Tuesday, October 31, 2006

New Videos

Because I had a request to do so, I put two more videos up on YouTube today. They are two jigs - Tobin's and Out on the Ocean. Neither one is a tune I play on the whistle frequently, but I thought I'd record them if they'd be of interest or help to anyone.

Monday, October 30, 2006

Theological Suggestion

In addition to being a lover of Irish music, I also love the study of theology. I often feel anomalous in that my study of theology is geared toward making the tenets of faith understandable and relevant to people's lives. I think that is why my favorite topic is prayer - it is something we can all do, we can all improve upon, and is the source of all good theological reflection.

In recent years, a disturbing trend has been documented. Many adult Catholics have a very difficult time understanding the concept of transubstantiation (say it three times really fast!), let alone understanding the meaning of the Eucharist at Sunday Mass. Indeed, at the "Three Cheers for Catholicism" group last night, this was one of the issues we discussed, how many Catholics just "go through the motions" and have no idea about what is actually happening.

One of my favorite theologians is James Alison. Alison appropriated the mimetic theory of Rene Girard and fused it with his own theological genius. The result has been several excellent books and many fine articles. What distinguishes Alison's work from so many other theologians is that he writes (more often) in essay format, which means that they tend to be pretty accessible.

So I would suggest that people read "Those With Eyes to See". It's a very short piece - only 2.5 printed pages - but I think it does a great job presenting transubstantiation in a creative and transformative way. What I appreciate most about this article is that it is thoroughly orthodox and still eminently creative. I mean, who else would use Magic Eye to make intelligible this central aspect of our faith. If nothing else, and let this be a lesson to catechists, we come to know God because God wants to be known. God will meet us wherever and whenever we are open to such a revelation. Good cathechesis and prayer gives people "eyes to see" God in all things, not as some pantheistic notion, but as a dynamic force straining to establish God's reign on earth. Good catechesis, as any good teaching, doesn't just impart information. It transforms vision, allowing us to see all things as new. Read and pray with this article...I have found it so helpful in my own life and in my appreciation for our Lord who gives himself to us at Eucharist.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Technical Difficulty

I don't usually read my own blog, so I didn't notice that the "child abuse" post had gone up three times. As you can now see, I've remedied that! As irritated as I was/am, I don't know that people need to read my complaining three times...once is more than enough.

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Child Abuse

In honor of Halloween, some of us decided to take in the riveting epic Saw III last night. If you have seen any of the movies in this series, you'll know that they are extremely violent and intended for a (theoretically) mature audience.

So imagine my shock last night when a young family showed up, including a four-year old little girl. And she was not the only child there - although my seat did not give me the best vantage point, I could count at least six children under the age of twelve. In a movie where putrified hog corpses are liquified in order to drown a judge and a young man is "crucified" in an apparatus that twists his body so as to force his bones through his skin, I don't know that this is quite in line with Winne the Pooh or Spongebob or whatever is popular with children today.

Having worked in a hospital and having been present to many traumas in the ER, I thought I was accustomed to the noises and sights of medical instruments whirring and blood. I am grateful that I'm still sensitive to such things (I had my ears covered for a lot of the movie it was so aurally overwhelming) but I can't fathom what those little kids were thinking. I can't imagine what their parents were thinking, except that they wanted to see the movie and, in lieu of hiring a babysitter, brought the baby with them. I might not be a dad, but I do want to be a father, and all I can say is that it was one of the stupidest and most thoughtless displays of parenting I have ever witnessed. Lord knows, someone will take exception to that statment and chastise me. But near as I can tell, I don't think it's proper or helpful or wise to replace the images of childhood (Winnie the Pooh, Care Bears, Pokemon, Harry Potter) with the graphic and horrifying images of Saw III.

I'm getting off of my Saturday morning soapbox! We have a liturgy workshop today, so I must prepare myself ...how one prepares for such a workshop, I don't know, but I'll find a way!

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Musical Vocation

I'm in a bit of a writing mood this evening, so I thought I'd put down something of my musical vocation story. Since I started posting videos on YouTube and on here as well, my site has seen an ENORMOUS surge in traffic, much of it due to people's interest in Irish music.

Since I do not have children of my own, I often wonder what it would be like to hold my own son or daughter. I wonder what kind of dreams I would have for him. I've never asked him this, but I have taken to wondering what my own father and mother dreamt for me when I was a baby. Did they want me to be a baseball player? A doctor? A teacher? Rich? It's just so amazing to think that a parent holds a lifetime of potential is her arms, a potential that will be so shaped and molded by the parents' love and care.

So when I was little I did the things most kids did, I guess. I played 'hot stove' baseball, softball with the parish, and flag football. By the time I was in the second grade, my sister Torrey had already begun taking Irish dancing classes and I saw how much fun she was having. My mother, wise as she is, probably saw that I had little to no physical coordination and signed me and my brother Colin up for tin whistle lessons with a local music teacher.

Interestingly, neither of my parents play music. Nor did my grandparents. But both of my great-grandfathers were great musician - Grandpa Hagan played the piano throughout Cleveland and my Grandpa Kilbane was a fine fiddle player. His sister, Sister Margaret Anne Kilbane, was an Ursuline sister who was a nice button accordion player in her own right. Some traits skip generations, but the musical trait skipped two in my case!

