Hindu “Mass” Sparks Violent Altercation in Toronto Churchyard
Cornelia R. Ferreira, M. Sc.
George’s eyes were glazing over. The “Indian Rite of Mass” was in full swing at St. Ann’s Church in Toronto, Canada, on Sunday, July 2, 2006, and he felt he was being hypnotized by the endless monotonous chants and the flowing hand movements of the Indian dancing girls. Feeling nauseated, he left the front of the church and walked to the back to clear his mind. Along the way he noticed people frozen in the pews as though in a trance.
Flyer advertising a novel
Indian Order of Mass
George and some traditionalist friends had learnt of this event at St. Ann’s through flyers that announced a “Roman Rite Liturgy of the Eucharist with religious cultural adaptations of India, approved by the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India.” The Presider would be a certain Father Thomas D’Sa, Director of the National Biblical Catechetical Liturgical Centre (NBCLC) of the Indian Bishops’ Conference (CBCI) in Bangalore, India. The flyer pictured a “Jesus” dressed like a Hinduized Catholic priest, squatting in front of a large plate on which rested a huge “host” the size of an Indian unleavened bread called chappati.
George, unaware that the NBCLC was actually founded by the Indian bishops forty years ago in order to Hinduize the Church in India, was scandalized by the idea of pagan rituals at a Catholic Mass. Inspired by the Holy Ghost, he and his friends went to St. Ann’s to educate and warn attendees that the service advertised in the flyer as the “Indian Order of Eucharistic Celebration” would be Hindu, not Indian. They intended to peacefully demonstrate beforehand with placards proclaiming sentiments like “Hinduism is not part of Catholicism,” and “Inculturation is the work of the devil.” They also wished to distribute copies of this writer’s article on the Hindu rituals used during Mother Teresa’s beatification Mass, telling people to read it to understand what they would encounter. They did not have the opportunity, however, to carry out their plan until after the service, with unexpected results. But more on that later.
It should be noted that the event was advertised on the Archdiocese of Toronto website although there is no “Indian Rite” or “Ordo” that has official Vatican approval. Also, there is no exclusively “Indian” religion or culture, as many religions co-exist in that country. The “Mass” concocted in 1969 by the Indian bishops has always been a Hindu-Catholic syncretic hybrid, the version at St. Ann’s being an obvious adaptation for Western audiences. As for dance during Mass, which has always been forbidden, even the Sacred Congregation for Divine Worship, in 1975, said dance “desacralizes” the liturgy, “introducing an atmosphere of profanity.”
The Voice of Dance
The service (photographed and video-taped by the intrepid band of traditionalist protesters) was a consciousness-raising workshop, with Fr. D’Sa explaining the significance of each dance and ritual. Though cloaked in Catholic terminology, the explanations made it clear that he would be conducting Hindu worship or puja, with the barest essentials of the Mass grafted onto it. (Indeed, as it turned out, missing would be the Creed, Lamb of God and Final Blessing.) In any case, Hinduized Catholics do not use the words “Lord,” “Jesus,” or “God” in the Catholic sense. Hinduized priests admit that people at a puja-Mass “are not praying to some Christian Deity, but to the Deity who is understood and experienced in different ways in different religious cultures and traditions,” i.e., they pray to the pantheistic, universal, impersonal Absolute, the Hindu god.
It was announced that Fr. D’Sa and his dance troupe were on a workshop tour. They had been in Europe and their next stop was the University of Winnipeg (“Celebrating Spirituality and Dance,” as advertised on Winnipeg’s Archdiocesan website).
A little background on the troupe is in order. Named “Nrityavani,” which means “the voice of dance,” it is an official organ of the Indian Bishops’ Conference. It was devised “to inculturate Catholicism through dance” – in other words, to Hinduize Catholic liturgy and belief worldwide, through its adaptations of Indian classical dance, which is an expression of Hinduism. Directed by Fr. D’Sa, Nrityavani features Catholic dancers as young as nine, and at least one dancing priest.
Now, in February 2006, the occult humanitarian Art of Living Foundation, a United Nations non-governmental association founded by Sri Sri Ravi Shankar (not the sitarist), held an interfaith Jubilee celebration. It drew 2.5 million people, the “first ever ‘spiritual Olympics,’” who meditated together as a “One-World Family.” Dignitaries included the Archbishop of Bangalore and over 1,000 spiritual leaders, as well as World Bank executives, NASA engineers, movie stars, heads of government and Nobel Laureates. Former Dutch Prime Minister Ruud Lubbers was also present; he is a partner of Mikhail Gorbachev in promoting the Earth Charter, and also Hans Küng’s associate for the anti-Christian Global Ethic. In line with Shankar’s philosophy, Indian President A. P. J. Abdul Kalam suggested using music “as a binding force” for the world’s religions to promote an enlightened society and world harmony. Shankar also believes that “[e]ven inside the devil there is divinity, but it is sleeping. When it wakes up, the devil simply disappears.”
