Monday, 18 May 2015

Teaching Priests to Preach

So I read this article on a seminary in Detroit USA hiring an actors to help young emerging priests to give more animated and exciting homilies. Now I have had the discussion with many people, Do we want a show or do we want to be fed spiritually?

On the one hand, many people who leave the catholic church talk about how boring the Catholic Mass is. Surely, as a parent i can identify with my children saying so too, but to be fair, if we had a three ring circus at the church they would be excited at first, but the mere fact that they HAVE TO go to church, instead of playing computer games, would have them grumbling.

Also here in Trinidad, we have about 60,000 people who go to church every week, yet these 60,000 are invested in the church. They give more today than members gave ten years ago. They come to church for the BODY OF CHRIST, the homily is incidental.

On the flip side, aren't we supposed to be a church of evangelization? How can we get people to come to church? Isn't one way to make the experience better?  Does having an entertaining homily mean that the gospel can't be expressed properly? Of course it can be.  The message could be made clearer and even more profound, if it is done right.

We have some very caring and loving priests here in Trinidad, but not all are great orators. Perhaps, the archdiocese of Port of Spain could take a page from the book of the Detroit Seminary.

Here is the article:

Let's be honest, Catholic priests aren't known for soul-stirring preaching. And according to Pope Francis and many ex-Catholics, that's a problem. Boring sermonizing does not fill the sanctuary or pay the bills. It certainly will not curb the steady march of American Catholics from the faith.
"Priests today have to compete with a digital media culture where sounds bites, tweets and social media updates are the currency of communication. It's a real challenge for preachers to break through," said John Gehring, Catholic program director at the Washington, D.C.-based advocacy group Faith in Public Life.

That's why Detroit's Sacred Heart Major Seminary has hired two professional actors to put priests-in-training through an acting/public speaking workshop nicknamed Preaching Boot Camp.
For the last several years, actors Arthur Beer and Mary Bremer-Beer have conducted the three-week workshops at the seminary. The seminarians are taught how to project, how to control tempo, and how to master timing in order to deliver a Biblical truth or a laugh line. The married couple's boot camp is a change-up from the typical seminary classes in Catholic theology and doctrine. Classes begin with rounds of vocal exercises — think "Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers." There are stretches to loosen muscles and minds.

The priests-in-training test their endurance in breathing exercises that involve holding a lit candle in front of their mouths. The goal is to exhale slowly to make the flame dance, while not blowing it out. Learning how to control their breathing can help in their delivery. To get them to tap into their emotions, the men were asked to write and deliver speeches about their mothers — and to read those speeches to their moms. When one of the seminarians said his mother started crying, Bremer-Beer, a Henry Ford College acting teacher, took it as a good sign: "Doesn't it make you feel good when they cry?"

In an afternoon session, the seminarians took to the stage. The students memorized monologues involving characters from plays — a Jewish businessman from Neil Simon's "God's Favorite" to an engaging Irish-American pastor from "Mass Appeal." The men whooped and applauded when classmate Edgar De La Cruz, 27, did a foot-stomping, arm-pumping interpretation of a preacher from the drama "The Diviners." De La Cruz can be philosophical and introspective, and his passionate acting was a surprise, said his classmates.

"My Daddy, now he was a preacher," went De La Cruz's line. "Man took to the Bible like he was there just to shout it. Gonna tell everybody! Gonna tell everybody about the wonder and the miracle and the sweet love of Jesus." De La Cruz had been told to amp it up from a previous practice. But on this day, the delivery was staccato, not a fluid reverie. The preaching came out as screeching.
In the critique afterward, Beer, a University of Detroit Mercy theater professor, credited the seminarian for trying. But Beer said the student satirized the preacher rather than portraying a heartfelt character. "That was Joel Osteen on speed," quipped Bremer-Beer, referring to the noted televangelist and author whose Texas church is one of the country's largest Protestant congregations.

By Patricia Montemurri, Detroit Free Press 12:47 a.m. EDT May 18, 2015

Thursday, 26 February 2015

Exciting Bible Stories - The Acts of the Apostles -The Seven Brothers and the Demon

An exciting bible story for kids is the story of the seven brothers. My kids loved the story. It was very funny for them. This story teaches one to be humble, to be dedicated and to be firm in your faith. There is power in the name of Jesus, but only for believers. This does not say that one cannot be a Hindu and then acknowledge Christ and convert. This says that if that conversion takes place, one cannot reclaim ones hindu faith and expect that there would be Power in the name of Christ for that person.

Keep the lamp lit.

