Do you have liturgical dance where you are?

Do you have liturgical dance where you are?

You probably shouldn’t.

Rorate picked this up from a post on a blog in the Philippines, Pinoy Catholic.


Liturgical dance… ugh.

There are some pretty funny stories about liturgical dance.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. Only when I realize, too late, that I should have made a pit-stop before beginning to offer Mass…

  2. Jacob says:

    The only stories I know about liturgical dance make me want to cry a river and vomit twice at the same time.

  3. Sissy says:

    No! That would be a first and last for me at any parish that did.

  4. Late for heaven says:

    In my old parish our priest decided that the best time to surprise the parish with some liturgical dance was during the “silent” contemplation of the cross on Holy Thursday. I was appalled. I still shudder when I think about it. I asked him about it later and he said that movement was prayer too. I did not further the analogy as I felt he was hopeless.

    I thank God daily that I am no longer forced to attend there. Father is probably happier too.

  5. frjim4321 says:

    We only have liturgical dance here if I select the costume.

  6. RichR says:

    We had a priest that allowed liturgical dance once. He’s now laicized.

  7. Southern Catholic says:


    In fact the only time I’ve heard about it ha been here and another blog or two, thankfully.

  8. Horatius says:

    Fr. Jim,

  9. Austin Catholics says:

    Haven’t seen it in over 30 years. I remember they had it a few times when I was growing up. I told my mother I wanted to stop being Catholic.

    Interesting: I have seen Fr. Z mention that liturgical dance could drive men out of the church. I agree it’s the kind of thing that turns men off. However, there are other practices (e.g. communion on the tongue, ornate robes) that are also offensive to male sensibility. I don’t get why he understands why people dislike liturgical dance and then cannot understand why watching adults open their mouths for feeding is just as gross to some of us.

  10. wmeyer says:

    I remember seeing it once at my former parish. The pastor, new to the parish, managed not to eliminate it, but to have it staged prior to the beginning of Mass.

    But to my way of thinking, liturgical dance is an oxymoron.

  11. sekman says:

    Once a year the Mexicans do a dance at the offertory. It is quite unsettling, replete with costumes big loud drum and all.

  12. APX says:

    No, not at my current parish at the Mass I attend, which is the EF so I don’t have to worry about that. I once had to perform what could be interpreted as a type of liturgical dance at my First Communion when they forced us stand up in the sanctuary in front of everyone and sing “His Banner Over Me is Love” along with all the actions to go along with it. Fortunately back in 1992 only the elite could afford a camcorder so I will never have to re-live that moment of my life. Unfortunately, that can’t be said for today’s times, as I see on YouTube it’s 20 years later and children are still being forced to do this.

  13. louder says:

    In the USA, it is truly a terrible thing to see, having to witness “dancing” in both Seattle and Los Angeles. However, I have seen this in a couple of countries in Africa, and there, because dance is so much a part of their culture, I did make sense and added a great deal to the mass. I think this was because it was males that danced, it was done in a very respectful and traditional manner. I was surprised that I liked it because dance is something that I cannot stand in a liturgical context, but in Africa, it seemed normal.

  14. keithp says:

    Well…. at the last Easter vigil Mass, the young woman leading the entrance with the giant brass ashtray/censor pranced up to the sanctuary and altar and kinda danced around while waving said giant brass ashtray. Does that count?

    My conclusion has been:
    Liturgist says, “The Father wants it this way…”
    Father says, “The congregation wants it this way…”
    Bishop doesn’t care.

    At this same Easter Vigil Mass, the liturgist repeated dipped a pitcher in to the baptismal “pool” during the reading where the Israelites cross the red sea. To add DRAMA, don’t you see!

  15. Warren says:

    A routine occurrence back in the ’80s and early ’90s in our diocese. Thank God, I haven’t seen any in our area for a long time. Last year in Maui I witnessed a Hawaiian dancer present a post-Communion dance. Apparently, it was “traditional”. This year, no dancer, and that’s fine by me.

  16. AnAmericanMother says:

    That’s because in Africa, dance has ceremonial and religious aspects with very deep roots. That, of course, is also why men participate in it.
    In the West, dance is purely a “performance” (yes, even the Mexicans in loincloths and feather headdresses dancing on the feast of the Virgen de Guadalupe – the ritual aspects of the indigenous Mayan ceremonial dances are as lost in the past as the “ancient fertility rituals” claimed by the English Morris Dancers.)
    The other problem, from a practical standpoint, is that the only dancers you will EVER see in church are the ones who are so incompetent that they will never get a gig anywhere else. Occasionally you’ll see a well-trained dancer, but usually their mom or aunt made them participate. The good dancers are much too busy to do some dumb “interpretive movement” thing in church.
    I actually hold a certificate in Contemporary Dance from my undergraduate college, and I was working on my teaching certificate in Scottish Country Dance when I started having babies. Now I’m too busy getting my judge’s license in Hunting Retriever to go back and get certificated, but maybe someday . . . .
    Anyhow, I think I’m qualified to speak to the merits of this, and the quality of ‘liturgical dance’ in general is just rotten. Sort of like the quality of the ‘youth’ or ‘contemporary’ music.

