Here’s another prayer for entertainment industry professionals, from Church of the Masses, the blog of Hollywood screenwriter and Catholic Barbara Nicolosi. Click here for the original source, as well as information about a new “ministry to provide communal prayer, retreats, spiritual direction and formation to Catholic professionals in the entertainment industry” which she and others have started this past August. (The name is not in the post, but I believe it’s called Lens, and you should be able to find it on Facebook.)
Prayer of Blessing for Hollywood Artists and Professionals
(taken from the writings of Bl. John Paul II)
Let us ask for the blessing of the Holy Spirit
upon everyone here who labors in the field of film, television, radio and music.
Throughout the history of salvation,
Christ presents himself to us as the “communicator” of the Father.
May you find in the eternal Word made flesh, your perfect model in the work you do.
Like Jesus, may you be moved to compassion for the world’s suffering and seek to bring forth Good News of hope.
Like Jesus, may you always shows respect for those who listen, mindful of their situation and needs.
Like Jesus, may you serve your audience with a resolute determination to speak the truth to them, in wonderful new parables,
without imposition or compromise, deceit or manipulation.
Bear in holiness the cross that beauty demands and “Do not be afraid!”
Do not be afraid of new technologies! These rank “among the marvelous things” which God has placed at our disposal to discover, to use and to make known the truth.
Do not be afraid of being opposed by the world! Jesus has assured us, “I have conquered the world!”
Do not be afraid even of your own weakness and inadequacy! The Divine Master has said, “I am with you always, until the end of the world.”
Communicate the message of Christ’s hope, grace and love, keeping always alive, in this passing world, the eternal perspective of heaven.
To Mary, who gave us the Word of life, and who kept his unchanging words in her heart, we entrust your journey as a storyteller for the Church. May the Blessed Virgin help you to communicate by every means the beauty and joy of life in Christ our Savior.
All of these things we pray for you, artists and storytellers and we ask God’s blessing on you, your families and your work,
by the miracle of your blessed Incarnation,
you became an actor in human history,
bringing Heaven’s light to a world steeped in darkness.
The drama of our Redemption
was played out in your Passion, Death, and Resurrection.
Help us whom you have called to play a role in spreading your Gospel.
Strengthen our faith during this Year of Faith
so that our witness may win many hearts to you.
Bless us with the graces of the New Evangelization
so that we may show your hope
to those oppressed by tragedy and hardship.
And may we at every moment enact the love you share with your Father
so as to draw many to the friendship made possible by your Presence,
you who are our Lord, now and forever. Amen.
A prayer for artists from the Archdiocese of Glasgow Arts Project:
The AGAP Prayer
Gentle Father, Creator God,
We thank you for your many gifts and acknowledge you as the Divine Spark from which all human creativity comes.
We praise you for the beauty of all created things and ask you to give us a deep respect for the life and dignity of all your creatures.
We rejoice in your great love for the work of your hands and ask you to help us to reflect that love in our dealings with one another, each of us made in your own image and likeness, respecting our differences and celebrating what we hold in common.
We thank you for your closeness to your creatures, most of all for the gift of yourself in the person of Jesus your Son; and we ask that he accompanies us as we pray, play, laugh and share our joys and sorrows with one another.
We pray that your Holy Spirit will continue to inspire men and women with creative gifts to enrich the society in which we live with new works of art to glorify you, for you are Life and Beauty itself.
We ask your blessing on artists and performers in every field and those preparing for careers in the arts; that they may act with conscience in the application of their gifts and that in moments of isola- tion and loneliness, may be given courage and consolation by your presence.
We ask you to be with all those that we hold dear, those we have been asked to pray for and those that have nobody to pray for them for we are all special in your eyes and our lives are the greatest work of art that we can offer you.
We make this prayer with Mary Our Mother, through Christ Our Lord. Amen
This prayer was written by Stephen Callaghan and instituted by Archbishop Mario Conti at the first Annual Mass for the Artistic Community in St Andrew’s Metropolitan Cathedral, Glasgow on the Feast of Christ the King, 23rd November 2008.
See the original, and learn more about the AGAP, here.