ACTS 19: 11-20

11 So remarkable were the miracles worked by God at Paul's hands

12 that handkerchiefs or aprons which had touched him were taken to the sick, and they were cured of their illnesses, and the evil spirits came out of them.

13 But some itinerant Jewish exorcists too tried pronouncing the name of the Lord Jesus over people who were possessed by evil spirits; they used to say, 'I adjure you by the Jesus whose spokesman is Paul.'

14 Among those who did this were seven sons of Sceva, a Jewish chief priest.

15 The evil spirit replied, 'Jesus I recognise, and Paul I know, but who are you?'

16 and the man with the evil spirit hurled himself at them and overpowered first one and then another, and handled them so violently that they fled from that house stripped of clothing and badly mauled.

17 Everybody in Ephesus, both Jews and Greeks, heard about this episode; everyone was filled with awe, and the name of the Lord Jesus came to be held in great honour.

18 Some believers, too, came forward to admit in detail how they had used spells

19 and a number of them who had practised magic collected their books and made a bonfire of them in public. The value of these was calculated to be fifty thousand silver pieces.

20 In this powerful way the word of the Lord spread more and more widely and successfully.


Exciting Bible Stories - The Acts of the Apostles - Simon the Magician

Another Exciting story from the Acts of the Apostles is the Story of the Magician Simon. Simon was a pretty good magician and when he became a believer. Yet he held on to his Magical practices. He even tries to Bribe Philip. Children seem to be fascinated with magic. Harry Potter comes to mind. To our children, we speak about what if the magician was Harry Potter and not Simon. From this story we can determine that Real Power comes from God... that the Angel of God was with Philip and that Philip was able to be used by God to do great things. We discuss Philips humility. Almost every time he is mentioned in the Bible with the other apostles, he is listed fifth. Yet even though he is not among the first three, he is no lesser or greater than any of the other twelve apostles.

ACTS  8 9-26

9 Now a man called Simon had for some time been practising magic arts in the town and astounded the Samaritan people. He had given it out that he was someone momentous,

10 and everyone believed in him; eminent citizens and ordinary people alike had declared, 'He is the divine power that is called Great.'

11 He had this following because for a considerable period they had been astounded by his wizardry.

12 But when they came to accept Philip's preaching of the good news about the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptised, both men and women,

13 and even Simon himself became a believer. After his baptism Simon went round constantly with Philip and was astonished when he saw the wonders and great miracles that took place.

14 When the apostles in Jerusalem heard that Samaria had accepted the word of God, they sent Peter and John to them,

15 and they went down there and prayed for them to receive the Holy Spirit,

16 for as yet he had not come down on any of them: they had only been baptised in the name of the Lord Jesus.

17 Then they laid hands on them, and they received the Holy Spirit.

18 When Simon saw that the Spirit was given through the laying on of the apostles' hands, he offered them money,

19 with the words, 'Give me the same power so that anyone I lay my hands on will receive the Holy Spirit.'

20 Peter answered, 'May your silver be lost for ever, and you with it, for thinking that money could buy what God has given for nothing!

21 You have no share, no part, in this: God can see how your heart is warped.

22 Repent of this wickedness of yours, and pray to the Lord that this scheme of yours may be forgiven;

23 it is plain to me that you are held in the bitterness of gall and the chains of sin.'

24 Simon replied, 'Pray to the Lord for me yourselves so that none of the things you have spoken about may happen to me.'

25 Having given their testimony and proclaimed the word of the Lord, they went back to Jerusalem, preaching the good news to a number of Samaritan villages.

26 The angel of the Lord spoke to Philip saying, 'Set out at noon and go along the road that leads from Jerusalem down to Gaza, the desert road.'

Exciting Bible Stories - The Acts of the Apostles - The Angel frees Paul

Yet another great story from the book of the Acts of the Apostles sounds almost like a Monty Python skit.. if it wasn’t a serious story of God’s Work and intercessory prayer. Here is the Great Peter – Arrested. Chained. Guarded. Yet he escapes and the guards go “ Huh? Where did he go? Have you seen him? No! Have you?” Then he shows up at the door of his friends and the woman who greets him runs away and leaves him at the stoop instead of letting him in.

On a serious note, the story shows the power of prayer. Peter’s friends prayed unceasingly. It is significant to note that James – the son of Thunder, had just been beheaded. The disciples expected the same fate for Peter. An Angel of the Lord comes in and rescues him. The bible does not tell us how long Peter was in prison, or how long the disciples prayed. The significance of the story is that there are those who of lesser faith than you who can pray for you and get a miracle. Or You can pray for another (say a priest) who may have greater faith than you and still a miracle can occur. The trick is to pray unceasingly and also to remember that where two or three gather in His name, He is there.