It may come as a shock to readers, but I really wasn't a very good music student. It took years for me to attain any level of proficiency on the whistle. I liked playing it, to be sure, but I probably was about eleven or twelve before I started to show forth some promise as a musician. Perhaps I exaggerate - I might have actually been pretty good, but it seems now so long ago that it's hard to recall. I do remember, however, struggling a lot to learn tunes and having a hard time learning by ear.

During this time I also picked up the accordion. For those youngsters reading, the accordion is not, contrary to popular belief, the way to go if you want to make a lot of friends. I think most of my past self-esteem problems stem directly from having learned to play the accordion (which I have taken to calling "the box" as it sounds better than saying accordion).

By the time I was in the eighth grade, I had begun to find my voice in the Irish musical tradition. I began playing in a band called "Tap the Bow" with a Jesuit regent, Brother Jim Boynton. Jim was the first Jesuit I'd ever met, so it seems fitting now that he was in his first year as vocation director the year I applied.

I started teaching music relatively young - I was sixteen, I believe. So I've been a music teacher now for ten years. As I write this, I chuckle: I've gone from learning the whistle from Tom Hastings in a musty second bedroom in his house to teaching out of my kitchen for six-dollars a lesson (when I started) to now teaching a college course at Fordham University. That's a lot of mileage on one $10.00 instrument!

I began playing for feiseanna (Irish dancing competitions) as I moved through college. My two years of graduate school seem a blur now, as I went to school during the week and played nearly every weekend. There is a part of me that misses that life, the friends I made and the various places I would travel. Some of my best friends are the result of being a part of the Irish dancing circuit.

After spending a whole day trying to isolate the Trinitarian dimension of Karl Rahner's anthropology, what I write here seems to lack a cohesive bond. I'm not much for narrating history, so let me offer a few thoughts on the career of Irish music.

I chose quite deliberately not to make Irish music my life. My vocation has obviously led me into the Society of Jesus, but that does not mean that I was not called to be a musician. I would like to think that my musical vocation has called and will continue to call me out of myself and into a world where I can express my deep love for my Irish heritage through music and song and dance. You see, I do not see music and priesthood as opposed to one another. In a real sense, both try to free others. For so many, our hearts are so burdened that we seek out a healing word that will free us from the doubt and anger and sadness that weighs on us; so many of us are scared to step out onto the dance floor that it takes a compelling rhythm to summon us into the dance. Had I made music my job, I fear I would have begun to concern myself with "performing" the music than encountering others in the music.

Music can be a movement of hospitality, a making space for another person. Words can be bulky, but a tune or a song is often able to squeeze its way into even the narrowest of hearts. We don't recite epic poems or read Rahner to napping infants; we do, however, sing soft lullabies that sooth and reassure them of our presence.

I began by wondering about parental desires for children. I doubt sincerely that my parents ever dreamed that I would be an Irish music playing Jesuit. But through their love and support, I have been able to claim my place in my religious and cultural heritage.

Monday, October 23, 2006

Picture and a Shot Out

First off, thanks to the English family for their thoughtful birthday present. They know me well enough to have sent Malley's Chocolate Covered Pretzels and some awesome Aero bars. They also included a copy of the 10/12/2006 edition of the Edsman which carried a nice story about Mike's trip to Ireland. Great story!

Second, the above picture is none other than Howard Gray, SJ. For those of you who read often, you'll know that I reference Howard often. I cannot put into words how important this man has been in my life. I will offer this as a testament to his role in my formation: he is the man who taught me how to pray.

You have to admit, he does look like Yoda! The only difference: Father Gray doesn't need a light saber to defeat evil.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Willie Coleman's, Wheels of the World, The Rainy Day

My weekly submission to YouTube.

In keeping with a request, I will submit my musical vocation story sometime this week - I just need to find time to write it!

Thursday, October 19, 2006

The 27th Year

So I mark today the 27th year of my birth. I watched the series finale of "OZ" - the prison show we began watching last year in the novitiate. I also had dinner with Archbishop Joseph Pittau, SJ. Archbishop Pittau has played an enormously important role in the history of the Society and it was a great treat to recieve his birthday blessing and to listen to him share some of his stories at our community meeting. Now I'm off to watch the latest episode of Smallville before retiring for the night; I have to get up early as we're off to the gym at 7:45.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006


I now have a Facebook account, so if you have one please look for me and "poke" me. I'll add you to my friends list.

Also, I received a birthday e-card from my mother. Funny, I seem to remember celebrating my birthday every year on the 19th, not the 18th. Somebody is slipping, mother!

Yes, tomorrow is my 27th birthday. Maybe I'll write something with the vantage point of 27 years of wisdom, but that will depend on how much work I get done early in the day.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Drew and Ryan at St Ignatius High School

Yeah, it's an ugly vest. It was very cold and I needed something warm, but I certainly do acknowledge that it's not very fashionable! I'll never wear it again. Thanks to Pat Fairbanks, SJ for the picture. Pat is the new vocations director for the Chicago Province. In the background of this picture, you'll also see Br Jim Boynton, the vocations director for the Detroit Province.