  17. Matt R says:

    We visited St Olaf’s in Minneapolis, on Pentecost, about 8 years ago. A plethora of abuse it was…extremely strange liturgical dance complete with orange and red streamers; random women around Father during the Consecration; readings done in multiple languages (English, then another language like Vietnamese, then a third language…). I’m sure there were more, but the ones that appeal to the visual sense stood out. The dance sticks out in my family’s memory the most. Sheesh, it has no place in liturgy, and it baffles me as to how anyone ever conceived of adding it to the liturgy.
    This year, our great-aunt who is not Catholic, asked if we were going to Mass there. My dad politely said, ‘No, we’re going to the Basilica of St Mary’s.’ As soon as we were out the door, we started chuckling like madmen. (The basilica was normal compared to St Olaf’s…but from now on I just will go to St Agnes or the Cathedral of St Paul when I’m with family, or possibly an Eastern Catholic church on my own.) Hopefully, His Excellency will be able to implement this directive.

  18. SimonDodd says:

    Well, that’s great. Would it be too much to ask that the Holy See get its communications house in order so that this kind of thing is available online in a regularized form, such that when questions arise (as they do) one might easily discover what has already been said instead of having to reinvent the wheel constantly?

  19. wmeyer says:

    …the quality of ‘liturgical dance’ in general is just rotten.

    Certainly true of the examples I have seen. It appears always to be Look at me, look at me, not any act of worship. When the dancers are teenage girls in leotards and scarves, it verges on the profane.

  20. Southern Catholic says:

    However, there are other practices (e.g. communion on the tongue, ornate robes) that are also offensive to male sensibility.

    Wow. How is that offensive to male sensibility?

  21. The last time I saw anything like that, which thank God I have seldom seen with my own eyes, was an occasion where barefoot altar servers pranced with bowls of incense during Consecration.

    But I do wish the Holy See would simply stop their letters in answering the question at hand and not give suggestions on how to perpetuate the silliness. I mean, it’s enough to say that dance is not allowed during Sacred Liturgy, and not say that it may be ok in other situations. Telling folks such things only perpetuates the problem. Just as permitting female altar servers perpetuates the question of women’s ordination, so too giving permission for “motion ministry” as a catechetical tool, even as they instruct that it is not permitted during Mass, will perpetuate the tendency to use it during Mass.

  22. mamajen says:

    I think if my parish ever tried liturgical dance I would walk out and never return. I witnessed it once at Easter vigil when I was away at college.

  23. FloridaJoan says:

    … shhh … don’t give the libs any more wacky ideas ! Thanks be to G-D , no, none seen ; and hopefully none coming !

  24. wmeyer says:

    However, there are other practices (e.g. communion on the tongue, ornate robes) that are also offensive to male sensibility.

    Huh? I am male, and have never received other than on the tongue, and God willing, never will. Ornate vestments are to me a sign of the preparation our priests make to celebrate the sacrifice of the Mass.

    What truly offends me is people who turn up in T-shirts, cutoffs, immodest clothing of any sort, or who sail in after the second reading, believing they are participating fully, then after receiving, proceed straight to the door. Now those are offensive!

  25. Most dancing of a participatory ritual nature is so simple that even people who “can’t dance” are able to do it. What you see in stage productions of national folk dance troupes bears only some resemblance to what actually happens among the real “folk” in the village. Biblical references to praising the Lord with dance and so on, while true, did not take place within the temple, but were part of outside celebrations associated with the liturgical feast. Most cultures who celebrate feast days with dancing have done this for centuries. As to what happens in church, even in Africa, dancing is NEVER done within the sanctuary, and it is largely restricted to swaying or other simple movements, in keeping with the rhythm of chants or hymns.

    The illustrations in “The Pinoy Catholic” bear little or no resemblance to indigenous dancing in the Philippines, most of which (except maybe for the southern region of Mindinao) is heavily influenced by the Spaniards, both musically and (if to a lesser extent) stylistically. And it never happened in church, much less in the sanctuary.

  26. Gregg the Obscure says:

    My only experience with that was when I was so young and foolish as to have been Episcopalian. The regular cleric was on vacation and we had a fill-in who introduced himself as “Father Dick”. In lieu of a homily he did a dance in leotard, tights and (I presume) codpiece.

  27. laurazim says:

    Thanks be to God, NO. (Then again, I am mercifully blessed to reside within the Diocese of Madison, under the strong leadership of His Excellency Bishop Morlino, and even to attend his parish.)

