Busted Halo

You Don't Know Jack...

Fr. Jack Collins, CSP, hits the streets asking young adults what they know about things Catholic.

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July 7th, 2014

While vacationing in Las Vegas, Busted Halo’s own Fr. Jack Collins, CSP, decides to hit the strip and ask people what they know and think about that topic everyone associates with Vegas … sin.

June 27th, 2014

Candles held at the start of the Easter Vigil at St. John By the Sea Church in Alaska. (CNS photo/Nancy Wiechec) Candles held at the start of the Easter Vigil at St. John By the Sea Church in Alaska. (CNS photo/Nancy Wiechec)“Come, follow me.”

These are the words of Jesus to Peter, a fisherman casting his net into the Sea of Galilee.

“Get up and go.”

These are the words of Jesus to Saul (soon to be Paul), a zealous persecutor of the earliest Christian community.

On the Feast of Saints Peter and Paul, we are reminded of the kinetic nature of discipleship. To encounter Jesus is to be set into motion. To have our plans altered (read: obliterated). To serve and encourage and comfort and teach. To be willing to empty ourselves in order to be filled with Christ.

Fr. Kenneth Walker was a priest. A young priest. He was assigned to Mater Misericordiae (Mother of Mercy) Mission. He served the homeless who came to the mission, was a passionate advocate for the unborn, and was eager to share the beauty of the Traditional Latin Mass. He was a member of the Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter. According to those who helped him prepare to live out his priestly vocation, he was a humble guy. He possessed an uncommon innocence. He never spoke negatively about anybody. He was eager to serve and never missed out on an opportunity to help those in need.

On Wednesday, June 11, a homeless man with a history of violent crime forced his way into the Mater Misericordiae rectory in Phoenix, Arizona. He severely beat pastor Fr. Joseph Terra, 56, with a metal rod. Fr. Kenneth Walker, 28, heard the commotion. When he came to the aid of Fr. Terra, the burglar shot and fatally wounded him. Fr. Terra was able to crawl to Fr. Walker’s side and administer Last Rites to his brother priest. Fr. Walker died on his way to the hospital. Fr. Terra has been hospitalized, but is expected to …

June 25th, 2014

factsfaith-stpaul-flashFr. Larry explains what has happened to St. Paul’s remains after he was martyred in Rome.  He and Fr. Dave also discuss St. Paul’s Basilica — one of the four main basilicas in Rome — and a kooky superstition associated with it.

June 19th, 2014

popemobilesardinecan1“I remember in Brazil, they’d provided for me an enclosed Popemobile, but I cannot greet the people and tell them I love them inside a sardine can, even if it is made of glass. For me it is a wall.” — Pope Francis to La Vanguardia, a Spanish newspaper

We’ve got one cool pope. The guy greets large crowds all the time, kisses kids on the head, drinks coffee from strangers, and reportedly sneaks out at night to visit the homeless.

So, perhaps the popemobile, a vehicle with bulletproof glass on all sides, is sending the wrong message.

I remember when the popemobile first arrived on the scene after the attempted assassination of John Paul II. We all thought it was kind of cool, but it did seem to restrict the movements of a very vibrant pope.

Restrictions are something Pope Francis would like to avoid, and furthermore, Pope Francis knows the risks. In the recent Vanguardia article, he also notes his age and realizes that he may not have too many opportunities to bring the love of the pope so directly to others.

“It is true something could happen to me but let’s be realistic, at my age I don’t have much to lose,” Pope Francis said, “I know what could happen, but it is in God’s hands.”

Young people should take note of what the pope is saying here, as should those we dub “helicopter parents”: We can’t stop bad things from happening. The world is a precarious place and a great sign of our faith is that we go forth into it unafraid. We spend far too much of our time in fear. Pope Francis senses this and is trying to help us be less afraid of one another.

Fear, however, often creeps back in, doesn’t it?

I just returned from El Salvador, where I worried about safety concerns in a country that has problems with violent gangs and is ravaged by severe poverty. I feared for the nine college students, all young women, who traveled with me and even …

June 18th, 2014

If you’re looking for this summer’s most action-packed blockbuster, then you should not see The Fault in Our Stars. But if you’re looking for a movie with a little more depth than just superheroes, explosions, and gunfire, then you should get to the theater now. And based on the box office numbers, you won’t be alone. Warning: Bring an entire box of tissues. (I made the mistake of leaving mine at home and was left with the back of my hand.)

The film adaptation of John Green’s famous novel follows 16-year-old Hazel Grace, who suffers from cancer that makes breathing difficult. She carries around an oxygen tank and must wear a tube around her face everywhere she goes. Though reluctant, she attends a weekly support group, and while there, meets Augustus Waters and his friend Isaac, who both have cancer as well: Gus had his leg amputated and Isaac will go completely blind soon. Through a series of events (romantic picnics, phone calls in the middle of the night, and a trip to Amsterdam on the tab of Make-a-Wish), Gus and Hazel fall in love, despite Hazel’s cynical view of her life and her impending death. Mortality is an ever-present subject on the minds of the characters in the film. It rears its ugly head in heartbreaking scenes that depict the outright panic of facing a life-or-death situation.

Altogether, the movie stayed true to the book’s major themes. The scarcity of outside characters that affect Gus and Hazel’s relationship, like Gus’ ex-girlfriend who resembled Hazel and died of a brain tumor, and the euphemistic treatment of suffering by characters — which was graphically described in the book — are minor changes that barely detract from the emotional intensity of the movie. Details like Hazel’s loose jeans, Gus’ awkward body movements because of his leg, and the pathetic swing set that Hazel’s father built for her enhanced the movie’s closeness to the book. The most important symbol in the movie that was also a huge part of the book was Gus’ cigarettes, which he …

June 12th, 2014

A scene from "X-Men: Days of Future Past." A scene from “X-Men: Days of Future Past.”With summer beginning to take hold, it’s once again time to welcome the droves of big-budget action blockbusters to the silver screen, and chief among them is the hottest trend in movies today: the superhero flick. This “summer” alone, we’ve already had three, and it’s only the beginning of June! Still, as I’ve said before, I believe firmly in the Jesuit tradition of finding God in all things, and summer superhero features are no exception. So with that in mind, let’s take a look at the three examples of comic book cinema — Captain America: The Winter Soldier, The Amazing Spider-Man 2, and X-Men: Days of Future Past — and see just what spiritual wisdom we can glean from their spandex-clad stars.

Captain America
Captain America: The Winter Soldier, at times feeling more like a Bond-esque spy movie than a superhero tale, is a story packed to the brim with espionage, double-crossing, and plenty of lies. If nothing else, the movie repeatedly emphasizes one point about the titular Captain’s dealings with his “allies” in modern society (namely, the government agency S.H.I.E.L.D.) — there is no one he can trust.

While this may make sense in the high-stakes setting that Winter Soldier establishes, it’s certainly not the best take-away for us as an audience. However, it’s what Cap does in spite of constantly being told to “trust no one” that should inspire our confidence. You see, even as “friends” turn out to be not so friendly and enemies draw ever nearer, our hero isn’t shaken. He doesn’t retreat into himself and start shutting out the people that matter to him, or lash out at those who have wronged him. Instead, he finds the people in his life that he can trust, keeps them close, and does his best to make everything right. Even in the face of his greatest betrayer, who seeks nothing less than to kill him, …

June 6th, 2014

I’ve always wanted to go to Europe. However, I never imagined that anything could make me want to walk 500 miles — the entire width of northern Spain (as in, the country) — with little more than the clothes on my back. But after seeing Walking the Camino: Six Ways to Santiago, a documentary that followed the experiences of various people who made the journey, I have to say that I am inspired.

Walking the Camino, a film directed and produced by Lydia B. Smith, is an eye-opening experience. Wrapped up in our modern worlds of technology and other complexities, we have grown detached from the simplicity and beauty of the world surrounding us, not to mention the spiritual peace which can at times be difficult to grasp. The documentary follows the travels of six different pilgrims as they make their way along the Camino Francés, one of the many paths of the Camino de Santiago.

The Camino is a pilgrimage route that has been traveled for more than 1,200 years. There are hostels, called albergues, and other centers for hospitality along the path, which offer pilgrims food, beds, medical attention, and anything else that might be needed. The services are not luxurious by any means — hostel bedrooms often have pilgrims sleeping tightly next to one another, so you will probably end up in close quarters with a complete stranger — but that’s all part of the experience.

Being so near, you are forced to interact with people who you would never have met otherwise. For instance, in the film, the pilgrim Misa, a student from Denmark, meets the Canadian William because he is the only other traveler who can match her pace on the road. These two, normally loners, become — to their own surprise — extremely close, spending almost every minute of every day together.

On the Camino, everyone is equal, carrying only what they need, and so they have more freedom to share, not necessarily possessions, but parts of themselves that they rarely would reveal. Without the extraneous façade erected …

June 5th, 2014

Pope Francis stops in front of an Israeli security wall in Bethlehem, West Bank, on his recent visit to Palestine. (CNS photo/L'Osservatore Romano, pool) Pope Francis stops in front of an Israeli security wall in Bethlehem, West Bank, on his recent visit to Palestine. (CNS photo/L’Osservatore Romano, pool)This Sunday, Shimon Peres, president of Israel, and Mahmoud Abbas, president of Palestine, will join Pope Francis at the Vatican for a “prayer meeting for peace,” the Vatican Information Service said.

The prayer meeting, which the Vatican has been careful to note is not a prelude to formal peace talks, is the result of the pope’s recent trip to Jordan, Palestine, and Israel.

“We’re meeting to pray, only that,” the pope said, “and then everyone will go home.”

The pope’s trip was full of symbolic gestures that promoted peace and condemned violence on both sides. So of course, the prayer meeting is noteworthy because violence in the Middle East remains a tragic reality. If these three men, whose faiths have been at odds for centuries, can inspire others to join together and abstain from violence, the meeting will be a success.

And just as interesting, the meeting demonstrates how far the Catholic Church has come in how it approaches other faiths over the past 50 years.
The pope’s decision to bring two of his friends, one a Muslim and one a Jew, on his trip to the Holy Land was more than good optics. Seeing the three men embrace showed that religious differences need not lead to conflict and violence. Rather, we saw, religious differences can actually be a source of unity, especially in an increasingly secular West.

To readers of a certain age, it might seem unremarkable that a Catholic pope is so close to a Jewish rabbi, in this case, Rabbi Abraham Skorka, head of the Latin American Rabbinical Seminary in Buenos Aires and co-author with the pope of the book, On Heaven and Earth.

But it’s worth remembering that we’re just about 50 years out from the Holocaust. While many Catholic priests, …

May 30th, 2014

Scene from the movie “Million Dollar Arm.” (CNS photo/Disney) Scene from the movie “Million Dollar Arm.” (CNS photo/Disney)JB Bernstein is at the end of his rope. He’s had a slick car, a stylish house, and a smooth living as a sports agent, but with clients losing interest, it’s all begun to fall apart. As his last big opportunity slips through his fingers, JB faces defeat. Yet even if it’s only a façade, he has hope for the future — hope that manifests itself in the form of a competition called Million Dollar Arm.

Such is the setup for the film of the same name, which features Jon Hamm as the aforementioned JB Bernstein. Based on a true story, Million Dollar Arm tells the tale of Bernstein’s last-ditch effort to travel to India, recruit two cricket players, and teach them American baseball in the hopes of making them MLB stars. Of course, the plan doesn’t go exactly as he expected (because let’s be honest, if it did, there’d be no movie). Yet, with every hitch in the works, from finding out that the two kids JB thinks are “cricket masters” have never even played cricket to the (somewhat forced) decision to let them stay in his home rather than at a hotel, JB comes closer and closer to realizing something he never could have without these boys.

The emotional crux of this film lies right there, when JB finally comes to a moment of true self-understanding. After a few failures with making the full Million Dollar Arm scheme work, it hits him that he’s been going about his life all wrong. He comes to terms with the fact that he’s been pushing away the people who care about him — Rinku and Dinesh (the two boys whom he hopes to groom into baseball stars), his best friend Aash, and his tenant Brenda — in favor of pursuing his career. As that career starts to unravel, JB comes to learn that in order to truly be happy, he must focus not only …

May 20th, 2014

Pope Francis embraces Catholicos Karekin II, head of the Armenian Apostolic Church, during a meeting at Vatican. (CNS photo/L'Osservatore Romano via Reuters) Pope Francis embraces Catholicos Karekin II, head of the Armenian Apostolic Church, during a meeting at Vatican. (CNS photo/L’Osservatore Romano via Reuters)Pope Francis is cultivating a “culture of encounter.” And his garden is not just within the Catholic Church, but includes Christians from other churches as well as members of other world religions.

This is not a new style for him. When he was still Cardinal Bergoglio in the archdiocese of Buenos Aires in Argentina, his financial manager was an evangelical into whose office he would regularly come, and with whom he would read some scripture, share some prayer, and drink some tea. When another asked him why he did that, his response was: “People do that with their friends!”

He was making a point about his relationship with evangelicals. Indeed, Cardinal Bergoglio’s election as pope received a glowing response in evangelical circles throughout the Americas. Christianity Today, the flagship publication of evangelicalism in America, ran three high-profile pieces detailing the reaction of leading evangelicals who had worked with him during his decades of ministry in Latin America, or were familiar with it.

Juan Pablo Bongarrá, president of the Argentine Bible Society, recalled when Bergoglio once attended a weekly worship meeting organized by Buenos Aires’ charismatic pastors. “He mounted the platform and called for pastors to pray for him,” Bongarrá said. “He knelt in front of nearly 6,000 people, and laid hands on him and prayed.”

“We evangelical leaders that know him are very happy with his election,” Bongarrá said. “We have had a good relationship with him for many years. We think that a new time is coming for the Catholic Church, because our brother wants to promote evangelism.”

Ecumenical leaders present at Pope Francis’ installation included Bartholomew I, the first Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople to attend a papal installation since the East-West schism of 1054. The attendance of Eastern Orthodox leaders at the new pope’s inaugural …

May 16th, 2014

Pope Francis celebrates ordination Mass for new priests in St. Peter's Basilica. (CNS photo/Stefano Rellandini, Reuters) Pope Francis celebrates ordination Mass for new priests in St. Peter’s Basilica. (CNS photo/Stefano Rellandini, Reuters)Earlier this week, Pope Francis ordained 13 new priests, and he took great pains in announcing what he considered their main job to be as clerics: Be merciful.

In his homily, the pope said that he gets upset when he no longer sees people going to confession because people were “scolded” by their confessors, “as if the church doors were closed in their face.”

“Please don’t do this,” the pope told 13 new priests he ordained in the basilica. He used the example of Jesus who never tired of showing mercy to others. Pope Francis said priests should remember that Jesus “didn’t come to condemn but to forgive.” More from Vatican Radio:
He called on the newly ordained to “be aware that you were chosen from among men and established in their favour to attend to the things of God,” to “exercise the priestly work of Christ with joy and sincere charity;” to be intent “on pleasing God, and not yourselves.”

Pope Francis concluded his homily saying, “Have always before your eyes the example of the Good Shepherd, who did not come to be served, but to serve, and to seek and to save those that were lost.”

While Pope Francis has placed mercy in the forefront of his papacy, he wants to make sure that his priests understand that this is a mandate of the faith and not an option. We are a church of forgiveness, after all. It will be interesting to see how the pope continues on this path as more revelations come forward about scandals in the Church.

How forgiving and merciful will the pope be to those who have abused children and to those who have embezzled money? If the pope is ever a hardliner against anything it is surely against those who have harmed the poor in some way.

In the future look for …

May 1st, 2014

nba-congress1By last weekend, nearly everyone had heard about the racist rant caught on tape, attributed to Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling, and released by the celebrity gossip outfit TMZ.

Right away, anyone who’s anyone was weighing in on Sterling’s rant. Speaking at a press conference in Malaysia, President Obama lamented that the nation still struggles with issues of race, and said that he had “confidence that the NBA commissioner Adam Silver, a good man, will address this.”

Tuesday, Silver did just that, announcing a lifetime ban on Sterling’s attendance at NBA events, a $2.5 million fine, and that he planned to ask NBA owners to strip Sterling ownership rights.

In total, a mere four days passed from the time the world learned about Sterling’s racist rant and his lifetime ban from the NBA.

The mobilization in public opinion, the swift condemnation from public leaders, and the NBA’s punishment shows that things can still get done in this country.
Why can’t our federal government act with the same urgency and efficiency?

Consider three areas where, despite public outrage and political pressure, there’s been no change in law.

In December 2012, just days after the Sandy Hook shooting that left 26 students and teachers dead, public sentiment quickly coalesced around the push for stronger gun control laws. At the time, according to Gallup, 58% of Americans agreed that laws around the sale of firearms should be made more strict.

Legislation was introduced but went nowhere. Last year, the Senate failed to pass even an expanded background check for gun sales. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said he would bring up the issue in 2014. He hasn’t.

Earlier this year, a group of Democratic representatives urged the president to include a renewed push for gun control legislation in his State of the Union Address. He didn’t.

In fact, across the nation, 30 new pro-gun laws have been passed just this year. In Georgia, a bill was just signed into law that allows concealed weapons in airports, schools, bars, and churches. Churches.

Next, there’s immigration.

Leaders on both sides …

April 25th, 2014

saintsinthemaking-v2Upon the death of John Paul II, the chants began in the streets of Rome: “Santo Subito! Santo Subito!” (“Sainthood now!”)

Now a pope doesn’t make a saint willy-nilly; this takes careful deliberation. When the process of making saints began, they were named by acclimation of the people in a particular area. That is why we have names like St. Francis of Assisi or St. Anthony of Padua. When the full population in an area followed the example and began calling a person a saint, it stuck. (Obviously, that kind of system can be abused and actually the Church has gone back and removed some saints from the rolls because they frankly just didn’t measure up.)

John Paul II will be named a saint by Pope Francis. Some would say Francis didn’t wait long enough. Many are still troubled by the number of priest-abusers and abuse-enablers that endangered children on John Paul II’s watch. Others think there are people, even other popes, who are more deserving of sainthood.

Say, for instance, John XXIII, who led the Church by calling for the Second Vatican Council and opening the windows of the Church to let in some fresh air. Aggornamento is the famous Italian word meaning “a bringing up to date” that John XXIII used when he decided to call the council. He was a huge figure in the Church and made lasting change. Many admired John XXIII for that, as well as for his good humor and his heroic acts during the Holocaust.

John Paul II, though a priest of Vatican II, was a staunch conservative and many in inner Church circles who favor him think John XXIII’s reforms were a bit too liberal. So, Pope Francis is raising both popes to sainthood. Between the two, there’s a little something for everyone to admire. Any dissatisfaction we might have with either one can be tempered.

Now, back to the process for sainthood. For one to become a saint, a case needs to be made that the person has two miracles attributed to their intercession — …

April 19th, 2014

Experiencing how good ham can be when it’s not just simply combined with cheese and white bread. #pigUPGRADECreative Commons/Wikipedia Creative Commons/Wikipedia

Sad, non-dyed (or boiled) eggs sulking in the fridge. #sadEGGFlickr: sotheavy Creative Commons Flickr: sotheavy Creative Commons

Easter Island confusion! #IslandLivingFlickr: Arian Zwegers Creative Commons Flickr: Arian Zwegers Creative Commons

Scary, edible bunnies that terrify children. #ChocolateGuillotineFlickr: Kathryn Decker Creative Commons Flickr: Kathryn Decker Creative Commons

Scary, non-edible bunnies that terrify children. #BunnyNightmareMatt Weber Matt Weber

Age old debate: Game of Thrones or The Ten Commandments? #MosesLannister #beardsGOTmoses

Countless Facebook photos of your friends’ children looking even more adorable! #cuterkidsMatt WeberMatt Weber

Flickr: Justin Barton Creative Commons Flickr: Justin Barton Creative Commons

The rare site of a church parking lot that is completely full! #ArriveEARLYProvidence Story Providence Story

Finding a hidden egg from last year’s Easter egg hunt. #EggsactlyWhereILeftItFlickr: M S Creative Commons Flickr: M S Creative Commons

Giant, festive hats worn proudly! #HAPPYeasterPharrell

April 11th, 2014
Busted Halo Family,

I write this companion for the Stations of the Cross as I begin my wait for a kidney transplant. I am blessed to feel healthy, energetic and very optimistic. Meditating on the Stations has been especially fruitful for me this Lent. I wanted to write a version for those going through a difficult time with their health. If your way of sorrow does not include illness, I hope these Stations will help you find your own words to draw nearer to Jesus in a time of uncertainty.

Have a blessed Lent and Godspeed to you on your journey,


Opening Prayer
Jesus, today I accompany you on your Via Dolorosa — your way of sorrow. You walked this way of sorrow for me. Out of boundless love for all humankind you suffered and died. Lord, forgive me. I know that the weight you bear is not only that of the cross but of my sins. By meditating on your Via Dolorosa, I desire a spirit of repentance.

Lord, I am walking my own way of sorrow. I am ill. My body is failing me. I am afraid. Walk with me, Jesus. You will never abandon me. By meditating on your Via Dolorosa, I desire a spirit of confidence in your goodness, a spirit of surrender to the will of my loving God in heaven, and a spirit of hope in the eternal life you have obtained for us. Amen.

011st Station: Jesus is condemned to death

Jesus, you stood alone to hear your sentence before an angry crowd. You endured fear. You accepted the will of the Father. The sound of my diagnosis rings in my ears. It is deafening. Conquer the fear in my heart. Teach me to hope in your Resurrection.

Say one Our Father and one Hail Mary or pray in your own way.

012nd Station: Jesus carries His cross

Jesus, you willingly picked up your cross. You chose to walk your way of sorrow. I know I must accept …

April 10th, 2014

sxsw-vanessaEven though I have an admitted issue with ever expanding technologies, I went to a SXSW Interactive party with Brandon last year. Instead of finding people interested in making a buck or talking about the latest microchip processor, I found people using technology for social good. I engaged in conversations about orphans in India and the difficulty of reaching teens about faith. I discussed things I didn’t think I would have with techies. I was hooked.

This year I was lucky enough to go to SXSW Interactive where I met lots of different people, I listened to lots of ideas, and I took lots of notes. If you have any preconceived image of a modern day techie, pitch it out the window. I felt pretty un-fashion-forward. Most around me had beautiful leather satchels carrying the latest and sleekest laptop with acid wash skinny jeans and thick-rimmed glasses peeking through their swooshy bangs. After I stopped ogling laptop bags, I started listening to what people had to say.

Even though I met lots of different people from all over the world working in many different professions, it was clear the 20- and 30-somethings were mostly coming from the same place. They’ve seen the wealth-addicted, nothing-matters-more-than-the-bottom-line professional, and they don’t like it. They’ve also watched their parents devote an entire career to one, and only one, unfulfilling job. They don’t want that either.

One speaker, Leila Janah, pointed to the space that exists between a profit maximizing business and a struggling non-profit. “What if we used a lean startup model for non-profits?” The kind of business that puts the social mission first but is also revenue-sustainable. This shift in thinking allows an organization to affect global change without having to worry about staying open year after year — it can instead focus on thriving and expanding.

She attributes her philosophy to Thomas Pogge, saying, “My job forces me to travel from a city with the highest median income in the United States to places like rural Benin and Uganda, where the average …

April 4th, 2014

Jennifer Connelly and Russell Crowe star in a scene from the movie "Noah." (CNS photo/Paramount) Jennifer Connelly and Russell Crowe star in a scene from the movie “Noah.” (CNS photo/Paramount)With Darren Aronofsky’s Noah out in theaters, one of the major questions that’s been floating around is: Is the film accurate? The answer, honestly, depends on what you define as “accurate.” The film gets quite a few biblical details wrong (and adds plenty of its own dramatic tweaks and twists, though that sort of thing has come to be accepted for pretty much any film adaptation nowadays), but understanding the overall accuracy of Noah begs a larger question: How do we interpret the story of Noah and the Flood in the first place?

To start, yes — there is historical basis for the story of Noah, at least on the flood front. However, it is merely basis, as Catholics consider the tale to originate from an ancient rhetorical style that commonly employed myth, emphasis, and embellishment to explain certain truths. Noah’s “Great Flood” is not the only story to use this pattern, as many mythological traditions include details about such a flood — the Epic of Ziusudra, the Epic of Atrahasis, and the Epic of Gilgamesh. This mythological background, of course, is where the story comes in.

You see, the story of Noah in Genesis, frankly, is a myth. While it certainly could be based on fact (or simply based on other flood myths from different cultures), the story itself is not to be taken literally. Even the Bible itself varies on certain details of the tale, claiming different facts in different verses about, for example, how many animals were present on the ark (Genesis 6:9-10 claims two pair of each kind of animal, while Genesis 7:2-4 says seven pairs). What is important in the story of Noah is the underlying metaphor; the story stands to illustrate humanity’s relationship with God, and the covenant between the two. There were not necessarily a literal Noah, flood,

April 4th, 2014

Con algunos amigos peruanos. Con algunos amigos peruanos.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 rest, a few seconds in which nothing calls our attention, if only to maintain our sanity.

