Still doing "Images of God" with 2nd Year students -
looking at images of God on film in particular this week, and still using
the old reliables - from the old Insight videos Martin Sheen as a young
God in The Walls Came Tumbling Down, Bob Newhart as a rather inoffensive
God in Packy, God as Trinity in Jesus B.C, Charlton Heston
as a rather gruff God in the film Almost an Angel, Morgan Freemnan
as God in Bruce Almighty or Evan Almighty (the most familiar portrayal
for students). I have issues with some elements of Bruce Almighty,
but that scene where he meets God for the first time is a howl. I
show the clips, get the students writing about them and then discussing
I got a full class out of Old Testament images of God - and after looking
at some of the images, especially in the Psalms, I get the students to
draw any one image of their choosing.
That Powerpoint I've done up with various images of God is still available
on request - use contact details over on left.
Went to see the Emmanuel2012 concert last Wednesday
night in the Helix and what a treat! 700 young people singing religious
songs with gusto - and over 2000 when you add the three nights together.
My own school was well represented, and two of our students got solos.
And there certainly were some strong solos this year. The backing musicians
were excellent as always - I was particularly impressed by the piano,
guitar and sax playing. One of the highlights of the night was the group
from St Mary's School for the Deaf who signed their way through all the
material - their persentation was beautuiful, graceful and inspiring.
(see clip above for a news item)
The material was introduced as "quality liturgical music" and
it was certainly that and more. A lot of the songs had Eucharist as a
theme, deliberately so I presume with the International Eucharistic Congress
coming up in June. The Congress theme song, "Though We Are Many"
by Bernard Sexton really felt like an anthem on the night. There were
a few pieces from Liam Lawton's Glendalough Mass, along with "Take
and Eat, This is My Body", by Ian Callanan, who was conductor
for the night. I also liked his re-working of the old hymn "O Sacrament
Most Holy". "Were Not Our Hearts", also by Callanan, is
a fine song about the disciples on the road to Emmaus. There were some
crowd pleasing foot stompers like "Trading My Sorrows" and "Over
My Head", but the final "Amen" really lifted the roof.
working on Images of God with second year students, always an enjoyable
module. First off I get them to make their best effort to draw God. Then
I ramble around the class discussing the various illustrations, e.g. asking
why so many concentrate (sometimes to excess!) on giving God hair. This
year as usual a minority drew abstract shapes or an eye in the sky, while
most drew human forms, mostly older versions of Jesus (why so much emphasis
on beards??). As usual there was one or two that left the page blank,
which I complemented, even if the motivation was more laziness than theology.
One noteworthy quote: astudent looked at another's drawing of God and
said: "If He looks like that God help him!" At the end of the process
I noted on the board which aspects of God the students were trying to
convey in their pictures. In the following class I used a Powerpoint I
had put together with various images of God from art and film. This is
available on request - use contact link over on left side panel.
Have just come across an interesting article on praying the Rosary
through art. Professor Maria Stella Ceplecha from St Paul, Miinnesota
has chosen the Joyful mysteries to illustrate her point and has illustrated
her article with classic paintings. The article can be accessed by clicking
During the week I continued the classes on the the days in Jesus' life
leading up to Easter. Getting some great artwork from the students, with
lots of discussion points, even if they can only manage "stick men"
versions! The scenes from Jesus of Nazareth can still pack an emotional
punch, even after seeing them so many times over the years. Getting songs
to go with each phase has been more challenging. For the trial scene best
I could think of was "Who Hit You Then" by Sal Solo from his
great album Look at Christ, which is hard to find in any format
(I'm still using my cassette). There are many fine songs about the crucifixion
- I used "Were You There", sung by Russ Taffe and Selah, from
the album Press On. For the Resurrection I used "Christ the
Lord is Risen Today" by Ashley Cleveland, and "He is Risen"
by John Michael Talbot. I've included a few of the songs below.
With my 2nd Years I've been doing the sequence of events from the Last
Supper to the Resurrection. I like to combine the relevant Scripture
reading, a video clip from one of the lives of Jesus on film - I still
tend to stick with Jesus of Nazareth for this sequence. Then I get the
students to draw their own version of the event in question. This gives
me a chance to ramble around the classroom having discussions with individuals
or groups of students. This time around I've tried to find relevant songs
to play in the classroom while students are drawing. So far I've used
"Come to the Table" by Michael Card for The Last Supper and
his song "Why" for the Garden of Gethsemane scene, both from
his album trilogy The Life. Play clips below.
came across an interesting article today about a film star who became
a nun and is now the subject of a documentary nominated for an Academy
Award this year. Check out the story on the Catholic
Ireland website. Apart from this there is much of interest to RE teachers
and its sister website Catholic
very useful to RE treachers is Busted
Halo. In particular check out the "Entertainment and Lifestyle"
and "Video" sections. There are some snappy videos and useful
film reviews among other resources.
