Saturday, April 28, 2007

Sparse Posts

I've been sparse in posting this week. I played at Siobhan Moore's Feis today -- totallY awesome. Best feis of the season, truth be told. Done by 4:00 (4:00 for the whole feis; I was done by 3:00).

Tomorrow I'm playing in Hartford for John O'Keefe.

With any luck, I'll have things to post tomorrow night/Monday.


Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Fordham Media Onslaught!

The Spring 2007 edition of Fordham Magazine is carrying an interview I gave several months ago. You can download it here:

Fordham Magazine

Just scroll down to the bottom of the page and you can download the .pdf file. My only quibble: I do know that the quote "it is not I who lives, but Christ lives in me" is not a Gospel quote. It is Galatians 2:20, but in the condensing of the article I suspect that they were put together. Lord knows, I'd not be able to claim lineage of Bob "I'm a Missouri Synod Lutheran and we know the Bible" Duns if I didn't know a bit of scripture!

I returned at 2:00 am from my trip to Denver. As usual, I had a great time with Anne Hall and her mother Maureen. A special shot out to Sheila and Rosemary, who I'm sure will be reading today.

I have another post in the works, but I need to get through a TON of work before I finish it up.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Inside Fordham

From the March 16th Issue:

Entering Second Decade, Irish Institute Aims Higher
By Brian Kluepfel

To Eoin O’Connell, a visiting Ph.D. candidate in philosophy from Dublin, and administrative director of Fordham’s Institute of Irish Studies, meeting Irish in the American diaspora has been “an eye-opening experience.”

“Students have this inchoate sense that they’re Irish,” said Eoin O’Connell, at left, administrative director of the Institute of Irish Studies.
Photo by Ken Levinson
“Their appropriation of what Irish is, is hugely different,” he said. Fordham College’s Irish Studies minor allows students to examine those Celtic roots. “Students have this inchoate sense that they’re Irish,” said O’Connell. “But they’re not sure what that means, and they want to explore it further.” His course in Fall 2007, Questioning Irish, will ask the question: “What does the ‘Irish’ before the hyphen mean?”

O’Connell and his teaching colleagues continue to probe what exactly Irish Studies is. “We know why we study math and biology,” he said. “But why Irish Studies? It’s a discipline that needs to find a justification for itself.” These are the issues that concern the University’s evolving Institute of Irish Studies, he focus of which has been evolving since its founding in 1998.

Belfast-born poet Joseph Campbell founded an original Fordham School of Irish Studies in 1928. Campbell taught classes on Irish drama, literature and poetry. The program began with four courses, five public lectures and two plays. Nearly 300 students registered in the 1928-1929 academic year, and enrollment was steady over the program’s four years.

Fast forward to the mid-1990s. A group of faculty saw the need for and interest in Irish Studies at the University. John McCarthy, Ph.D., professor emeritus of history, was the early driving force behind the program’s reincarnation, and several public events were hosted at the Lincoln Center campus. Gale Swiontkowski, Ph.D., the current program director, also credited Robert Grimes, S.J., dean of Fordham College at Lincoln Center, as an early proponent of the Institute. When McCarthy retired in 2002, the division of labor between public programs and academic was split, and Swionkowsky assumed the academic role.

Gale Swiontkowski, Ph.D., program director.
Photo by Ken Levinson
Irish Studies is currently offered as a minor to Fordham undergraduates, who must take one literature, one history, and four other courses to fulfill the requirement. O’Connell is optimistic about formalizing a summer exchange program with universities in Ireland for the summer of 2008, through which groups of Fordham students will be able to go to Ireland together. If interested, they could then expand their studies into a full Irish Studies major.

The institute is beginning to connect with students on a cultural as well as intellectual level. Last semester’s one-credit Introduction to Tin Whistle, taught by a visiting scholastic, Ryan Duns, S.J., was filled to capacity at 35 students. Duns connected to the students through the most modern of techniques, posting lessons and information on the website, and his own blogspot, “A Jesuit’s Journey.” A YouTube broadcast of Duns playing the classic “Star of the County Down” and other lessons are currently available online. Next semester a one-credit course in Irish dance will be offered, and the Institute plans to have an Irish Gaelic language class in the 2007-2008 academic year, as well.

