Blog at last!
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
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!
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
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
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
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
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.