Busted Halo

Rebecca Gallo is trying to put into practice the lessons she learned while walking The Camino. Follow along as she continues her spiritual journey — whatever that might mean.

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January 30th, 2013


What do I miss most about the Camino? If I had to choose just one thing, I’d say, “The simplicity of it all.” More specifically, the fact that there was just one item on my to-do list most days: walk.

“How far did you walk each day?” people ask.

“Twelve to 15 miles in the beginning, but sometimes I did up to 18.”

They are left speechless — a blank stare on their face. “But it’s all I had to do each day,” I tell them. “If you had all day to walk, you could walk that far, too.”

I was reminded of that sentiment last fall when I saw a painting of blue and green mountains. Across the top it read, “Everywhere is within walking distance if you have the time.”

And that’s what it’s about: time. And what we choose to fill it with. How much of it we choose to fill. In his Life’s Little Instruction Book H. Jackson Brown advises us:

“Don’t say you don’t have enough time. You have exactly the same number of hours per day that were given to Helen Keller, Pasteur, Michaelangelo, Mother Teresa, Leonardo da Vinci, Thomas Jefferson, and Albert …

January 28th, 2013

Three years after college graduation I found myself in a bit of a situation. I was completing an internship in Ohio. I was looking for a change of scene. I had just broken up with my girlfriend of two years. I was five hours from my hometown in Kentucky. I love my family but I wasn’t interested in moving back. I wanted to serve, but what would be the best way? Somewhere in there, my prayer life began to make me think, “Wait a second, what vocation am I called to?” I mean, did God desire me to be a husband and father someday? Being Catholic, I was also aware that priesthood or religious life was a possibility.

Well, next thing you know I’m on the streets of New York City. I happen to have a camera in one hand and a microphone in the other. I fearlessly went forth reporting for Busted Halo®. Were other young people asking some of the same questions I was? More importantly, how did they go about making the big decisions in their lives? Here are their answers.…

January 23rd, 2013

Warning: This article contains some spoilers about the movie.

It’s the perfect Hollywood plot: “the story of history’s greatest manhunt for the world’s most dangerous man.” You couldn’t ask for a more sinister villain — Osama bin Laden, the man responsible for history’s worst terrorist attack on the American people. And even before its release, controversy surrounded the film. Does the movie take a pro-torture stance? (Director Kathryn Bigelow responded to these accusations for the first time this week.) Did the filmmakers have access to classified materials during their research of the film? Is it a docu-drama or a work of fiction? Hollywood loves this type of publicity because it draws attention to a film and helps sell the story. It certainly piqued my interest and I was curious to see how the filmmakers interpreted the real life drama for the big screen.

Zero Dark Thirty did not disappoint. Look, we all know the ending. Bin Laden is killed. Yet I was on the edge of my seat the entire movie, along with the rest of the audience. You could hear a pin drop in the theater. I was expecting a Hollywood action thriller, and those elements were there, but …

January 20th, 2013

Once upon a time there was a Mary. No, not that Mary. A different one. This Mary lived in Egypt at the end of the fourth century. She made her way across the better part of the ancient near east by trading sexual favors to pilgrims for food and lodging. She boasted heartily about her ability to seduce and, if legend bears any truth, her licentiousness knew no bounds (seriously).

Once she followed a procession of pilgrims bearing a piece of the True Cross through Jerusalem to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. Donned in clothes meant to advertise her sexual availability, she sauntered among the pilgrims in search of her next conquest. When the procession reached the door of the church, she was barred from entering by a powerful and inexplicable force. Her eyes fell upon on image of the Blessed Virgin Mary and her heart instantly overflowed with humility, love, and repentance. Mary of Egypt (St. Mary of Egypt, to be precise) was suddenly able to enter the church where she worshipped God fervently and joyfully. She was allowed in as she was — dressed in a way meant to elicit lust. She was compelled to enter …

January 17th, 2013

This weekend, up to 800,000 people will converge on Washington, D.C., to celebrate President Barack Obama’s second inauguration, down from the 1.5 million who braved bitter cold four years ago but more than the second-term crowds greeting his two predecessors.

There’s less palpable excitement this time around, for sure, but there’s still the sense of a new beginning, hope for cooperation and work that will address some of our nation’s challenges.
What, I wonder, will those 800,000 individuals hope for from Obama’s second term? Each person there, I imagine, has his or her own wish list for the president. Here’s part of mine.

Comprehensive Immigration Reform
The President owes his reelection, in large part, to the overwhelming support he and his fellow Democrats received from Latino voters. The Republican Party realizes that their future is bleak without attracting some of this key bloc, so their leaders are ready to do something to get back in the game. The time is ripe for comprehensive immigration reform. People of faith, including Catholics and other Christians,… have an important part to play in this conversation. We must advocate for immigration policies that enhance human dignity, uphold the primacy of the family, and create

January 16th, 2013

“So how far are you planning to walk today?” was a question often heard on the Camino.