ACTS 12: 1-19
12 Now about that time Herod the king laid hands on some who belonged to the church in order to mistreat them. And he had James the brother of John put to death with a sword. When he saw that it pleased the Jews, he proceeded to arrest Peter also. Now it was during the days of Unleavened Bread. When he had seized him, he put him in prison, delivering him to four squads of soldiers to guard him, intending after the Passover to bring him out before the people. So Peter was kept in the prison, but prayer for him was being made fervently by the church to God.

On the very night when Herod was about to bring him forward, Peter was sleeping between two soldiers, bound with two chains, and guards in front of the door were watching over the prison. And behold, an angel of the Lord suddenly appeared and a light shone in the cell; and he struck Peter’s side and woke him up, saying, “Get up quickly.” And his chains fell off his hands. And the angel said to him, “Gird yourself and put on your sandals.” And he did so. And he said to him, “Wrap your cloak around you and follow me.” And he went out and continued to follow, and he did not know that what was being done by the angel was real, but thought he was seeing a vision. 10 When they had passed the first and second guard, they came to the iron gate that leads into the city, which opened for them by itself; and they went out and went along one street, and immediately the angel departed from him.

11 When Peter came ]to himself, he said, “Now I know for sure that the Lord has sent forth His angel and rescued me from the hand of Herod and from all that the Jewish people were expecting.” 12 And when he realized this, he went to the house of Mary, the mother of John who was also called Mark, where many were gathered together and were praying.

13 When he knocked at the door of the gate, a servant-girl named Rhoda came to answer. 14 When she recognized Peter’s voice, because of her joy she did not open the gate, but ran in and announced that Peter was standing in front of the gate. 15 They said to her, “You are out of your mind!” But she kept insisting that it was so. They kept saying, “It is his angel.” 16 But Peter continued knocking; and when they had opened the door, they saw him and were amazed. 17 But motioning to them with his hand to be silent, he described to them how the Lord had led him out of the prison. And he said, “Report these things to James and the brethren.” Then he left and went to another place.

18 Now when day came, there was no small disturbance among the soldiers as to what could have become of Peter. 19 When Herod had searched for him and had not found him, he examined the guards and ordered that they be led away to execution. Then he went down from Judea to Caesarea and was spending time there.

Exciting Bible Stories - Acts of the Apostles - The story of Tabitha

In another story from the book of acts we read about the great bounty of God and intercessory prayer. So a good servant of God called Tabitha dies. Her friends and family call upon Peter to intercede…. And what an intercession.

ACTS 9: 36-42

"At Joppa, there was a disciple named Tabitha. Her name translated is Dorcas or Gazelle. This woman was full of good works and constant acts of mercy. However, she fell sick in those days, and died. Her carers washed her and laid her in an upper room."

"The disciples at Joppa heard that Peter was nearby at Lydda. So they sent two men to Peter, imploring him to come to them without delay. Peter got up and went with them. On reaching Joppa, they brought Peter into the upper room. All the widows stood by weeping. They showed Peter the coats and garments that Dorcas had made while she was with them alive."

"Peter asked everyone to leave the room. He knelt and prayed. Then he turned to the body and said, “Tabitha, arise!” Tabitha opened her eyes, and when she saw Peter, she sat up. He offered her his hand, and lifted her up. Then he called the saints and widows and presented Tabitha alive. This miracle became known throughout all Joppa, and many believed in the Lord."

Exciting Bible Stories - Acts of the Apostles - the story of Ananias and his wife Sapphira

So for Lent this year the family decided to depart from the daily bible readings  as per the liturgy and explore other bible stories.

So we began with the story in which  Peter being informed and inspired by the Holy Spirit or the Angels Effect death upon two liars. The lesson in this story is that you are not obligated to make promises, but when you promise something to God that you must make every effort to fulfill that obligation or promise. Including Lenten activities (fasting Prayer etc) because you can cheat yourself but your should never cheat God.

ACTS  5: 1-11

Now a man named Ananias, together with his wife Sapphira, also sold a piece of property. 2 With his wife’s full knowledge he kept back part of the money for himself, but brought the rest and put it at the apostles’ feet.

3 Then Peter said, “Ananias, how is it that Satan has so filled your heart that you have lied to the Holy Spirit and have kept for yourself some of the money you received for the land? 4 Didn’t it belong to you before it was sold? And after it was sold, wasn’t the money at your disposal? What made you think of doing such a thing? You have not lied just to human beings but to God.”

