Saint O’the Day: St. Juan Diego (Dec. 9th)

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Please download and share this presentation – PDF

I particularly like this prayer found at the USCCB website.

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I’m using the beginning of my class tomorrow to show Pope Francis’ prayer intention for December 2016:

And I’ll support Pope Francis’ prayer by introducing my students to the statistics and the work down by this organization – War Child

New (Church) Year’s Eve, New Blog Directions & Adventures with Moana

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I’m enjoying a quiet Thanksgiving weekend and it seems like a good time to pause and write. In many ways, it’s the calm before the storm – midterms begin for us on 14 December and there are too few school days and too much content for me to teach between now and then. And we get an unexpected day off as our football team is playing (for the second year in a row) for the Ohio state title next Friday. Awesome (yet one less teaching day.)

Have you noticed a somewhat different direction for this blog? Yes, the mission and the writers have shifted. The original purpose (see the “About” for details) was to share ideas and insights about technology – especially as it can be used to support the work educators do in their classrooms. This focus, over time, expanded to include internet resources which could make us smile, think, and pray.

After taking a hiatus from writing here over the summer and enjoying time reading many novels and other books, I returned in the fall with a new focus. Every school day since mid-August, I’ve created and posted a presentation about the Saint O’the Day. This is a labor of love as I’ve grown in devotion to the saints and I desire to share what I’m learning about “our extended family in Heaven” with my students and others.

The writers of this blog have shifted too. Initially it was a trio of us creating this site. But time commitments and interests change. Tera, my Religion colleague, is now our Campus Ministry Director and our excellent retreat program (plus the day to day of teaching) takes much of her focus. And Rachel, my colleague who teaches Spanish, has become the publisher of our weekly faculty/staff newsletter (and is doing a great job with it).

So, that leaves me (Rick) – freshman and sophomore Religion teacher, husband of a fellow Religion teacher and school colleague, dad of a teen and near-teen, aficionado of technology, music, wine, walking, and life in general!

And Happy New (Church) Year’s Eve. On this very last day of CY2016, the lectionary reading has Christ assuring St. John and us: “‘Behold, I am coming soon.’ Blessed is the one who keeps the prophetic message of this book.” Furthermore, we pray in the Responsorial Psalm: “Marana tha! Come, Lord Jesus!”

Yes, 2017 begins for us tomorrow with the changing of the colors and the lighting of the advent wreath. As I wonder about what adventures this coming church year will hold, I’m listening to the main song from the wonderful new film (which I saw on Thanksgiving): Moana. It’s all about hearing one’s calling and discovering strength to courageously pursue it.

I’ll be back to share more during Advent. Until then, may you hear the voice of God, see the light of Christ, and be drawn this church year towards the horizon “where the water meets the sky.”

Happy Thanksgiving – Videos and Games

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It’s maybe too late for you to use these videos with your classes (like I did today), but I share them anyway. Or perhaps you’re not even in school today and you’d like to share these videos with family and friends during your Thanksgiving celebration.

This is a beautiful and inspiring one narrated by the renowned founder of Gratefulness.org 

Or maybe you’d like to celebrate by singing two uplifting Thanksgiving “carols”

And how about fun board games to play after dinner (rather than turning on a screen)

Or, you can really keep it simple and play this topical game after dinner or even at the table – Gratitude A to Z   Here’s the start of my list of what I’m grateful for right now:

A – apples, axes (without which there’d be no firewood), apes (Harambe, we miss thee)

B- baseball (what a season!), bowling (getting to be the season for it), Bread, Panera

C – cookies, cake, caterpillars (aka, pre-butterflies)

D, E, F….

 

Friday FunPost: Great Music Genres Video and A Clever Book on Music

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It’s been quite a few weeks since a true Friday FunPost. Lent is over, I’m not on break and I found something quite appropriate for this feature.

Spend a few minutes (less than 6 actually), enjoying this creative and educational medley by a young band from Europe:

Not only am I impressed by the precision in cutting from one genre to the next, the costumes are pretty awesome. And I learned about a few genres which haven’t (yet?) caught on in the U.S.

I’ve been thinking about musical genres lately as I discovered a really clever book which seeks to explode the whole concept. The thesis in Every Song Ever: Twenty Ways to Listen in an Age of Musical Plenty by Ben Ratliff invites the reader to move beyond genres which are based more on commercial categorization rather than structural similarities from piece to piece.

