: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."6
This report prepared on April 25, 2010 by Ronald Smith, 11701 Maplewood Road, Chardon, Ohio 44024-8482, E-mail: <>. 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!
 Let us recover by penance what we have lost by sin 
[Read in the context of pages 107-115]


By Bishop Donald W. Montrose, Bishop of Stockton, CA. EWTN Library dated 4/1/1996 EXTRACT

By the "occult," we are speaking of some supra-human or supernatural influence that is not from God. We commonly associate the occult with that which has demonic influence…

What is the kingdom of Satan, the kingdom of darkness like? It is a lie that seeks to resemble the Kingdom of God. Read Isaiah (14:12-15). It is about Satan. The prophet tells us that in his heart Satan is determined to be like God. Therefore, in Satan's kingdom he wants everything that is in the Kingdom of God. But his kingdom is a lie; it is false…

When the Israelites were about to come into the promised land, the Lord God gave them many commandments that had to do with the true worship that He desired, and the false worship that He hated. These same commandments hold for us today.

"When you come into the land which the Lord your God is giving you, you shall not learn to imitate the abominations of the people there. Let there not be found among you anyone who immolates his son or daughter in the fire, nor a fortune teller, soothsayer, charmer, diviner, or caster of spells, nor one who consults ghosts and spirits or seeks oracles from the dead. Anyone who does such things is an abomination to the Lord, and because of such abominations to the Lord, your God is driving these nations out of your way. You, however, must be altogether sincere toward the Lord, your God" (Deuteronomy 18:9-13).

The Lord says that we must be sincere with Him. We cannot have it both ways. Jesus said: "He who is not with Me is against Me" (Matthew 21:30). We have to be firm in our resolution to follow the Lord alone.

Let us now consider some examples of forbidden knowledge and power…

[Reincarnation] is the belief that the soul, after death, passes into the body of another human being, an animal, a plant or even an object. Many oriental religions or cults believe this. In Hinduism the god Vishnu is believed to have several reincarnations as a fish, a dwarf, as the person of Rama, and as Krishna in the different ages of the world. This is contrary to the Bible and to all Christian belief in the afterlife. "It is appointed that men die once, and after death be judged" (Hebrews 9:27).

Those involved with spiritualists must renounce Satan, renounce spiritualism, ask God's pardon, and confess their sin to a priest…

Our homes should be sacred, peaceful places in which to live… Remove anything in your home that has had something to do with witchcraft, a spiritualist, a curandero, a medium, an oriental religion or cult or that has been used in a superstitious way. Destroy it or see to it that it is destroyed… Remove and destroy literature from … Hare Krishna, Yoga, Transcendental Meditation…
[Read in the context of pages 107-115]

Hollywood, US Bishops Spotlight "The Rite" Interview with San Jose Diocesan Exorcist EXTRACT

By Genevieve Pollock

(Part 1) SARATOGA, California, January 20, 2011 ( January 28 is the release date for a new movie about exorcism and faith, which is based on the story of Father Gary Thomas, official exorcist of San Jose, California.

ZENIT spoke with Father Thomas about his call to the ministry of exorcism, his experiences over the past years in working with people seeking his help, and the prevalence of demonic influences in our society today.

ZENIT: How necessary is a ministry of exorcism in our country these days? Are these cases of demonic possession very frequent?

Father Thomas: The ministry is essential. It is not because we are having so many cases of demonic possession. What we are seeing -- speaking from my experience -- is that we are all, not just the exorcists, but priests in general, having a lot more people coming to us about matters that are of this realm. Many of the issues people are coming with are actually not demonic; they are more related to mental health.

Sometimes people ask, "Why now?" And I say, because now there are more Catholics who are involved in paganism and idolatry, so there are a lot of people who are opening a lot of doors to the diabolical.

The occult is all about power. Now the occult is not synonymous with the Satanic, but it is a doorway.

There are also more and more Catholics, and people in general, now in this country who are involved in New Age things. With the opening of doorways to the New Age and the occult, you do not know what is behind that door; you do not know what you are tapping into most of the time.