“It’s a way to connect to what students want,” said O’Connell. “The way forward for us is to really promote these cultural aspects.” He said that while growing up in Ireland, Irish dance was looked down upon by the majority of his peer group as “terminally uncool”— perhaps because of the long-term effect of the ‘internalized colonial’ mindset of the Irish people themselves. Yet in America, Irish dance is much more popular and accepted, he said.

The institute co-sponsored the recent lecture on Jonathan Swift by Ian Campbell Ross, Ph.D., of Trinity College, Dublin, as part of the Eighteenth Century Seminar. Nancy Curtin, Ph.D., professor of history at Fordham College Rose Hill, assumes the program director’s role in September. O’Connell called Curtin “one of the preeminent scholars in Irish History. She’s internationally recognized.”

Entering its second decade, the Institute of Irish Studies continues to reach out to students and emphasize, as O’Connell said, “that being Irish doesn’t just mean coming from Ireland.”

Monday, April 16, 2007

So Sad Today

If I didn't suspect that other people were grieving right now, I probably would remain silent on the topic. But I do believe that I join millions around the nation and around the globe as we mourn the tragedy that has taken place at Virginia Tech.

I know, I know. I can already hear the rejoinders saying "More people die each day in Iraq!" "More babies are aborted each hour!" I know this, and I grieve this as well.

But today strikes me in a different way, I guess, because these students could have been my students.

As someone who loves college-age students and hopes to dedicate his life to teaching them, I am distraught over what has happened. Students who woke up, rolled out of bed, and stumbled to class are now dead. Unrealized dreams, unsaid "I love yous", unknown possibilities snuffed out in what might be described ironically as a methodical rampage.

My heart breaks for the students at Virginia Tech. It breaks for the parents and family members of the murdered students. It just breaks at the senseless violence that has erupted, that continues to erupt.

I was praying on next Sunday's gospel "Peter, feed my lambs/tend my sheep/feed my sheep" from John's gospel. Having learned of the carnage, I brought my sorrow to my prayer and I tried to take it to Jesus. Jesus' question to Peter "Do you Love me" I imagined as being posed to me: "Ryan, do you love me?"

And, to be honest, I couldn't say yes. My heart was, and is, filled with such sadness that it's hard to find the place that love should be.

I have, for a long time, prayed for the grace of compassion. Perhaps the quiet cracking of my heart tonight is an answer to that prayer, the silent crumbling of the heart's walls that have until now kept me from feeling the terrors that are so much a part of this world. I ache for the moms and dads and grandparents and siblings of the slain students who may never have realized the fragility of life until this morning...and even then, so late...too late.

So please know that on this night I sit in prayerful vigil for those who have lost, and been lost, on this day. I pray a prayer of presence, of joining my heart to many others. Tonight I place myself with so many others at the cross of this senseless tragedy, gazing to the sky and through tear-blurred eyes wondering "Why" this has happened. No divine illumination, no sweet music marks this prayer. It is greeted only by silence, an abyss of unknowing, and the feeble hope that those who are in most need of grace and healing will find it extended to them by pierced hands.

***Post Script****

Parents, if you haven't done so in awhile, please tell your kids that you love them. Kids, please tell your parents/family members the same. I would be remiss to think that I neglected to encourage this because it is so important

Friday, April 13, 2007

Few Odds and Ends

It's been a relatively busy week. I'm preparing for a 4-day trip to Denver next weekend, so I am continuing to work ahead in order to clear up ample space to play a two-day feis and to spend time with my dear friend, Anne Hall. So please forgive the paucity of posts!

1. Thanks to Karen Hall for the lovely Rosary she left for me. Green beads impressed with the image of a shamrock and a glass-encased clover adorn this beautiful prayer instrument. Thank you Karen - I'll do a prayerful "shot out" for you tonight!!

2. The second Rosary shot will be going out to Joe's son Davy. Joe has begun a 54-day Rosary Novena as a means of prayerfully supporting Davy as he enters into a new form of treatment for autism. Confident in the abilities of those who read my blog - without regard to creed - I entrust Davy to all of your prayers.