5 When Ananias heard this, he fell down and died. And great fear seized all who heard what had happened. 6 Then some young men came forward, wrapped up his body, and carried him out and buried him.

7 About three hours later his wife came in, not knowing what had happened. 8 Peter asked her, “Tell me, is this the price you and Ananias got for the land?”

“Yes,” she said, “that is the price.”

9 Peter said to her, “How could you conspire to test the Spirit of the Lord? Listen! The feet of the men who buried your husband are at the door, and they will carry you out also.”

10 At that moment she fell down at his feet and died. Then the young men came in and, finding her dead, carried her out and buried her beside her husband. 11 Great fear seized the whole church and all who heard about these events.

Sunday, 25 January 2015

When Classical Music meets Rock Music

I like Classical Music. I like Rock Music. I like Reggae. I like music – All kinds of the stuff. I’m a huge music fan – You may be surprised to know that  I am not a fan of any artiste, just their music (well some anyway), although I do admire their abilities.

These days I find myself listening to Classical Music arranged and adapted to rock… well, mostly Rock. I have compiled a list of what I am into for anyone who might be also interested.

Mason Williams – Classical Gas. Maybe not a real classical piece, but that acoustic version from 1970 is fantastic.

David Garett is a German pop and crossover violinist. His band is a full on pop band with drums, keyboards, guitar, bass and of course he plays violin. David holds the Guiness world record for the fastest violinist (to earn that record he played flight of the bumble bee). He covers rock (zeppelin, Nirvana etc) and of course does classical pieces. Two of my favourite pieces are  - AIR in G-Major (bach) and Palladio (jenkins)

Emerson Lake and Palmer – Fanfare for the common Man (Copeland) - known as a progressive Rock Supergroup of the 1970’s ELP’s version is long but not too bad. It peaked at Number 2 in the British music charts in 1977. What trips me is that Greg Lake plays an 8 String Alembic Bass.

The Electric Light Orchestra – In the Hall of the Mountain King (Grieg). ELO holds the record for having the most amount of top 40 hits, without having a number one single. A well loved band, but maybe not that well loved. They also recorded a cover of the  chuck berry song “Roll over Beethoven” and infused Beethoven’s music into it.

Daniel Tidwell -  Heavy Metal. Daniel has an album which he sells on his website. It is called “Echoes of the Elders”. It has four tracks. He stays true to the songs yet they are Heavy  Metal. Pretty Good – Fur Elise (Beethoven),  Palladio Rock (Jenkins), Rondo Alla Turca (Mozart), and Tidwell’s Canon  (Pachelbel). He also has two Christmas Albums and a whole bunch of covers of Video Game music. He also does Queen of the Night from the Magic Flute by (Mozart)

Vanessa Mae – Vanessa describes her music as “Violin Techno acoustic fusion.” And her body of work is quite varied. She is a classical Violinist and has albums of classical violin music with full orchestra. She was commissioned to write a song for Hong Kong when China took repossession. It is called “Happy Valley (the 1997 re-unification overture)”. But she has some Pop albums that are pretty Good : “The Violin Player” and “Kids Classics” are two that Stand out to me. In relation to Songs I would recommend her versions of Tocata en Fugue in D Minor (JS Bach). Also Flight of the Bumble Bee (Rimsky Korsakov). And lastly an all out pop dance song which she calls “(i) can can (you)” which is really her adaptation of the Infernal Gallop from Orpheus in the underworld (Offenbach).

Sir Malcolm Henry Arnold CBE – composer of Symphony #6  Op 95, Which was played by the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra on the 1969 Deep Purple Album “Concerto For Group and Orchestra” – Well it’s more orchestra than Rock, but what the Hey!

Les Fradkin – Canon in D (Pachelbel) and Classical Gas (Williams). He uses this weird guitar and keyboard hybrid called a Starr Labs Ztar. Not a bad song.

Aria Asia – Canon in D (Pachelbel) – Well this is a Japanese Violinist. But make no mistake, this is Rock - A great version

Dieter Falk and sons -  Badinerie (bach ochestral suite 2). Falk is a German pianist, Keyboardist, Christian (protestant) composer, arranger and record producer. The Music is Jazz, but it is fantastic. It comes off of his 2011 Album "Celebrate Bach". 

Therion - O Fortuna (Carl Orff) – Therion describes themselves as Symphonic Metal. Key to their music is the fact that they have multiple vocalists who sing in the style of opera. Yet as far as I know this is their only classical piece. They do covers too. I personally like their cover of Abba’s “Summer night city”.

