Busted Halo
author archive
Brian Harper :
28 article(s)

Brian Harper is a writer, musician and community outreach coordinator for a small business. He has lived in Peru, South Africa, and Italy, and his writing has been featured in America magazine, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel and various other print and online publications. You can find his work at www.brianharper.net.
March 4th, 2015

I am endlessly pleased Peter plays such a fundamental role in the Christian narrative. A perfect example of both deep faith and imperfect, bumbling humanity, he is someone with whom I can identify.
Sunday’s Gospel reading, which focused on Jesus’s Transfiguration, is an unmistakable turning point in Christ’s story, a chapter for which Jesus chose Peter to be present. It is, in a sense, the arc of the Gospels, where the glory of Christ’s healings and teachings give way to the fear and agony that will accompany his passion, death and resurrection. As he descends the mountain where he transformed to a bright white and conversed with Elijah and Moses, he mentions “the Son of Man [being] raised from the…

December 29th, 2014

It is a story we have heard many times before. Someone is brutally killed and paradoxically lives on as a symbol of hope. It is the story of peacekeepers, martyrs, leaders of heroic courage, and even ordinary citizens who dare to make their lives about sharing truth and seeking justice. It is the story of James Foley.
I never personally knew Foley. Like him, I attended Marquette University and studied journalism, his eventual profession. And like people the world over, I was shocked to learn he was murdered at the hands of Islamic State militants after nearly two years in captivity.
Foley, who worked with Teach For America and obtained an MFA in creative writing before studying journalism at Northwestern University,…

December 3rd, 2014
How are we called to prepare the way of the Lord in this day and age?

Catholicism is a faith that embraces both rituals and a “God of surprises” — an institution which, though intricate in structure, strives to be open to the unexpected movements of the Holy Spirit.
One could argue that our entire lives are similarly dichotomous — a dance between routine and preparation, and spontaneity and all that comes without warning. Advent is especially so.
Mark’s Gospel and the Second Sunday of Advent begin with Isaiah’s description of John the Baptist as “my messenger … who will prepare your way, the voice of one crying in the wilderness: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight.’”
Preparing the way of the Lord requires an understanding…

August 27th, 2014

When I recently learned from a Huffington Post headline that Mary’s Gourmet Diner, a North Carolina restaurant, offers customers a 15 percent discount for praying before meals, my reaction was a tough-to-contain internal eye roll. From my perspective, public displays of religion tend toward showy obnoxiousness, usually having more to do with glorifying one’s own sense of goodness and piety than with glorifying God.
Doubling down on my judgment, I considered that praying for financial gain sort of flies in the face of Jesus’ “you cannot serve both God and money” warning.
And what about Matthew 6:5-6?
“And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues…

July 30th, 2014

Anyone audacious enough to claim a Christian response to the arrival of tens of thousands of immigrant children at the United States’ southern border should, at the very least, do several things.
First, they should acknowledge they do not and cannot possibly speak for all Christians. They should also admit to what is most likely a grossly incomplete grasp of the myriad political, social and cultural contexts of Honduras, Guatemala, El Salvador and other Central American countries from which many immigrants are coming. Finally, they should concede what is probably a very limited understanding of U.S. immigration policy.
With all that in mind, I will say that as someone who aspires to Christianity, I have…

July 21st, 2014

A few years ago, I moved to Peru to work as a teacher with the Jesuit Volunteer Corps (JVC). Each year, the school where I taught picked a tema trasversal, or transversal theme, toward which the entire academic community would strive.
I like the idea of naming a broad idea that encapsulates a particular season of life. When I consider my own tema trasversal for the year and a half I spent in Peru, I consistently arrive at “presence.” It arose almost every day during my time with JVC, rearing its head in everything from the books I read to the retreats I attended and the community activities in which I participated.
Why presence was so important is probably not mysterious. Service programs take all kinds, but volunteers…

April 17th, 2014

For all of Lent, I wanted to rise early and meditate before going to work. And for all of Lent, I failed.
The idea sounds wise when you are trying to squeeze in your day’s prayers at 10 p.m.
‘This will be the first thing I do tomorrow,’ I often thought to myself.
But when the rubber met the road, an extra 15 minutes of sleep always trumped waking early.
I finally managed to do a weekday morning reflection this week, which is ironically the last week of Lent. Not surprisingly, it was a most pleasant way to start the day. It certainly beat rolling out of bed and cursing fate, the universe and whatever other forces had conspired to end my time of rest. It was so nice that I was kind of annoyed with myself for not having…