I haven't much else to blog about. I'm sure there's something amusing that I could share, but I can't seem to think of it. Should something come upon me, however, be assured that it'll make its way here!

Monday, April 09, 2007

Like a Thief in the Night

So on Saturday I attended the vigil Mass at St. Ignatius Parish on Park Avenue. I cannot begin to extol the glory of this liturgy: the music was sublime, the homily was gorgeous, and the congregation really seemed to invest themselves in the three-hour service. Making it all the more beautiful was reception of 23 women and men into the Roman Catholic Church with my good friend, Jane Dryden, numbered amongst them.

Beneath the pomp and majesty celebrating the Risen Lord, below the fanfare and joyful singing that reached skyward, under it all there was one thing amiss, one radical deficiency that kept me from having a transcendental experience of prayer.

Violated rubrics? No. Twelve gorillas carrying up the gifts? Nope. Liberace singing the Exultet? Not even close.

So what was it?

Well, at the beginning of the vigil the church's lights are shut off and we stand in the dark. Engulfed by still blackness, the clutch of darkness is to be shattered by the lighting of the fire. Hands clasped in prayer, my eyes strained through the inky stillness to catch a glimpse of the soon-to-erupt fire, hoping to see the transformation of the church as the blazing fire illumined those surrounding it.

And so as I prayed, as I recalled the graces of this Lent, as I thanked God for the ways I had grown closer to Christ it was not my eyes that were met with irruptive presence.

Nope. It was my ears, and then my nose.

The little kid sitting directly behind me began barfing his brains out just moments after the lights went out.

Now, this is terrible on several accounts. First, the kid is heaving up his McDonald's Happy Meal onto the floor. Second, it's deadly silent in the church, so everyone can hear it. Third, where do you go? You just can't rush out of the middle of the pew carrying the kid as though he were an accessory, a Puking Purse if you will.

Perhaps the worst part of it all: you can't see ANYTHING!!

Do you know how terrifying it is to have someone heaving his guts out directly behind you and all you know is that it SOUNDS really close and that it SMELLS even closer? I was bloody terrified to kneel down lest the tips of my newly-shined shoes should encounter a putrefied pile of Chicken McNuggets. Having worked in a summer camp for seven summers, I know the sounds of the body and I reckoned this kid's spew to be equal parts solid and liquid, which means that the chunky islands would be surrounded by a capricious sea of Mc Milk Shake.

So as we lit our candles one off of another, I did what any self-respecting Christian in my position would do: I peered behind me to see if I was in any danger of stepping/kneeling/or in any other way coming into contact with Easter greeting lurking behind me.

Lesson: barf looks scarier when illuminated by a candle than it does when the lights are on.

Thus was the beginning of the vigil. In reality, this whole affair occupied but ten minutes of the three-hour liturgy but I thought a little levity wouldn't hurt the ol' blog.

Happy Easter!

Saturday, April 07, 2007

Holy Saturday

Last year on Holy Saturday, I was privileged to be present to a large group of teenagers who had gathered at the hospital in the wake a a terrible car accident. It occurred to me then, and it has stayed with me, that the fear and anxiety they felt marked something of what the apostles felt in the wake of Good Friday. Dreams and hopes dashed, the taken-for-granted past now a painful memory nearly erased by the trauma of a violent death. They're lives seem shattered, their faith seems for naught, their hopes wither and die.

I can't help but to think about how many of us live lives of perpetual Holy Saturdays. How many struggle just to hold on after the sudden death of a loved one, fumbling in the depths of grief for something to hold on to. The young mother awaiting a cancer diagnosis. The parents whose child is gravely ill. The father rousted from deep sleep with the news that his son has been in a terrible car accident. The fearful waiting, the seemingly feeble and empty prayers, the bargaining, the denial, the resigned acceptance, the anger...

For those who struggle to find meaning in this day, think back upon your own life. When in your life have you locked yourself away that the sun might not shine on your grieving face? When did you experience the harrowing and crushing pressure of the unknowing and doubt that plagues us when our world has been turned upside down? When did you last feel the sheer agony of disappointment for what "could have been" but "never will be"?