Last academic year, I was a member of a vocations discernment program here in the U.K. (Compass, which I highly recommend.) Three of us Catholic young adults interested in religious life met with two group leaders from apostolic religious congregations (a Missionaries of the Sacred Heart priest and Faithful Companions of Jesus sister) one weekend a month for nine months, to learn more about religious life. This year-long discernment solidified my sense of call to the vows of poverty, chastity and obedience.
In addition, I have also continued to discern how my sense of calling to an artistic and academic vocation fits into my sense of calling to the consecrated life. You may have noticed that the theme of a community that blends religious life with the practice of theatre has been a common thread on this blog:
When all the people asked John, ‘What must we do?’ he answered, ‘If anyone has two tunics he must share with the man who has none, and the one with something to eat must do the same.’ There were tax collectors too who came for baptism, and these said to him, ‘Master, what must we do?’ He said to them, ‘Exact no more than your rate.’ Some soldiers asked him in their turn, ‘What about us? What must we do?’ He said to them, ‘No intimidation! No extortion! Be content with your pay!’ – Luke 3:10-14
I was praying over today’s Gospel, and focused on the part written above. I was using Ignatian contemplation, in which you enter into the scene, and become part of it, possibly having conversations with the other characters in the scene.
After listening to John the Baptist tell the people that those who have extra clothing and food must share with those who have none, I listened to both the tax collectors and the soldiers in turn ask John what specifically they must do.
It struck me that both of these groups could be considered collaborators with the Roman occupation. The tax collectors certainly were – they took taxes from their fellow Jews for Rome, and the only way they made a living was by taking more than they were told to take. They worked on commission, as it were – ‘Rome must have its tax, but take an extra 10% for your troubles’. In telling the tax collectors to take no more than their rate – that is, to take no more than Rome’s tax – he is effectively asking them to work for zero salary, and become penniless.
However, he has just told the Jewish crowd as a whole that they are to provide for those without means. So therefore, in a way, he is saying to the non-tax-collectors in the crowd, ‘I am asking the tax collectors to become penniless, so that they may walk justly with their God as your brothers in the nation of Israel. Therefore, you must take care of them. If Rome requires that you give her men to take her taxes, then you must take care of these men so that they do not fall into unrighteousness. It is your fault if these men feel pressured to cheat in order to survive, and are tempted to cut themselves off from the community. You must make an effort to keep them still your brothers’.
He’s easier on the soldiers. He allows them to keep their jobs – and I’m assuming here that these are soldiers who work for Rome, not temple guards – but it’s also about money. He tells them not to rob or accuse others unjustly (so they can either blackmail them or take their property once they are unjustly convicted), and to be content with the pay they receive for a job that does do a service for the community, in terms of keeping the peace in the nation. They are allowed to be soldiers, but they must be satisfied with the small reward they receive for this service.
So if one thinks about the Roman context of this conversation, it is all about the community’s duty to help their brothers and sisters stay righteous, to stay in relationship with God and the community. To ease the pressures to fall into sin, and help each other on the road to salvation.
Keeping this Roman context in mind, I turned to the original question I had wanted to ask the Baptist at the beginning of the exercise: ‘What about us artists? What must we do?’
Here was the answer I got back: ‘You may make anything for which you are commissioned, except idols. [Idols here representing anything that violates God’s Law.] Let your honouring of God be showing in the excellence of your work. As for that which you make without any commission, of your own volition – let it be your praise. Let your art be a praise to God, your sacrifice of praise. Let it be your prayer of praise.
‘And for every piece of gold that is melted down to be beaten into a beautiful image to praise God – whether for a vessel or sculpture for the Temple, or for any other thing – that piece of gold must feed more people as a sculpture, by raising their minds, hearts, and spirits to God, than it would have fed if it were spent to buy food for people’s bodies. Only if it feeds more people as a sculpture than as bread is that piece of gold justified to be used for art.’
I offer these brief reflections for whatever value they may have. I’m not a historian, and these thoughts may have no grounding in actual history, but I hope they may still have some value in spiritual understanding, of how we should live as the community of Christians, and especially as Christian artists.