    You know, unless you’re defining “liturgical dance” as the subtle, reverent, intricate–nearly imperceptible–ballet so beautifully executed by the many young men who flock to serve Mass in our parish every Sunday, whether His Excellency or Monsignor is offering the Sacrifice of the Holy Mass. *Then* I could say yes. But my guess is…you’re not. ;)

  28. gmarie says:

    Unfortunately for the faithful in the parish where I attend, liturgical dancers make their way into Masses during the seasons of Advent, Lent, Easter and on Pentecost. We have addressed the issue with the pastor, the local bishop and the Apostolic Nuncio. The dancing is just a small fraction of the continued liturgical abuses at the parish (and among many which happen across the diocese). The most scandalous of all the abuses is a priest who refuses to say “for many” during the consecration because he believes to not say “for all” is heretical. My family and I continue to pray for our priests and bishop here but cannot help but hope that the next few years will fly by until our bishop is of retirement age and the new ordinary will “clean house.”

  29. Jack Hughes says:


    Although the psudeo evangelical pop keyboard and choir of tortured cats I had to endure yesterday made me wish I had a couple of grenades handy (frag or stun I’m not sure)……….. sigh another thing to remember on Saturday’s laundry list in the confessional

  30. Being from the Archdiocese of Liturgical Abuse (LA)…I’ve seen it. My violent side was very tempted to come out.

  31. Dr. K says:

    Oh yes, we have liturgical dance often in the Diocese of Rochester. In fact, there was a dance performance at Bp. Clark’s retirement Mass a few Sundays ago

    Here is a nice image.

  32. Ellen says:

    We don’t and if, God forbid, we ever do, I will drive miles so I can avoid it.

  33. Sissy says:

    Dr. K: please tell me that was a photoshop???

  34. Bea says:

    Thanks be to God
    Never had
    Hopefully, never will.
    We are fortunately one of the most traditional parishes in this diocese.

    We once joked to a visiting priest that my husband and I were ready to volunteer (the subject came up somehow-don’t remember how). We just hadn’t decided on the colors of our leotards.
    If you can imagine a couple in their 70’s and myself on the overweight size. His mouth dropped until he realized we were joking.

  35. rcg says:

    I can beat this: not only liturgical dance we even have YouTube in Mass. We are probably stealing all the Methodists.

  36. ReginaMarie says:

    Austin Catholics:
    Holy Communion on the tongue as offensive? You might be interested in reading this post by Fr. Joseph Homick, the former Abbot of Holy Transfiguration Monastery called “Open Your Mouth and I Will Fill It”:

    Wearing ornate liturgical vestments symbolizes the spiritual transformation of the person wearing the clothes. The priest wears such vestments to put on the new clothes of Christ. Liturgical vestments represent “dressing oneself anew in Christ” in which the priest “transcends his identity to become someone else,” to become one with Christ through a process of interior transformation & inner renewal.

  37. kallman says:

    The EF rubrics do not allow for dancing.


  38. SimonDodd says:

    @Kallman: The OF rubrics do not allow for dancing either.

  39. AnnAsher says:

    Where I go to Mass, no. Within the Diocese, yes. Two parishes typically have dancers for the Easter Vigil Mass.

  40. Catholicity says:

    No liturgical dance here.

    Austin Catholic: You would never see someone’s mouth while they were receiving Holy Communion on the tongue, because you’d both be facing the same way, unless you were on the altar facing the nave.

  41. Marie Teresa says:

    Our former DRE tried to make it happen … 1998, when my two oldest were preparing for Confirmation, she planned for the children to wear leotards and dance during Mass. Having studied dance, she would lead them. With no grace or finesse, before she finished her presentation, in front of the priest and the parents, I bluntly interrupted that dance was not part of the Mass.

    Not the end of it … the priest approved, and unbeknownst to the parents, the DRE asked the children to dance. They all said, no way.

    All parents attended all remaining classes with their children.

    The DRE lost her job not because of the proposed dance but because week after week, she taught error. And week after week, we parents spoke up. The religious order that hired her let her go, but the diocese created a position for her where she is still employed today.

  42. JKnott says:

    Dr. K.: The link you provided reminds me of Salome dancing before Herod. Hollywood couldn’t have done it better.
    Thankfully, I have never experienced liturgical dance anywhere here or where I have lived or traveled.

  43. Gretchen says:

    Also from the DOR here, and yes, the picture is an accurate portrayal. I was at a Chrism Mass at the cathedral in Rochester a couple years ago. The dancer that year was a guy in a skin tight red leotard and had hair dyed the color of his leotard. He danced up and down the aisle and grabbed the Scriptures off the altar and danced around with that for awhile. The year before that it was a gal in filmy dress who preceded those carrying the oils up to the bishop.

  44. ghp95134 says:

    Dunno if our cathedral basillica still does it, or if it was a special occasion (uggh!) just for my confirmation …. but about 6~7 years ago our bishop ran a really wierd (by my conservative standards) event in which “vestal virgins” danced up the aisle and around the “Altar-in-the-round” carrying bowls of burning incense. Needless to say I’ve never been back — I prefer my small “t” traditionalist church whose holy priests say the black and do the red.

    Uggh …. theatrical dance ….. I’ll never get to sleep tonight now!

