Sunday, January 10, 2010

Accommodating Indigenous Cultures: Including Ours

This is the last Sunday of Christmas. The tree and everything else will be coming down. The next major stop on the Church calendar is Ash Wednesday: February 17, this year.

In today's announcements, Father Statz said that folks who donated poinsettias could pick them up in the basement, starting Monday.

Before Mass at Our Lady of the Angels, Sauk Centre. January 10, 2010.

I've written before, about how the Catholic Church is literally "catholic" - universal.

I'm one of about 307,000,000 citizens of a country called the United States of America, that's been here on the North American continent for 234 years, come July 4 this year.

I'm also one of upwards of 1,000,000,000 living Catholics. The Catholic Church has been around for almost two thousand years, with these standing orders:
"11Then Jesus approached and said to them, 'All power in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go, therefore,12 and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.13 And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age.' "
(Matthew 28:18-20)
"All the nations" covers quite a lot of ground today, and we're still working at the Great Commission.

I've written before, about the Church's history of accommodating local cultures. We don't 'change the rules,' but we do recognize that not everybody expresses ideas quite the same way. Which is why a Catholic church near the center of North America has a tree near the altar this time of year, and why the Pope wore an animal skin on top of his usual uniform, when he was visiting a place in Africa (October 2, 2008)

Trees were a pretty big deal for many of my ancestors, and that animal skin is a symbol of authority where the Pope was visiting. It would have looked odd, considering his position, if he hadn't worn it.

Dance? In Church?!

You're not likely to see dance as a part of Mass in a Catholic Church. If you live in the United States of America. Today.

Does the Catholic Church Allow Dance During Mass?

There's a definite answer to that question:
  • Yes!
  • No!
It depends on where you are.

The Church doesn't waffle on the rules, and it's not inconsistent.

We've been around for almost two millennia, and have worked with a whole lot of cultures. What changes is what I'd call the surface detail. Like allowing - or forbidding - liturgical dance.

This may explain what's going on, better than I could:
"...Dance and the Liturgy

"In the course of their meeting on June 17-18, 2003, the Bishop members, consultants, and advisors of the Committee on the Liturgy considered the question of dance and the Liturgy.

"Recalling the recently revised General Instruction of the Roman Missal (GIRM), the Committee was conscious of the need to take 'due regard for the nature and the particular circumstances of each liturgical assembly, [so that] the entire celebration is planned in such a way that it leads to a conscious, active, and full participation of the faithful both in body and in mind….' (GIRM, no. 18) Particular note was taken of the attention paid by the new Roman Missal to gestures and movements at the Mass, which 'ought to contribute to making the entire celebration resplendent with beauty and noble simplicity, so that the true and full meaning of the different parts of the celebration is evident and that the participation of all is fostered.' (GIRM, no. 42)

"The 'nature and the particular circumstances' (GIRM, no. 18) of certain ethnic communities was also considered, particularly by Catholic immigrants from Zaire, where dance has been approved as a part of the liturgical books of their native land. The importance of a careful observance of the rubrics of such books in regard to the quality and role of dance in the Sacred Liturgy was emphasized by several of the Bishops.

"The place of dance in the liturgy in other parish Masses, however, was examined in the light of the 1975 'qualified and authoritative sketch' published by the Holy See in the journal Notitiae. The article prescribes that in western cultures, dance 'cannot be introduced into liturgical celebrations of any kind' and that when dances outside of the liturgy are envisioned, they may take place only 'in assembly areas that are not strictly liturgical.' ..."
("National Meeting of Diocesan Liturgical Commissions," BCL Newsletter (August 2003)
United States Conference of Catholic Bishops) [emphasis mine]
Note: Dance during liturgical celebrations of any kind is out of the question "in western cultures".

I'm a little disappointed: liturgical dance would add, I think, a dimension to worship that could be very valuable. But, disappointed or not, I'm a Catholic, living in a western culture. Dance during Mass is verboten here. So be it.

Reminiscence From the Odd Side

I belonged to a mainstream Protestant church before I converted to Catholicism. There was a (short) time when the church I went to experimented with liturgical dance.

If I had to choose one word to describe the experience of seeing a dozen teenage girls dancing their way through the sanctuary, it would be "weird." Also very distracting. The gowns they wore were white, voluminous, opaque: and had very wide sleeves. Since the young ladies held their arms straight out quite a bit, you could often see all the way through.

Like I said, distracting.

Back to Liturgical Dance and the Catholic Church

If I lived in Zaire, dance would be part of Mass, because the culture I was living in viewed dance as something that was meaningful in worship.

I live in Minnesota, one of the 50 American states. In this culture, today, dance means something: and it isn't liturgical.

A hundred years from now, that may change. Right now, Dance is on the 'don't' list.



Dance in Oceania

Zaire isn't the only part of the world where liturgical dance is part of Catholic Worship:
"...Referring to the question of inculturation, many responses describe the various ways and forms in which the indigenous cultures have enriched the liturgy and devotional practices of the Church in Oceania. ... Under the pastoral authority of the bishops, the liturgy has been enriched through the introduction of local languages in prayers and readings. Rituals have become more meaningful through adopting common gestures, dances, music and songs, traditional and newly-composed...."
("Special Assembly for Oceania | Jesus Christ and the Peoples of Oceania: Walking His Way Telling His Truth and Living His Life | Instrumentum Laboris," Vatican City (1998))
East Asia in general seems to regard dance as a natural part of worship, judging from what I found on the Vatican website.

What Got Me Started on This?

After Mass, I saw this card on the bulletin board:

Save a soul - in three seconds. January 10, 2010.

I hope and assume that Catholics around the world want to save souls.

It struck me that America may be one of the few places where the most important point would be saving a soul fast. In a specified number of seconds.

And that got me thinking about Catholicism, culture, and - eventually - liturgical dance.

About That Card

I have no idea who put the "Save a Soul From Hell in Three Seconds" card on the bulletin board. And, more to the point, I haven't checked out the assertions about the prayers. It strikes me that there may be an issue with free will - but that's another topic.

The prayers themselves are, in one case, familiar to me: and in the other case is similar to a prayer I'm familiar with.

With those comments and disclaimers, here's a transcript I made of the side of the card I could see:
Save a Soul From Hell in Three Seconds

Each time you pray the prayer below, you will prevent a person from going to eternal damnation. You can save sixty souls from Hell in the time it takes to boil a three-minute egg.

"Jesus, Mary, I love you, save souls."

Prayer of St. Gertrude The Great

Our Lord told St. Gertrude The Great that the following prayer would release 1,000 souls from Purgatory each time it is said. The prayer was later extended to include living sinners as well.

"Eternal Father, I offer thee the most precious blood of thy divine son, Jesus, in union with the the masses said throughout the world today, for all the holy souls in Purgatory, for sinners everywhere, for sinners in the Universal Church, those in my own home and within my family. Amen."

When they are fully released from their pains and enjoy the beatitude of Heaven, far from forgetting their friends on Earth, their gratitude knows no bounds. Prostrated before the Throne of God, they never cease to pray for those who helped them. By their prayers they shield their friends from the dangers and protect them from the evils that threaten them (over)
Goodnight, and may God bless you.

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What's That Doing in a Nice Catholic Blog?

From time to time, a service that I use will display links to - odd - services and retailers.

I block a few of the more obvious dubious advertisers.

For example: psychic anything, numerology, mediums, and related practices are on the no-no list for Catholics. It has to do with the Church's stand on divination. I try to block those ads.

Sometime regrettable advertisements get through, anyway.

Bottom line? What that service displays reflects the local culture's norms, - not Catholic teaching.