On April 1, 2006, the Indian bishops honoured Shankar’s Jubilee with a function at the NBCLC. The next day Indian website daijiworld.com commented: “As the word ‘Catholic’ stands for a universal outlook encompassing everyone, NBCLC respects every religion.” The celebration theme was “Pilgrimage towards inner harmony” and “Living with people of other faiths.” Following NBCLC Director Father D’Sa’s welcome speech and Hindu devotional songs, Nrityavani dances depicted that “Wisdom is divine and the divine gifts are to be distributed freely.”
Shankar and Fr. D'Sa at NBCLC Jubilee party
Shankar dispensed spiritual advice to the Indian Priests' Congress on February 9, 2010, in Velankanni, India. The conference was attended by over 900 clergy and Claudio Cardinal Hummes, Prefect of the Congregation for the Clergy (R). In this popular pilgrimage centre, revered for Marian miracles, Shankar declared, "Pilgrimage is a journey into oneself, to seek communion between God and oneself." The cardinal opened the conference with the Hindu ritual of lighting a lamp.
Homage to the Gods
Let us now return to the Hindu Ordo Mass at the century-old St. Ann’s Church in Toronto. Site of a Native Peoples’ Parish for two decades, it had already been desecrated by Canadian Indian rituals. Before the Mass, Father D’Sa announced he would be explaining the dance gestures and postures as used in “the Indian culture.” He said the Entrance Procession would be preceded by an opening dance honouring the Blessed Trinity. The three barefooted Nrityavani dancing girls positioned in front of the altar were introduced respectively as representing, by their gestures, the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
The Blessed Trinity Dance featured the chanting of the magic (occult) mantra OM as each “Person” of the Trinity came “on stage.” Hinduism teaches that we need to develop the inner consciousness of our divinity and our oneness with the Absolute. Mantra vibrations induce a trance (recall George’s unease) in which we can feel ourselves one with the Supreme Divinity. OM is the supreme vibration as it means “I Am” (appropriating the name by which the true God revealed Himself!). It began creation and initiates awareness. For this reason, and because “Divinity alone can worship Divinity,” every puja must start with OM, to help us recognize our “I Am”-ness and oneness. Mantras and hand gestures also allegedly purify and divinize the body.
OM also is the Hindu god Krishna, himself a reincarnation of the god Vishnu, who is the personification of the Absolute. It also has sexual and black magic meanings. Further, the trunk of the elephant-head god Ganesha or Ganapati also represents OM, so Ganesha is usually the first god worshipped in a traditional puja. In 1980, Wladislaw Cardinal Rubin, Prefect of the Congregation for Oriental Churches, forbade the use of OM because it is “an essential, integral part of Hindu worship.” Since the actual sound of OM represents the Hindu Trinity of Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva, and since the whole ceremony was profane, we are led to believe that the Holy Trinity Dance at St. Ann’s honored the Hindu, not the Christian Trinity.
Priests worshipped with arati of lights
After the Blessed Trinity Dance and Entrance Procession, the priests were greeted with an arati of lights, after which Father D’Sa performed the same arati towards the people.
He had earlier told them, “We shall also welcome you with an Indian gesture called arati, with flowers and with a lamp.” As a dancer demonstrated how the arati plate is waved in three circles, Father D’Sa explained that the first circle stands for God who created us and the universe, the second circle for the universe, and the third for our fellow human beings. “In this way,” he said, “we are united with God, the universe, and with our fellow human beings in this one gesture called arati.” This statement clearly denoted the Hindu nature of the proceedings, as Hindus believe all men are united with the universal Absolute. Hinduism’s other deities are manifestations of the divine One.
LEFT: Fr. D'Sa performs arati towards the congregation
RIGHT: Close-up of the lit arati plate
Father D’Sa was disingenuous in describing arati as a mere “welcoming gesture” instead of as the most important ritual in Hindu worship. Arati is defined as a temple ritual in which a fire or light on a plate is waved in a clockwise direction in front of a deity, an important person, or anything valuable. Light is worshipped as the Supreme Lord of inner consciousness. The clockwise direction symbolizes one’s divinity, revealed by the “flame” or light of knowledge. Fire and light themselves are worshipped. Indeed, the puja-Mass was advertised in the flyer as “Divya Yagam,” a term meaning “worship of the Light.” Arati is also done to appease the goddess Arathi and to counteract “the evil eye.” Further, the Hindu gods demand adoration with flowers, incense and light. It just so happens that the puja-Mass featured a triple arati of fire, flowers and incense sticks later in the proceedings.