    Saaayyyyy………speaking of dance: any idea if ++Gomez is still having the Native American Liturgy for RECon2013?
    [smirk] I wonder why they didn’t perform the sun dance?? [/smirk]
    (I’m allowed to smirk because I’m part Creek)


  45. Christine says:

    There is no way I would sit through a Mass that contained liturgical dance–I would have to get up and leave. Thankfully, I’ve never seen it done in person.

  46. tioedong says:

    No, we don’ t have that here in our rural Philippine parish, thank God…

    But my granddaughter dances at her parents’ Pentecostal church…it’s so bad that my stepson is accompanying us to mass…

    And if you think dance is bad, how about these fashions: In the UK for Anglicans of course

  47. AnAmericanMother says:

    Dr K,
    Yikes! That’s awful. Aside from the fact that she is much too heavy to be dancing in public in that skimpy attire, she is way out of alignment and her arms and centering are all wrong.
    And it appears that she isn’t really dancing, just moving from pose to pose. You can tell because she’s much too deep in fondu. You can’t get anywhere from there (at least not without some really ugly hitching and heaving).
    And I never answered the question . . . NO we don’t perpetrate liturgical dance at our parish. Monsignor would knock anybody who tried into the middle of next week.
    When I was an Episcopalian, our rector invited a dancer ONCE. I made merciless fun of him, and he never did it again. The problem is that they don’t teach anything about dance in seminary, so most priests don’t know a good dancer from a bad. So mostly they get bad.

  48. AnAmericanMother says:

    We USED to at least be able to count on the Anglicans to have good taste.
    Those days are done, I see.
    Awhile back, an Anglican blog called “Fireside Chat with the Rector” had a Nasty Chasuble Contest. The blog is, sadly, no more, but the winner of the contest survives:
    The Nasty Chasuble Contest – scroll down to post 28 for the winner.

  49. Joseph-Mary says:


    I am sorry for all those who are forced to watch an overweight pixie prance about the altar. You know with the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass being in a mystical sense at Calvary, I just cannot imagine a chubby lady floating about the Cross.

    I have not experienced ‘liturgical dance’ in some years. And it was also a chubby lady in a little outfit on Easter Sunday–diocese of Pueblo, Colorado which has been no stranger to liturgical abuse. Thanks be to God I no longer live in the diocese.

  50. Tradster says:

    The NO parish nearby apparently has liturgical dance because its weekly bulletin lists the name and phone number of the female head of the “liturgical dance ministry”. Why must everything these women touch be regarded as a “ministry”?

  51. OrthodoxChick says:

    Haven’t seen it in a long while – thank You, Jesus. It was common at the Masses at my Catholic high school. The h.s was run by the Sisters of Mercy.

    It ranks right up there with dimming the lights at the consecration and youtube videos at Mass. Both are done at a parish in a neighboring Diocese that I will not return to. What’s next? A second collection to purchase a disco ball?

  52. JacobWall says:

    Never. Just this week, though, I had the closest thing to a real-life encounter to date; the kind lady who’s letting my stay in her house while on a work-trip to Mexico has a 19-year-old daughter, who just recently moved to the city to go to university. A few days ago the mother informed me that her daughter had just left one parish where the priest was boring and found a new parish with the most beautiful mass ever.

    “I know what you’re thinking,” she said, ” but this had nothing to do with organs, chanting or incense.” She was right; I had, in fact, already begun to imagine that kind of thing.

    “The mass,” she continued, “includes children doing interpretive acting during the reading of the Gospel. She said it was just so incredibly beautiful to see them.”

    I felt like I should be doing face-palm thing. However I restrained.

    I know the parish where this girl grew up. I know the priest who has run the parish since the community was founded. (That’s 20 years.) He is orthodox, his teaching is sound, he is not afraid to talk about “7 deadly sins” and “going to hell” in his sermons. He is kind and understanding, and no one ever needs to be afraid to approach him. But, at the same time he hard and disciplined and speaks directly. (I worked for him as an English teacher, so I saw him “in action” a few times.) His masses are clean and free of any such frivolous thing. (The only part I’m not terribly impressed with is the music. It’s all that folky kind of stuff. But otherwise, the masses are very well done, and – contrary to other Mexican masses I’ve seen – he NEVER allows the prayers to be altered so they can sound “emotional” in some Simon-and-Garfunkel-esque medley of folk tunes.) Again everything other than the music style is good. I know the nuns who do the catechesis in the parish school, where this girl studied most of her life. From my experience, they’re also the real thing.

    So, what left me scratching my head, is where on earth did this girl get the idea that a mass with children acting out the Gospel (during the reading of the Gospel) is “beautiful?” I can’t imagine she learned in her home parish. Maybe the catechises wasn’t always that good? Who knows. I hope she this is a stage that this girl gets past.

  53. JacobWall says:

    Fortunately, my two parishes in Canada are “tame.” There are points they could improve on; for example, in one parish, they have a tendency to put gaudy, commercialized decorations around the altar for holidays – like the kind you might get in the dollar store, instead of flowers. But definitely no “liturgical dancing.” I’m glad for this. I hope I never show up in a parish where they do this.

