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
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.
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
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.
18/3/10 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