80th anniversary of the Vatican state was celebrated recently. First I
heard of this was on Salt
and Light TV on the web (well worth a look), on their Zoom
programme of news updates. There was a special Vatican concert featuring
The Messiah performed by the RTE Concert Orchestra and Our Lady's Choral
Society from Dublin. Pope Benedict attended and spoke of the value of
music in announcing Christ, because it makes mystery perceptible with
an eloquence completely its own. RTE's news coverage of the event can
be found here.
British Poet Laureate Andrew Motion also made an interesting comment recently:
"People cannot expect to understand much of literature - from John Milton
to TS Eliot - without learning the Bible first".
25/2/09 Last Sunday morning saw a new religious programme on RTE 1. Spirit
Level got off to a promising start. Apart from the discussion (about
forgiveness), the show was more innovative and appealing with its musical
items - Nóirín Ní Riain sang the beautiful Jesus My All to Heaven Has
Gone, with her two sons, and we also saw her rehearsing for her recent
Celtic Joy album. In an interview with Anna Nolan she was positively
enthusiastic about the monastic life (she shares in the life of the monks
in Glenstal Abbey), about our roots in Celtic spirituality and about the
Holy Trinity (you don't hear enthusiasm for the Trinity too often in the
media!). A more surprising appearance was Luka Bloom (formerly Barry Moore)
who sang the catchy Don't Be Afraid of the Light that Shines Within
You (see video on left), a spiritual song in the broadest sense. The
show finished with Elikya, an African gospel group, from Limerick!
Recently I gave my TY students a homework to review
religious themes in a TV drama of their choice. One student did a review
of The Simpsons, but as I read his essay it began to sound familiar
- it was a piece I'd written for the blog on Faitharts! I reckon he had
copied and pasted the article from my website and handed it up to me as
homework! I asked where he got got it, and after looking a bit crestfallen
admitted he had copied off some website. I asked if he knew who wrote
it - "No", he said, "but it wasn't me". Actually it was me, I told him,
and explained that if he had looked more closely he would have spotted
my name on the page. Finally understanding, he broke into a broad grin
and said "isn't that ironic!".
Have been doing Baptism with my 6th Year students
and apart from covering the theology of it, have been using some video
clips. If anyone else has other arts resources for Baptism in mind I'd
love to hear about them, as I find it a tough subject with the seniors.
I started with a clip of the Baptism of Jesus. I used the scene from Jesus
of Nazareth with Michael York as John and Robert Powell as Jesus -
I find this the most effective clip. Other versions were just not as effective.
In Matthew, where Jesus is well played by Bruce Marchiano, John
the Baptist just looks silly I think, and Jesus comes out of the water
with a great splash and flourish which I liked, but I think my students
would only laugh. And as this version uses only the Bible text it's a
bit stiff, with characters saying nothing when you'd expect the to say
something! The Gospel of John suffers from similar problems, though I like
Henry Ian Cusick as Jesus.
The film Jesus, with Brian Deacon, is also a bit stiff
for this scene (see over). Haven't seen any of The Greatest Story Ever
Told for quite a while, but the Baptism scene features some very tight
close-ups which have really gone out of fashion and look dated.
I also used a Baptism scene from the TV series Lost - and though
touching, it is problematic, and I felt the need to make some theological
clarifications! For example Mr Eko, who pretends to be, or believes himself
to be a priest, performs the Baptism on Claire and her son Aaron, and
refers to Jesus' sins being washed away! Earlier in the episode Charlie
had grabbed the baby and tried to do a secret Baptism, which at least
gave me a chance to discuss the inappropriateness of baptising those who
don't want it or whose parents don't seek it on a child's behalf.
I used a similar scene from The Simpsons, where Flanders tries
to baptise the Simpsons kids without their parents' permission (he has
an emergency Baptism kit at home). As the water is about to land on Bart
Homer leaps forward and takes the Baptism instead! He growls and grimaces
as if he was a demon after being exorcised, spouts some heavenly theology
and promptly reverts to normal. I think it's on the borderline of respect
(anyone think it's inappropriate?), but is good-humoured and can teach
many lessons about the sacrament in a way that gets the attention of teenage
There's another scene like that in the film Nacho Libre, where
a wrestling monk tries to baptise a fellow wrestler when he's not looking
- yes it's a wacky film! I also recall a Baptism scene in the film Oh
Brother Where Art Thou! , accompanied by the singing of Down in
the River to Pray. Yet the two who get baptised are dopey characters,
while suave George Clooney is cynical about the while thing, so I'm not
sure how the students would take this.
And speaking of Baptism music I might use that song even if I don't use
the film clip, though the best song I think is Carey Landry's You Have
Been Baptised in Christ - a good one to finish with as it captures
so many Baptism themes.