  54. Elizabeth M says:

    The Good Lord knows what he is doing because I’ve never been subjected to such a spectacle. In fact, I think with my German/Italian blood I may just stand up and shout and turn tables over.

    Then head straight for the box… :)

  55. JacobWall says:

    @tioedong and others: I love how those Anglican fashion shows are meant to “show that the church is modernising” to “attract younger audiences,” yet you look at the crowd, and at least 50% of the heads have grey hair. Maybe their audiences used to be around the 90 mark, and now they’re working hard to be cool enough to attract those hip 70-year-olds. (Oh, wait, I think I see one young family in their. That’s a pretty good. One family.)

    I have absolutely nothing against old people, (I love many of the dearly,) but I think the whole “Church should be cool to attract younger people” idea has been proven to be a 100% failure. I’ve NEVER seen it work. Not for Evangelicals (my old stomping grounds), not for Catholics. Apparently (according to those pictures) not for Anglicans either.

  56. JacobWall says:

    I read through the list of comments, stories, descriptions – I’m getting a nasty image here of something mixed between cheap porn (as per Gregg the Obscure, and others) and Monty Python, done on a make-shift stage in a dirty old theater. Why is it that I can’t picture this stuff actually happening in Mass? (Maybe it doesn’t belong there …)

    Unfortunately, it’s real, it’s disgusting, painful, embarrassing, (I’m sure there are 1000 other words we could add here.) It’s embarrassing that we mock ourselves (and even worse, mock God) more successfully than even the worst of atheists can.

    It would be painful to witness. I hope I am spared ever having to see this stuff in real life.

  57. CaliCatholicGuy says:

    Unfortunately as I live in the LA Archdiocese, I have seen this at all 3 parishes I have attended. It usually is women dressed in white leotards, but once it was a weird pseudo-alb type of garment while carrying bowls of incense and streamers. This was the “opening procession” at mass. Blech! How long, O Lord?

  58. Phil_NL says:

    Never seen it. I get the impression this is more of an American / Mexican thing; here in northern Europe, I wouldn’t see this gaining any traction. At most a procession of kids for one occasion or the other might evolve a bit under the influence of overenthousiastic kindergarten-‘teachers’ supervising the lot (quod Deus avertat!) but even that is something I feared, not witnessed.

  59. Precentrix says:

    I think… after much consideration… there is a place for ‘sacred’ dance. By that, I mean… just as I, a musician, express myself through the art musical, I think it is legitimate for a dancer to express his/her prayer through dance. Our Lady’s Jongleur comes to mind. However, the place for this sort of thing is *not* during the Church’s Liturgy. After all, there are enough prescribed actions (and there’s even prescribed music!)… and at those points, we are praying as the Church, not as individuals (eat that, ‘We are Church’ folks!).

    What comes to mind is that I *have* seen beautiful, sacred dance performed by rather good trained dancers in non-liturgical contexts. We’re talking real dance, here, not just people shuffling along or even moving well, but dancers who put their heart and soul into their art. I have also seen dance worked into, for example, the passion play produced by the local youth group. Again… real dance, using volunteers from among the young people who actually know what they’re doing, and choreographed by a young lass who took into account their varying capabilities. And it worked.

    But if they start doing it in the Liturgy? Bye-bye.

  60. VexillaRegis says:

    Good heavens, no, we have no liturgical dance in this neck of the woods!!!

    Concerning the chubby lady with the see though dress, at least she is wearing underware. I have seen professional liturgical dance in a lutheran church, but the ladies didn’t have any bras on and their dark green dresses were transparent. If I remember correctly, they were supposed to portray the women at the grave.

  61. AnAmericanMother says:

    Exactly, and in our culture that’s where it belongs.
    I’m just an amateur, but my mom is an actual professional dancer and choreographer (studied with Graham, Humphrey, & Cunningham).
    She’s semi-retired (she just turned 86) but she still choreographs the church Christmas pageant at their little country church. Like your young lass, she adjusts for her dancers’ capabilities. Rural GA has never seen the like. It rocks.
    But NOT during a service. Not happening.

  62. FaithfulCatechist says:

    There are some pretty funny stories about liturgical dance.
    If you find sacrilege funny. My father was agnostic, but he taught me not to be sacrilegious, so I had a good sense long before my conversion of what was and was not appropriate in worship. That’s why I find it difficult to understand the things some cradle Catholics are willing to accept.

  63. Scott W. says:

    When I moved to Buffalo, we did a pretty wide tour of all the parishes and while we saw much of the carnage from the Wraith of Vatican II (jokey homilies, ad-libbed prayers, platoons of EMHC’s, bad music including a “Gloria” that was literally a vacation Bible-school song), we were spared liturgical old people prancing about like wood fairies dancing.

