Yesterday RTE broadcast Mass live from the top of Croagh Patrick
- a first, apparently. I'll probably use clips from this when I'm doing
Eucharist in school - Archbishop Michael Neary said the Mass in a mass-rock
type setting, and there was a traditional music group providing instrumental
music along with a young women's choir. The hymns were mostly traditional,
but there were some Liam Lawton songs as well. I was reminded of a Eurovision
Mass from the Alps a few years ago I often use clips from that too, there
was an excellent choir singing French hymns and a brass band as well.
That time it was all blues and whites, sky and snow, but this time it
was strongly green from County Mayo!
to See the film Road to Perdition again last night. Tom Hanks,
excellent as always, plays Michael Sullivan, a gangster in US prohibition
times. His son Michael is curious about his work, and is shocked when
he sees his father involved in a murder. More tragedies follow as father
and son take to the highways to avoid a hired assassin. The cinematography
is beautiful, the music striking, the characterisations reflective.
gangsters are Irish Catholic in name and culture (the Sullivans say grace
before meals), but it's disconcerting to see the worst of them attending
mass looking devout. The main gangster, played by Paul Newman, goes to
Communion in one scene, but in a subsequent chat with the Sullivan character
says that one thing is sure, none of them will see Heaven. Sullivan, also
a killer, seems to agree, but thinks that his son has a chance to avoid
that particular road to perdition. Neither gangster seems interested in
changing his situation, no sign of redemption, or repentance - too much
to loose I suppose, rather like Macbeth - "I am in blood stepped in so
far that returning were as tedious as go 'oer". This scene might be worth
using in senior classes, it's about two thirds way into the film.
Like a lot of the "Catholic" gangster films they are supposedly great
family men. This is fairly true for Sullivan, but in the pursuit of revenge
he does turn down a chance escape to Ireland with his son to start a new
some of the Sunday ceremonies of World Youth Day - as usual the
music was of a very high standard, during the final mass - that Kyrie
would certainly lift the spirit. At this stage I'm wondering how to incorporate
the WYD experience into my R.E. teaching. I'll certainly use the Stations
of the Cross from Friday when I look at religious themes in drama in my
Transition Year classes, and at the various depictions of Jesus in film.
Doing Eucharist I might show the Last Supper sequence at the start of
the Stations (very Leonardo!) and some clips from the final mass. Juday
Bailey's set from the Saturday night vigil (see below) will be useful
for when I'm doing religious themes in music. It's lively and exhuberant
and should go down well. The students often argue that music in church
should be more joyful!
Yesterday's Vigil at World Youth Day got off to a great start
with a warm up set from Judy Bailey and her band. Judy is a gospel/reggae
singer with an African-Caribbean groove! She also played WYD 2005 at Cologne.
Her set from the vigil in Sydney can be seen at the official
WYD website - it's the video segment "Prelude to the Evening Vigil"
and is well worth a look. The rest of the Vigil also featured some excellent
choral and orchestral music. The music of Taizé figured strongly.
Today's main event at World Youth Day was the Stations
of the Cross - a dramatic re-enactment on the streets of Sydney. (Video
clip on left gives a flavour). I can see myself using this in school in
the coming year - at least one new resource of substance! It lasted about
three hours but highlights will be shown on RTE 1 on Sunday (20th July)
at 10.30 am, and there are also highlights at the official
As for the Stations, it was a most striking presentation - the actors
playing Jesus and the apostles were in the usual outfits we expect, but
to see them walking through the highways of Sydney made the story entirely
contemporary. Each station took place at key locations in Sydney (Opera
House, Art Gallery, etc). At one stage Jesus, carrying the cross, was
carried by barge across Sydney Harbour, a most unusual setting for the
The main actors did an excellent job - there weren't speaking roles but
the physical gestures and facial expressions were spot on, especially
as the sufferings of Jesus increased (the sufferings were portrayed quite
realistically). The actress who played Mary was particularly good, reminding
me of Olivia Hussey from Jesus of Nazareth.
Though it was a vast canvas there was also a sense of intimate theatre
in the close-ups. Throughout there was beautiful music accompanying the
presentation - I was particularly struck by the windswept choir in black.
Today I started watching some of the coverage of
World Youth Day from Sydney. The main events are streamed live
at EWTN and RTE's
Live service. The music was excellent as Pope Benedict XVI arrived
in Sydney Harbour, with its distinctive Opera House as a backdrop. I particularly
liked the youth choir's rendition of Servant Song by Richard Gillard.