Jigsaw - Jesu Joy Of Man`s Desiring (bach). Released in 1971 by Britains Jigsaw the version of this classical piece is described as pop, but if you didn’t know you might think you were listening to the Doors.

Seree Lee  - Seree is guitarist from Thailand. In 2002 he released a Rock album of Classical Music called “Classical Axe”. The album is available on his website. I love it. His arrangements are fantastic. Here are my favourite songs off the album : Minuet in G (bach), Eine Kleine Nachtmusik (Mozart) and Hungarian dance no 5 (brahms)

Katona Twins – This is Acoustic Music. These identical twin brothers from Hungary are described as the best known duo in classical music. Their repertoire includes Classical, Tango and Spanish guitar. Their album “Guitar freaks” are acoustic covers of classic rock songs. However they have several albums of classical music. One song stands out for me - Toreador (bizet) It is really the Overture from Carmen which slides into the Toreador song from Carmen, but that’s ok, whatever it is called, I still love it.

Wolf Hoffman is the guitarist for the German Heavy Metal band Accept. In 1997 he released a solo album called “Classical” in which he adapted several classical pieces of music to rock. This is not a heavy metal album, but it sure rocks.  Here are a few of my favourites off the album: Habanera (bizet), Blues For Elise (beethovan) and Pomp & Circumstance (elgar)

Lukie Carelsen – Lukie has two albums of great interest to me. “Rockin’ Classics – Classical Electric Rock” and “Rockin’ Gospel – Classical Electric Rock”. Lukie formed Maranatha Records in 1984 in South Africa as a studio dedicated to Christian artists and their music. I like Lukies music. Here are a few tracks that stand out for me. Aida (verdi), Jesu Joy of Man's Desiring (bach), Symphony No 5 (beethoven), Symphony Nr 9 (ode to joy) (beethoven), Trumpet Voluntary in D major (purcell) and The William Tell Overture (rossini)

Ulytau – Wikipedia describes Ulytau as literally meaning "the great mountain" Ulytau is a Turkic instrumental folk metal trio from Kazakhstan. Their music combines the sound of the violin and electric guitar with the Dombra (a traditional two stringed instrument from their country) It a project of one album. There are a few classical pieces on the album and I love them all. Turkish March (mozart sonata 11 a), Winter (Vivaldi's Four Seasons) and Tocata en Fugue (JS Bach). Oh the name of the album is “Jumyr-Kylysh” (2006). It was released in Germany in 2009 as “Two Warriors”

Tarja Turunen – Ave Maria (Shubert)- This former vocalist from the Finnish Metal band Nightwish has long been fan of classical music.  I don’t think I have ever heard a bad recording of either version of the Ave Maria (Shubert or Gonoud), and this one is no exception.

Me first and the Gimme Gimme’s – O Sole Mio (translates as “my sunshine”). Well, this 1898 song has been done by so many classical vocalists and some not-classical-at-all vocalists. Even Elvis Presley had a version with the song “it’s now or never” where he used the melody but changed the words. “The Gimme gimme’s”  is a punk band, so don’t have high expectations. I think it’s a hoot though. I play it all the time.

Romance AnĂ²nimo (guitar) – this anonymous piece of beautiful music has been performed by so many people. Almost every version sounds so beautiful.

Trans Siberian Orchestra – Jon Oliva formed the Metal Band Savatage – which later changed their sound to Progressive Rock. They had several Concept albums which could be described as rock opera’s including “Wake of Megellan” and “Dead Winter Dead”.The side project of Savatage was “The Trans Siberian Orchestra”, also Jon Oliva. This side project released five albums, all dealing with Christmas. The songs were  Traditional, classical and other.  I particularly like Beethovens 5th Symphony, Sarajevo Midnight December 24th and  Beethoven’s 9th Symphony. Be advised this is Metal.

Yngwie  Malmsteen is a swedish Metal Guitarist known for his classical style of playing music. He has a few Classical works which I find interesting -  40th Symphony (mozart), 5th Symphony (beethoven), Canon in D (pachelbel), Paganini's 5th Caprice, and Rondo Alla Turca (mozart sonata 11 a).

Epica is a Dutch Symphonic Metal Band. Their version of Hall of the Mountain King (Grieg) is not the best I’ve Heard.  Neither is their version of The Imperial March (Williams) I mean, why do we have to use double kick bass drums in this track. Metal fans may enjoy it though.

Metallica – The Imperial March (also known as Darth Vadars Theme) (John Williams). What more can be said?