  64. Scott W. says:

    Correction: It was the Alleluia that was a vacation bible school song. The Gloria was some piece of dreck accompanied by djembe, rainstick, and electric guitar. Pardon the mix up but months of trying to blot out the memory have left me sketchy on the details.

  65. TMKent says:

    When I was in Catholic high school in the late 1970’s I attended a youth leadership retreat and mass held with the Benedictine Sisters in Erie, PA. As I recall, it was an all girls retreat for vocational recruitment purposes. It was held in August around the Feast of the Assumption and I remember being very confused as I entered the auditorium for mass to see thousands of paper origami cranes and anti-war banners since this was well after the end of the Vietnam War. I soon realized that we were not going to remember Our Lady, but rather commemorate on our collective guilt as Americans on the anniversary of Hiroshima. Mass began with the middle-aged sisters, some of whom were my school teachers, doing an interpretive “crane” dance for peace. Right then and there, at that *exact* moment, I discerned that I would NOT enter religious life.

  66. bsjy says:

    Father Z,
    Your sharing widgets ( is slowing down your site A LOT.

  67. Sue in soCal says:

    Happens every year at the Masses at the Religious Education Conference for the Archdiocese of Los Angeles. (LA – liturgical abuse: I’d not heard that before but it is way too appropriate.) I’ve not seen it in parishes but have heard of it happening. I make a note of these parishes and those who have people other than the priest, deacon, or, in some cases, bishops (!) give the “homily” and stay away.
    I tend to stay in my parish church (which is very faithful to the Magisterium thanks to the order of priests here) or attend Mass at Thomas Aquinas College next door (very faithful and with Latin in both EF and NO). That way my blood pressure stays normal and I do not get distracted from the thing we should be focused on – the
    Sacrifice on the altar.

  68. LisaP. says:

    Our home school co-op had a young girl teaching a liturgical dance class for awhile. It was Protestant, and all the girls just really wanted to be part of it. It was about what you’d expect, a lot of arm waving, etc. It was one of those times I had to tell my kids they weren’t allowed to do what all their friends were doing, and I told them that while it was appropriate (good idea or not aside) for a Protestant prayer service — shoot, for any kind of private prayer — it was totally inappropriate in Mass. It gave us a good chance to discuss why Mass is different from “going to church”.

    As for culture, rather than orthodoxy, my Protestant friends do the whole camp praise music with hand gestures thing, I stand back but my kids have a good time. I actually think it’s good that they get to learn how to express themselves in a different cultural manner, the folks who are using the gestures really do mean it as gestures of worship, but my kids need to know what their *own* culture is like, too. It is not in a Roman Catholic small t Western tradition to hold your hands up to heaven and sway. It is in the Roman Catholic small t Western tradition (as well as in the big T Mass Tradition) to, say, genuflect. I think it’s a lot like the tattoos you see folks getting so many of, used to be a henna-ish Indian-ish vine look, now it’s trying to look like maybe some New Zealand tribal thing with piercings — you can appreciate other cultures in their own context but when you steal them and use them poorly that’s just sad.

  69. frsbr says:

    In my parish, liturgical dance is limited to those times wherein the priest takes the thurible and moves around the altar, incensing it.

  70. Scott W. says:

    Father Z,
    Your sharing widgets ( is slowing down your site A LOT.

    Seconded. I don’t know about widget sharing, but I can attest that your blog (and none of the other blogs I visit regularly) has been bogged down substantially for the past day or so.

  71. a catechist says:

    I’ve only seen this once, about 11 yrs. ago in Texas. The priest was recently ordained (seminary in Hales Corner, WI) and it was his idea to have a teenager in a leotard at the offeratory. Only happened once. Thank God, I was too short to see the actual event. I think the chances of this happening in my current Iowa diocese are vanishingly small.

  72. Sissy says:

    “I can attest that your blog (and none of the other blogs I visit regularly) has been bogged down substantially for the past day or so.”

    Same here. I get the “spinning wheel of death” every time I try to refresh. It’s taking longer and longer to load.

  73. The Masked Chicken says:

    Because I have dial-up, it slows the process of loading to let me see where the glitch is. It seems to be a facebook widget loading problem.

  74. Jim says:

    However, there are other practices (e.g. communion on the tongue, ornate robes) that are also offensive to male sensibility.

    Not to my “male sensibility”. It was the opposite – receiving in the hand and the horrible robes that drove me away from the church for several years – because I wasn’t going to Mass to witness a fashion parade. I know, because in my boys only “Catholic” school, as a kid I was made to dance to the “Our Father” and it still gives me nightmares (though for a very long time I couldn’t figure out why that was so).

    I don’t get why he understands why people dislike liturgical dance and …

    Because liturgical dance takes the focus of the congregation away from Almighty God and brings it on foolish men .The dancers themselves would only concentrate on how well they are “performing” and depending on how the “dancers” are dressed, the rest of the congregation is at the least distracted and worse (usually the case) given an occasion to break the 6th/9th commandment by impure thoughts. The latter is especially the case with men – I know I am one.

    … then cannot understand why watching adults open their mouths for feeding is just as gross to some of us.

