The Rev. Daniel Rolland is a magician and a Catholic priest – and he’s able to do both at the same time.
I’m a priest who uses magic to illustrate spiritual truth," said Rolland, a Dominican priest who on July 1 will begin a yearlong sabbatical from the St. Thomas More Catholic Newman Center at the University of Arizona to travel the country and work on a lighthearted performance called "The Spiritual Magic of Father Daniel."
Magic is a medium to convey a message. Reason is set aside," he said. "It touches on a deep level to remind us that things are possible."
Rolland, a 40-year-old Scottsdale native who became a Dominican priest at age 29, has been practicing magic since he was 8 and though mixing the priesthood and magic may sound like sacrilege to some, he has never found a conflict.
Rather, his magic has turned into ministry. He counts among his friends many neo-Pagans, including Druids and Wiccans.
I thought it was just bizarre when I first heard about it," said Renee Schafer Horton, a 46-year-old Tucsonan who attends the Newman Center, 1615 E. Second St., with her husband and four children, ages 16 to 22.
" Then when I saw what he does. He does some really amazing things. He takes Christian concepts of forgiveness, redemption and new life and amazingly makes that into magic and puts it on a level that everyone can understand."
Rolland cuts ropes in half and makes them whole again. He turns on light bulbs without any electricity and has made fire appear and vanish. He asks a visitor to look at his hand, which he shakes until his solemn vows ring moves from his middle finger to his ring finger. His congregants have seen him burn articles about violence and suffering in the world and turn them into falling snowflakes.
I like the way he is able to incorporate spirituality with magic," said 20-year-old Abraham Jimenez, a UA sophomore who also attends the Newman Center. "My favorite is the one where he uses rubber bands and talks about boundaries. I like what he has to say."
Holding two rubber bands – one inside another that he holds between his thumb and forefinger – Rolland moves the inner rubber band around, explaining that sometimes we get ourselves into situations when we think we are free but we’re not. Boundaries prevent us from being all we can be, he says, showing that the inner band is is constrained by both the outer band and his hand. But then the magic happens: One rubber band appears to move right through the other and it is no longer constrained. Why? Jesus, he says, sets us free.
Rolland’s Catholic faith weighs heavily on how he practices magic – he doesn’t use any animals because he views any magic that makes animals disappear as a symbolic act of destroying life. Similarly, he will never saw anyone in half.
It looks odd for a priest to be putting knives into people – it’s an unsettling image," he said. "I want to be a positive influence for the church. The priesthood is part of who I am."
Indeed Rolland’s magic is fun, but it’s also a way to illustrate serious concepts from the Bible. The past two years, he has been performing his one-hour-and-15- minute spiritual magic show at local churches and for youth groups to a warm reception. His travel plans include a stop at the Roman Catholic Church’s World Youth Day, which is in Germany this year.
He is not alone, there is also another priest magician Rev. Leo Goodman III and a priest ventriloquist Father Douglas Sweet.
The favorite trick of progressive magicians is "make the population of a convent disappear." Of course many modern church architects also give it a go with “make the tabernacle and kneelers disappear.”
“The Priesthood is part of who I am.”?? Really? Just part? Hmmm . . . someone needs to go read Aquinas.
Reminds me of St. John Bosco’s juggling, tightrope-walking and slights of hand.
Do you need a kneeler to kneel?
There was a priest in the Brooklyn (NY) diocese who used to go around to the parishes under the title “Priesto” the magician. Unfortunately at one of the performances he did a trick that involved some kind of illumination and burnt off part of his finger. He came back afterwards, but I haven’t heard anything about him recently.
Magic is fun and it is good to illustrate truths – spiritual and physical – by various means.
But I was alarmed by these words:
“Reason is set aside”
Reason should NEVER be set aside. And least of all in Catholicism. Indeed, Catholicism is the HOME of reason, and the place where it works best – we have more to work with, and we get further with it! And it is not by magic either.
Also by these: “Boundaries prevent us from being all we can be.”
Phyically this is nonsense: life is about boundaries – the unbounded life has a speical word: “cancer”.
Morally this is nonsense: GKC says “art like morality, consists in drawing the line somewhere.”
Intellectually this is nonsense: speech and writing and thought must conform to the proper rules, or it is noise, scribble, and nightmare.
That phrase sounds WAY too much like a certain serpent in a garden. Finally, death is the ultimate boundary which cannot be escaped – and it is the way by which we become all we can be. (Oh, yes: after death, there are still boundaries… or so Jesus told us. And He should know, He’s been there.)
Oh, and there’s this, too: How does the Catholic faith relate to animals disappearing, and what does he eat if he does not destroy life?
I don’t mind the magic. But I sure do mind the bad philosophy. Let’s hope this was the usual media distortion.
Well we don’t need pews to sit either, but it is helpful. Kneelers are removed purposely to discourage kneeling.
The Diocese of Oakland has a magician priest too. He’s a Salesian and considers himself to be following in the footsteps of St. John Bosco. But I hope he’d never get caught saying some of the confused things this Fr. Rolland said. Poor guy.
I don’t know here. Taking his show on the road? Mixing magic with religion to make a point? Who is his superior? Any body see where this just doesn’t hit the mark?
Oh Lord, as long as these guys don’t plan on doing this sort of stuff at Mass… (Remember Trinity Episcopal Church???)
“Watch me turn this piece of bread into…”
Well, he does have the black suit for both jobs.
POOF! That’s what my head feels like when priests (or anyone else) tries to “trick up” the faith. I had enough of it in the 70’s. There’s a decade I can’t get back… but, hey, if anyone’s interested in a string art Jesus with a voice bubble saying,”Jesus doesn’t make junk,” classes begin at 8:30 on Tuesdays.
I object to neither magic in the true fun sense of the word or burying St. Joseph out of devotion (or I guess most here call it superstition), but the difference between the two is??????
I believe that if you pick up your Catechism you will find a prohibition of both…see 2117 and 2138.
Now use reason and try to tell me that either the magic for fun in this case in the story above or the burying of St. Joseph are done to manifest idolatry, or are meant as forms of divination or to harm another.
Sometimes you have to look at the intent behind the act.
…….aaaaaaaannd, there you go.
L, that was *hiLARious* !!! 🙂
Well, he does have the black suit for both jobs.
The Dominican habit is white. But he does have a black cape!
The above criticisms of Fr. Rolland’s words strike me as rather petty, particularly given that they are based on one newspaper article.
It’s odd that the priest thinks his magic shows are an outreach to Wiccans and Druids. I mean, he not doing *magic* per se; he’s doing sleight-of-hand, optical illusions. Any self-respecting druid would laugh and go back to making sacrifices to the bog-god or whatever.
Please teach me some gospel magic
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