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Blog - June 2008

Have just finished reading The Life of Pi by Yann Martel. It's a Man Booker prize winner (2002) and is now one of the texts on the Leaving Cert English course. It's quite a spiritual book, in ways that surprised me, as being intriguing and innovative from a purely literary point of view. I'm not sure that I'd use it for the English course as it's long and very complex and I'm not convinced that my students would take to it, but I could see myself using quotes and extracts in the RE classes.
The story's central character, Pi Patel, is a young Indian boy who becomes a castaway after a shipwreck, but this story goes way beyond your typical castaway story. Pi is a very spiritual boy, and tries to practice a Christian, a Muslim and a Hindu, at the same time. And yet this is no any-religion-will-do philosophy, though younger readers might take it that way. It provides one of the funniest moments in the book when Pi and his parents meet up with the clergy of these three religions, each of whom claims Pi as a follower and is taken aback to find he has been following the practices of the other religions as well.
There is a wry humour throughout the book, but there is also a huge respect for religion and belief in God. Pi holds to his faith in God through his trials as a castaway, and when the ordeal is over (it's told in the first person so I'm not giving anything away here) there is a surprising section at the end that has a lot to say about belief in God as against other beliefs. The point seems to be: as there is no absolute proof either way on the existence of God, isn't the God story the better one to believe in?

On Today With Pat Kenny (RTE Radio 1) last week Pat interviewed a monk from the Cistercian Abbey in Austria which has had a surprise hit with the recent CD Chant - Music for Paradise. The monk, whose name I missed, was full of enthusiasm for the music and for his vocation. The monks had put a clip of their Gregorian chant on YouTube (left) which they could point to when they heard Universal Music was looking for a choir to sing Grgorian Chant for a new CD. It's not my favourite music, and apart from getting school choirs to sing it, I don't see much use for it in R.E., but I'm open to correction! But it's great to see the monks' success, and great to see religious music making an impression in the mainstream.

MAD 2008
: Went yesterday to this new Christian Rock festival near Glenealy Co Wicklow, and what an enjoyable afternoon it was. I arrived in time to hear the Elation band (Irish group that has played before for Youth 2000 and youth events at Knock) - hadn't heard them before and they were really good - lively, driving soft rock hymns, when a excellent line up of vocalists and musicians. Also impressive, and quite similar to Elation in many ways, was Ben Cantelon and the Soul Survivor Band. Shel Perris had a good voice and lively Christian message but sang to backing tracks, which is not my cup of tea, though the younger people in the audience seemed to be enjoying themselves. The audience was quite varied with I'd say a slight predominance of teens and young adults, but plenty of parents and youth leaders as well. The venue was excellent - loads of space and toilets, free parking right beside the main tent, and very efficient stewarding. If there was a fault it was that the music was way too loud! I saw some people fleeing the tent and listening from outside, and I saw one fellow strategically using cotton wool!
The event was nondenominational but coming mainly from an Evangelical Protestant background. However, this Catholic founds lots to admire and nothing to offend! Pics from the event here.