So, are there more cases of possession? In five years, I've exorcised five people, whom I do believe had a demonic attachment. And I've prayed over others who also I think have a demonic attachment, but I've not done exorcisms with them.

But what is becoming very rampant is that more and more people are involved in pagan idolatry. Some of it is structured and formal, and some of it is not.

[I]f they get involved in matters that have to do with paganism and idolatry, like the occult or things of the Satanic, the bar goes way up, the chances go up.

[Read in the context of pages 107-115]

The Church and Exorcism EXTRACT

Before Vatican II the exorcism prayer was part of the Baptismal rite.

Why? In the days of the early church there were many pagans coming into the church.

Part of the long preparation for these pagans coming into the church was exorcism on Holy Saturday before Easter.

MY COMMENT: The Church had good reason for exorcising would-be Christians -- at least those coming from a pagan background -- along with the Baptismal rite.

Those Catholics who would involve themselves in Hindu arts like Bharatanatyam would do well to reflect on this. Hinduism is no less pagan now than it was before Vatican Council II.
Only beauty will save us by Sandro Magister June 6, 2011 EXTRACT

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.

From: prabhu To: Michael Prabhu Sent: Wednesday, May 17, 2006 5:30 PM Subject: LITURGICAL ABUSE?


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.



Jesuits celebrate golden jubilee, dancing priest enthralls

May 18, 2011. The Kerala Jesuits held a function to mark the end of their golden jubilee celebrations on May 14 at the Loyola College auditorium in Thiruvananthapuram.

Inaugurating the function, Supreme Court judge, Justice Cyriac Joseph urged Jesuits in India to take the lead to fight social evils and corruption that is widening in the country. "We are living in a society where social evils and corruption have become the order of the day. Jesuits should play a new role in fighting them." Justice Joseph, a product of Jesuit education, noted that the Society of Jesus always could provide a modern and revolutionary face of the Church with their committed social action. He lauded Jesuit contributions to youth formation and their effective intervention in providing quality education to the poor. "I am a beneficiary of Jesuit formation," Justice Joseph said and recalled his association with the Jesuit initiatives such as All India Catholic University Federation and Newman Association. "In fact, Jesuit priests guided me and influenced me in my faith formation. Thousands of people have benefited from Jesuit vision and mission for the Church," he added.

Archbishop Maria Calist Soosapakiam of Trivandrum, who presided over the function, thanked the Jesuits for opening educational institutions in coastal areas and conducting studies to identify the basic problems in Kerala’s backward areas. Jesuits have helped Kerala fisher folk to advance socially, educationally and spiritually, the archbishop said.

Jesuits worked in Kerala’s coastal areas from the time of Saint Francis Xavier, said Father Joseph Kallepallil, the provincial.

However, Kerala became a province only in 1960.

The meeting was followed by cultural performance by students from Jesuit institutions.

Jesuit Father Saju George, an Indian classical dancer, performed for more than an hour.

The priest, who performs Bharatnatyam to help people experience God, performed two pieces composed and choreographed by him. One was a 'keerthanam' based on the life of Jesus Christ, and another, a 'thillana' on Our Lady of Vailankanni. Currently a research advisor at the Kalai Kaveri College of Fine Arts, Tiruchirappalli, Father George did his MA in dance from Kolkata and learnt Kuchipudi under Vempati Chinna Satyam. The 'Dancing Jesuit' priest, a native of Peruva, Kottayam, was performing for the first time in the capital city.

Pope ousts 'loose living' monks of Rome's Santa Croce monastery

Tom Kington May 25, 2011, The Guardian

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. 165.


Rocking the way to heaven EXTRACT

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 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 1 of this article.

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. 166.

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.

Dancers' ministry expresses Word through movement

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.'" 167.

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."

Dance, but not in the Liturgy, says Jesuit dancer-teacher

By David Aaron Murray, Adoremus Bulletin Online Edition – Vol. VI, No. 1, March 2000

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".

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