Video Clips

The Blog at last!

Our prayer room got a beautiful face-lift recently so I thought I'd better make good use of it. Brought the 6th years and 3rd years in for end of year prayer services and while there were a few frisky moments, inevitable at this time of year, it went fairly well, at least I thought so. With the 6th years it helped that a few unruly gentlemen weren't in on the day. I had been doing a sacraments course with them so the service acted as a kind of recap of the course - I used some impromptu meditations with a song for each sacrament - just about managed it in under 40 minutes. Songs used: Baptism - Baptism Meditation by Michael Card from his impressive trilogy on the Life of Christ (my tape copy of You Have Been Baptised in Christ is worn out. Can those Glory and Praise songs be found on CD? For Eucharist - Come to The Table from the same source; for Reconciliation Come Ye Sinners by Ashley Cleveland (see review of her album on this site), though I the past I've used Kenny Rogers' Tell It All Brother (a striking song from his early days - "in the dungeon of your mind who've you got chained to the wall?"); for Confirmation Sal Solo's catchy Spirit from his Look at Christ album (a soft rock Rosary), which we've also used at many graduation masses; for marriage I used Love is Not the Only Thing (but It's the Best thing) by Mark Heard from his album Second Hand, though the imagery was a bit too obscure (might used Michael Card's The Wedding next time); for Orders Here I Am Lord was excellent. I used John Michael Talbot's version (Glory and Praise worn out again!) from the Table of Plenty album; for the Sacrament of the Sick I used Gentle Healer by Michael Card, forgetting that Healer of my Soul was also on the Talbot album Signatures. The Talbot and Card albums are great because you can usually hear the words clearly.
The service with third years was on the topic of the hereafter which we had been doing in class, and no, I didn't play any hell songs. There were readings in the R.E. book and I used some music as well - for the resurrection theme I chose Christ the Lord is Risen Today, a great soft rock version from Ashley Cleveland's album (Men and Angels Say) and I also tried out In My Heaven from Mary Chapin Carpenter's recent album Between Here and Gone. Not exactly theological, but touching in its own way - "Nothing shatters, nothing breaks, Nothing hurts and nothing aches, We got ourselves one helluva place in my heaven". Finished with the upbeat Ready to Go from Randy Stonehill's album Return to Paradise (full of great songs).
The prayer services helped a little to achieve calm at a time of year when it's in short supply. The prayer room is an oasis!

There's something to be said for this time of year when some students start to drift away. Had a much better than usual 6th year religion class today with small numbers. We were doing the Eucharist, and the other day one of the students mentione seeing The Manchester Passion over Easter on BBC (see entry below for Easter 2006) so I brought that in today and played my favourite scene - the Last Supper. It seemed to go down well, prompting plenty of questions. Have wearing out the new Springsteen album - Ok so there's no original material, but those old songs, icluding a few gospel numbers, are given a major revival, or as Bruce puts it on the accompanying DVD "recontextualised". We have some great old hymns that could do with the treatment, but are enough of our top contemporary performers well disposed enough? Any chance of Christ Moore singing Soul of My Saviour (soulfully!), or Mary Black doing Sweet Sacrament Divine? Any more ideas?

The Da Vinci Code film is out today - shown in Cannes and previewed in Ireland. First indications are not so good, it seems the awful image the book created for the Catholic Church has not been softened. It's hard to get time to follow the controversy but I managed to write about some of it for this week's Irish Catholic column (out on Thursday). Last Monday in school a speaker from Hope Ireland (who have set up the excellent website gave a presentation to the Transition Year students (the Powerpoint slides, with notes, are available free to download on that website). I gave up 2 free classes to hear it! The presentation was excellent and the speaker very knowledgeable (there's a section of the website to request a speaker).
It was a tough audience, lots of awkward questions and comments, but he handled it well. Just to show the prejudices out there - one student accused the Church of flexing its censorial muscles! But this group is not calling for boycotts or protest campaigns - the approach is rational and informative. In fact the speaker assumed that many would be going to see the film. A handful had read the book, some were obviously influenced, while some couldn't remember much about it! The hour we gave to it was probably too short - a double period would be needed, especially if the students are responsive, as mine were. Personally I had a qualm - would all this attention give the film more attention, publicity and even credibility? Probably it will be getting all this anyway, so responding to it to clarify all the inaccuracies is probably a sensible way to approach it.
By September it will probably be out of the cinemas, so the next wave of publicity for the film will be when it comes out on DVD, presumably near Christmas. When the students ask, I say I'll hardly go to see the film as I wouldn't be keen to support something that was so opposed to my faith. Maybe I'd have liked the speaker to take a similar line, though he certainly didn't go anywhere near recommending the film.
Also on Monday we had a visitor from the Dublin Diocesan advisors who came to present certificates of achievements to the TY students - some of the work involved working on the religion and the arts theme and the students displayed their wares. I'd certainly recommend taking up this offer of certs from the Diocese. It's nice to be encouraged in the work.