I've been watching some music programmes, two in particular,
that reflect different approaches to the world. The Voice of Ireland
(RTE 1, Sunday nights) could become addictive if you get drawn into
the lives of these real people. The best thing about it is the quality
of the singers, and there's no denying that. But there's a lot I don't
like about it - the gimmick of having the judges initially sitting with
their backs to the performers was awkward I thought, and quite honestly
I often find the approach of the judges irritating. There's the in-built
disappointment-as-entertainment - such shows are not a success, it seems,
unless there are public tears. It's not the Coliseum, but it feeds the
same unpleasant desires some people have to see others brought down. And
as for the last two weeks - having excellent singers singing duets where
only one of them goes through is a terrible idea. The superb Scottish
folk singer Eddi Reader turned up on the show as a voice coach, which
surprised me, because she was much more at home on The Transatlantic
Sessions, currently in its fifth season, Friday nights on RTE 1 and
BBC 4. Now this is a music show you could really enthuse about - top-notch
folk, blues, country and traditional musicians and singers sitting around
a house in Scotland playing and singing their hearts out and obviously
loving every minute of it. This a world full of creativity and genuine
spirit, free of gimmickry and narrow competitiveness. They don't often
include a gospel song, but last Friday night's episode on RTE 1 (you can
catch it this Friday night on BBC 4) ended with a mighty gospel song,
"Jesus" sung by Amos Lee (see clip above - replacing previous clip 1/3/12)
with an all-star backing group including Donal Lunny and Declan O'Rourke,
writer of "Galileo". I can see myself using this song in my TY Religion
classes at a leter stage - the whole fifth series is now available on
Eddi Reader made a third appearance, busy woman, on the John Murray
Show (RTE Radio 1) on Wednesday of last week. Apart from singing some
fine songs in studio she spoke of her reluctance to be on that Voice
of Ireland show. She was disgusted by the typical TV talent shows
like the X-Factor and didn't like the idea of sitting in judgement
on the talent of others. She was finally persuaded to try it by Brian
Kennedy - the crucial factor for her was that all those involved were
themselves musicians. Eventually she felt so bad about one contestant
losing that she gave him a slot
singing with her on stage. I think she should stick with the genuine and
avoid the razzmatazz!
Got to experience a bit of Heaven last Tuesday night at the National
Concert Hall - event was the Transatlantic Sessions, featuring
some superb folk musicians and singers, a veritable folk orchestra playing
great instrumentals and accompanying great singers like Eddi Reader, Raul
Malo (of the Mavericks), Karen Matheson and Paul Brady who turned by surprise
for the encore, a mighty version of "Hey Good Lookin'". The
only religious interest was the spiritual imagery in the song "Galileo"
sung on the night by singer-songwriter Declan O'Rourke who really impressed.
The TV show of the same name started last night on RTE at 7.30 and wlill
run for the next few weeks. If you missed it you catch it on BBC 4 where
the new season starts next Friday Fri 17th February at 8.30 pm.
of Praise has to be one of the longest-running religious TV shows.
Still going strong on BBC 1, Sunday afternoons, the episode on Sunday
of last week featured Progressive Rock legend Rick Wakeman, who has played
keyboards with the likes of David Bowie and his own group "Yes". I was
surprised to learn that it was Wakeman who played the distinctive piano
part on Cat Steven's hit "Morning Has Broken", which he recreated
on the programme with Laura Wright doing the singing honours. Wakeman's
background was Baptist, and despite the rock lifestyle he always prayed,
but felt a particular clear signal from God at one stage to evaluate his
life direction and get it into shape. Prog rock or not his choice of hymns
was very traditional, with songs like "Amazing Grace" and "All
People That on Earth do Dwell" - accompanied by the hearty singing
of the assembled congregation and his own piano licks, sometimes complementary,
sometimes a little over-ornate. One standout was the spiritual instrumental
"Gone But Not Forgotten", written earlier but which accompanied
him on the death of his mother. I could see myself using some of songs
and some of the interview clips in class, especially in my TY module on
faith and music. One of the issues that I raise in those classes is the
question of how an instrumental can be spiritual. That produces quite
a divergence of views among the students - some reject the idea, but one
responded a while back with a spiritual instrumental of his own!
week I got to see the Secret Sisters live at the Sugar Club in
Leeson St, Dublin - first time there and what a great venue! I've been
playing their album frequently since Christmas and have been impressed
by the sweet country harmony singing. They sound a little like the Everly
Brothers, a suggestion they commented on at the gig. There's one gospel
song on the album - House of Gold (see it here),
an old Hank Williams song, and on the night they sang a beautiful version
of In the Sweet Bye and Bye (see it here),
and their own River Jordan - (see it here).
Can't see myself using any of these in class as my students are not exactly
country music fans, but I find it uplifting and refreshing for myself,
great aesthetic and spiritual nourishment. So there!