Father D’Sa was the main celebrant, and the pastor of St. Ann’s the concelebrant. Both priests sported a white dot between the eyebrows. There are several varieties and meanings for this dot, the first being that the wearer proclaims he is a Hindu. The location between the eyebrows is supposed to be a center of spiritual energy and a focus of meditation. The dot in that position represents the “third eye” of divine inner sight ― i.e., of occult knowledge and abilities ― and awareness of unity with the universe, which Hindus seek to awaken. Focusing on the god within, the dot is a symbol of the worship of the intellect.
Before the washing of the hands, Father D’Sa performed a superstitious ritual, offering blue and red flowers to the “eight directions of the world.” He said the flowers symbolized those present who were from different cultures and traditions, hoping for unity. However, in the regular Hindu ritual, flowers are offered to the gods of the eight directions, honoring the eight aspects of the god Shiva. The ritual is also done to obtain the protection of the god who rules a particular eighth section of the universe. Another reason for this puja is that one doesn’t know from which direction the Absolute Lord will come. A different god, seemingly chosen according to need, is invoked for each direction. Father D’Sa himself chanted eight names as he touched the flowers to his forehead, nose and chest, then carefully arranged them on the altar at the compass points surrounding the host and chalices.
After the Great Amen, the dancing girls performed a triple arati of flowers, fire and incense to the accompaniment of more pagan chants whilst the celebrants held aloft the consecrated Sacred Species. Father D’Sa announced that this blasphemy was “the climactic part of our Eucharistic Prayer.”
At the Kiss of Peace, the congregation was told to fold their hands and do the Indian greeting of namaste to their neighbors. Namaste means “the god in me honors the god in you.” It awakens the third eye of the greeter to worship the god in the greeted.
Launching into the Our Father dance, to the accompaniment of a Hare Krishna chant
Another abomination took place at the Our Father. Instead of reciting the prayer together as a congregation, the people were asked to sit down while the girls launched into another interpretive dance number. Most gestures were completely unfathomable, with the exception of receiving bread and forgiving trespasses (a shove, hurt feelings, forgiveness, hugs all around). The musical accompaniment was a Hare Krishna chant! Father D’Sa intoned the words “Our Father” four times. The response each time was the mantra “Hare Krishna”; towards the end of the prayer, the mantra was repeated over and over. Krishna, the reincarnation of Vishnu, who represents the Absolute Lord, is said to have seduced 16,000 women, and a whole occult, erotic literature has been developed around this aspect of Krishna. The words “Hare Krishna” mean “O energy of the Lord (Hare), O Lord (Krishna), please engage me in your service!” This energy is actually the goddess Radha, Krishna’s chief consort, who “helps the devotee achieve the grace of the supreme Father,” Krishna, who reveals himself to the sincere devotee. The mantra “Hare Krishna” is thus supposed to awaken spiritual consciousness.
Replacing the Final Blessing, the Dance of the Last Supper was performed to illustrate the “social dimension” that should result from celebrating the Eucharist. The portrayal of “what we must do when we go out into the world” included the washing of the feet and another depiction of forgiveness.
Finally came the mutual gestures of appreciation between the two priests. The pastor announced a second collection to defray the touring expenses of the troupe. In gratitude for his hosting of the “Indian Order of the Eucharist,” the pastor was presented with a garland of flowers and a large picture of “Jesus as an Indian [i.e., Hindu] guru, Jesus in contemplation.”
The only applause came at the end of this presentation, and it seemed “led” and rather restrained. The absence of clapping by a liberal congregation was most unusual. Did the rituals engender a trance state, as intended, and as George had observed? Not everyone was hypnotized, however. Some people walked out during the service and others did not receive Communion.
All Hell Breaks Loose
Throughout the blasphemous puja-Mass, George’s friends Joan and Rose sat at the back, praying Rosaries, Litanies and other prayers. They spoke audibly, but quietly, “so that people would know something was wrong.” Right after the service, they started passing out copies of the Mother Teresa article to people inside the church. A Sister of St. Joseph (in plainclothes) testily enquired, “Did you get Father’s permission?”
“We don’t need Father’s permission,” they replied. The three kept handing out copies, urging people, “Read this. It explains everything that took place just now in this church.”
Standing on the front steps, they continued, “The church has been desecrated. The Body and Blood of Our Lord have been desecrated. Don’t go to this church any more!” At times they added, “The two priests are going to hell because of this!” Some people accepted the articles, others didn’t. One woman asked for a bunch and started distributing them herself.
The nun tried frantically to stop the demonstrators. “Get off the property! Get off the property!” she yelled. She ordered people not to take the article. “They don’t have Father’s permission. They are invading our church. They are strangers come to cause trouble.” She even snatched articles from parishioners’ hands and ripped them up.
