German “Circus Mass” Transforms Liturgy Into Sideshow

Leading the pack in the “Worst Liturgy Ever” Competition….

Ladies and Gentlemen, I bring you the CIRCUS MASS organized by Caritas of Germany.

There’s something for everyone!

There’s liturgical dance:


And a contortionist:


There are clowns on cycles:


Even a musical priest!


I believe this particular mass occurred on December 16, 2012.

You can see all this and more in the video which follows.

  • Dale

    Kathy, how much do you know about this event? From what I can glean from Google Translate (and some additional Googling,) it took place in Switzerland at Circus Go. It was organized by Kinderhilfe Bethlehem, a Swiss organization. What is shown is as a Christmas benefit for Caritas Baby Hospital in Bethlehem, Israel.

    Was the event a Catholic Mass,. or Lutheran, or what exactly?

    • kathyschiffer

      Oh, thanks Dale! Thorough as always! I only know what someone else told me–which could most certainly have been wrong. I know this: I DEFINITELY was not there! :)

      • Dale

        I was disturbed by the communion ceremony in the middle of what seemsto be a circus act. The video raises worries, and I wish I understood German to learn more about the event. :-/

        • E.J.

          Disgraceful.

    • amslucy

      I don’t know whether it was a Catholic Mass, but according to his website, Ernst Heller (the celebrant) is a Catholic priest. The website is here (in German): http://www.pfarrerheller.ch/news/

      It looks like it *was* a Mass: they do the “through Him, with Him, in Him…” part at around 2:25 in the video and they appear to be distributing Communion to people sitting at tables. Best case scenario is that the video wasn’t in chronological order: maybe the worst of the circus-y stuff happened before or after the Mass?

      • amslucy

        Also in German, but an article on his website covering the actual event: http://www.pfarrerheller.ch/news/?id=705

        • Dale

          Amslucy, thank you for the link. By using Google Translate, I was able to learn a bit more.

          According to the website, Fr. Heller began ministering to circus people 15 years ago. In 2004, his bishop detached him from a parish and assigned him to pastor the traveling people of the circus, marketplaces and showmen.

          Why? Because such traveling people are a neglected community. Their relationship to faith is odd, sustained by a need for belief in the face of the hardships of their lives, and yet pushed away from negative experiences with the Church. Building bridges to these people, meeting their needs and drawing them closer to God is his mission.

          • MaryRoseM

            Fr. Heller’s ministry to circus travelers is admirable. However, if this was an actual Mass, he literally turned the liturgy into a circus event which is not acceptable. Many people feel disenfranchised from the Church and we must meet people where they are in their faith development. With that said, however, I believe comes the responsibility of reaching out to others in love but also in truth. We cannot minister to people and help in their formation if we ourselves are twisting things so badly.

          • Judith77

            The Mass is beautiful on it’s own. There is no need to cater to anyone in any walk of life. Most likely they just, went and had a good time. This one needs to be sent to the Vatican.

  • Theologian AND Circus Artist

    Very disappointed to see this singled out in a derogatory way when nothing is known of the actual event and those in attendance nor of the powerful theological groundings for such a celebration. Shame on you.

    • Mike M

      I’m sorry to see people denigrating those in attendance. Circus performers have an honorable job. But, the Mass isn’t a circus. There’s a powerful theological grounding for the Mass as it is. It shouldn’t be changed… not for circus performers, painters, doctors, bankers… not for anyone. That’s not what it’s about.

      If they’d had Mass (regular, standard, by the missal Mass) and then had cleared away the altar and the priest introduced the performers, played a flute with some or whatever, that would be different.

  • Robe Roberto

    This is just plain evil stuff, reason # 51356 to go to a Traditional Latin Mass exclusively.

    • Dale

      The event was a charity fundraiser and not a scheduled Mass.

      • Judith77

        Was communion offered? Was it held in the Church? Was the host consecrated? Scheduled or not, if there was Mass, it was a deplorable thing to do.

