Wednesday, January 31, 2007

This week's tune

Because I have nowhere else to put it, I'm posting this week's tune on my blog. "The Star of the County Down" is a commonly heard piece and, while not terrifically difficult, it does provide a good template on which to practice several important tin whistle movements.

As I noted on the FaceBook page for the Fordham students, this is an imperfect rendering of the tune. The first "A" could well be a "G" and, on the video, I think I play both. Nevertheless, it's still a decent skeletal structure to work with.

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Gospel Explorations

Tomorrow night I and two other Jesuits (Chris Johnson and Drew Marquard) will launch a new group here at Fordham University. Entitled "Gospel Explorations" it is a group that prays over and reflects upon that Sunday's gospel. Meeting on Monday evenings from 8:00-9:00, we are hoping to build a community of students who desire to spend time praying and discussing the gospel and finding ways to integrate the Word into their lives.

Why is this necessary?

Having worked with college students for several years, I have no doubt that they are sincere and genuine thinkers. Even their oft-quoted, yet jejune, "Well, I'm spiritual but not religious" betrays an impulse present in each of them that drives them to seek some form of deeper connection with the Holy Other.

The problem, particularly in a Catholic context, is that these students are absolutely starved for spiritual nourishment. In fact, in my limited experience of traveling to various parish churches (when I had to travel for music especially) I can't tell you how many times I walked away wondering how people endured the homilies they listened to each week. Just last weekend, for instance, I celebrated the Eucharist in a local church where I and about ninety others heard a homily inveighing against all those persons who didn't go to Mass. Strange...a homily about mass attendance delivered to people who attend Mass.

There are those who say that too much attention is paid to the Liturgy of the Word and that we have downplayed the centrality of the Liturgy of the Eucharist (as though they were opposed to each other). As I see it, the liturgy of the Word is a moment where the Living Word of God has a viable chance of breaking into our hardened hearts, piercing the layers of sadness and indifference and entering into our lives in a real and transformative way. Think of it as fertilizing the field or creating a beautiful frame for a piece of art - the Liturgy of the Word should be an arena of encounter which guides us into the great Mystery of God-with-Us made really present in the Eucharist.

In short, we created this group in order to give the students a fighting chance of finding some way to see how God's Word is relevant in their lives. Of course, I think we do a better job than most here at Fordham and I find that the homilies each week are quite good. Nevertheless, I can't help but think that the creation of a group that invites the students to read, pray over, and discuss the Gospel a week in advance will be of great help to them.

I post this because I think it is in the best interest of those interested in experiencing wholly the liturgy to take the time each week to read the week's readings. A simple activity, really, but taking just five to ten minutes each day to read that Sunday's gospel and then (perhaps) to imagine how YOU would preach it. How would you make God's word relevant to you and to people like yourself?

Think of the ministerial potential: first, you'd have a sense of how the Word connects to your life and experience. Second, as you gain greater insight into how you are challenged and inspired by the gospel, you may find yourself in a position to share with others from your growing riches. Third, each week you could take your struggles and joys, fears and hopes, to the text and ask for illumination and guidance.

That's my preachiness for the day. I'm hoping to have a clip from our Candidate Weekend showing Michael Magree, SJ and I playing for our "Coffee House." It's one of the few clips actually showing me playing the accordion!

Friday, January 26, 2007

Candidate Weekend

Fifteen men of varying ages and backgrounds have descended on Ciszek this weekend in order to "Come and See" what life is like as a Jesuit scholastic. We are all of us playing a role in this weekend: I'm preparing dessert tomorrow (Bread pudding with whiskey cream sauce), playing the ol' squeeze box at our coffee house, and then preparing brunch on Sunday. It's exciting and heartening to meet so many guys interested in joining the Society!

It was a quiet week with very little to report on. I re-read the post I wrote almost one year ago (on the 28th of January) and I marvel at how far I've come this year! It's surreal. From gunshot wounds to Wittgenstein in twelve sounds more like a self-help book than Jesuit formation.

A new YouTube video has been posted (week 3's lesson). Drew and I also made an executive decision today to broaden our horizons so look for some "scene changes" to come in the very near future. It probably won't be until week 6, but I have a feeling that, given enough time and creativity, learning the Tin Whistle will get even *more* interesting than it is now...

More to come!

Sunday, January 21, 2007

You Know It's Cold When...

You're standing at the finish line at today's New York Road Runners Half-Marathon
and, as the runners cross the finish line, you notice less their gasping for breath and more the fact that icicles hang from their beards and hair and that their shirts are stiff from frozen sweat.

Now were I to have made the exercise video (leotard rather than tin whistle) maybe I would have been in good enough shape to run in today's event. As it turns out, I went with Mara Brecht (another grad student here at Fordham) in order to cheer Mike Jacko, SJ and Drew Marquard, SJ as they braved the BITTER cold. There are few times in my life that I can remember being as cold as I was today and I even dressed in six layers of clothing.