In the early days of my walk to Santiago, I knew the answer. I had an Excel spreadsheet that listed all the towns in which I planned to stop and the distances between them — in both miles and kilometers. I printed it on purple paper before I left home so I could easily find it, usually stuffed in the middle of my guidebook. “It’s just a rough idea,” I told fellow pilgrims who saw it.

My plan was to ease into long distances. I did five miles on my first day into the Pyrenees. I crossed into Spain on my second day — walking 10 miles. My goal for the third day: 13 miles. But I didn’t follow my plan. I followed Vincenzo. Or, more accurately, his advice.

Vincenzo had walked the Camino twice before. He looked at my purple paper and told me not to stop in Zubiri as I’d planned. He said it wasn’t a very nice town and that instead I should walk on to Larrasoana. So I did. I walked 17 miles that day — more than …

January 14th, 2013

In any normal, and might I add boring, cinematic year, the results of the past week’s Golden Globe and Critics’ Choice awards would strongly indicate this year’s big Academy Award winner for Best Director and Best Picture will be Ben Affleck and his 1980s Iranian hostage crisis rescue-film, Argo. But Affleck was snubbed at last week’s Oscar nominations (along with Kathryn Bigelow, among others,) so despite Argo winning both Director and Best Picture prizes at these latest awards shows, the field remains (sort-of) wide open. Now critics, fans and those in the industry can all finally agree on one thing: that this is one of the most interesting, exciting and hard to predict Awards Seasons in years (excluding Daniel Day-Lewis and Anne Hathway, of course, who are virtual locks in their acting categories.)

But enough about predictions. Here at Busted Halo®, we don’t pride ourselves on prognosticating so much as we specialize in spirituality, even where Hollywood is concerned, and strive, as the Jesuits do, to find God in all things. So we present to you A Spiritual Side of Cinema, a guide to the religious and faith aspects of this year’s nominated films.

Ever …

January 7th, 2013

I’ve always been a person who doesn’t like to hear excuses. I don’t dismiss all excuses because some are completely valid and the situation is out of the person’s control. But, especially since I work at a high school, I believe most excuses are people slacking off and trying to get away with it.

Recently, though, Brandon and I were given the opportunity to coordinate a Marriage Preparation Weekend for engaged couples. This is a ministry we’ve always been interested in helping out with, so we jumped at the chance to be able to facilitate the weekend. We should have more seriously considered that we would have a 6-week-old at the time, but we were optimistic about our time management skills. As the weekend approached Brandon was freaking out that we didn’t have more of it planned. I kept saying, “Look, Brandon, we have a new baby and two older girls that never sleep in past 7 a.m. Cut us some slack.” At some point Brandon looked at me and said, “Stop giving me that excuse. We could have had all of this done before the baby, and we didn’t do it. Now we have to get it done. We …

January 4th, 2013

Pretzels come in many flavors, shapes, and sizes — not unlike us. These treats are great with cheese or other dips or just by themselves. But have you stopped to consider they actually have an historical place in Lent?

If you take a moment to look at the typical twist pretzel, you can see that it is a model of the common prayer position from the early 600s of folding your arms over each other on your chest and putting your hands on your shoulders.

Pretzels were developed as an option to satisfy abstinence and fasting laws of the time. Eggs, fat, and milk were forbidden during Lent. So, the remaining ingredients that one could use included water, flour, and salt. A young monk baked the first pretzel — making a Lenten bread of water, flour, and salt, forming the dough into the prayer position of the day, and baking it as soft bread. These first pretzels would have been much like the soft pretzels we have today.

Greg Dues, in his book Catholic Customs and Traditions, explains more of the pretzel history:

“These little breads were shaped in the form of arms crossed in prayer and were called bracellae …

January 2nd, 2013

Seven-hundred and thirty-three million dollars. That’s how much the Washington Post estimates the two candidates spent on television advertising during this presidential election. Of that, just shy of $658 million was spent on negative ads, both President Barack Obama and Mitt Romney choosing to use their money to tear one another down about 90% percent of the time. And did it work? We feel divided, bitter, and cynical. (Note: The total spent by candidates, parties, and outside groups in this election will add up to some $2.6 billion.)

This morning, I suspect, half of us are happy and half disappointed or angry. It’s now clear that Barack Obama will serve a second term as President of the United States. But unlike in 2008, when he rode into office awash in a sea of triumphant enthusiasm, when the electorate, though perhaps divided, seemed generally to take pride in electing the nation’s first black president, 2012 finds Obama limping across the finish line, inheriting a bitterly divided nation with oppressively grave fiscal problems and a legislature that, by nearly all accounts, remains dysfunctional.

There is no antidote to help us heal quickly after such a bruising battle. Though it seems silly …

December 27th, 2012

Why would a woman with serious doubts about her Catholic faith embark on a 480-mile pilgrimage trail across northern Spain? Maybe I’ll know by the time I finish. For now, the answer to that question is this: I just know it’s something I’m supposed to do. My gut, my intuition, my heart, my God (I use them all interchangeably) has never steered me wrong. From the moment I decided to take this journey, everything has fallen into place — as it usually does when you trust in God.

I will fully admit, however, that I had my doubts — and still do. Doubts not only about my ability to complete this pilgrimage, but also doubts about my faith — or perhaps, more accurately, the religion into which I’d been born. In Catholic elementary school, God played a role similar to a parent or teacher. He had rules for me to follow. There were consequences if I disobeyed. God had things to teach me, which I took to be true because kids believed adults. Still aiming to please adults in high school, I continued to do as my religion instructed — but started to question the reasoning behind it all. In …

December 19th, 2012

I really do. I can’t stand waiting for progress in people. You can call me a product of my generation. I need instant gratification. It’s not that I don’t want things to get better, it’s just hard to be patient enough to wait for it. I don’t want the excruciatingly slow army crawl toward a goal; I just want to arrive at it.

As newlyweds, Brandon and I found that this was the first big issue that came up in our marriage. I had such a hard time being patient with Brandon. In college, neither of us was particularly tidy or used to cooking. We went from living with our parents to a dorm room and dining hall for four years then a few years of us living in separate messy apartments eating a lot of cereal. After getting married we had no sense of what it took to keep a whole apartment clean, to cook food that was good for us, or even how to merge our stuff into a coherent home. Very quickly, most of our fights were about me wanting us to be a perfect married couple with a picture perfect home and routine. I tried endlessly …

December 18th, 2012

Mourners gather at St. Rose of Lima Church for a vigil service in Newtown, Connecticut. (CNS photo/Andrew Gombert, pool via Reuters)

Enough. This is enough. I look at the faces of our three children — our son the same age as the youngest victims of Friday’s tragedy — and I declare that this is enough.

It is Advent, the season of hope. It is the season of making ourselves ready for the coming of Christ. We … our grieving sisters and brothers in Newtown, Connecticut, and all of us who keep watch with them and pray with them and weep with them … have witnessed a dark shadow descend over this season of light. We have seen the hopes and dreams of little children and the selfless adults charged with their care extinguished by an act of indescribable violence. Enough.

We are a people who walk in darkness. In the mire of wanton death and destruction, we scratch and fumble and claw for some glimpse of light. And we have seen a light … small and fierce … beginning to penetrate the gloom. We have seen the people of Newtown wrap their arms around each other in love and solidarity. …

December 13th, 2012

As you probably know from this Busted Halo video, Advent for many Christians is a time of joyful preparation and longing for Christmas. During this season, we are called to spend time with family, reflect on the blessings we enjoy in our lives, discern how we might help others, and set aside time to find peace during an otherwise hectic and stressful few weeks.

It was within this context, during the second week of Advent, that I read with horror — on Twitter as it happened — that a masked gunman opened fire in a suburban Oregon shopping mall, spreading terror, and ultimately killing two individuals before succumbing to gunfire himself.

Last week, a member of the NFL’s Kansas City Chiefs, Jovan Belcher, shot and killed his girlfriend and then drove to Arrowhead Stadium where he shot himself in the head in front of his coach, another player and the team’s general manager.

Over the summer, a young man wearing full body armor entered a crowded movie theatre in Aurora, Colorado, during a midnight screening of The Dark Knight Rises. He threw canisters of tear gas into the audience and used several guns to fire indiscriminately into the crowd. …

December 12th, 2012

The Belief-o-matic. It sounded like a new-fangled kitchen appliance I would have seen advertised on late night TV — back in 1985. I could see the greasy haired salesman on my screen telling me how simple it was to use: “Insert beliefs and in no time at all, you’ll have the perfect religion!”

But this wasn’t a Home Shopping Network sales pitch — it was a website. As a woman who has struggled with her Catholic faith for a while — so much so that she took off on a 480 mile pilgrimage walk to see what she could discover — the whole process intrigued me. Answer 20 questions and be presented with your perfect religion. No need to call the 800 number on my screen. I could simply insert my name and e-mail address and get started. So I did.

If only it was that easy.

Question 1: What is the number and nature of the deity (God, gods, higher power)?

As I read through the seven answer choices I realized I should have followed the advice I give my students preparing for the SAT: read the question, think about what your answer would be, and only then …

December 5th, 2012

I punched a zip code into the labyrinth locater. Jackpot! The search returned two labyrinths in Asheville, North Carolina. The first was at a Catholic church, but I wasn’t ready to step foot in one of those at this point in my life. The second was an outdoor labyrinth at the University of North Carolina at Asheville. It was a mere one-and-a-half mile walk from my temporary home. The next morning, I headed out in search of this circle of stones, eager to walk the labyrinth and hear what it had to tell me.

My body fills with a comfort upon seeing a labyrinth. For those that have never walked one, know that it is not a maze. There are no wrong turns in a labyrinth. There’s a definitive starting point with just one path to follow — and that path is guaranteed to lead you to the center. If only life were so simple.

Instructions for “how” to walk a labyrinth vary. I tend to use the method I learned the first time I was introduced to these circular paths:…

I pause at the start to think of the question into which I’d like some insight.
I

November 29th, 2012

We’re just weeks out from the last bruising election, but speculation about the next presidential contest has already begun. But as tempting as it is for a politics junky to look ahead a few years, Catholics should consider the lessons from 2012.

What worked?
Catholic voices helped defeat a proposed assisted-suicide ballot question in Massachusetts and advance DREAM Act legislation in Maryland.

Boston’s Cardinal Sean O’Malley led Catholic leaders who contributed to a broad coalition of religious and secular leaders who opposed the measure. Together, they made a moral, ethical, and legal case as to why voters should reject the law and they succeeded, albeit rather narrowly.

In Maryland, voters passed a law that will grant in-state tuition to the children of undocumented immigrants. Again, the church added a moral dimension to this important issue and campaigned on behalf of the law.

What didn’t?
While never explicitly endorsing Mitt Romney, many Catholic leaders, including several prominent bishops, expressed either support for his policy proposals or unease with President Obama’s. Yet Romney lost the election, and the Catholic vote. Obama captured 51% of the overall Catholic vote, 75% of the Hispanic Catholic vote, though lost the white Catholic vote, 56%-43%.

Catholic …

November 19th, 2012

On the eve of our daughter’s third birthday, she and I spent hours in the kitchen baking bread. We mixed. We kneaded. We waited. We shaped the dough. We carefully opened the oven door just enough to fill ourselves up with the smell of baking bread. We got flour in our hair. We made a mess of epic proportions. It was beautiful — her little hands and my not-so-little hands working and playing and creating something good and wholesome together. It was almost prayer.

I have always found bread making to be an intensely spiritual endeavor. Somehow flour, water, yeast and salt — the most common and mundane of ingredients — are combined to make something warm and hearty and magical. A miracle. A little “ex nihilo” creation right in my kitchen. It is sensual. It requires creativity and attention and patience and hope. It yields something good and wholesome. It has the ability to nourish, to comfort, to provide a moment of reprieve from all of the coldness and harshness that bombards us out there in the world. I love bread. A lot. And what I love about bread is not so different from what I love …

November 1st, 2012

New York women embrace after looking through remains of homes destroyed by Hurricane Sandy (CNS photo/Shannon Stapleton, Reuters)

As I write this post, much of the East Coast is suffering through what CNN is now calling Superstorm Sandy. More than two feet of snow is burying West Virginia. Maryland, New Jersey, and New York are flooded. Nearly 10 million people are without power from Maine to Virginia. Damage will run into the tens of billions of dollars, and people will suffer over the coming weeks as they try to repair their homes, cars, and finances.

If you have been watching cable news, checking Facebook and Twitter, or logging on to Google news, you might forget that we’re less than a week away from the presidential election. President Obama canceled rallies to return to the White House to monitor the storm, and Governor Mitt Romney suspended campaigning for a few days. And while politics was somewhat absent over the past few days, government was not.

New Jersey’s Republican Governor Chris Christie, an ardent Romney supporter, explained that the President had called him to ensure the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) was serving Garden State residents well. Christie told him that FEMA …

October 29th, 2012
A convert's guide to an eerily Catholic Halloween

Growing up most of the kids I knew from Christian families weren’t allowed to celebrate Halloween. Here are a few thoughts on the meaning of this Catholic celebration (yes, really!) and why it matters.

H — Holy. That’s right, folks. Halloween is a derivation of “All Hallows’ Eve” aka “All Saints’ Eve” aka “the vigil of All Saints’ Day”… a Holy Day of Obligation for Catholic Christians. All Saints’ Day is a celebration of the holy saints in heaven who were exemplars of Christ’s love in life and now enjoy the eternal reward of heaven. The saints are our sisters and brothers in faith who pray for us. Let’s feast them well! Why not try making it to a vigil mass this year before the festivities begin?

A — Ancient. The traditions of Halloween date back to the beginning of the Church. In fact, many of them pre-date the birth of Christ. The pagan and pre-Christian traditions of many cultures have been woven into the tapestry of the Catholic faith. This, by far, is one of my favorite things about being Catholic. It is not necessary for a culture to be obliterated or brought into conformity with any universal set …

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