Dance the night away with Jesuits

Dance the night away with Jesuits

I had to check twice to make sure that this wasn’t The Onion, because it sounds like satire. The headline of the Toronto Star opinion column by Michael Higgins, president of St. Thomas University in Moncton, New Brunswick, starts you off: “Sacred dance ideal for today’s Catholic worship”. It goes downhill from there. Here are some choice selections.

Jesuits are very fond of dancing as well, and presumably it is all to a good end. ... So proficient were the Jesuit dancers and choreographers that one Parisian wag mused that no one could pirouette as well as a Jesuit.

And here’s a nice shot at a “theologically handicapped and artistically illiterate pastor” who had the gall to tell this layman that he wasn’t going to allow some young girls to gyrate in front of the altar at a funeral Mass.

Quite some time ago when one of my parents died, my two youngest daughters, both of whom are classically trained in dance, designed a particular dance to be performed before the altar on the occasion of the funeral mass for their grandmother.

Previously, they had done this quite successfully and reverently on the occasion of their grandfather’s death and were surprised, if not in fact dismayed, that the pastor was unwilling to have such a dance performed on “his” altar. The egregious stupidity of this theologically handicapped and artistically illiterate pastor continues to dumbfound me these many, many months later.

The Philistine! Doesn’t he know that Thinking Catholics(tm) have moved beyond all those old forms of worship and need to express themselves in new and daring ways and besides little Janie’s dance recital is in a week and she needs the practice?

Except when it’s forbidden

Our guide through the Land of Thinking Catholics Who know Better than us Peons wraps up with this profound statement:

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  • Most people who promote dance in Catholic worship possess a fundamental misunderstanding of the role of dance in ritual.

    Far from being some choreographed, overly-staged production for a passive audience, most cultures that possess a quality of “dance” in their religious ritual, conduct it in such a way that resembles little more than organized movement. A procession in a circle around the central ritual action might constitute “dance,” as properly understood in these situations. At the same time, it revolves around the central ritual action, rather than supplants it. Examples would be in Africa, where congregants might sway back and forth to hymnody or service music, well outside the sanctuary, where no such action occurs.

    Or, as Cardinal Arinze was once quoted as saying, “In Africa, we do other things besides dance.”

  • Good grief! Saints preserve us!

    The Liturgy properly (not casually or truncated) celebrated has ‘enough liturgical ‘dance’‘. We call it by other names such as processions, recessions, genuflections, standing, kneeling, even sitting. We are incarnational and our Catholic Mass continues the principle of incarnation.

    But Liturgical dance in this manner is foreign to both the ‘sobriety’ of the Latin Rite and honestly if one thinks about it, worship in our Western culture that in its roots is so highly influenced by the Latin Rite.

    Saints preserve us!

  • The best thing about this article is the fact the editor let it pretty much go from neuron straight to print. 

    The thing positively oinks “Sanctimonious p***k” from “King” to “time.”  Which, of course, makes it a complete turnoff to anyone sitting on the fence.  Thanks for the help in bayonetting your own cause, vice-chancellor.

  • Don:

    The elements of “worshipping God” come together as parts of a whole, and are consistent with the essential character of that worship, and what is believed through what is prayed. Dance, as understood in most Western cultures, and as produced in the setting described here, does not fit that criteria by any means. I refer to my earlier comments, as well as any and all forms of dance in those cultures for which dance IS traditionally associated with worship.


  • “That, plus a 2000 year old grudge isn’t selling all that well anymore.”

    Neither does a lenghty and unfocused diatribe lend any credence to your contention on the appropriateness of dance in Christian worship, specifically to the Western tradition.

    Joy, as understood in the Christian sense, is about more than just being happy or openly jubilant. There is also an aspect of contentment. Such is not necessarily manifest by physical movement associated with Western dance, let alone in those actions which direct the worshipper away from the focus of worship.

    To put it another way, saying “Look at me, look at me!” dissuades one from looking at God.

  • In any standard debate (which this is), the burden is not on the status quo, but on the innovator. That being the case…

    I’m having a real hard time following you. There is nothing in your remarks, what little I can follow, that trumps a 2000-year old tradition that minimizes, if not eliminates altogether, dancing in Catholic worship. At least as understood in the West.

    What is not understood are all these tangents you’re going off on. You want to make a sense, start by making sense.

  • “So you’re saying any outward appearance of the emotion of joy is wrong and inappropriate when worshipping God or do you have a measuring device?”

    I said what I said, and only what I said. My “measuring device” is the tradition of the Church as applied to worship.

  • “I am still not convinced and you haven’t responded to any of the things I said…”

    Assuming it were possible, I don’t have to. I’m fine with how things are. You’re not. You have to do the convincing. You haven’t. I’ve got 2000 years of evidence as to what movement is or is not appropriate. You’ve got…

  • The Church has specifically forbidden dance of this type during the liturgy and has always forbidden it.