Sadly, Mara and I provided more "holding coats/bags" support than moral support - since it was so cold, we opted to meet them immediately at the finish line rather than finding them at some point on the route -- neither of us wanted them to have to wait to get their heavier, and warmer, clothes back that we had to hold for them while they raced.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Exercise Video

Drew and I put together an exercise video that is now posted to YouTube. Now, don't get any ideas of seeing me in a leotard and leg warmers (My God would that be awful).

The video in question is an Tonguing Exercise (again, refrain from allowing your sick imagination too much license) that is used for tin whistle playing. If you're keeping up with the series, this video should be of help to you!

Learn to Play the Tin Whistle

(the best part of this is that it is free!)

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Fordham University Presents: Introduction to the Irish Tin Whistle Week 2

Thanks to the labors of Drew Marquard, SJ I believe this video to be of a MUCH higher quality that the first video. I post it here more because I'd love to solicit feeback from people as to what I might do to improve on it. Note: I just couldn't resist putting at least a little reference to St. Ignatius in the video!

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Classes Resume

I had two classes yesterday: my "Intro to the Irish Tin Whistle" and a course on St. Augustine. I was thrilled with the number of students who attended the whistle class - over forty - and I have high hopes for this semester. My philosophy course was very good, too, and I'm excited to be taking this class.

Drew and I will be video taping two new segments for my course. I hope to have them edited and posted by this evening. At heart, this series is intended for anyone who is interested in learning to play the tin whistle and I'm trying to gear the videos to be as simple and straight forward as possible. If you're interested, please enroll in the YouTube group (following the link above) and let me know if I can be of help.

I've been thinking a lot about how quickly this last year has gone by. Just one year ago, I baptized my first baby. A year later, her family still grieves the loss and I study philosophy. There's a cruelty in that: I was, each night, able to leave the hospital and I've now moved on from that experience, although I continue to 'live out' of that ministry of chaplaincy. Yet for so many families and persons I met over those five months, they continue to live the experience of pain and loss - and, to be sure, triumph and grace - in a way that I cannot comprehend.

Part of the difficulty of being in studies is that it is an inherently ascetical period of time with long hours being spent studying and researching and writing. I think that, were it not for being able to teach and perform music, I would be most miserable - I joined the Society of Jesus to help people! I'm finding that coupling my passion for music and teaching helps to sustain my own academic work while giving me a chance to socialize and bring my love of Irish music to 40+ students.

So that's that for today. I have to procure my crimson red cape and a Fulton Sheen-esque biretta and a cool chalkboard for my next video. I might even make a mission appeal for the Pagan Babies and then, following the lesson on how to play a simple polka, I will deliver a long harangue addressing the evils of communism and making outlandish accusations about Rock Hudson and Audrey Hepburn being members of the Red Party.

Too much time on my hands!

Tuesday, January 16, 2007


Blogger is being a bit wonky with my latest video. Hopefully this problem will be resolved soon!

As it is now officially Tuesday, January 16th, classes are back in session. I will greet forty eager minds (and fingers) this evening with my inaugural lecture: "How to hold and blow the tin whistle." If it's really good, maybe I can deliver it at Oxford...

Monday, January 15, 2007

Tin Whistle Duet

I can be candid in saying that this is one of the coolest tin whistle tricks I've seen. I mean, I'm lucky to be able to play with my own hands, but to switch hands?

This is Michael and Brian, my two music students. Shot by Drew Marquard, SJ at the Duns Family St. Stephen's Day Extravaganza, this video is a quick testament to their talent. I uploaded another video to YouTube that shows us playing another jig together but, as this is by far the cooler of the two, I thought I'd post it here.

Friday, January 12, 2007

I've been Tagged!

I never get tagged on these "Meme" jobs, so it is my great honor to get to answer it. Thanks to Joe who tagged me:

[A is for apparitions - your favorite]: I'm tempted to say that it is Mother Theresa's face appearing in a cinnamon bun. And yet, I'm partial to Lourdes (I'm a sucker for the "Song of Bernadette")

[B is for Bible - the one you read most often]: The Christian one. I find the New Oxford Annotated Bible to be quite fine

[C is for Charism - the one you would most like to have]: The Ability to read souls.

[D is for Doctor of the Church - your favorite]: Robert Bellarmine

[E is for Essential Prayer - What’s yours?]: Prayer for Generosity

[F is for Favorite Hymn]: Magnificat

[G is for Gospel - your favorite author?]: Luke

[H is for Holy Communion - How would you describe it, using one word?]: Nourishing.

[I is for Inspiration - When do you feel most inspired by God?]: Teaching.

[J is for Jesus - When did you first meet Him?]: As a little boy when I would say my prayers imagining that Jesus tucked me into my bed.