As the Pope's "boat-a-cade" made it's way along the harbour there seemed
to be plenty of live music, including rock and light orchestral but unfortunately
the cameras didn't let us see where it was coming from or who was performing
- the focus was on the Pope himself chatting informally with the young
guests on the boat. In his address I was glad to hear him praise "the
creativity reflected in the arts". I'm sure we'll see more examples of
this creativity over the next few days.
ashamed to say it but when I visited the National Gallery in Dublin
a few days ago it was to eat! There's a good restaurant - I especially
enjoy the smaller one upstairs. Hadn't got much time - just enough for
a quick look around the new exhibition, Revelation, running until
28 Sept. I might return for a more in-depth look. This features 29 contemporary
prints on the revelation theme. Not surprisingly the introduction makes
it clear that in this case it's not just revelation from God that's in
question. However there are quite a few religious works, and a few stick
in my mind - there were at least two very different treatments of St Paul's
Road to Damascus conversion, a few colourful works in Eastern Icon style,
including one on the birth of Christ, a rather peculiar "Crucifixion menu"
(a crucifixion scene superimposed on a mirror image menu - have to think
more about that - a statement about a la carte Christians?), some works
featuring the monastic site at Glendalough, some Christ figures, a striking
flower picture "Annunciation Lillies", and a reflection on the Light of
the World - a stained glass window design embossed on what seem to be
white card. There was a humorous Garden of Eden cartoon with a rather
well endowed Eve, and just a hint of a lesbian relationship in one of
the prominent works. More info here.
Nicholas Cage was in missionary territory in Lord
of War, last Thursday night's film on RTE 2. But instead of a gospel
of love he brought death to the people of the third world. Cage played
a freelance arms dealer who liked the work, not just because it made him
rich but because he was "good at it". This arrogance led to the death
of his brother, alienation from his family, separation from his wife and
child, and he still kept at it.
His religious upbringing was curious - his mother was Catholic, but his
father pretended, with great enthusiasm, to be Jewish - in fact it was
at synagogue that the Cage character, Yuri, met his first important arms
dealing contact. He was painfully adept at rationalising, accepting no
responsibility whatever for the destruction caused by his weapons. He
sold to murderous dictators in West Africa but hid behind the weakest
of platitudes - it's not our business what they do with the weapons, someone
else will do it if I don't etc The film was marred by grauitous sex, drug
abuse and the foulest of language, a pity coming from writer director
Andrew Niccol who had scripted the subtle Truman Show, but in other ways
it was moral, even to the point of being preachy. There was little doubt
that the film showed the arms trade as hugely cynical and destructive.
An Interpol agent of impeccable integrity (well played by Ethan Hawke)
tried to nail Yuri but was thwarted by the shady military connections
his adversary had made in high places.
It was here that the film became most preachy - hammering home the point
that however repulsive the arms dealers were, the super power governments
of the world were worse. And I was uneasy about the way the Yuri character
was portrayed - cool, charismatic, successful on a material level, perhaps
an attractive role model for some young or immature viewers? Just a little
close to those films that purport to be anti-war and yet seem to revel
some catching up here. TV series Lost came to the end of its fourth
series on RTE recently. Hadn't time to write it up at the time, but a
few days ago I got to have another look at the last few episodes - all
in one sitting! More intense than watching many feature films.
Not much in the line of religious themes of late, though there
was a funny scene when Hurley came into his house that seemed abandoned,
suspected an intruder and took up a statue of Jesus for self defence.
He walked into a surprise party brandishing the statue whereupon his mother
admonished him: "Jesus Christ is not a weapon"! (see clip over). Food
for thought there! I was reminded of how statues of Our Lady were used
earlier in the series as hiding places for drugs, rather dodgy on the
In another episode recently Hurley, in a flash forward to when he's off
the island, muses on the nature of life now (see clip over), wondering
if they're already in the next life - We're dead he declares about the
six that got off the island, and says that Jack's life is "just like heaven",
though Hurley himself is in a mental institution. As Jack falls apart
pretty soon, the heaven theory doesn't hold much water! The flashforward
technique continues to work well, but must make it entirely confusing
for those who don't watch regularly. With some exceptions the flashforwards
have been in reverse chronological order, getting closer and closer to
the present time.
The most moving of these scenes was the arrival home of the "Oceanic Six",
those who got off the island (see clip over) - there were emotional
reunions, and different kinds of emotions for Kate as she had no one to
welcome her home. But we had to wait for the final double episode to see
how they actually escaped. Jack's funeral oration for his father also
packed an emotional punch. The show's moral compass is shaky at the best
of times. Along with the heroism, friendships, loyalty, self-sacrifice
and love, there's been adultery, revenge, murder, kidnapping, deception,
manipulation and perjury - a bit like Shakespeare, or real life, I suppose,
but sometimes the sins are not recognised as such.
at it I'd better say something about 7th Heaven - this US drama
series about Rev Eric Camden and his large extended family lasted 11 series
which is a pretty impressive achievement. They should have left it at
10! The 10th series ended on a high note, as if the series was ending (see clip over),
but apparently a different company picked it up for another season, and
while it always teetered on the borderline of wit and corn, the corn got
the upper hand this season. Even that final episode had its cringe moments
- the whole family, friends, dogs the lot, decide to head off on a road
trip in the new RV (camper van). And there's so much silly fuss about
the three items each person can bring - one brings a Bible, one brings
the Da Vinci Code (the minister doesn't bat an eye), one brings Valley
of the Dolls (the minister does bat an eye). There wasn't a lot here that
could be of use in R.E. class, but there was a mysterious character (Stanley)
who could be God, or an angel. He has been enigmatic during Series 11,
and appears in the final scene when Eric says to him words to the effect
that he may not be what he seems to be. The last eight minutes of the
show, including this scene, are I this clip: