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Fr. Tom Gibbons :
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Since 2009, Tom Gibbons, CSP, has shared insights on faith, pop culture, and seminary life in the Kicking and Screaming blog here at Busted Halo. On May 19, 2012, Tom was ordained a Paulist priest at St. Paul the Apostle Church in New York City. He will begin serving St. Peter's Catholic Church in Toronto, Canada beginning in July 2012.
January 12th, 2012

When you study to be a priest, attending Mass is as much of a part of one’s routine as brushing your teeth and applying deodorant. It may not happen EVERY single day, but it usually… happens every day.
Anyway I mention this because I consider myself to be a pretty connected person in terms of news events; what I do not learn through my iPhone, I typically pick up during church. When you go to a Mass in which most in attendance feel free to vocalize the thoughts, concerns, and groanings in their souls, it can serve as a regular RSS feed on what is going on in the world. And, ironically, it was in this manner that I learned that the famed-atheist Christopher Hitchens had passed.
I struggled to write this reflection for a while;

December 31st, 2011
(1942 – 2011)

When Clarence Clemons joined the E Street Band in October 1972, I was six months old. He was just beginning his musical partnership in a New Jersey shore town that was recovering from a race riot that had destroyed the city and I was just beginning my life in a suburban New Jersey town 60 miles away, whose last major disturbance was the arrival of George Washington’s troops at Jockey Hollow. For the most part, the major shocks of the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s were settling down into a very long hangover in which the following generations — mine included — would have to learn how to bridge the divides and the injustices of the past by simply learning how to live with one another.
But growing up…

December 24th, 2011

My wonderful five-year-old nephew has been asking questions about a certain topic the past few months.  He has been talking with all of these boys at school and my sister—his mother—decided that he was ready.  And I have to say that I am flattered that both her and her husband decided that I would be the best person to shepherd him across this very important Rite of Passage.  And so this Christmas break, I will be introducing my nephew to the Star Wars movies.
This is not a responsibility I take lightly. There are many questions.  For example, do I start like I started, with original Star Wars (now known as “Episode 4”)… or do I start him with the prequels?  If I do start him with the original trilogy, do I…

November 24th, 2011

Sarah Josepha Hale was an American writer and an influential editor throughout most of the 19th Century and while most writers would be thrilled to be able to claim having made one major impact on American culture, Sarah Joseph Hale can claim to have made two. First impact came in 1830 when she published the nursery rhyme “Mary Had a Little Lamb.” The second impact; Sarah Josepha Hale is credited as the individual most responsible for making Thanksgiving a national holiday in the United States in 1863.
Of course, Sarah Josepha Hale was not responsible for the Thanksgiving holiday itself. Even before the now famous pilgrims celebrated the feast in Plymouth, Massachusetts in 1621, Spaniards conducted…

October 6th, 2011

“We believe that people with passion can change the world for the better.” …
This summer, I spent a lot of time in a room that overlooked the graves of Sam Adams, John Hancock, and the parents of Benjamin Franklin. And also with me in that room, along with the ghosts of the American Revolution, was my new 21.5-inch iMac with the 2.5GHz Core i5 processor, the invention of another American revolutionary.
I share the processor speed because, as any Mac nerd would know, this machine is on the lowest end iMacs one can currently purchase.  But even so, it cuts through the processing of HD video like Bill Clinton would a plate of pork chops. It was in this room in Boston that I was working on my first documentary film. 

September 10th, 2011

I probably shouldn’t say this, but I REALLY do not like the Sunday Gospel… the one where Jesus says that you have to forgive “not seven times but seventy-seven times.“  I think today, I’d rather read a Gospel like Luke 17:1, where Jesus says, “Things that cause sin will inevitably occur, but woe to the person through whom they occur. It would be better for him if a millstone were put around his neck and he be thrown into the sea than for him to cause one of these little ones to sin.” …
A question that has been asked of a lot of people over the past few days is, “Where were you ten years ago today?” I was walking into work—with a cup of Dunkin Donuts in my hand—and without having heard what was

August 29th, 2011

“Are they my poor? I tell thee, thou foolish philanthropist, that I grudge the dollar, the dime, the cent I give to such men as do not belong to me and to whom I do not belong.” 
When I first read those words by Ralph Waldo Emerson in his essay on Self-Reliance, I was a junior in West Morris Central High School and — coming of age in upper-middle class New Jersey — had never met a poor person and didn’t really know anything about poverty. What I did know a lot about was being an awkward teenager who cared way too much about what others thought of him and spending a lot of time by myself. So when I read further in Emerson’s essay on the importance of being an individual, a chord was struck. “To believe…

August 17th, 2011

As my summer draws to a close, I’ve been reflecting on my feelings of starting a new year of seminary.
In order to answer the question, “Am I looking forward to going back to seminary?”… it’s probably best to relay a conversation that I recently had with one of the Paulist priests. It was a simple conversation that happened a few weeks ago; I bumped into this Paulist with whom I am friends in DC while I was staying in Boston for the summer. He asked me if I was looking forward to my upcoming ordination. I replied that I was. Very much so. Because then I wouldn’t have to be in seminary any more.
My answer was not that I would finally get to serve the people. My answer was not that I could shine the love

August 5th, 2011

When 10,000 Maniacs visited Loyola College in Maryland in 1990, I did not go. As a college freshman who was only a few months removed from the “Hair Metal” culture that then dominated Northern New Jersey, I was not able to comprehend a band whose female lead singer used dramatically less “Aqua Net” than the male lead singers I had been listening to. But lately, I have found myself nostalgic for music that I did not listen to “back in the day,” music that never found it’s way into my own stereo but was playing in the background in the rooms of those with more progressive musical tastes. Perhaps it’s because the music of Natalie Merchant, R.E.M., and the Sundays never had the opportunity to be overplayed…

June 19th, 2011

The thing about studying theology, especially Catholic theology, is that you have to learn all of these new words… Greek …words.   Have you ever heard the phrase, “It’s all Greek to me?”  Well, after three years of graduate study to become a priest, I am now convinced that that phrase originated with a theologian.
Of course, there’s nothing wrong with the Greek language in and of itself… it’s just that after a while, it’s hard not to wonder why one has to know so much of it in order to grow in one’s relationship with God.  I mean, when I first heard the word “exegesis,” I originally thought meant those times when Jesus left the building.  When my Scripture class threw the word “hermeneutic”

April 29th, 2011

I love The Onion.  I do.  If there is one media source that I can go to at any given time and KNOW that I’m going to have at least one good laugh, it’s the Onion.  I’ve been reading it for almost fifteen years, and I’m still amazed at how funny and biting it can be.  You may agree with me on this, but the more I read the Onion and the more I watch the news, the more the “real” news headlines begin to remind me of The Onion’s fake headlines.  I mean, do you remember the “Double Down” sandwich offered by KFC last year that did away with the bread and offered two fried chicken breasts instead with bacon and cheese in the middle?  I swear it was not until I actually drove by a KFC a few days later that I was convinced…

April 2nd, 2011

The scene: 10 eighth-grade religious education students, their teacher, and yours truly—a plucky seminarian who was brought in for “Vocation Awareness Day.”  I talk, explaining the many ways we can all serve God in our lives, and that religious life is one of those ways — a very good way… yada, yada, yada.  Are there any questions?  A hand goes up.  I graciously call on the inquisitive young child.
“Why are priests always so fat?”…
It is important to note that there was still some sugar on my shirt from the doughnut I had just scarfed down after Mass… black clothes do a terrible job of hiding sugar.  It is also important to note that the previous evening I had more than my fare share of Texas Barbecue

March 22nd, 2011

In today’s media environment, we invariably hear the stories about which things go wrong.  I guess it’s human nature to focus on the negative, but the focus of news organizations do have its place.  I think that when issues like the sex-abuse crisis continue to unfold, we do need to be reminded of it so that we don’t turn our eyes away from it, lest we conveniently skip over the lessons that we may have to absorb as a Church.  I remember during Benedict’s visit a few years ago, a Catholic commentator was on television claiming that the Church sex-abuse crisis had been put behind her and now we could all move on… 18 months later it exploded again in Europe.  Sadly, negativity has its place in the world.…

February 15th, 2011

I recently heard that the second priest to have ever dined in my parents’ home had been implicated in sex abuse scandal. As a former child abuse prosecutor and now mother of four, it has been a particularly difficult question to answer why stay in light of the crimes committed by an astounding number of priests and the subsequent systemic cover up by members of the hierarchy……
So began the letter of an old college friend with whom I have recently connected on Facebook.  This friend has been an active member of the Catholic Church for as long as I’ve known her; in college she served as a sponsor for RCIA and after college she spent a year as a full-time volunteer.  As the note continued, she did make a

January 26th, 2011

In retrospect, I realize it wasn’t fair that the shooting in Arizona two weeks ago was immediately blamed on the poisonous quality our political discourse has taken over the past number of years.  But I also can’t lie — my knee jerk reaction on hearing about the shooting was that the crime was indeed a crazed ideologue committing this heinous act.  And the fact that I was far from being alone in making that immediate assumption does bespeak of a larger issue going on in the nation.
While wrestling with the question of how to proceed, I spotted a bumper sticker.  It said, “Don’t Drink and Derive… Alcohol and Calculus Don’t Mix.”  That one didn’t help me out too much, but then I saw another bumper…

January 7th, 2011

While I adore the parish at which I am serving this year, I sometimes wonder if it is run by Quakers rather than Catholics.  Because at the beginning of Daily Masses at my Church, only the priest seems to have an assigned role.
Of course roles are much more defined during the Sunday services, but for whatever reason the role of lector and Eucharistic minister at my church is left to whomever the Spirit moves during the week; daily Masses are usually characterized by the assembled faithful giving each other looks that communicate after the Opening Prayer is finished, “Are you going to do it? Do you want me to go up?  Are you sure?”
Partially because I like to read and also partially because I am the seminarian, I usually…

January 4th, 2011
The passing of Barbara Billingsley (1915-2010), Peter Graves (1926-2010) and Leslie Nielsen (1926-2010)

Bob Hope, at his peak, was considered one of the funniest men on the planet. But show his performances to someone from the generations who have come after him and they may not elicit a lot of laughs. It’s not because Bob Hope wasn’t a good comedian, but because his humor was so dependent upon the time, place and circumstances in which the jokes were told. Consequently, if the time, place and circumstances are removed from the equation, the humor being conveyed loses most — if not all — of its impact.
I mention this because 30 years after the film’s release, Airplane!… remains one of the funniest movies ever made. Gag after gag is packed into this film like a carry-on bag stuffed with three

December 22nd, 2010

I realize that in my last post, I might have come off as kind of a grump… exams and papers will do that to you.  Not that I take back anything that I said regarding the importance of Advent or the true awfulness of the song “Last Christmas,” but when I hit the “Send” button on my last paper of the semester this past Saturday, the holidays began for me!
Still, after my last post I do feel the need to prove that I am not a total Mr. Potter.  In fact, it’s because I like Christmas music so much that I can’t stand when it is co-opted in order to give second-rate musical artists a shot towards achieving some “American Idol” style mediocrity.  So with that in mind, I would like to offer what I will be playing on my iPhone…

December 5th, 2010

For almost every Mass on the first Sunday of December I can remember, a (visibly angry) priest would climb to the pulpit and offer a predictable lament.  The lament was that “society” had, once again, started the celebration of Christmas four weeks too early; we as faithful Catholics were strongly encouraged not to take part in this abomination.
Of course, over half of the congregation had already accepted party invitations, had presents purchased during Black Friday stashed throughout the house, and had already set up a tree.  No matter!!!  The priest would challenge the community not to use the “C-word” (Christmas) until December 24.  Because Advent is a SERIOUS time!  A QUIET time!  A time…

October 29th, 2010

3:17 pm: After a long Metro Ride back (never ride the DC Metro with Joe Williams… bad luck always follows), Joe, Carolyn, and I talk about the place of religion in the public discourse in the hopes we can have a more open conversation as a whole, with people feeling free to both challenge and be challenged. We get back to St. Paul’s College and we drink beer. T’was a grand day!
2:35 pm: We decide to head out. We see someone holding a sign with a picture of Jesus that says something like, “That’s not what I said!” Had to get my picture taken with it.
2:02 pm: It’s funny, because there are so many people dressed up here today, not many people really notice me wearing a collar. BUT they…

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