In Second Year classes I've been looking at the Beatitudes
as part of a study of Discipleship and the Kingdom of God. Has fitted
in nicely with Catholic Schools Week as well. Have been collecting
resources on the Beatitudes for years, and have used some prayers from
David Konstant's prayer book on the Beatitudes and the Rosary as part
of prayer services for the week that's in it. A contemporay album devoted
to the Beatitudes would be a great idea, and I'm surprised that someone
like Liam Lawton, John Michael Talbot or Michael Card hasn't tried it.
For the moment I've used songs like The Beatitudes by the Monks
of Glenstal Abbey (clip on left) from their album "Biscantoret",
Behold Now the Kingdom by John Michael Talbot, The Cloud's Veil
by Liam Lawton - good for "Blesed are those who mourn" I think
- and for the same Beatitude Now is the Time for Tears, by Charlie
Peacock from the "Coram Deo" album. I hope at some stage to
develop a special page for Beatitudes resources.
21/1/12 Eternal Law is an intriguing new English drama from ITV on Thursday
nights. If you suspend your critical and theological faculties it can
be quite enjoyable. Keep in mind that my comments are based on the first
two episodes only. The plot features two angels come to earth as lawyers
to help people out. They clash with a fallen angel, a very sinister prosecution
lawyer who is often surrounded by flames and pushes beggars into the river.
One of the angels is new to the earth and moves from initial fascination
to being baffled at the puzzling way people carry on. The other angel
has been to earth before but blotted his angelic copybook by falling in
love - he meets up again with this woman who doesn't recognise him from
before and he has to resist the temptation to fall again. Irish actor
Orla Brady does a fine job as "Mrs Sheringham" an angel who became mortal
for love but who helps out those angels currently on assignment from the
unseen God figure Mr Mountjoy. If you can ignore a little crude language
and dodgy theology it's entertaining fare for mature viewers, thought
provoking, amusing, compassionate, philosophical and, in last week's episode
about a child custody case, quite moving.
of the best films I saw during the holidays was Doubt , starring
Meryl Streep as a school principal and nun who must deal with the suspicion
that the school chaplain, played by Philip Seymour Hoffman is conducting
an inappropriate relationship with a student. It is set in the early 1960's
and the period flavour is well conveyed. The acting is excellent as would
be expected of Streep and Hoffman, and the script by John Patrick Shanley
has a sharpness and intelligence that is rare in mainstream cinema. The
controversial issue of abuse is handled subtly and with restraint, and
I didn't sense any hidden agendas or axe-grinding. One could raise issues
- e.g. why does no-one seem to question the child? Is the mother's attitude
credible? Yet in the context of the time and within the world of the film
it was believable. As regards school use, I'd be hesitant. There is a
useful scene where the priest gives a strong sermon on the damaging effects
of gossip, but I think the film is best suited to a mature audience. For
very young students it might just
reinforce the paedophile priest stereotype, and they mightn't get the
Back to school today. I hate letting go of Christmas and all the great
music, so I drag it out by covering the Three Wise Men in some
Junior classes. After all, if it wasn't for them we'd probably be back
in school earlier in January, and maybe we'd have received no Christmas
gifts!. This year I'm doing it mainly with 1st Years as the others have
experienced my resources in the past. As usual I've used the song "We
Three Kings" and shown the arrival of the Wise Men from the film
The Nativity Story, and also from the modern musical version The
Liverpool Nativity. Some video clips, and the music I use can be found
on the Advent and Christmas Resources page.
I brought in my crib from home with the wise men figurines and added it
to the sacred space table.
I caught Carole King and Friends at Christmas on BBC 4
on Christmas night, which mainly featured the secular music of the season.
King herself, 70 years old next month and still going strong, impressed
with standards like "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas" and new song
"New Year's Day", but there was a mellow version of "Silent Night" from
Richard Hawley (clip on left has him singing this version on another occasion).
Her own songs were from her new album "A Christmas Carole", which was
released in USA as "A Holiday Carole" - different strokes for different
markets! There was no such hedging on the Johnny Cash Christmas Special
from 1970, shown on BBC 4 a few times in the last week or two - he clearly
spoke about the Christian message in Christmas, no political correctness
from the great man! Some might have found his spoken interludes a bit
preachy, but could you complain when the fireside music session featured
Cash, the Everly Brothers , Roy Orbison, the Carter Family and more?
Canadian singer Neil Young was the star of a great music documentary/concert
film Heart of Gold shown on TG 4 Tues 27 December, and the heart
of that film was two concert segments - one that featured his old songs
like "Four Strong Winds" (by Ian and Sylvia Tyson) and one that showcased
more recent material, including "When God Made Me" a rather ambiguous
reflection on God's relationship with people: "Did he give me the gift
of voice/so some could silence me?/Did he give me the gift of vision/not
knowing what I might see?/Did he give me the gift of compassion/to help
my fellow man? When God made me." The sound of someone searching, with
lots of questions, but sometimes it seems our age is afraid of answers.