Last week went to the Bruce Springsteen concert in the Point (Dublin) - always been a fan, but even more now - he's singing gospel! The concert was a knockout - 17 musicians and singers on stage playing acoustic folk and gospel songs many associated with Pete Seeger. There were mournful soulful versions of We Shall overcome and When The Saints Go Marching In - a welcome kiss of life to a well worn song. Then he rocked the joint/point with Mary Don't You Weep and Jacob's Ladder.
Don't know what level of faith commitment he has, but he gives his to these songs in an inspiring way. Here's what he said in a recent Rolling Stone article: "What's great about gospel is that combination where transcendence is in view and you can see the light, you can smell the light and you can hear the light, but the apocalypse is at your heels," he says, slipping into the preacher dialect he occasionally uses to heighten the energy onstage. "Those are the two elements I wanted in my songs. That's why I always say in my music -- the verses are the blues and the choruses are the gospel, the promised land."
Will buy the album shortly and review it on the site. Hope they release a DVD of these concerts, the sooner the better. Any good for teachers in school? Hard to know if the students will take to it - useful in a course on religious music. Have used Springsteen's If I Should Fall Behind previously - not overtly religious, but a fine statement of selfless love. There's a stirring version of it on the Live in New York City DVD.

Here I am tentatively dipping my toes in blog world. There's so much good stuff going on in relation to faith and the arts that I thought this would be a convenient way to draw attention to it, and get in a bit of extra writing practice while I'm at it.
First off I must mention the Manchester Passion, shown on BBC on Good Friday. It was a passion play with a difference - the traditional story married to some contemporary pop and rock songs from the Manchester area. It generated only some mild controversy in advance, mostly about whether this approach would work at all. Personally I thought it was brillint and downright moving. Here were thousands of people following the cross on Good Friday in a modern British city. A first in this millennium?
Some of the scenes were really striking - I had been watching a fascinating documentary on Leonardo's The Last Supper, but this was something else - this time it was set at a chip van in the middle of Manchester. Jesus bought a burger bun and a bottle of wine and shared it among his apostles - sounds disrespectful when you describe it but it wasn't - just faithful to the story in a modern setting. There was no watering down of the scene as the words of consecration were used between verses of a song. And there was a clever touch - when Christ said that one of them would betray him Judas' mobile phone went off, blowing his cover.
But it was the music that made it so magnetic - Joy Division's Love Will Tear Us Apart seemed to suit the Last Supper scene so well. Sit Down by James worked well for the Garden of Gethsemane scene, though I wonder about Jesus singing "Hope that God exists I hope I pray" - not quite the same as those words on the cross "Why hast thou forsaken me". I haven't checked out all the words of the songs, maybe I should, but the songs were there to capture mood, feelings, while the teaching was done in the spoken parts and was soundly Christian I thought. Tried a few of the scenes in religion class - (15 year old boys). They seemed to like it, even sang along with the more infectious songs, but weren't quite convinced by the use of such well known songs transferred to this context. Maybe it shows how much spirituality there already is in contemporary music. Certainly I'll be using this in class next year when discussing films on the life of Jesus, and music and religion, and when looking at religion in drama. Hopefully the BBC will bring this out on DVD eventually.