What I have begun to consider in a new light, however, is that while we who yearn for silence in a modernized society must go against the grain to choose it, many others have no choice at all. For better or worse, silence is their lot in life.

An obvious example is anyone suffering injustice around the world. I understand how sanctimonious a comment this might appear to be. Our media can feel over-saturated with calls to action against human rights violations and suppressions of basic freedoms. Encouragement to do something — anything — to feel we are addressing the world’s ills and cruelties sometimes seems to be more for the service of our own consciences than anything else. Furthermore, so much bad news can be so burdensome that it leaves one numb.

But the fact of the matter remains that for too many people, silence is not the way to enlightenment but rather an inescapable way of life.

For the year and a half I served as a Jesuit Volunteer in Peru, I was haltingly aware of some of the challenges …

April 3rd, 2014

gmailIn writing handwritten notes the past four weeks, I’ve learned a few things:

1. You don’t put links in notes – One distinct difference between writing notes/cards v. writing e-mails is links. I mean — sure, I could jot down the url to that great vegan recipe I tried last night or even a link to this very blog, but it just feels somehow wrong when you’re writing a handwritten note to someone. Not to mention cumbersome. That’s what e-mail, Facebook, and Twitter are for. Handwritten notes are personal. You might even say emotional because they are an expression of how you feel about someone or something that’s happening to someone (birthday, wedding, loss, etc.).

2. This Lenten challenge is brought to you by the Post Office – You know — that place where you go to mail things. I’m not talking about a Google server in North Carolina or another part of the world that’s filtering e-mails. I’m talking about a building in your neighborhood with a flag waving outside and people wearing Post Office uniforms inside. A place where — at least in New York City — there is always a line. Mark my words, it might be three people. It might be 13 people — there is always a line. I stocked up on stamps before Lent and have only been back to the actual Post Office a few times since Ash Wednesday, but it is the reason I’ve been able to send notes to people in California, Michigan, Florida, Pennsylvania, and uptown.

3. There is no delete key on a Hallmark greeting card – That’s right, sometimes I make a mistake when I’m writing. When it’s an e-mail, easy enough — delete, delete, delete. But in a handwritten note? Well, not so much. This fact does lead me to be more focused and intentional about what (and how) I’m writing. And in the absence of a delete key, there is always the physical strikethrough — a few quick lines through a misspelled or misplaced word. …

April 3rd, 2014

U.S. bishops celebrate Mass at border fence in Nogales, Arizona. (CNS photo/Nancy Wiechec) U.S. bishops celebrate Mass at border fence in Nogales, Arizona. (CNS photo/Nancy Wiechec)Last weekend, more than 100 students gathered at St. Clement Parish in the Lincoln Park neighborhood of Chicago. Representing Catholic campus ministry centers from colleges and universities throughout the United States — Catholic, private, and public — these students were wrapping up a year of leadership training and faith formation as participants in ESTEEM (Engaging Students to Enliven the Ecclesial Mission), a project of the National Leadership Roundtable on Church Management and the St. Thomas More Catholic Center at Yale University.

The students spend their ESTEEM year attending workshops, small group sessions, retreats, and engaged in service opportunities. They read church documents on a range of subjects in order to become familiar with how the church operates, from the structure of the Vatican, to how bishops run dioceses, to the role of parish councils. The idea is that when students graduate and leave their vibrant campus ministry centers, they should feel empowered to take on leadership positions in their parishes. As Kerry Robinson, my colleague at the Leadership Roundtable, says, students should feel ready to be the church they want to see.
When students were given the opportunity to share, again and again they mentioned that they didn’t feel comfortable talking about their faith lives in a public setting, away from the safety of church walls. Students who held traditional views on church and social issues said this, which wasn’t surprising given how far wide the gap between church teaching and societal values on social issues has grown in the last decade or so.

What raised an eyebrow for me, though, was that even those students whose views on contraception, same-sex marriage, and other social issues more closely align with the Democratic Party than the Catholic bishops, voiced this concern, too.

Publicly identifying as Catholic sometimes connotes a certain political persuasion or party affiliation, so young progressives who are Catholic might be reluctant to discuss …

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