    Some have proposed that it is just fine in defiance of these rules. The onus is on those who do so to show why the ecclesial authority of the Church, those appointed to authority in such matters, in an unbroken apostolic succession beginning with Christ,  are wrong.

    All I see in your arguments is a lot of speculation and emotion, but little argumentation from logic and evidence.

  • “No, obviously you’re not okay “with how things are” if you are ridiculing someone else’s expression of worship…”

    I was referring specifically to that which is considered proper to Catholic worship, as opposed to those who challenge it, such as the liturgical dancers mentioned in Dom’s original post. To disagree with something is not to ridicule it. You’d know that I wouldn’t if you had read the Spero news article.

    Now, the remarks about the priest who refused to allow dancing, THAT would be considered ridicule!

  • “I responded with ‘And I have anything and everything my Maker decides to give me.’”

    “Tradition means giving votes to the most obscure of all classes, our ancestors. It is the democracy of the dead. Tradition refuses to submit to that arrogant oligarchy who merely happen to be walking around.” – G K Chesterton, Orthodoxy, 1908

  • Christ gave the Apostles the authority “to bind and to loose.” Bound on earth, bound in heaven, and so on. St Paul told the Thessalonians to “hold fast to the traditions handed down to you,” not only in the written word, but by word of mouth. The latter presumes a living magisterium. To that end, tradition is a means of transmitting the Faith along with the Scriptures—the imagination of certain of God’s creatures notwithstanding.

  • “why not equate singing with ‘sex majick’? Or the transubstantiation with ‘sex makick?’”

    Because they are not the same.

    The Church determines the manner of worship, inasmuch as “les orandi lex credendi.” That is, the law of praying is the law of believing. How we believe determines how we pray, and vice versa.

    Our daily activities can be made to glorify God, including dancing. But like all things in life, they have their place. Dancing as described here does not have one in Catholic worship of the Western tradition. That prohibition has a long history, and nothing you say is going to change that.

  • “Perhaps it would be more clear if you indicated whether you are referring to tradition or Sacred Tradition.”

    I fail to see where that would make any difference, in the case of one who is prepared to dismiss either.

  • Don:

    “Taking traditions doesn’t always mean dismissing everything else as if it is evil just because it isn’t tradition.”

    I made no such claim. (See Mr Jennings point about the “straw man.”)

  • “But yet that’s the reason for not accepting dancing.”

    Not because it is evil per se, but because it is not proper for Catholic worship. I suggest reading the statement from the Holy See on the subject. Or read my Spero article. Especially now that we’ve gone back and forth about a million times.

    I’ll see if I can find that statement. Probably tomorrow.

  • The Jesuits: From “Ad maiorem Dei gloriam” to “Do your own thing if you are as intellectually superior as we are”, in 500 years.

  • Jane reminded me that Michelangelo did not have to be told to leave his block of marble and his chisels at home on Sunday mornings.

  • Okay Don, you’re done. This now has nothing to do wit hthe original post and it’s clear you only came here to bait people. You’re not welcome here any more.

  • There an important question we haven’t answered here. What would Frank do?

    I won’t dance, don’t ask me
    I won’t dance, don’t ask me
    I won’t dance, Madame, with you
    My heart won’t let my feet do things that they should do

    You know what?, you’re lovely
    You know what?, you’re so lovely
    And, oh, what you do to me
    I’m like an ocean wave that’s bumped on the shore
    I feel so absolutely stumped on the floor

    When you dance, you’re charming and you’re gentle
    ‘specially when you do the Continental
    But this feeling isn’t purely mental
    For, heaven rest us, I am not asbestos

    And that’s why
    I won’t dance, why should I?
    I won’t dance, how could I?
    I won’t dance, merci beaucoup
    I know that music leads the way to romance,
    So if I hold you in arms I won’t dance…


  • I had to check twice to make sure that this wasn’t The Onion

    This is Canada, folks.  We don’t need The Onion – we have The Toronto Star – and The Catholic New Times (which isn’t, either) . . .

    Michael Higgins, president of St. Thomas University in Moncton, New Brunswick

    There are Catholics in Canada who do not understand why I’ve been sending offspring to Trinity Western U / Redeemer Pacific College because of my firm conviction that that’s the only place in the country that offers anything like a Catholic education – and Trinity U isn’t Catholic.

    But RPC is – it’s a satellite program of the Franciscan U in Steubenville.  Their affiliation with Trinity offers Catholic students opportunities for weekday Mass, excellent catechesis, a great Catholic student life program, etc.

    St Thomas U may have the name, as do other older institutions across the country   –  but Catholic they obviously are not.

  • I don’t believe this thread.  You have to know that I’ve never seen liturgical dance in the churches around here, which is a good thing because I have a pretty good aim and I’d thank God for that kinetically too.  One of those stupid “Worship” hymnals would work nicely, I think.

    The reason Jesuits might be dancing these days ought to be obvious to you all.  A few—okay—a lot of them are as ***** as a three-dollar bill.  Smile it’s the truth.