Father General

Here is the promised picture featuring Drew Marquard, Father General Peter-Hans Kolvenbach (the superior general of the Society of Jesus, and Ryan Duns.

Saturday, October 14, 2006


I had a request for something "mellow" so I recorded this tune. I realized, in wracking my brain for tunes, that I don't play very many "mellow" pieces...which means I ought to learn some!

This piece was a pain to record - I think it took eight tries with various incursions wrecking each take (phone calls, dog parking, car horns...possibly a gunshot).

Friday, October 13, 2006

Trio of Tunes: Tim the Velvet, Toss the Feathers, Martin Wynne's #3

Three old favorites!

Technical Difficulties

I've never given any pretense to being possesed of great technical skill. Truth be told, I often have a hard time figuring out how to turn on the televisions in the house (due, in part, to the fact that we've three remotes per tv and I haven't a clue as to what any of them do). So my recent foray into YouTube and my ability both to record and to post videos has been astonishing. Now that I have posted my ninth short video, I'm looking to make my recordings longer and, hopefully, to add some sweet sound effects (not for any other reason than this: I can!).

Yet I am having a very difficult time partitioning videos to put them online. What I need to figure out is how to take the DVD I have with our vocation talks on them and get them into my iMovie program. I may have some time this weekend so, with any luck, I'll figure it out.

My other goal this weekend is to start to record short instructional videos on how to play the whistle. I figure I can distill the lessons into 5-7 minute segments which could be posted on the net and downloaded to people's computers. Ever ambitious, if I play my cards right I could have one very large internet class very soon!

That's about it for this post. I have two classes today (German and Plato) and tonight we're going to have a two-film marathon of Saw I and Saw II in anticipation of Saw III's debut in two weeks.

Oh! Do say a prayer for my sister Torrey and all the other candidates taking their TCRG and ADCRG exams this weekend in Toronto. The TCRG is the Irish acronym for an Irish dancing teacher and ADCRG is the same for adjudicator. I have every confidence in my sister, but I'd appreciate prayers of support just the same!

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Oireachtas, Revisited

After a very fine weekend of playing, I have consulted with my superiors and we've decided that I will, after all, play this year's Mid-American Oireachtas over Thanksgiving weekend. As some of you remember, I cancelled out on doing it earlier this semester but, considering they hadn't replaced me and seeing as I really do miss playing, it's not a bad idea for me to play.

I often wonder what difference I make, whether it be on the internet (although I'm building a nice base of viewers on YouTube!) or as a minister. But it seems to me that, after this weekend, my involvement with Irish dancing has a great deal of potential. To be sure, I don't spend much time directly with the kids...I just sit and play music for them and, sadly, most of them don't think I'm a human! To them, I'm a balding juke box who plays the accordion. That's fine - they're kids! But with the sheer volume of Irish dancers in America, I realize that the potential to make a difference in their lives is not only through playing, but also spending time with their teachers. Perhaps my friendship with teachers and adjudicators will help them along in their own spiritual journies and, in a quasi-trickle down effect, somehow reach the students with whom they spend so much time.

Monday, October 09, 2006

Surviving Another Feis Weekend

As I face a whole day off of school, I want quickly to update my site, for I have much work to do today!

The feiseanna went pretty well this weekend. To be sure, there were a number of points where my joints were popping and my muscles were aching, but I'm glad to say that I think I played pretty well. I used to have so much more endurance for such long days! The playing aside, it was awesome to spend time with a great group of adjudicators who were a lot of fun to hang out with.

When I was at JCU for graduate school, I think I flourished in large part because I was so busy. I never had weekends to work, so I was forced to do as much work as possible during the week. While I thought that I would enjoy a more leisurely pace of study, I find that I miss the activity of my former life and that playing this weekend was very helpful in reminding me that I do work well under pressure.

Check YouTube later today and this week as I make an effort to put a bunch of Jesuit videos online. I'll also try to record a few more tunes and get them posted, too.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

The Week to Come

Ahead is one of those weeks which remind me of my pre-Jesuit life. I have class tomorrow and on Tuesday morning and then, Tuesday afternoon, Drew and I are flying to Cleveland. Father General Peter Hans-Kolvenbach, SJ will be visiting the Detroit Province and we will be going to meet with him. This is very exciting and I am really looking forward to meeting Father General. If I get a picture with him, you can be sure that it will appear here soon after! We return late Thursday night and I have two classes on Friday...and then I fly out with Kerry Oster to go to Pittsburgh for the feis...and then I come back on Sunday night. I love being busy!

A quick request for prayers. My mother had to have her appendix removed today - apparently it was something of an emergency. I found at, as it is the custom to pass information to me in odd ways - via a text message whilst I was grocery shopping. My mom has been having several health issues and I'm sure your prayers (and mine!) would mean a lot to her.

For those who are interested, I have put a few more videos up on YouTube. I'll not post them all here, but you can follow the link on the right if you want to check them out. I will also take requests should someone have a tune they'd like to have recorded!

Flute playing priest finds YouTube fame