Tuesday, August 31, 2010

An Unlikely Disciple-Book Recommendation

I went to the US for a holiday during the summer. It wasn't the most biblically focused trip (though I’m sure if I'd looked hard enough I'd have found some) but I did pick up a great book in Borders (oh how I miss thee) in San Francisco, The Unlikely Disciple by Kevin Roose.

The subtitle of the book is “A Sinner's Semester at America's Holiest University” so how could I turn it down? The book tells the story of how the Roose, the author of the book a semester out from college in Brown University (described as “a notch or two above Sodom and Gomorrah” to attend the evangelical equivalent of Notre Dame or Brigham Young, Liberty University, the largest Christian fundamentalist university in the United States. Roose was a cradle Quaker and was less hardliner anti-religion than I thought he would be at the start of his quest (I thought the whole book would be “Look at the Jesus Freaks” and I could take solace in the fact I wasn’t THAT much of a Jesus Freak. Being OT and all) Roose prepares well for attending university (it's Revelation, not Revelations) so that he can remain “undercover” and learn about the “real” attitudes of the students. Liberty is the late Reverend Jerry Falwell's "Bible Boot Camp" for young evangelicals (Falwell being the guy who tried to explain that September 11th was casued by "the pagans, and the abortionists, and the feminists, and the gays and the lesbians who are actively trying to make that an alternative lifestyle" Nice). Liberty is seen as Falwell's training ground for the next generation of America's Religious Right but Roose deals with what he finds in a sympathetic, nuanced manner and is never condescending or glib, despite his immense (and understandable) difficulty with the overt anti-homosexual opinions of his fellow students.

I have to admit that some parts of the book are “laugh out loud” such as the time he went on an evangelising mission during Spring Break in Florida and when he pays a visit to Every Man's Battle, an on-campus support group for chronic masturbators. Roose is a brilliant writer-I’ll be looking out for more of his work but I also managed to learn lots about something I’ve always had a bit of a fascination with-the American Religious Right. I’ve been working a bit on the idea of being Irish and Catholic (and how you can differentiate the two) so the idea that your religion is such a huge part of your life and career was intriguing. And interesting to compare it to my time in Maynooth!

Worth asking me for a lend or buying it yourself!

Monday, August 30, 2010

Fr Larry Boadt CSP RIP

Anyone who has ever studied Old Testment in Maynooth or attended one of my intro classes has a well thumbed copy of Reading the Old Testament:

And if it has been used as much as my copy (covered in post its and pink highlighter and the reminder of many a cramming session for my class tests in first year) will be sad to learn of the death of its author Fr Lawerence (Larry) Boadt, CSP on July 24th. The Paulist website has an excellent account of his life and works. The New York Times also has a good article. 

The last time I heard Fr Boadt speak was at the SBL International meeting in Rome in July 2009-he gave a talk at the opening session on the importance of the PIB for Roman Catholic biblical scholarship. His teaching and love of the Bible will certainly continue for generations.

Ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam

Website Reviews

As printed in the Intercom and republished with kind permission. As always if you have any suggestiong sor website reviews, let me know!

The diocese of Down & Connor has re-launched their website and the site is a fine example of lots of information readily available and easy to find on a colourful and accessible site. Several sections of the site are still being developed, but it will be very interesting to see how the FAQ section is developed. The sections on “I wish to become a Catholic,” “What Catholics Believe” and information on getting Baptised, married or organising a funeral are important points of information to have on a website, within easy reach of people who are searching for information. With this in mind, the section on Mass times (to be searchable by Map/ Postcode/Mass Times and confession in other languages is a worthwhile addition. In the age of “sat navs” and Google maps, looking up the location of a Church should be quick and easy on a well developed website like this.
The official website of the papal visit to the United Kingdom  is worth checking out as it is an excellent site with lots of information. The site includes a full and very detailed itinerary with lots of details and pictures of the various places that Pope Benedict XVI will visit. There are many resources for use in parishes, including prayer, ideas for a Journey of Faith Witness and promotion, and a practical section on guidelines for those organising events. The spirit of excitement and anticipation comes across very well through the site particularly through the resources and graphics

For teachers and those involved in the back-to-school process, do have a look at some websites to ease you back into the school year!  The website of the Religious Education support service and is an admirable source of information and resources for teachers and parish educators or even parents who would like to see how much has changed since they sat in the classroom! There is a very informative PowerPoint presentation on Religious Education as a Leaving Certificate exam subject that may be easily downloaded. The Journal of Religious Education that is available online via this site is packed with useful ideas for use in the classroom.
Elsewhere, the website for Religious Education in the Cork & Ross Diocese is very well maintained by Marie Murphy, the DA for Religious Education and contains plenty of links and resources to provide inspiration for the coming academic year!

Book Review:

This was published by the great and mighty Intercom and is republished here with kind permission. Subscription to Intercom is as always heartily encouraged by this blog! I really like this book and intend to use it frequently this year.

All Together: Creative Prayer with Children makes it clear from the outset that it is not a “last minute” resource that should be dipped into to help facilitate last minute prayer groups or assemblies, rather it seeks to nurture and deepen the prayer life of the adults involved with children and facilitating their prayer. While it is primarily aimed at those working in an educational environment, it is extremely useful for anyone involved in a parish situation and appeals to a wide variety of age groups and abilities that may participate in the increasingly popular children’s Liturgy of the Word.