Today’s reading in the lectionary is the parable of the wheat and tares (Matthew 13:24-30). From the Jerusalem Bible:
Jesus put a parable before the crowds, ‘The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a man who sowed good seed in his field. While everybody was asleep his enemy came, sowed darnel all among the wheat, and made off. When the new wheat sprouted and ripened, the darnel appeared as well. The owner’s servants went to him and said, “Sir, was it not good seed that you sowed in your field? If so, where does the darnel come from?” “Some enemy has done this” he answered. And the servants said, “Do you want us to go and weed it out?” But he said, “No, because when you weed out the darnel you might pull up the wheat with it. Let them both grow till the harvest; and at harvest time I shall say to the reapers: First collect the darnel and tie it in bundles to be burnt, then gather the wheat into my barn.”’
You’ll notice that the Jerusalem Bible, which is used at Mass here in the U.K., uses the word ‘darnel’ instead of ‘tares’. I had never heard that word before, so I looked it up on Wikipedia, and here is what I found:
Darnel [Loliumtemulentum,a.k.a., poison darnel or cockle] usually grows in the same production zones as wheat and is considered a weed. The similarity between these two plants is so extensive that in some regions, cockle is referred to as “false wheat”. It bears a close resemblance to wheat until the ear appears. The ears on the real wheat are so heavy it makes the entire plant droop downward, but L. temulentum, whose ears are light, stands up straight. The wheat will also appear brown when ripe, whereas the darnel is black. When the Lolium matures, the spikelets turn edgeways to the rachis, where the wheat spikelets remain as they grew previously.
And wheat and darnel look almost exactly alike:
Jesus’ parable had more layers than I ever realised before. Instead of just being a parable about bad people being inextricably intertwined with the good people in the Church until the Judgement Day (the way this parable is usually explicated), the use of the word ‘darnel’ to translate ζιζάνια indicates that those who are destined for judgement, as the darnel is collected and burned, are almost indistinguishable in exterior appearance from those who are destined to be saved and gathered into the Father’s barn. Not only that, but the darnel looks nourishing, but is actually poisonous, and can cause death. Therefore, it is destined for death.
Here are some extra layers of understanding which I think the translation of ζιζάνια as ‘darnel’ brings out:
The similarity between these two plants is so extensive that in some regions, cockle is referred to as “false wheat”.
In the parable, wheat represents true followers of Christ, and darnel represents the false followers, who look almost exactly alike. (Note that it is both the farmhands – i.e., the angels – and the farmer – i.e., the Father – who are able to tell the difference in the parable. We might not be able.)
It bears a close resemblance to wheat until the ear appears.
False discipleship and true discipleship may appear to be the same, but ‘you will know them by their fruits’ (Matthew 7:16, from the Sermon on the Mount).
The ears on the real wheat are so heavy it makes the entire plant droop downward, but L. temulentum, whose ears are light, stands up straight.
True fruitfulness comes with the heaviness of the Cross. False fruitfulness is unbent by suffering and sacrifice, because it is not united with Christ on His Cross.
The wheat will also appear brown when ripe, whereas the darnel is black.
I don’t want to make too much of this, other than to say look at this beautiful ripe wheat:
versus this forbidding-looking darnel:
One can probably stretch by making some point about true discipleship only being darkened by the lesser dark of venial sin, whereas false discipleship is corrupted by the utter darkness of mortal sin, but I think I’d rather just use the two images to show the contrast – since wheat isn’t really brown, but gold. It’s the colour of the Sun (of Justice, the Royal Son of the Father) and the Kingdom (gold), versus the colour of corruption and death (black).
When the Lolium matures, the spikelets turn edgeways to the rachis, where the wheat spikelets remain as they grew previously.
True discipleship stays on the straight path, whereas false discipleship causes a person to grow sideways, to become bent.
So it’s a parable not just about the Church not being able to separate herself from false followers of Christ, but also not being able for certain exactly who they are, until the final Judgement when all people’s fruits will become clear.
And finally, a last point from Wikipedia: ‘The French word for darnel is ivraie (from Latin ebriacus, intoxicated), which expresses that weed’s characteristic of making one feel poisoned with drunkenness, and can cause death.’