In a new era where most any listener can easily access almost any song ever recorded, Ratliff proposes a new methodology for creating digital playlists. He presents and discusses twenty playlists with themes related to the underlying elements of the music rather than its often arbitrary “type.” Some of these themes are “Slowness,” “Virtuosity” and “Density.”

I’ve only read the first chapter on “repetition” entitled “Let Me Concentrate!” After defining this concept, the author analyzes a diverse set of musical pieces which illustrate it in a wide variety of ways. I really like how he uses thought-provoking metaphors which stretch my understanding and subsequent appreciation of works with which I was unfamiliar.

For example, he uses a piece called “Four Organs” composed and performed by Steve Reich in 1970. On page 20, Ratliff writes:

This aspect of “Four Organs” – its “repetition” – is like playing a peekaboo game with a child. You’re going to do it over and over: that’s the repetition. But you’ve got to keep changing the way you do it, otherwise he’ll expect it and will not be surprised. And at some point in the game – it doesn’t take very long to get there – you and the child understand each other; you know each other’s reaction time, range of facial expressions, sense of humor, degree of patience.

After reading this description, I found the piece within my Apple Music subscription. I listened to it for a couple of minutes before I decided the repetition annoyed and bothered me, so I turned it off. While I won’t likely listen to the piece again, I am grateful to have been directed toward it as an example of an important element of musical form.

And I’m particularly grateful that Ratliff mentions the featured pieces twice in each chapter – in the text and in a handy list (in order of mention) from which a digital playlist can quickly be created. I look forward to more reading and listening and learning via this book.

Today (March 22nd)is World Water Day!

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Yes, it’s late in the day and ideally this post should have come yesterday or at least earlier today. But, with something as essential as H2O , better late than never.

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When you think about it, I really should have had this day highlighted well in advance on my calendar (rather than just discover it right now on the Google blog). I don’t give much credence to the Zodiac, but I do know that I’m the “water bearer” – Aquarius. This suits me to a T as I’m known to leave home with far more (reusable) bottles of water than I’ll ever need. BTW, for what it’s worth, the best reusable I’ve ever owned is by Kleen Kanteen. 

To celebrate World Water Day, here’s some important facts from the International Business Times:

1. 1.8 billion people around the world lack access to safe water.

2. Globally, a third of all schools lack access to safe water and adequate sanitation.

3. In low- and middle-income countries, a third of all healthcare facilities lack a safe water source.

4. The World Economic Forum in January 2015 ranked the water crisis as the No. 1 global risk based on impact to society (as a measure of devastation).

5. The incidence of children suffering from stunting and chronic malnutrition — at least 160 million — is linked to water and sanitation.

6. More than 840,000 people die from a water-related disease each year, including diarrhea caused by bad drinking water, hygiene and sanitation.

7. Eighty-two percent of people who don’t have access to “improved” water live in rural areas.

8. More than one-third of people worldwide lack access to a toilet, more than the number of people who have a mobile phone.

9. Women and children spend 125 million hours collecting fresh water every day. Individual women and children spend as many as six hours collecting fresh water daily.

10. Every 90 seconds a child dies from a water-related disease.

11. Universal access to safe water and sanitation would result in $18.5 billion in economic benefits each year from deaths avoided alone, a return of $4 for every dollar spent on safe water access.

12. The amount of safe water could drop by 40 percent in 15 years if people do not change the way they use water.

Pretty shocking and downright scandalous realities about this absolutely essential natural resource. Especially #10 above, shouldn’t happen in the 21st century.

More facts and illustrations can be found at water.org 

And from Charity: Water comes this high-tech, heart-breaking and amazing short film:

Also DROP4DROP seeks to raise awareness of the global water crisis and aid communities in getting the water they desperately need.

So, this Easter Sunday, when you get splashed by holy water while renewing your baptismal vows, say a prayer for those without clean, safe water. And maybe also give to one or more of these worthy organizations.

Tuesday FaithPost – Powerful Stations of the Cross by Busted Halo

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Is it Friday already? No, sadly it is not yet. I’m sharing a FaithPost a couple of days early as I want to offer this wonderful resource now, so that you could possibly use it before or during Holy Week.