If we as adults consider how we worship, it is often a linear practice-we do the same things at the same time, following instructions such as “Let us pray together” or “now we shall stand and sing”. This is the outer symbolism of how we as a community come together to worship God. Anyone who has worked with children of a primary school age knows that children seldom operate in this way. They are used to fulfilling individual tasks, often several at a time, or working in small groups. It is always recognised that children present with different abilities and levels of participation and the often packed schedule of a children’s Liturgy of the Word can often struggle to accommodate their individual needs. This book, written by experienced catechists encourages you in a friendly and supportive way to engage with the children in your group so that the prayer is their prayer and in turn, it is their hearts and mind that are raised to God. The group exercises and methods of prayer detailed under various themes lend themselves well to the interactive classroom and curriculum or to the group format most commonly adopted during a children’s Liturgy of the Word. The authors strive to highlight that “prayer can never fully be taught” (93). Those who engage with younger children need to understand that it is much more than a technique, or a time when we ask God for favours but rather a conversation we have with God, not just using words, but engaging our hearts and minds. Children embrace change and can easily bore of the same format and this book promotes the need to make prayer accessible for all children. Formats of prayer discussed include dialogue, litany and eye-witness accounts, examples of which are all provided.

The book is clearly divided into sections and it is fruitful to read them in sequence, as the initial section on the Foundations of Creative Prayer with Children underlines the basis for the entire book, including an explanation of the keeping prayer with children “real”, namely that prayer must emanate from their concerns and express these concerns so that it truly is their prayer to God. The text allows for excellent guidelines and principles for the adult to begin the positive, creative and engaging liturgy, encouraging a rooting of the prayer in scripture and to provide a respect for Tradition.

Section two contains insights, explanations and creative resources for various liturgical seasons and occasions such as Advent and Lent as well as foundations, ideas and resources for celebrating Mary and the Saints. These three chapters focus on praying together in a group situation such as class or an assembly time. The fifth and final chapter focuses on creative ideas for individual prayer and is appropriate for group and individual use. All of the exercises are adaptable to a variety of situations, as well as ages and abilities. Each exercise is clearly laid out with foundations for the prayer subject, for example the exercise on Sorrow and renewal of life (105) explains how prayer is a movement from us to God and from God to us and how this explanation can be illustrated with the image of a bridge. The children write on one half of a piece of paper how things are now and on the other half how they would wish god to make things. They can then make a simple (depending on skill levels) Lego bridge and imagine in prayer the crossing from one side to another. Due to time constraints, a children’s Liturgy of the Word cannot always be completed in the church and therefore some of the prayer activities described can be adapted for home use, possibly involving parents and other family members.

Main points for the religious educator to communicate with the children are clearly laid out at the beginning of each prayer theme. It is imperative that the educator fully comprehends the liturgical basis for the activities also allowing for their prayer. Children can adopt what they have heard in the children’s Liturgy and apply it to their own life, facilitating Christian practice into their everyday being. Activities such as Sin Bin and Sorry beads are eminently suitable for this purpose.

Where did all the nerds go?

Any excuse to put up an Eminem video. And yes kids, it's ok to know all the lyrics to this AND be a Bible nerd :)

Apologies to all those who might have missed me! I know I usually hate people who blog cool stuff then suddenly stop but sometimes work and a bit of a rest have to come first. Please forgive me! That and the fact my precious laptop is at the doctors for the 3rd time! Now enough excuses...

To fill you in on what I've been up to, I finished my postdoc in Milltown and now have a shiny 70,000 word manuscript that I must try to get published (anyone who runs their own publishing press and wishes to have a new best friend you know where I am! My Mum promised to buy a copy. Not to read it mind you, but to buy one!). The still working title for the work is "The Names of God in Judaism, Christianity and Islam: A Basis for Interfaith Dialogue". So fingers crossed. I'll keep you posted.

I'm now in the land of lots of part time jobs, which is interesting and good for the blog, if not fantastic for having some money. But I hardly went into this lark for the riches :) The job I'm most excited about is teaching Senior Cycle Religion in Colaiste Ris, a secondary school in Dundalk, Ireland (my home town). It's about time that I actually took the advice I've been giving teachers on how to teach and actually did it myself! I'm very lucky as I've got 4 Leaving Cert classes-or Senior Cycle as they don't actually sit an exam in what they study. I'm working with an amazing group of teachers so I'm in safe hands. I'm working with Morality with fifth years and Cults and NRM (New Religious Movements) with my sixth years so I'll keep you posted on all that. First things first on Wednesday though, we're doing some icebreakers. Which I HATE. As they're usually cringey so I'm consulted the experts in my family and in school and I'm trying Two Truths and A Lie which might not be too bad. At least it isn't "Say your name, how you feel and one interesting thing about you". I suspect there's not much about me that teenagers would find interesting :)

Otherwise I'm teaching with Mater Dei in Armagh and Ballyroan. I'm teaching the Pentateuch (well just Genesis and Exodus) in Armagh and Paul in Ballyroan. The whole NT Paul is a little hazy so I've a good bit of work to do there. But I'm excited. I do love Adult Ed stuff and I've got some new resources with books and videos so I'm good to go. Looking forward to it!

In a personal academic sense I'm working on a paper for SOTS in January and I've got some stuff up my sleeve for reception theory for the SBL that I've been dying to get into. Just to find the time!

Please excuse me as I catch up on my posts. Anything that you'd like to comment on just drop me a mail! My blogroll is in need of an update but please bear with me!

And just to show you how productive my summer was-my new lecturing clobber :)