The healthy fruits lead to life, the poisonous fruits to death – not only in terms of the righteous receiving life, and the damned receiving death, as in the harvest of the parable, but also in terms of those who eat those people’s fruits. In Communion, we eat the Body and Blood of Christ, and become one with each other through the eating. If we commune with Christ in sincerity, we eat unto life. If we commune falsely, we eat unto death. And if we are united to death, we bring death to those who are joined with us. Whereas if we are united to life, we bring life to those who are joined with us. Thanks be to God for His Son Jesus Christ, who brings life out of our death.
A young student, who I believe is an American, recently asked a question on one of my Facebook groups:
Anyone from Oxford University- what is it like? I have heard that there are no general education classes, and that you work strictly on your major. Is that true?
When I responded saying that I could give him some comparisons between Oxford and a US liberal arts degree, since I have been an undergraduate at both Oxford (BA in Theology) and in the US (BFA in Drama/Psychology at NYU), he wrote back, saying:
Thanks, I would like the comparison chart. I would also imagine your knowledge is much-more in-depth with a BA from Oxford than with one from America.
So, for Ian, and for any readers and seekers on the Internet who come across this page, here is my comparison chart between reading for a BA at Oxford versus studying for a liberal arts degree in the US. (For “reading” vs. “studying”, and other Oxford vs. U.S. terminology, see the glossary at the end of the post.) All opinions are my own, based on my own experience doing a humanities degree, and I’m happy to incorporate comments/suggestions/corrections into this post, especially from students who can comment on science degrees.
I can’t compare the experiences within the same subject, since my US degree was in a completely different field than my UK degree, but I would say a BA from Oxford, in Theology at least, is more equivalent to a US MA in Theology than to a US BA. The primary difference is Oxford is focused more on teaching you how to think and how to communicate, using the subject as the battlefield upon which you’re learning intellectual sword-work. A US liberal arts degree might have this same ideal, but in practice the large lectures and frequent examinations mean you really spend your time cramming for exams and being constantly evaluated by multiple-choice, computer-scored questions, rather than by soaking in the subject, doing extensive reading, and being evaluated through the more demanding essay format. However, you may have more facts drilled into you in an American program, and you will also have more freedom to explore different subjects as part of your degree. While I think the Oxford tutorial should be (re-?)introduced into American higher education, the choice of overall program really depends on each individual student’s needs, capabilities, and desires.
Here’s a short piece on my experience that I wrote for my senior subject tutor at my Oxford college (with bonus contribution from my good friend and fellow C.S. Lewis expert Ryan Pemberton):
Structure-wise, here’s a brief comparison chart between the typical US undergrad degree and an Oxford one:
US: Years 1-2: Completion of liberal arts core requirements in the humanities and sciences (often with a required general essay-writing/composition course); choice of major and beginning on introductory classes within that major by end of 2nd year
Year 3-4: Completion of major requirements, w/ some electives related and/or unrelated to the major (often adding a second major or a minor)
Instruction is primarily in large (~200 person) lectures at beginning of degree, with some seminars/recitations. Later in degree, instruction is primarily in seminars/smaller classes (~20-30 people or fewer).
Evaluation is generally through regular quizzes and exams (midterm and final), which are often multiple-choice with some essay questions. Many classes also assign 1-2 term papers a semester, along with regular weekly problem sets/reading responses (1-2 pages each). GPA is calculated every semester, and the final outcome of your degree (GPA) is the average of all semester GPAs.
Oxford: Year 1: Completion of required preliminary papers in your course. These examinations (“prelims” or “honour mods” [for “honour moderations”]) must be passed in order to move on to the “Final Honours School” (FHS), i.e., the last two years of the degree. Written examination on these papers at the end of the second or third term. (Oxbridge has three 8-week terms in an academic year.)
(There are no “general education” requirements at Oxford. When you apply to Oxford, you apply both for a specific course and to a specific college. Your application may be “pooled”, or transferred, to another college, depending on fit and the number of openings, but you will generally be accepted – or not – for that course. You may also be accepted onto a Single Honours School [like a single major] instead of a Joint Honours School [like a double major] if you have applied to a Joint School but the college believes you will be a better fit for the Single School. For example, I applied for Philosophy and Theology, but was accepted only for Theology, which ended up being a good decision. See this post for more about my experience applying to Oxford and choosing a college. Applying for a certain course at a certain college means that there is no way to apply “to Oxford”, and then decide what to major in later. You know your major going in, and apply to colleges which offer that subject [or make an “open application”, in which you apply for a certain subject, but let an algorithm place you with a college, which does not affect your overall chances of admission]. See here for a list of which Oxford colleges offer which undergraduate subjects.)
Years 2-3 (+ 3rd term of Year 1 for courses that give prelims at the end of the 2nd term of Year 1): Completion of required FHS papers, plus completion of elective papers within subject. (For example, in Theology I had four required core FHS papers, and then my choice of a history paper, a theologian paper, an elective paper, and either a second elective or an extended essay, for four total papers beyond the core papers.) Examination on these FHS papers at the end of the third year. During final exams, students will sit 1-2 exams a day, each of which is 2-3 hours long, over a 1-2 week period, for a total of about 6-10 exams (depending on their course). (We also take exams in full academic dress – dark suit, white bow tie, and academic gown, often with a carnation in the lapel indicating progress: white for first exam, pink for middle exams, and red for final exam.)
That means there are NO examinations during the second year. However, students generally take “collections” at the beginning of every term. Collections are practice exams – usually copies of past exam papers – that are given under exam conditions to test you on the material you learned last term. They are scored, but the scores don’t “count” (i.e., they don’t apply to your degree) – they’re just to give you an idea of how you would have scored if this was your final exam, and to help you with revision.
Instruction is primarily in 1-2 person tutorials with a tutor. The tutor assigns you a reading list for each week (with about a dozen books and articles on it), along with a related essay question. You do the reading, and then write an essay to answer the question (usually about 2,000-3,000 words, or about 6-10 pages). Next week, you bring in the essay to your hour-long tutorial (or you send it to your tutor the day before). Then, you read the essay aloud (or skip this, if your tutor has already received and read it), and spend the rest of the time discussing the ideas in your essay. Your tutor will generally present objections to your argument, which you will have to answer, or ask you questions to encourage you to think more deeply. At the end, he’ll give you a new reading list and essay question, and the process begins again.
There are also departmental lectures every week, and at the beginning of term your tutor will generally recommend a few which you should attend. These are not technically required, and there is no attendance taken. However, since the faculty members who write the exams are aware of the content of these lectures, they may write exam questions based on them, so it’s in your best interest to attend at least the listed core lectures. There may be some instruction given in seminars/classes (especially language instruction) – your senior tutor will let you know if you need to take these, and how to sign up for them.
Examination is by written examination at or near the end of the first year (prelims/mods), and at the end of the third year (finals). Exams are in the form of essay questions, with some gobbets (i.e., written commentary on a written passage), translations, and/or problem sets included, depending on the course and the paper. There is also the option of a thesis for some subjects (and a few papers are examined by written coursework [i.e., a lengthy essay like a term paper], as well as exam). If there are questions about your written exam, or if the examiners feel they need more information in order to assess your ability, you may be asked to undergo a viva voce, or oral exam. (These exams are standard for postgraduate degrees.)
The result of your final degree is not cumulative. Your final result depends entirely on your final examinations at the end of your degree (including a written thesis/coursework if applicable). Exams are marked on a scale of 0-100, and results are roughly equivalent to the following marks (which may differ depending on the degree course):
70-100: First-Class 60-69: Upper Second (2:1) 50-59: Lower Second (2:2) 40-49: Third 30-39: Pass (w/o Honours) Below 30: Fail
Your final result is based on the average of your marks on your final papers, with a couple qualifying criteria: You will generally have to have an average of a certain mark or above, plus at least 2-3 marks over a certain number, as well as no mark below a certain number. So, for example, in Theology, in order to get a 2:1 as your final result, you need to have:
An average of 59 or above At least two marks of 60 or above No mark below 40
Whereas to get a First, you need to have:
(i) Average of 68.5 or above At least two marks of 70 or above No mark below 50 OR (ii) Average of 65 or above At least three marks of 75 or above No mark below 50
In Theology at least, and I think in the humanities generally, about 10% of students receive a First, roughly 65-75% receive a 2:1, and about 15-25% receive a 2:2. It is uncommon for a person to receive a Third or below, though it happens. You need a high 2:1 (avg 66+) or above to be accepted into graduate study generally, and some employers will also require a 2:1 or above. (Though for graduate study at Oxbridge – Oxford or Cambridge – you should aim for a First.)
