Video Clips

Blog March-April 2010

Recently I've been doing classes on Images of God with 2nd years - see below. To finish this topic we had a prayer service where some of the songs I played (on CD!) reflected this theme - quite a few interesting images of God in music and I got to thinking of some songs I didn't use as well. So here's a few that might help - some suitable for class work, some for prayer services and some for both. I use the music of John Michael Talbot frequently. On the "City of God" album he covers Carey Landry's song Abba Father, and on "Table of Plenty" he sings Michael Joncas' well know Eagles Wings. His "Signatures" album contains many of his best known works. In Only in God (Psalm 62) God is "my stronghold, my saviour" (see clip on left). In Come Worship the Lord there's the traditional image of God as shepherd. (No doubt there'll be no trouble finding recordings of the more traditional The Lord is My Shepherd). The image in I Am the Bread of Life is also suitable for classes on Eucharist. Included is the image of God as "Healer of my Soul" in the lovely song of the same name, also featured in the "Brother to Brother" album - duets with Talbot and Michael Card. Michael Card's solo album "Starkindler" has a combination of images in the song The King of Love My Shepherd Is, which also features on the excellent L'Angelus album "Sacred Hymns Collection". Card joins with Charlie Peacock for Lord of Love (from the album "Coram Deo - In the Presence of God". It's an effective image for God, and a great song for reflecting on the Trinity. For something more quirky try Julie Miller's My Psychiatrist from the "Meet Julie Miller album" - God as the psychiatrist whose "therapy is free of charge"! Or Larry Norman's UFO - God as an "unidentified flying object" who's come to save your soul! It's on his album "In Another Land", and covered by Geoff Moore and the Distance on the tribute album "One Way - The Songs of Larry Norman". Samples of the songs can often be found on the artists' websites, or downloaded from sites like iTunes and 7Digital.

Over the last few days I've been using the German film Sophie Scholl - The Final Days with the 5th Year students and it seems to have them riveted. I find myself deeply moved each time I see it It tells the true story of a young German student who defied the Nazis during World War II - she was part of the White Rose group. She is such a great role model for young people, and the film is superbly done - in particular Julia Jentsch is outstanding in the title role. There's one especially good sequence, about two thirds of the way through - Sophie says a prayer in her cell and this is followed by her final interrogation, which in particular raises issues of conscience and principle. It's also useful for classes on the relationship between morality and the law. Most of this is in the above clip which I've made larger than usual so that the subtitles are legible.

Fr Liam Lawton presented an excellent Good Friday programme on RTE Radio 1. A Love Beyond All Telling was an hour-long reflection on the events of the first Good Friday - simply but effectively capturing the mood of the day. Some of the spoken reflections came from Fr Lawton's recent book The Hope Prayer, and sought to help us understand these events at an emotional level - there were touching meditations on guilt, heartbreak and betrayal. Yet there was hope - e.g. how radical Jesus was even in his death - forgiving those who had crucified him. The words were complemented by appropriate music, including some of Lawton's own compositions, and included also work by John Michael Talbot and Matt Maher. You can listen to the programme by clicking this link.

Last Friday to celebrate the school holidays I got to the cinema to see The Blind Side - the film that won a Best Actress award this year for Sandra Bullock. It tells the true story of a black teenager, uniquely skilled at American football, adopted into a white family. It was moving, uplifting and absorbing, though overlong and certainly sentimental.
There's a faith dimension, but it's not too preachy. Bullock does a great job playing the mother of the adoptive family, a gutsy Christian woman who opens her home to the homeless boy, who is enrolled into a private Christian college. When the authorities there are reluctant, considering the boy's background, one character suggests that the word "Christian" on the school's sign should be painted over or taken seriously. A challenge to all our Christian schools.
Themes of racism and family conflict are touched on subtly, but there are no huge conflicts. This makes the film less intense, but more gentle, and it's certainly imbued with a respect and love for its characters - at the end we get to see footage of the real life characters the film is based on.
This family is certainly well off (huge house!), and while their material wealth isn't questioned there is an empathy for those who are poorer, e.g. in Bullock's visit to the boy's birth mother.
Maybe I'd like it to have been a little rougher around the edges. Is the family too sweet to be wholesome? Perhaps, but it was good for a change not to have the family members having clichéd rows just for dramatic effect. It was certainly believable.