The good Paulist Fathers who create the awesome, newly redesigned, young-adult site Busted Halo, have put together a quite powerful set of videos following the Stations of the Cross. Each video uses just text and music to tell the story and interpret the meaning of each of the fourteen traditional moments in Christ’s Passion. Here’s the fourth station, which I find particularly moving and insightful:

There’s a lot I like about these videos. But two aspects are particularly meaningful. First, the overarching theme of this version of the Way of the Cross is the Kingdom of God. This central vision of Jesus’ ministry is at the heart of the gospel and thus something which we must emphasize time and again to those to whom we minister.

I also find the simple music accompanying the words on the screen provocative, compelling and deeply moving. The piano melody used with the stations in which Jesus Meets His Mother, Veronica Wipes the Face of Jesus and Jesus Meets the Women of Jerusalem is one I find haunting and well-matched to the emotions of these encounters.

I’m using these videos in our chapel as a prayer service with all five of my classes today. It has worked better with my one sophomore class than my two freshmen ones. I think the greater maturity and developing wisdom in the older students is the main difference.

I’ve created this presentation to use with the videos. It should be pretty self-explanatory – show the slide introducing a station, play the video and then prayerfully read the supporting slide while giving the viewers/participants a few moments to reflect.

A couple of things you may wonder about the presentation: The photos of the crosses were ones that I took while visiting Christ in the Desert Monastery in northern New Mexico a few years ago.  And the colors of the background of the slides is meant to represent the transition and transformation of this time in Lent, to Holy Week and then to Easter.

I hope you find this Busted Halo Stations of the Cross as meaningful and useful as I do. The video below will link you to the playlist of  all the fourteen stations.

May you have a blessed Fifth Tuesday of Lent and a good rest of the week.

Sun(Fun)Day Night Post – Feel-Good Music by The Hunts

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As I end a full and short (by an hour) weekend, I am feeling grateful for Spotify. This isn’t an add for the streaming music service, but rather an acknowledgement of how much it has expanded both my ability to enjoy music and especially to discover singer and bands who make music I like to listen to as much as I can.

Flannel Graph was the band I wrote about recently – particularly their song “Apple Pie” which I find both catchy and moving. Another great “indie” song which has been streaming on my devices and in my head is this one:

In addition to the quirky and playful music, I like the lyrics as well:

I could see,
I could see your heart, through your eyes
On that night from the balcony
How could we ever
Make this leap?

You and I,
Caught up in wind like we were parachutes
Oh how we’d fly until we hit the ground
How could we ever
Make this leap?

We were young,
I used my paper telescope,
To show you the stars and then win your heart
How could we ever
Make believe?

I can see, I can see, I can see a sunrise
Call me out from the dark, cause I’m broken inside
I can see, I can see, I can see a sunrise
Call me out from the dark, cause I’m broken inside

Up above the static
Up above the racket
I hear your voice calling me out of the darkness
Up above the static
Up above the racket
I hear your voice calling me out of the darkness

Caught up like parachutes, Caught up like parachutes
Oh how we’d fly
Caught up like parachutes, Caught up like parachutes
Oh how we’d fly!

You called me out from the dark, and brought me into the light,
You called me out from the dark, and brought me into the light,
You called me out from the dark, and brought me into the light,

It clearly fits into the category of popular “God Songs” in which the “you” could possibly be God. Seems to work here, especially with “you called me out from the dark, and brought me into the light.”

I’ve come to appreciate this band, The Hunts even more after I Googled them tonight and discovered they are all family – five brothers and two sisters – ranging in age from 16 to 24. Their official bio notes this about them:

While getting seven strong-minded brothers and sisters to agree on every last note and lyric can sometimes be chaotic, The Hunts note that the synergy born from that chaos is what makes the band so strong. “I like to look at our hectic way of writing as actually really helpful to us as songwriters,” says Josh. “Each one of us is a filter, and after going through all seven of those filters, each song is so much better than it could ever be if we each just wrote on our own.” Now heading out on tour in support of Life Was Simple, The Hunts are thrilled to harmonize for a bigger audience than ever before. “One of our favorite things is for all seven of us to sing together at once, and I think people really like to see the special camaraderie that comes from brothers and sisters creating something together,” says Jessi. “Growing up, we didn’t really have much,” adds Jenni. “But we did have music, and that was the thing that always brought us together. I can’t think of anything better than growing that relationship even deeper, through making more music that comes right from our hearts.”