  • Leslie

    I think it is beautiful. Why are you so quick to judge and condemn this? Did any of you bother to read what this was all about or find someone who could translate it for you? Do you know anything of the context of this liturgy? Do you know that the vocation of this priest was blessed by Pope John Paul II? That he has a special call to minister to travelling peoples? Or that he is a designated chaplain to the papal swiss guard? Are you remotely aware of the esteemed role of circus performers outside of the pathetic stereotypes inside many US communities? Stop and reflect for one moment, please. Jesus was a traveler who invited the unclean to his table. Who are you?

    • Misha

      We are Catholics. We stand for Jesus. We stand for his teachings. The Church is HIs Temple. You want a circus do it outside His temple.

      “Jesus entered the temple courts and drove
      out all who were buying and selling there. He overturned the tables of the
      money changers and the benches of those selling doves. “It is written,” he said to
      them, “‘My house will be called a house of prayer,’ but
      you are making it ‘a den of robbers”.
      Mathew 21:12-13

    • Mike M

      But, Mass isn’t a circus. Mass isn’t about the attendees at Mass. Mass is about the Jesus Christ offering His Body and Blood to the Father to atone for our sins, and offering it to us for our sanctification.

      I have no objection to a church sponsored festival where circus performers can display their talents, can use them to honor God, etc. But, the Mass isn’t the place for that. Inserting ourselves, our performances, our whims, into the Mass shows a lack of reverence for Our Lord and a lack of understanding of what the Mass is for.

  • CatherineA

    Call me uncharitable, but I don’t think I have to know what it was “all about,” what the “context” was, or even whether it was Catholic, Lutheran, or something else. Clearly, it was (a) Christian and (b) some sort of liturgical celebration — there was an altar, and there were priests in vestments. That is enough to know that this is an OUTRAGE and a DISGRACE. I don’t want to hear — Oh my God — they have snakes. Well there you go.

    • Dale

      oops, I replied to the wrong person. Sorry.

  • http://ashesfromburntroses.blogspot.com/ Manny

    I found it disgraceful. What was the point? If they wanted to have a circus night, have it outside the Mass in the school gym.

    • Dale

      Manny, it was held inside a circus tent.
      http://www.pfarrerheller.ch/news/?id=705
      (in German)

      I am uneasy about the placement of the communion service, relative to the entertainment. If the Eucharistic feast was celebrated before or after the entertainment, then I don’t think there is much of a problem. However, the video suggests that the communion was offered during a break in the entertainment. If so, I think it was inappropriate..

      • http://ashesfromburntroses.blogspot.com/ Manny

        I see. At least it wan’t in Church. I guess that mitigates the disgrace, but not completely takes it away. Well, Christ hung out with tax collectors and prostitutes, but circus riff raff? LOL, puts it all in a different light. Poor judgement if you ask me.

      • Judith77

        That shouldn’t be in Church period. Mass is sacred,

  • verocs

    A snake? Really?

  • Wil

    “Dancing is not a form of expression for the Christian liturgy. In about the third century, there was an attempt in certain Gnostic-Docetic circles to introduce it into the liturgy. For these people, the Crucifixion was only an appearance. . . . Dancing could take the place of the liturgy of the Cross, because, after all, the Cross was only an appearance. The cultic dances of the different religions have different purposes – incantation, imitative magic, mystical ecstasy – none of which is compatible with the essential purpose of the liturgy as the “reasonable sacrifice”. It is totally absurd to try to make the liturgy “attractive” by introducing dancing pantomimes (wherever possible performed by professional dance troupes), which frequently (and rightly, from the professionals’ point of view) end with applause. Wherever applause breaks out in the liturgy because of some human achievement, it is a sure sign that the essence of liturgy has totally disappeared and been replaced by a kind of religious entertainment. Such attraction fades quickly – it cannot compete in the market of leisure pursuits, incorporating as it increasingly does various forms of religious titillation.”

    Joseph Ratzinger (Pope Benedict XVI)

  • Judith77

    Send this to the Vatican.We have priests on tap and many venues to ‘come to the people.’ The MASS is SACRED.

  • Debi

    That was the most disturbing thing I’ve ever seen. The Holy Sacrifice of the Mass is sacred. I don’t care who it’s for or where it is. I didn’t see a crucifix but there was a Santa Claus!!! The Eucharistic Celebration isn’t a dinner party!!
    Honor circus people and their lifestyle another way. AFTER Mass.


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