Oxford “paper” = US “course”/”class” (Oxford “paper” also means an examination, so “sitting a paper” means taking an exam. “Classes”, meaning instruction on a certain topic being given to a small group of students who attend weekly and receive regular homework, are rare at Oxford, since most instruction is delivered in other formats. Instead of saying, for example, that you’re taking a class on the Old Testament, you’d say that you’re doing the Old Testament paper, or, if you’re taking the exam, that you’re sitting the Old Testament paper. However, some papers at Oxford are given through a class, such as the special theologian papers within the Theology degree – although my class was 3 people, so it’s not the same thing as an American 20-30 student class. It’s more like a large tutorial.)
Oxford “course” = US “degree program” (e.g., my course, i.e., my course of studies, was the Theology BA)
Oxford “subject” = US “major” (e.g., “My subject is Theology” = “My major is Theology”)
Oxford “to read” = US “to major in” or “to study”) (e.g., “I’m reading Theology” = “I’m majoring in Theology” or “I’m studying Theology”. A person who is reading Theology is a theologian, just as a person who is reading for a science degree is a scientist – no need to wait for the PhD to apply the appellation relevant to your field! One benefit of Oxford is that you’re treated as a colleague-in-training.)
Oxford “essay” = US “paper” (instead of saying “I’m writing a paper on irony in the Gospel of John”, you’d say, “My essay this week is on irony in the Gospel of John”)
Oxford “revision” = US “studying” (i.e., “I’m revising for my exams” instead of “I’m studying for my exams”)
Oxford “tutor” = US “professor” (In the US, we generally tend to call all our faculty instructors “professors”, e.g., “my Intro Psych professor” to refer to the newly-minted PhD who’s working as an adjunct. At Oxford, a professor is a specific title for someone who has been awarded a chair in a faculty – so, for example, the Chair of Old Testament can be called Prof Bloggs, whereas another faculty member, who may have lectured and taught for 20 years as a member of the faculty but who is not a chair, is only Dr Bloggs. It is a faux pas to called a professor “Dr”, or a non-professor faculty member “Prof”. Oxford faculty members have other titles, such as “Lecturer” – which means that the person gives lectures in the department – or “Tutor” – which means that the person teaches tutorials, *not* that the person gives extra help to struggling students [though they may do that, too, out of the kindness of their hearts – Oxford tutors generally care a lot about the progress of their students]. However, you wouldn’t address someone as Lecturer Bloggs or Tutor Bloggs.)
Oxford “finalist” = US “senior” (A finalist is a student who is about to sit finals, i.e., a student in the last year of his course. [During your last term, you no longer attend tutorials or receive essay assignments, as you are expected to spend all your time revising and attending revision classes.] Therefore, “finalist” is roughly equivalent to the U.S. term “senior”. English universities do not use the terms freshman/sophomore/junior/senior, not least because undergraduate degrees are often three years, not four. They do, however, use the term “fresher” for a new first-year student.)
Oxford “postgraduate” = US “graduate” (Postgrad:undergrad as graduate student:undergraduate student)
And there you are! Feel free to write me if you have any questions about Oxford or study in the UK (or study in the US, if you are not American). Feel free also to share this document with others – I ask only that you don’t modify it without permission, and do credit me and link back to this blog.
Dominus Illuminatio Mea!
BA (Hons) – Theology – University of Oxford, 2011
BFA (w/ Honors) – Drama/Psychology – New York University, 2006
PhD candidate – Divinity – University of St Andrews, 2011-present