Happy New Year!! + some musical research

Best wishes to you all for a fulfilling, grace-filled 2019!! As my friends will know, I'm someone who likes to share with others the things that move me, that touch me in some way, the things I'm passionate about, that open me up to the presence of God in my life and the lives of others, be they films, pieces of classical music, worship songs, photographs, etc... I also like to use the school holidays to catch up on classical music research of the kind that we can do nowadays, thanks to the internet, music streaming services, etc..., comparing recordings of the same piece. Among the pieces that I have been researching during the past few days are the following pieces that are among my all-time favourites:
- Howells' Requiem
- Ravel's Piano Concerto in G (the slow mvt.)
- Bruckner's 8th Symphony
- Mahler's 5th Symphony
- Tallis' hymn "Why fum'th in fight the gentiles spite" (which provided the inspiration for Vaughan Williams' heavenly Fantasia …

“God With Us” + "Maybe It’s Ok” - We Are Messengers

Last night, the school Worship Band (pupil lineup) performed with me a version of the We Are Messengers Christmas song from a couple of years ago “God With Us”. Our boys did a cracking job, (vocalist, 2 guitars, keyboard, bass guitar, drummer + percussionist) some of whom are not very experienced at performing in public. It’s a song that mixes the idea of Jesus being “God-with-us”/Emmanuel with the idea that we are called to recognise and depend on his presence at all times, and that Christmas is a reminder of this most reassuring of realities.
“He is with us always, in our joys and in our pain. In the lonely midnight keep looking up. Love has come, God with us."

The following is another great song by N. Irish band We Are Messengers (“Maybe It’s Ok”). This, their new single, was written in the aftermath of being involved in a fatal accident when their tour bus ploughed into the back of an unlit car that had broken down on an interstate road in Georgia, USA in Match 2017. The dri…

Happy (belated) Founder's Day!!

Happy Founder’s Day to all in the Mennaisien Network! (it was actually yesterday, the  26th) A day when we celebrate the life of our principal Founder, Fr. Jean-Marie De La Mennais (1780-1860). This morning we had a Founder’s Day Mass for Yr. 7. After our weekly Monday staff meeting at the end of the school day, we provided a “verre d’amitié” for all the staff and a chance for them to meet and chat with all the Brothers of our community, including former Head, Bro. Francis (see photo). Later in the week we’ll have an own clothes day to raise money for our mission in Indonesia and there’s an ongoing art competition to design a poster for our bicentenary as a religious order next year. Myself and Bro. Peter are giving the assemblies this week.

Dream Big - Bob Goff

"A bad day is not a day that you fail, it's a day that you didn't even try."

This guy, Bob Goff is an inspiration. He has a passion for helping people, all people, any people. "Love does!" He's a Christian but, as you can see in this clip, his initiatives (whether opening schools in war-torn N. Uganda or running workshops for the leaders of tomorrow in Afghanistan) are fully inclusive and non-denominational.

"They Shall Not Grow Old" (Peter Jackson, 2018)

I wrote this on my Facebook page a couple of weeks ago. I'm still seeing the faces of those soldiers in front me. Cannot speak highly enough of the work of Peter Jackson and his team. It will go down in history as one of the all-time greatest and most important documentaries.
"They Shall Not Grow Old" (Documentary, Peter Jackson 2018)

... This is a film that deserves to be seen by as large an audience as possible on the big screen. It is a truly remarkable technical and artistic achievement. The sequences that have been fully restored (that begin about 15 mins. into the film), slowing the film to a normal speed, filling in the necessary missing frames using high-powered computers so as to avoid jerky movement, the colorisation and the addition of sound (sound fx and archive interview audio), bring to life the young men on screen in a way that touched me to the core. It humanises them, which makes all the more moving the dehumanisation we see them undergo as the film (and t…

National Geographic: the Plant Kingdom's Hidden Microscopic Wonders

These photos of microscopic plant life are simply breathtaking. The hidden beauty of our natural world.

Religious orders still have a vital role to play in Catholic education.

Despite, or perhaps even because of the current environment in which teachers are having to work, the presence of religious orders in the education system in England seems to be potentially more important now than when I first joined our congregation 28 years ago. 

The Catholic hierarchy in this country has overseen a return to a more formal, catechetical approach to R.E., especially in the public exam syllabuses for G.C.S.E. and A-Level, and rightly so, in my opinion. Long gone are the wishy-washy platitudes of the "Weaving The Web" Key Stage 3 syllabus and its like that were all the rage in the 1990s. However, a new G.C.S.E. syllabus that involves delivering content relating to the topics of Creation, Incarnation, Trinity, Redemption, Kingdom of God and Eschatology to pupils of all ability (we still teach R.E. as a compulsory G.C.S.E. subject in most Catholic schools), as well as a detailed study of beliefs and practices in Judaism, could be daunting to some R.E. teachers w…

The stresses of modern-day teaching...

It’s been a while… put it down to an incredibly busy and stressful last 6 months since our General Chapter, partly because of having to catch up with nearly 4 weeks of school work once I'd come back from the Chapter whilst waiting for an overdue Ofsted inspection (I’d prepared nearly 60 hours of cover work for supply teachers to deliver in my absence, none of which got marked by the supply). 
The Ofsted inspection (followed a few days later, as is usual, by an Archdiocesan inspection, a double whammy for R.E. staff and school Chaplain - I’m both!) eventually came in May. By that stage - after having been on "red alert" since February - many of the staff were suffering from nervous exhaustion. The summer holidays couldn’t come soon enough.
In Sept. a new Head Teacher took over, our previous one having retired in July. Though the new incumbent has come in and changed many of our routines and structures, he has done so with a “glass half full” type attitude, seemingly boun…

The good dark

The following devotional from the PocketFuel team struck a chord with me when I first read it a few months ago:

I've spent so much of my life being afraid of the dark. Literally, and figuratively. Afraid of the night and the unknown. Afraid of hard times. I've pursued light and ease and fortune, and every time I was met with darkness, I fought it, struggled it, preached at it, quoted scripture, denied its power…

And missed out on its glory and beauty and gifts each and every time.

A favourite quote of mine by Thomas Merton has changed my life: "The cave you fear to enter holds the treasure you seek."

It is in facing our darkness, entering into it, even embracing it - the covering of bandages for healing; the dark cold pressure of earth that forges gold; the dark place of conception - that we find what we're truly seeking: strength, clarity, meaning, change, purpose, compassion, connection, and more.

Mary Oliver wrote:

"Someone I loved once gave me a box full of…

Religious life in Europe? “It’s life, Jim, but not as we know it!”

During the month of March I attended our General Chapter in Rome (nearly four weeks long) and it was a wonderfully positive, fraternal, hope-filled experience. Like with many congregations, our worldwide profile is shifting towards a "southern hemisphere" emphasis, but that does not mean there isn't life left in the north. Quite the opposite, in fact. "It's life, Jim, but not as we know it!!" We are responding to Pope Francis' call to "go to the peripheries" seeking ways to serve the poorest, most disadvantaged, most vulnerable young people, looking to respond to the needs of today's youth in the way that our Founders did 200 years ago (yes, we've got anniversary celebrations coming up).
Recently-founded missions in war-torn South Sudan (a community + school - Ugandan Brothers), Mexico (Canadian Brothers, a French Brother for 6 months every year and a lay woman living in community together and serving the poor together), a new educati…