April 16th, 2014

If I am being honest with myself — which is probably a good thing to be during Lent — there have been a good many days when I have simply cashed in on my commitment. Yes, my desire was to complete the simple task of sitting in silent meditation for 10-15 minutes each day. How could I fail unless I spoke or simply did not put in the time?
The fact of the matter, however, is that I sometimes plopped down on my bed, closed my eyes and waited for my 10 minutes to pass, making little to no effort to quiet my mind, focus on my breathing or recharge for the remainder of my day.
It is not that I feel guilty about this; that really is not the point. But the days in which I stayed engaged with my goal and actually attempted to simply be…

April 12th, 2014

When I attended my Jesuit Volunteer Corps orientation about two and a half years ago, my fellow volunteers and I were presented with all kinds of guides and articles on different forms of prayer: quiet meditation, reciting a mantra, praying with the saints…there was probably enough information to schedule a different style each day of the week and then some.
For whatever reason, Ignatian Prayer, which involves using the imagination to place oneself in Gospel scenes, was the one I struggled most to adopt. I think it felt a little too close to playing pretend. This was fine when I was 5 and donning Batman’s cape to fight my brother, but to a 22 year-old seeking communion with God through prayer, it felt a little…

April 10th, 2014

“Why do we fall, sir?” “So that we can learn to pick ourselves up.” — Alfred to Bruce Wayne…
I failed to pray for 10-15 minutes both yesterday and the day before.
I could say I have a good excuse. When it comes to excuses, I always do.
On Monday, I attended a funeral, so technically, I was in a prayerful atmosphere for 15+ minutes. Yesterday, I just flat-out did not make my mark.
This is something that really would have bothered me in the past. Lent can be a legalist’s paradise; 40 days of abstaining from or performing an activity is just the thing to whet a rule-lover’s appetite. And my spiritual journey has certainly included long forays into scrupulosity. The idea that I must

April 8th, 2014

I have intentionally tried to plan my prayer time this Lent; each day, I sit down for a set 10-15 minutes of quiet reflection.
This has been helpful for a number of reasons, the most evident being that the discipline of actually designating a time to pray is the surest way to make sure I will actually do it. If I only meditated when I was in the mood or otherwise felt moved to do so … well, I would probably be able to count my “higher power” exchanges on one hand.
While visiting my grandparents’ house yesterday, I was browsing one of their guest bedrooms when I felt a sudden urge to pray. I only had a few moments before I would rejoin my family, but I swiftly knelt, said a few words and left the room.

April 5th, 2014

In C.S. Lewis’s classic The Screwtape Letters,… an elder demon advising a younger devil talks about the importance of one’s position during prayer.
As Father Robert Barron recounted in a blog this week, “[T]he veteran orders his young charge to encourage his ‘client,’ a budding Christian, to envision prayer as something very ‘interior’ and ‘mystical,’ having little to do with posture or the position of the body. He wants the poor Christian to think that whether he stands, slouches, sits, or kneels is irrelevant to the quality of his communication with God. This, of course, is the Cartesian voice, the belief that our bodies and souls are independent

April 4th, 2014
40 Days Searching for the Sound of Silence

My decision to commit to praying in silence for 10-15 minutes each day seemed pretty simple. In the weeks leading up to Lent, I was overwhelmed by words, both others’ and my own. I felt like I was surrounding myself in noise almost all the time, and I knew I needed to do something deliberate, however insignificant, to address it. No matter how inconsequential or small the stretch of time was, I felt it was a first step in hopefully bringing some peace to the rest of my day and, even more hopefully, going deeper in my spiritual life.
I have been operating under the assumption that this is not a luxury, that it is really not too much to ask in life. In a sense, I still feel that way. I think we all need an occasional moment’s