    You too would understand if you knew WHO the Blessed Sacrament is and why you absolutely need Him. There is no way a person can say that and at the same time say that He loves God more than himself.

  75. Suburbanbanshee says:

    AnAmericanMother — Both Morris dancing and Mexican dancing for the Guadelupana generally derive from Spanish Moresca dances. It’s a 15th/16th century thing. :)

    Re: liturgical dancing — Haven’t seen it in at least five years. Never had it at my parish beyond maybe once, thank goodness. There was a nest of it at the University of Dayton (floaty white robes and carrying incense bowls at big college Masses), but I don’t know whether it persists.

  76. letchitsa1 says:

    Thankfully we have not had liturgical dance here since our new pastor came a year and a half ago. I’m hoping it stays dead and buried, though our pastoral musician does try slight variations from time to time, like having the choir process in, swaying back and forth as they sing and whatnot. Fortunately, I usually find out about those services ahead of time and am conveniently “gone home.” I then proceed to either leave town or attend the local Byzantine parish.

  77. robtbrown says:

    Dr. K says:

    Oh yes, we have liturgical dance often in the Diocese of Rochester. In fact, there was a dance performance at Bp. Clark’s retirement Mass a few Sundays ago

    His retirement was reason to dance. Champagne and a Fireworks display would also have been appropriate.

  78. ReginaMarie says:

    Your comment made me smile, as I can (thank You, Lord!) nod in agreement that this is what we also experience at our tiny, heaven-on-earth, Byzantine Catholic parish:
    “In my parish, liturgical dance is limited to those times wherein the priest takes the thurible and moves around the altar, incensing it.”
    Lots of bowing & incensing…but no shenanigans, so-called ‘dancing’ or otherwise.

  79. Random Friar says:

    At the moment porcine flight is made possible, yes.

  80. Darren says:

    Well, we don’t have dancing at my parish “yet”. However, with the new pastor (can he be responsible, or are those zany crazy plain-clothes nuns and other loons influencing everything so strongly after the departure of our very traditionalist pastor… …well, we shall see)…

    As I started, in recent weeks we have gone to a more modern Agnus Dei (why even say the Latin) and Sanctus… …with elecronic piano music… (I HATE piano at mass, even more than I hate guitar… hard to explain, but…) the last two weeks the Lamb of God has had a digital drum beat (with modest cymbal crash)… …no matter how beautiful and reverent the rest of the mass may be, that just ruins it all.

    I just fear now that as the choir has returned, in a few weeks might they start swaying??? If so… (argh)

    From an interview of Francis Cardinal Arinze when he headed the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments (

    Q: Has liturgical dance been approved for Masses by your office?

    A: 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 is it 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 county 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 in on the table of the Congregation for Divine Worship? We would throw it out! If people want to dance, they know where to go.

  81. Widukind says:

    Thre were a few nuns I once knew who were into liturgical dance. So the thought came to me, perhaps there is need for a second run of the Nuns on the Bus – this time as a liturgical dance troupe. If they made fools of themselves once, then why not again? I cannot wait for the gyrating geriatic gynmnastics.

  82. Sid Cundiff in NC says:

    Only in a seminary, 30 years ago. A nun performed.

  83. Snirtler says:

    Regrettably the Catholic center at my university will soon be having a Mass on the grass, for which they are inviting enthusiasts to take part in some liturgical dance. Not the first time either. At a Mass sometime back (for Pentecost?), we were treated to dancing students garbed in leggings and white sheets–though not quite as diaphanously or immodestly clad as the Rochester dancer linked to above. (This is supposed to be a young and hip crowd. Could anything be more laughable to their secular or non-Catholic peers than to see young Catholics take part in an act of reverence by prancing around in tights in utter earnestness? No wonder Catholics aren’t taken seriously.)

  84. (X)MCCLXIII says:

    I think it’s more than a little harsh to describe Bp Clark’s dancer as “chubby”. And I think her dress was rather fetching. But, surely, she should have covered her hair?

  85. ajf1984 says:

    Snirtler wrote “Regrettably the Catholic center at my university will soon be having a Mass on the grass.” Sounds like it could be a long-lost Cheech and Chong film: Mass On Grass: Cheech and Chong Go To Rome.” No wonder we aren’t taken seriously, indeed!

  86. Sissy says:

    “But, surely, she should have covered her hair?”

    Let’s be frank: she should have covered a lot more than her hair.

  87. wmeyer says:

    Sissy, you show great restraint. ;)

  88. Felicia says:

    Yes, I’ve actually seen it. Thankfully it was back in the mid 1980s and I’ve not been subject to it since. It was in Nepean, a suburb of Ottawa, Ontario, Canada. It was during Lent, at a penitential service. A lovely young thing in a diaphanous robe pranced around on the altar while the choir sang “The Prodigal Son” a.k.a. “Father I have Sinned” by Eugene O’Reilly C.Ss.R. I still remember (but wish I didn’t) the gestures she used at the line “Father I have loved, if love’s the word to use. I’ve played so many games, they’ve left me so confused.”