[K is for Kindness - Which saint or person has most inspired you by their kindness?]: Alphonsus Rodriguez, SJ.

[L is for liturgical year - your favorite time in the liturgical cycle?]: Advent

[M is for Mary, the Mother of God - Your favorite term of endearment for her]: Full of Grace

[N is for New Testament - Your favorite passage]: Mark 9:24 "I do believe! Help my unbelief"

[O is for Old Testament - Your favorite Book here]: Job.

[P is for Psalms - your favorite]: Psalm 139

[Q is for quote - saint quote]: “My Longing for Truth was a Single Prayer.” - Edith Stein

[R is for rosary - your favorite mysteries]: The Sorrowful

[S is for Saint - the one you turn to in time of need - not including the Blessed Virgin Mary]: St. Ignatius Loyola

[T is for Tradition - your favorite Catholic tradition]: The litany of saints

[U is for university - Which Catholic University have you attended or are currently attending?]: I am currently at Fordham University where I study and teach. I did my first year at Boston College, earned a BA from Canisius College, an MA at John Carroll University, and I've both attended and taught at the University of Detroit-Mercy.

[V is for Virtue - the one you wish you had]: Fortitude.

[W is for Way of the Cross - Which station can you most relate to?]: Jesus Falls.

[X is for Xaverian Brothers - Do you know who they are?]: Aren't they students from the Marvel Series X-Men? Yes, I do - they are teachers

[Y is for your favorite Catholic musician]: Boy George is a Catholic, but I don't like him at all. I don't know...never gave much thought to this one. I'd have to say maybe Enya?

[Z is for Zeal for the faith]: I should think so!

Passing this along, I tag Sister Sandy Yost, CSJ to perpetuate this cycle!

Monday, January 08, 2007

Back in NYC

Having just returned to NYC and unpacked my bags, I have to re-pack for a three-day retreat I will depart for tomorrow. Of course there will be no updates while I'm gone but, when I return, expect a flurry of activity. The tin whistle class begins in just one week and I have much work to do to prepare for it!

Friday, January 05, 2007

Me and my Sister's Ball-and-Chain (AKA Boyz in the Hoodies)

It's an odd phenomenon the Duns family faces: what to do with two Irish musicians in the house? Well, Brian Halloran and I are soon to be family: Brian is my sisters fiancee. Just before Christmas we recorded this little video (more out of silliness than anything else)!

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Happy New Year!

A belated happy new year to all!

Things have been pretty hectic these last few days. I went to our Formation Conference last weekend, returned late on New Year's Eve, and then taught music on both Monday and Tuesday. Today I am going to finish a book about Theresa of Avila and then begin a book on Catholics and American Culture by Mark Massa, SJ.

I had a touch of a cold last week with all of the obligatory symptoms: sore throat, runny nose, headache, swollen feet (oops, that's my Grandma Hagan's big complaint, not mine). Can you explain to me why, then, one pill can't cover all of the symptoms? The available medications are fabulous: Tylenol Cold-and-teeth-whitener-plus-scrubbing bubbles-and-wood refinisher is a great product, so long as in addition to household chores it accomplishes something small, like turning my drippy nose off! I mean, some of these pills will do your homework for you, put you to sleep, dry your nose, but still leave you with an awful headache, while others will treat the head and nose and leave your throat terribly sore.

Yep, I am a big baby. But it just seems strange that we have pills that can do everything (it seems) except treat the symptoms most common to a cold.

It's the same thing with toothpaste. I hate buying toothpaste and shampoo (which, thanks to my baldness, I have to do less and less frequently). But toothpaste? How in God's name am I to know what to buy? I drink enough tea so I need teeth-whitening, but which brand? Which type of effervescent action do I need - baking soda, hydrogen peroxide, a mix of the two? Although I fancy myself fairly tough-skinned, do I have sensitive teeth? Do I need a breath freshening strip of minty flavor or do I just want a tube of regular monochrome paste? Is a pea-sized amount really all I need, or do I need to cover all of the bristles? And can somebody explain how it is that I am supposed to roll up the tube from the end because whenever I do it it looks like the end of a gift ribbon and I'm sure there's still valuable toothpaste residing in its circuitous folds! Why do I feel like choosing a toothpaste is invested with the same importance as choosing the course of treatment for cancer?

Probably because I am neurotic.

While I own that it is often good to write on spiritual topics, I just want my readers to know that I face the same trials that you do: I, too, obsess over toothpaste and over the counter medicines and flavors of coffee. I am in solidarity with the common person! I am one of the people! I could be a contender!

A silly mood begets a silly post. I'm off now to get lunch. I'm thinking Chinese food, although have you seen the choices? How does one know the difference between.......

Happy New Year!

Flute playing priest finds YouTube fame