March 31st, 2014
40 Days Searching for the Sound of Silence

Prayer is dynamic and fluid. Like everything, it is always changing, so much so that the words I say today might feel entirely different tomorrow. Though forming habits, common practices and routines can be helpful in developing and deepening one’s prayer life, I have also found it important to introduce new elements into my daily meditations.
My spiritual director recently suggested praying with scripture. I have tried this in the past on a limited basis and without strong feelings as to its success or lack thereof. I decided to give it another go on Friday.
Adding to the “newness” of the experience was the location. Having gotten out of work early, I swung by a small, university chapel instead…

March 28th, 2014
40 Days Searching for the Sound of Silence

My meditation time has been abnormally silent this week.
This is probably an odd claim to make. Silence, after all, is one of the principal goals of my Lenten enterprise. Acknowledging silent prayer as being quiet is a little like recognizing a sunny day for being bright.
I am beginning to learn, however, that no matter how calm I manage to become on the interior, I have only so much control over the racket around me.
I — we all — have to reckon with noise pollution. It really is extraordinary how much sound there is in each of our little pockets of life. It is a rare moment there is not something humming in the air. I have personally become so accustomed to a world dense with sound that I do not actively notice…

March 27th, 2014
40 Days Searching for the Sound of Silence

I am never so aware of my mind’s busyness as when I am trying to clear it. So much of my day is spent thinking, processing, judging, analyzing…using and abusing my head to no end. I am so accustomed to this way of being that it is no simple task to simply turn off for a few minutes.
Some of these thoughts are easy enough to ignore. A funny memory or recollection of something I read demands no action from me.
But often, the thoughts that come to me during my designated time of prayer command attention, calling out that I notice them immediately.
Sometimes, I think of something I need to remember to do later. Frequently, I mull over a problem that, for whatever reason, seems to have a pressing need to be solved.
I have found…

March 24th, 2014
40 Days Searching for the Sound of Silence

At the beginning of Lent, I was convinced the best way for me to feel close to God was in silent, contemplative solitude.
I still feel that way…to a degree. Over the course of the last two and a half weeks, however, I have also come to realize how crucial other forms of prayer and interaction are to making my time alone worthwhile.
Yesterday I made my first visit to a food pantry run by Catholics in my neighborhood. Though I have done some volunteering since the end of my time with the Jesuit Volunteer Corps (JVC), this felt new.
I am sure some guilt drove me to get up and work at 8:30 on a Saturday morning, but the desire ran deeper. On some level, I had begun to feel disconnected from others and, in turn, the divine. Sure, I spend…

March 22nd, 2014

“See everything. Overlook a great deal. Correct a little.”
-Pope John XXIII
I do not know much about the soon-to-be canonized Pope John XXIII, but the above quotation has been one of my favorites ever since encountering it a few years ago.
It lends itself to all corners of life. So often, I think our very human inclination is to feel the need to address problems with radical change. If something is not working, best to throw it out and rebuild or take on something new.
What the Good Pope’s reminder indicates to me, however, is that we can meddle in a way that is ultimately counterproductive. What needs to be fixed is often only a minor detail.
Yesterday I was speaking with a Jesuit priest who needs

March 19th, 2014
40 Days Searching for the Sound of Silence

I remember reading someone say they were usually ready for their vacation just as it was ending.
I know what they mean. So often we crave a moment’s relaxation, pine for an opportunity to catch our breath amidst the hustle and bustle of modern life and wonder aloud what it would be like to occasionally have time for a midday snooze.
The irony is that when these moments come my way, I either fail to realize their arrival or simply choose not to use them as my better, wiser self hoped I would. Though it hardly makes sense to measure downtime by one’s productivity whilst using it, I do think there is an art to conscientiously seeking stillness.
Each day as I sit down for my meditation, I have thousands of thoughts…

March 17th, 2014

Sometimes I think I dream more when I am awake than when my head is on the pillow.
This might not be true; I have never been a great one for remembering my dreams. But as I journey through my Lenten practice of meditating at least 10-15 minutes a day – which is in truth also a striving for heightened mindfulness – I am becoming increasingly aware of how often my thoughts wander throughout the day.
This is especially noticeable during my designated prayer time. My seemingly simple goal thus far has been to focus on little more than my breathing. Generally, I am good for an inhale and half an exhale before my attention turns elsewhere.
This mattress is pretty comfortable, but the room’s a little cold.

Page 1 of 212
powered by the Paulists