And, for even more listening enjoyment on this not-yet-Spring Sunday evening, check out the strings in this song by them:

 

 

Sun(Fun)day Night (BONUS): Amazing Movie Mash-up

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This time last Sunday night, I (and you too?) was watching the Oscars. If you haven’t done so yet, check out my post on where you can watch the nominated films.

Have you ever wished your favorite movie characters could be in the same film – TOGETHER? Now, thanks to editing and production so amazing I don’t even want to begin to figure it out, you can see this:

The tone does shift towards violence about halfway through when the Aliens show up. Until that point, it’s pretty fun to see how such a great range of favorite actors and characters (check out where at least four James Bonds connect) come together in one place within a story:

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Lectionary Gospel – Laetare (Fourth) Sunday of Lent – March 6, 2016

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Google Slides

Since this Sunday’s gospel is the familiar Parable of the Prodigal (or Lost) Son and because it’s Laetare Sunday,  I thought I’d do something different with the illuminated gospel this week.

You’ll notice two translations/versions of the story. Slides two and three are the liturgical NARB version while four and five are from The Message Bible. I tried to include art which seemed to best fit with each version.

And, as a special bonus, here’s an excellent, exegetical sermon and two songs about this parable:

Bishop Baron’s Weekly Homily: “The Prodigal Son Returns”

“Apple Pie” by Flannel Graph

“Now You’re Back” by Justin Roberts

Disclaimer – Since I don’t seek to profit from these files, I don’t cite the source for each of the images found through a Google Search

Friday FaithPost (Part 1): Two Great Faith-Building Sites

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It’s an unusual Friday for me as I’m not teaching my classes. We have a number of priests visiting and students are invited to see them in the chapel to receive the Sacrament of Reconciliation. To facilitate this, Religion teachers are asked to not have class assignments and/or activities which students would miss by participating in the sacrament. So, we’re having a “study hall” in all five of my classes. After three of these, 31% of my students have received Reconciliation.

Rather than get ahead on my grading/planning or simply wasting time web surfing, I’m choosing the middle way of posting here on the blog. I’ve got a few ideas for posts banging around in my head and I’ll use this time to share.

For the first post today, I’d like to share more about two favorite sites which I mentioned in the “lenten resources” post  a few weeks ago.

I don’t recall how exactly I discovered the Creighton Collaborative Ministries site . I found it five years ago or so and I’ve been pleased at how it’s expanded over time. The design isn’t flashy:

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But the resources are fantastic and free (donations are accepted.) One of my favorite aspects is the calendar of Daily Reflections on each day’s liturgical readings:

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The reflections, composed by faculty and staff of the Jesuit Creighton University , are thought-provoking and an important aid for my prayer life. Another aspect of the site that I’ve enjoyed deeply (as long ago as when I had to burn these files to CD rather than just stream them) is the ever-increasing set of topnotch audio retreats:

Creighton Audio Retreats

Far and away, my favorite retreat leader is Fr. Larry Gillick, S.J.

I’ve listened to Fr. Larry many times and although I’ll most likely never meet him, I count him among my most important faith teachers.

I’m finding other faith teachers at the web home of the Anglican Society of St. John the Evangelist. Although they are a different branch of the Catholic tree than Roman Catholicism, I find their mission, wisdom, and vision very much compatible with RC religious orders. They are extremely skilled at using the internet for faith development – especially during the holy seasons of Advent and Lent.

Last Advent, they invited people to Tweet photos each day, on an Advent related theme, to @adventword:

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The Tweeted images and related 140 character thoughts were clever, often funny, and inspiring. Currently, during Lent, they are offering the #growrule program with workbooks for adults and children, places to share self-reflections, and daily videos, with compelling questions to increase self-awareness:

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I’ve been showing some of these videos to my students along with a daily Lenten Journal to guide them in reflection. Here’s the journal for reflection on this constructive offering by Br. Curtis:

It’s not too late to join this program with the brothers as “My Relationship with Creation” begins next week.

And before I post this, I need to give a shout out to my favorite, young-adult focused site: Busted Halo.

Blessings and Happy Lenting!