People started hustling Rose and George down the steps. Suddenly, alerted by the furious nun, the pastor, still in his vestments (and garland), emerged and rushed wildly towards them. “Keep off the church property!” he shouted, trying to choke Rose.
“I saw the devil in his eyes,” she recalled.
George rushed to her defence, putting himself between the two. “Get your hands off her!” he shouted. “What do you think you’re doing, Father? Why are you picking on a woman? Pick on someone your own size!” (Rose is a diminutive 110 pounds, whilst both men are sturdily built, around 200 pounds.)
The priest knocked him aside and tried again to throttle Rose, so George intervened again. The priest was seen to punch and kick him, and George had to shove him away in self-defence. At some point the pastor was also seen ripping up Mother Teresa articles. Then he grabbed the bag of rolled-up placards Rose was holding and started shredding them to pieces. George retrieved the bag. Several times the trio accused the priest of being a wolf in sheep’s clothing.
About 50 church attendees were milling around, some seemingly stunned by the sight of their pastor attacking a woman and initiating a brawl. Several bystanders, however, entered the fray on the side of the priest, including one elderly woman who used her motorized wheelchair as a weapon. She ran over Rose’s foot, injuring it, and tried the same with George.
Many demanded to know who they were and from which organization they had come. “We are Roman Catholics just like you. We’re not from any organization,” they replied.
One man accused them of not following Vatican II.
Finally, indicating with a contemptuous hand movement that the trio were crazy, the pastor returned to the church. Ironically, he seemed to have forgotten the message of universal love and harmony pervading the Hinduized service.
For her own part, Rose thought only of the sacrileges, desecrations, and blindness of those involved.
“It’s sad,” she said, reacting to the day’s events. “It’s very, very sad.”
. This is well documented in Victor J. F. Kulanday, The Paganization of the Church in India
, 2d rev. ed. (San Thome, Madras: 1988).
. Cornelia R. Ferreira, “Mother Teresa ‘Beatified’ with Idolatrous Rites,” Catholic Family News
, January 2004 (also available as CFN Reprint No. 902 for US $2.50).
. The original version is described in Kulanday’s book.
. India: The Lotus and the Cross
, television documentary produced by Vishnu and Rita Mathur, SilverTouch Productions [Toronto], 2004.
. Father Aidan Turner, “Man of Vision Bring [sic
] Indian Dancers to Mass,” in “Diocesan News,” The Voice
, thevoiceonline.org, August 2005.
. Ibid.; www.st-augustines-high.lancsngfl.ac.uk/index.html (click on News, “Recent Events, “Nrityavani, June 1, 2005). The website lauds the troupe for spreading the Gospels “via Asian
Dance,” thus disguising its Hindu-evangelizing nature even further.
. “Silver Jubilee 2006,” artofliving.org.
. Jessie Rodrigues, “Bangalore: NBCLC Honours Art of Living Guru Sri Sri Ravi Shankar”.
. Swami Bhajanananda Saraswati and Brahmachari Parameshwara, "The Art of Seeing God,” kalimandir.org/library/art-of-seeing-god/; Ashok Basargekar, “Perceiving the True Identity of the Absolute,” geocities.com/Athens/Acropolis/8891/pooja.txt; “Om: Symbol of the Absolute,” hinduism.about.com/od/omaum/a/meaningofom.htm.
. Ferreira, ibid.; “Attributes of Ganesha,” templenet.com/beliefs/whoisganesha.htm.
. John B. Noss, Man’s Religions
, 3d ed. (New York: The Macmillan Company, 1963), p. 279; Kulanday, pp. 82-83, 151.
. Articles on the dot can be found at experiencefestival.com/a/Symbols_in_Hinduism/id/51477; hindunet.org/srh_home/1996_9/msg00176.html; jansarisevak.org.uk/HinduCulture.html; and experiencefestival.com/third_eye_chakra.
. “Upachara: Offerings,” in “Shri Shri Shiva Mahadeva,” religiousworlds.com/mandalam/shiva.htm; Jayaram V., “Ashtadikpalas: Rulers of the Eight Directions,” hinduwebsite.com/hinduism/dikpalas.asp; “Perceiving the True Identity.”
. See experiencefestival.com/namaste.
. Noss, pp. 287, 289-90.
. “Maha-mantra,” krishna.com/en/node/638; A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, “Chanting Hare Krishna,” harekrishnatemple.com/bhakta/chapter7.html; “Hare Krishna …,” krishna.org/hare-krishna-hare-krishna-krishna-krishna-hare-hare/; Noss, pp. 289-290. Note: The mantra chanted at the Our Father was not the version popularized by the Hare Krishna Movement.
Originally published in Catholic Family News, August 2006.
(Updated information and bold emphases added, March 2010.)
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