Picture this: an obviously repentant man, on the verge of execution, goes to Confession seeking absolution for his sins. A scruffy priest refuses, telling the man he hasn't time to repent and that the devil awaits him in hell, and then walks off taking the man's Bible with him!
So it was in the latest top-notch episode of Lost, the cult drama series on RTE 2 (Thursdays) and Sky One (Tuesdays). And it gives me another worthy addition to my collection of Confession scenes from TV and movie drama! (this episode is due on Sky One this Tuesday 30/3)
This scene, set in 1867, was part of the backstory of Richard Alpert, the character who never seems to age. After accidentally killing a man he is taken in chains to the new world only to crash land (in a ship!) on the Lost island. Gripping as that was, far more interesting were his encounters with the island's two main protagonists - Jacob and a nameless man in black that I'll call Black Smoke Guy (BSG) - he turns into a black smoke creature to wreak destruction.
I've written here before about Lost being a kind of Purgatory experience (here), but in the flashback Richard believed BSG that the island was Hell and that Jacob was the Devil, who had stolen his humanity and trapped him on the island. Richard believed this for years and assured the modern-day crash survivors that they were all dead and in Hell. But Jacob seemed more likely to be the good guy - he explained how the island was like a cork in a bottle, keeping evil (BSG) imprisoned. He brought people to the island to find "candidates", people worthy to replace him, and to help people learn right from wrong on their own - he says it's meaningless if he has to step in and force them. BSG, he claimed, thinks people are corruptible and likely to sin by their very nature. It's an intriguing stand off with cosmic implications, and the philosophical implications are as complicated as the mind twisting plot developments.
Are these two meant to be God and Devil slugging it out? It's hard to see it in purely Christian terms - e.g. Richard asks Jacob if he can absolve his sins, but Jacob says he can't so he's hardly meant to be God. The show certainly makes more demands on people's brains that the average drama series, yet it doesn't lack a strong emotional content - there was one particularly touching scene last week when Richard's deceased wife from 1867 paid him a visit in the present.

I've been doing the "Images of God" theme with 2nd Year students - always a popular section of the course. Getting them to draw God produces some interesting questions as usual. There were a few blank pages and lots of bearded old men! Doing Images of God on film we looked at the scene in Bruce Almighty where Bruce meets God for the first time. This is mentioned specifically in the book we're using (Know the Way) and despite it's being a few years old now many students recognise it. I also used clips from some of the old "Insight" videos Veritas used to sell - God as a young man in a white suit in The Walls Came Tumbling Down, God as an office clerk in Packy, God as Trinity in Jesus B.C. (see clip on left - some silliness, but the only film I know that makes a stab at showing the Trinity in this way). There's a very stereotyped God in the movie Almost an Angel - in a scene near the start the main character (Paul Hogan) meets a probation officer God played by Charlton Heston - robe, big beard, judgemental but grudgingly forgiving. Not the best image of God, but it raises interesting discussions about stereotypes and pre-conceived notions.

Haven't had time to do much blogging recently - too much schoolwork, corrections etc, and I've been giving a few IT courses to RE teachers. Have managed to listen to plenty of music in the car however, and one CD I've been enjoying is Songs of Inspiration by Father Marino Nguekam. Some of you may have seen him on Joe Duffy's Spirit Level a few weeks ago, or heard him on Liveline before Christmas. I've reviewed the album here. It's available from the Pro-Cathedral. The video clip on left should give a good idea of Father Marino's distinctive style.