Showing posts from May, 2007

New Music School

Before I head out for the week (workshop in Detroit) I want to plug a new Irish music school opening in Cleveland.

Brian Holleran, a native of New Jersey (and my sister's fiancee) will be offering classes on Flute, Tin Whistle, and Uilleann Pipes here in Cleveland. Brian is a terrific musician and a gifted teacher. For more information, contact Brian at:

brianholleran000 AT (substitute @ for AT).

Another One from the Audience

The person who posed a question a few weeks ago has posed another:

Do you ever look to the cross and simply see a guy dying?

After agonizing about how to approach this response, let me just dive in and say simply:

Yes. There are times when I do just see a guy dying.

I wish I could at all times experience the power of the resurrection, the hope and joy of Easter morning. I am, however, tragically who sins too freely and never prays hard enough or long enough or well enough. I grapple with the issues of faith and belief and I very often wonder how it is that I've come to commit my life to what can appear to be a corpse on a cross.

I've gazed on the bodies of drug dealers shot through the face; babies the tragic victims of abuse; children mangled in car wrecks; women beaten at the hands of abusive partners; men's arms embroidered with heroin track marks. In their bodies I have seen the sin and evil and brokenness of this world etched and carved and gouged into human …

Class Mass

I still want to respond to an earlier question, but I wanted to say a few things about another issue first.

So I went to Mass at my elementary alma mater this morning. To be wholly truthful, it is a bloody wonder that the majority of these children aren't atheists after such a liturgy.

First off, the music. Sung by a cantor at a pitch easily eight octaves higher than 99.9% of human can reach, the notes of the hymns were totally inaccessible. Then again, even if the songs had been sung at any pace other than a funeral dirge, I don't know that I'd have been able to sing - the songs were the most deranged settings of the Mass parts that I've ever heard. As a professional musician and a (VERY) regular Mass attendee (try every day) I think I have a good sense of music...but this was just ridiculous.

Directly behind me there were a group of children (I believe a parent was with them) who had something of the "Old Country Buffet" operating on their pew. In the space of…


After a week of packing, meetings, good-byes, and a feis I'm getting ready to head home. A new question has been raised in the comment boxes concerning the crucifix and I'll have a response sometime over the next few days! I just need to get home and get an Einstein bagel in my system.

It's All About Me

Karen has tagged me to answer several questions:

1. Male or Female: Male.
2. Married or Single (or religious): I am a religious.
3. Dream Vacation: A road trip with friends across the country.
4. Birthplace: Cleveland, Ohio
5. Area I live in currently: Bronx, New York.
6. Someone you wish you could meet: Jean-Luc Marion.
7. Biggest "Pet-Peeve": Drivers who BLARE their music. I'm usually quite content with my own selection and I resent having to listen to someone else's...particularly
when my windows are rolled up!
8. Favorite Religious Devotion: Rosary.
9. Favorite Saint (Besides the Blessed Mother): St. John of the Cross
10. Favorite Sport that you play: softball. That you watch: sports are on tv?
11. Favorite Food: Bagels and Cream Cheese
12. Tridentine or Novus Ordo: Novus Ordo.
13. Would you home school or public school: Home
14. How many kids do you have: 0.
15. Ever been in an auto accident? Not really - a few scrapes, but nothing major.
16. Ever seen a pope in perso…


Congratulations to Michael and Brian English who today captured first-place at the Mid-Western Fleadh. The Fleadh is the regional championship for Irish music and Michael brought home the gold in the 15-18 bracket and Brian won the 12-15.

Props to Brian Holleran and Tom Hastings who have contributed immeasurably to their success!

From the Audience

A recent comment:

Thanks, I just found this blog and like it. I like your approach a lot and am hoping you could shed some light.'s what I don't get. Are we supposed to believe that God directly intervenes (interferes) with daily events? If so, is that why you pray? If not, then why do you pray? I see problems either way.
-I dont understand, but I'd like to.

As many of you know, prayer is a favorite topic of mine...probably because I myself struggle with it. So any opportunity to address questions in regard to this matter often afford an opportunity to reflect on issues that I have struggled or continue to grapple with.

It is natural to pray as though God were a cosmic Spiderman, who needs only to be called upon to save the day. Many of our prayers take this form, "Oh God, let me get this answer right." "Dear Lord, please don't let me mess this recipe up." "Holy God, please let the Indians/Cavs/Browns win something important this sea…

Late at Night

I haven't posted anything this late (1:34 am) since I worked at the hospital. But after spending an entire day wandering the streets of New York and drinking probably WAY too much coffee, I find myself unable to sleep.

I've finished "The Road" as well as James Baldwin's "Giovanni's Room". If you did not care for Brokeback Mountain, you'll not care especially much for Giovanni's room. It is, however, a beautifully written book that touches on the dynamism of human longing to be with one's beloved and the terrible consequences of denying one's true feelings. In this novel in particular, the tragedy of David's life (the main character) is foreshadowed by his inability to love his father, who himself knew not the role he was called to play in David's life. In short, so much of the novel's tension rests in discerning and answering the fundamental question "Who am I?" and accepting the consequences of discovering the a…

As in the Days of Yore

So I played another feis this weekend: that makes five feiseanna in three weeks. I haven't played this much in quite a few years and, while I'm not back to 100%, I can feel the rust crumbling and some glimpses of the "Ryan of Old" returning.

It is hard to make a return to playing, especially in a region where I know virtually none of the dancers. Yesterday I played for children who were still in diapers when I entered the Jesuits - now they're in school! In some ways its a different world and I am a different person entering into it. While my love for Irish music and dancing has not waned, I must say that I see the 'conspicuous consumption' as an offense against good reason.

Think about the dresses. I watched small children (8-11 years old) ascending the stage garbed in $2000+ costumes. That's a lot of money! Rhinestones, fancy patterns, sparkles, etc., adorn these dresses in hopes that they will catch the eye of the judge. Wigs, face-glitter, and make…

Days of Leisure

True to form, I'm finished early with my papers/finals/work for the semester. This gives me a few days to relax and enjoy being in New York before I return to Cleveland on May 21st.

It has been a quiet few weeks. I've had no major insights, no profound experiences, nothing particularly funny or amusing or poignant to talk about. I will, though, make two book recommendations:

First, Ian McEwan's Atonement is a fabulous novel. It's the sort of book I would use in a theology paper largely due to its beautiful writing and powerful insight.

Second, I'm reading Cormac McCarthy's The Road. Known both for its recent Pulitzer and its inclusion in Oprah's book club, it is a peculiarly written novel about a father and son in what might be called a "quasi-historical" landscape (For Karl Rahner there is history only where there is freedom and, in this novel, one can question how free the characters are). My speculation aside, it really is a good book.

After a long weekend

After two weekends of playing for Irish dancing competitions, I must admit that I'm pretty tired. In my youth it was nothing for me to play two competitions per weekend, multiple weekends in a row. As I grow older and as I'm still somewhat out of practice, it's hard to do. My back is still sore from this weekend and I've got a sizable bruise on my chest from where my accordion rested for many hours. Who'd ever have thought that playing the accordion might actually be deleterious to one's health?

With this in mind, I've not much to write about. Sort of uninspired, I'm just slogging through the last two weeks of class. My papers now written, I'm doing the obligatory "read for class" trying to maintain my waning interest in the material. Summer is nearly upon us and I'm falling headlong into vacation mode!

I'll read for the rest of the morning and then I'll try to get my tin whistle class organized for tonight. I'm still unsure …