These are our Holy Saturdays, the days that follow in the wake of a trauma. Like the water churned in the wake of a boat, the waters surge and roil long after the boat has passed by; the violence of "You have cancer" or "Mr. Jones, we need you to come to the hospital, there has been an accident" breaks in upon us, leaving us adrift and disoriented in its wake.

Sometimes, it's all we can do to hold tighten our grip when everything within us tells us to let go, to give up, to despair. Sometimes it seems as though the chaos of our lives drowns out all other voices, all words of support, all hope for the future.

I think we'd like to consider ourselves an Easter people, those animated by the joy and majesty of the resurrection. Sinners all, I suspect we are actually denizens of Holy Saturday who only every now and again catch glimpses of Easter's triumph.

My prayer today brings me back to those times in my life when I have had staggering doubt and fear and disappointment...especially when there was no light at the end of the tunnel or any hope for victory. These experiences, I find, draw me into today's spirit - waiting, trusting, hoping against hope. If the night is darkest just before dawn, then we have reached this point that seems to extend into infinity - a point of time pregnant with as-yet unimagined opportunities, with un-thought of promise, with incomprehensible grace.

Many will go to bed tonight only to awaken to another Holy Saturday, another in an unending stream of doubt-filled and anxiety-ridden days. Let us be conscious of them today as we absorb the trauma of yesterday and look with hope-filled anticipation toward tomorrow. Let our prayers this day be for those whose lives are forever a repetition Holy Saturday, that they may glimpse in their dark hours a speck of Easter's light that threatens to break in upon us, announcing a new dawn, a new day, a new era.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Back to Normal?

I'll confess that I cringe when I hear things like, "Geez, I can't wait until Lent is over! I want things to get back to normal."

The reason I cringe is simple: if your life goes back to normal after Lent, if after weeks of prayer and liturgical movement toward the Passion, Death, and Resurrection of Christ you have not been in the slightest way affected, then you've missed the whole point of Lent. If you have seen Lent as a period of 40-some odd days when you "Don't do this" or "Do this every day" as though it's some Iron Man competition for the soul, then you've failed to be grasped by its importance.

Lent is not a time for doing. Surely, there are elements of that present. It is a time of being: being present with Christ as he ministers and as he faces opposition, present as he is betrayed, present as he is abandoned, present as he breaks into our lives on Easter Sunday. Lent is a time for falling more deeply in love, a time for reflecting on how we've lived as disciples and the ways in which we are called to follow more nearly, see more clearly, and love more dearly. If Easter is an axis that turns you back into the humdrum of your daily life without any mark, wholly unscathed, then did you really give yourself over to the experience?

We so often hear people say things such as "this book/person/poem/song/trip/etc. changed my life". How has Lent, then, impacted us? Has it been a mild inconvenience or a challenge? Has it been a season in which we encounter Christ anew and commit ourselves again as disciples? Has our prayer been touched or our hearts moved in some way?

Don't get me wrong - I'm no mystic and I certainly don't end this Lent with a profoundly altered view of the world. But I know that my commitment to prayer and to getting to know the Lord again in this season has marked me forever. It is a "new normal" that I enter - a "new normal" marked by a desire to serve as a disciple, a desire to respond even though I know I will fail at times, a desire to walk more as a Companion of Jesus.

What is your new normal? It's not too late, it's never too late, to have that encounter that shakes your heart! To fall in love with Christ daily, but most especially in this season, is a tremendous grace. A grace lived out in the shadow of the cross. A grace accepted with trembling hands. A grace of a "new normal" in which we hear Christ say to us "I do not call you servants, I call you friends."

As we enter into Holy Thursday, my prayer is that any who read this blog will find but a few minutes to reflect on their lives with Christ. Allow the heartrending sorrow and triumphant joy of this season penetrate your heart deeply. Allow the experience of falling in love to break you out of the daily hell of "normal" and draw you into the ongoing adventure of committed discipleship, the "new normal" that awaits all those who answer their call to 'come and see.'

Flute playing priest finds YouTube fame