  89. Sissy says:

    wmeyer said “you show great restraint. ;)”

    yes, because when I first clicked it on I thought “temple pros…….” and then stopped before I could finish the thought.

  90. wmeyer says:

    Ahem. So much for that restraint. ;)

    But then, I shall not reveal the thoughts which came to my mind…

  91. Sissy says:

    “So much for that restraint. ;)”

    One can only hold out against provocation like that for so long.

  92. Tradster says:

    A couple of observations about that photo from Rochester. First, other than the priests there are no other discernible males in the seats. Second, did anyone else notice the woman in the right side who appears to be doing a facepalm about the dancer?

  93. Charivari Rob says:

    Ballet/interpretive dance? No.

    Occasionally, one or two of the local parishes with a resident population of some particular ethnic group might have processional “liturgical dance” for the Offertory.

  94. AnAmericanMother says:

    In defense of “swaying”, I will note that there is a tendency when singing medieval or renaissance polyphony and especially English Renaissance music, to give it a little “body English” . Since there is not supposed to be a “conductor” in the usual sense, you find yourself gently swaying with the undulations of your line. Fortunately, we can sway all we want because we’re in the back, in the choir loft, where nobody sees us unless they’re hanging out with us, the spiders, and the organ pipes. I like that SO much better than being an Episcopalian and being down front where you can’t hunt through your music without being a distraction.
    A small demonstration of restrained swaying – here. (This is a staged performance of the first through-composed Mass setting, Messe de Nostre Dame by Guillaume de Machaut, circa 1350 or so. The Kyrie starts at about the 8 minute mark, and it’s one of the most beautiful I’ve ever heard. Hockets and all.)

  95. Clinton R. says:

    Like a couple other people have mentioned, the Los Angeles Religious “Education” Congress does sadly feature dancing during the “Eucharistic Liturgy”. This and the fact they welcome dissidents is why I don’t go to that event.

  96. HeatherPA says:

    I have been blessed to never have witnessed a “dance” during the Holy Mass, and I think our priest would never allow such a thing, thank The Lord.

  97. Liturgical Dance has a place in the Philippines…..OUTSIDE OF MASS!

    Fertility dances were done by native pagan Filipinos before the archipelago was invaded by Spain 1521. The kind of liturgical inculturation the Spanish friars did was to use the same pagan dances and turn it into a unique dance for patron saints. That is why there are religious processions in the Philippines where the devotees dance in the streets as a bodily expression of their prayers. You can hear the dancers sing their petitions while they dance.

    This dance you see in the picture on Rorate and which was posted in my blog came was taken at the Euntes of Zamboanga, one of the thelogical schools in the Philippines that teaches liberation theology, liturgical inculturation and other Spirit of Vatican II stuff. They are actually dancing around the altar and the Mass attendees in the photo are seminarians, nuns and priests. You can see the main celebrant just place a stole over his street clothes.

    Liturgical abuse cannot be controlled in the country thanks to the kid gloves approach of the bishops and especially the deafening silence of our world-reknowned liturgical expert, Fr. Anscar Chupungco, OSB, who even encourages it in his liturgical classes and seminars.

  98. AnAmericanMother says:

    Now for a little break for non-liturgical dance:
    RSCDS Edinburgh Branch
    This is absolutely top-drawer Scottish Country Dancing by the original Branch – as pretty a version of the Lea Rig strathspey as I’ve ever seen. Hubby & I were on our local branch demo team, but I don’t think we were ever this polished. (Nor did we dress so fine. Baby seal sporans and white opera-length gloves, forsooth!)

  99. Snirtler says:

    @ ajf1984:
    Exactly! It’s “Mass On Grass: Cheech and Chong Go To Rome”–without the irony. (Produced by the archdiocese of LA)

  100. BLB Oregon says:

    I’ve seen the girls in the youth group allowed to do something like that before Mass started, but at least it wasn’t during Mass. Even that was too close to liturgical dance for my comfort.

    I don’t know if the following is a joke, a true story, or a joke made after a true story, but I like the punchline:

    A parish that usually ignored all boundaries of rubrics, especially concerning liturgical dance, was expecting their bishop for a parish visit. The pastor and the liturgy committee decided to bring their liturgy in line with the rubrics and dispense of the dancing for that Mass, so there would be no trouble. During Mass, all was according to Hoyle until the silence after communion, when it became clear that someone did not get (or did not agree with) the memo.

    Before the final prayer and blessing, the music started up and a liturgical dancer came out, seemingly from nowhere, and started to dance in front of the altar! When the music finished, she came to a stop. Then she bowed to the stunned bishop and embarrassed pastor and hurried away.

    The long silence that followed was finally broken by the bishop, who turned to the pastor and told him, “If she asks for your head on a platter, she can have it!”

  101. Dr. K says:

    The Bp. emeritus has liturgical dance again at this second Mass of Thanksgiving.

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