Busted Halo

Vanessa Gonzalez Kraft tries to balance her traditional Mexican-American cultural heritage and Catholic identity, personified by her grandmother La Lupe, with her roles as a young wife and mother.

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July 31st, 2012

I feel grumpy. And I mean truly grumpy. I can hear the tone of my voice when I talk. I listen as pointed comments slip out of my mouth with the intent of making others feel bad or criticizing them. And I can’t just blame it on being pregnant — have I mentioned that I’m pregnant? For a while I have not been able to shake this cloud that has been hanging over my head. I have been blaming it on being pregnant, which might have a little to do with it. But I’ve finally owned up to the fact that I am feeling pretty joyless right now because I haven’t seriously prayed in a long time. I mean I’ve gone to Mass every Sunday and said prayers with the girls but I have not purposely sat down to pray or do anything devotional in about a year.

I work at a Catholic school. There is no reason for this. I drive by the Blessed Sacrament Chapel that is open 24 hours a day at least twice a day. I could take a one-minute walk at lunch and be at a Marian grotto. Heck, our school is covered in images …

July 31st, 2012

Country: Germany
Born: February 4, 1906
Died: April 9, 1945
Religion: Lutheran
Dietrich Bonhoeffer, German Lutheran pastor and theologian, was outspoken in opposition to the Nazi regime and its practice of genocide. He was arrested for crimes of sedition and executed at Flossenbürg concentration camp.

I am the wife of a moral theologian. As I type, there are approximately 4,000 books on the topic of moral theology poised to cascade from bookshelves, milk crates and piles in our small office. Many, if not all, of these books address the Holocaust to some extent. This systemic manifestation of evil calls into question everything we thought we knew about ourselves as human beings and about our God as good and sovereign. It is a hot and festering scar across human history that demands tending. So far, in all of these volumes looming around me, no one theologian has been able to come up with a satisfactory response to the horror and devastation this scar signifies. Perhaps no one ever will.

What I find infinitely more hopeful are the lives of real people of faith who lived in the midst of this moral chaos… who fought against it with all of their hearts …

July 30th, 2012

Country: United States
Born: January 3, 1793
Died: November 11, 1880
Religion: Quaker
An influential abolitionist and suffragist, Lucretia Mott spoke out at a time when she was forbidden to do so, inspiring generations of leaders through her commitment and love demonstrated in action.

In 1849, Lucretia Coffin Mott spoke in front of a gathering of medical students at the Cherry Street Meeting House in Philadelphia. As a center of medical education, Philadelphia attracted students from all over the country, including the South. By speaking openly against slavery in such an environment, Mott certainly knew that her words would fall on some unsympathetic ears. Indeed, as is noted in the published transcript of the sermon, when Mott began speaking openly against slavery, “Here a few persons, irritated by this reference to the question of slavery, left the meeting.”

But this gathering was not her first tough crowd. Mott was already an established anti-slavery activist, a Quaker minister who traveled and preached extensively and, with her husband, founder of the American Anti-Slavery Society in 1833. In 1840, Mott attended the World’s Anti-Slavery Convention in London, where although she was an invited participant, she and the other women at the conference were …

July 27th, 2012

Country: United States
Born: December 18, 1819
Died: December 22, 1888
Religion: Roman Catholic
Isaac Thomas Hecker was a 19th century writer, mystic, theologian and priest who saw a perfect spiritual combination in the Catholic focus on community and the American focus on individuality.


Isaac Thomas Hecker believed that every human being was by nature a “seeker,” created for something greater, for the Divine. He believed this because he had lived his own life as a spiritual quest. Baptized as a Methodist, he spent his youth visiting churches and hearing preachers of many denominations, including Episcopalians, Mormons and Unitarians. Eventually, his brothers recognized that he was not suited for the family baking business, and they gave him leave to live and work among the restless individualists of the Transcendentalist movement in and around Boston. There he befriended Henry David Thoreau (of Walden fame and who had spent the night in jail rather than pay taxes to fund the Mexican War), and he was mentored by the greatest American thinker of the time, Ralph Waldo Emerson. Nevertheless, Hecker did not find what he was looking for among the Transcendentalists. Instead he made his way steadily toward the Roman Catholic Church, …

July 26th, 2012

A man works on an anti-gun mural in Chicago. (CNS photo/Karen Callaway, Catholic New World)

Have you ever shot a gun?

I went to college in New Hampshire, the “Live Free or Die” state where conservatives and libertarians preach limited government and personal freedoms, among them lax gun laws that would make the state feel more at home in the South than in New England. So my junior year, some friends and I decided to explore some of these freedoms, and we headed to a gun range a few miles from campus. I had never held a gun before so one of my friends helped me choose my weapon for the day (luckily he decided on a handgun over the grenade launcher). I put on the red earmuffs, walked to my lane, wheeled out the target, and took aim. I fired off a few shots and glanced down at the silhouette to see if any of the bullets had hit it. I wasn’t bad.

That day remains the only time I’ve ever shot a gun, but I vividly remember being blown away by how simple it was to load the bullets and pull the trigger. It was a bit of …

July 18th, 2012

I was very interested in one of the latest questions from the Busted Halo Question Box. The question was whether or not the person writing in should report a priest for yelling at him/her during confession.

This is an interesting question. I truly believe in the amazing healing power of the Sacrament of Reconciliation. In order for a person to even step into the confessional, that person has to overcome so much ego, so many excuses. Showing up for confession requires a huge amount of vulnerability and humility on that person’s part. Obviously, any person stepping into the confessional should not be taken lightly. We never know the battles this person is fighting or how life changing this moment can be for them. We all walk into the confessional broken, wanting the grace to change, wanting to be made whole by God’s love.

But I’m not convinced that God’s love always has to be conveyed through sweet, unreproaching words. As I’ve written before, I’m horrible at confession. So I have had my fair share of “bad” confessions. With total certainty, though, I can tell you about my best confession. Not the confession that made me feel my best, but the …

July 17th, 2012

It was three in the morning when my eager mother knocked on our hotel room door. Needless to say, my teenage brother, sister and I were not thrilled about waking up early during our vacation, but according to my mother’s guidebook, this experience was essential. Eyelids drooping, we piled into the back of our rental minivan and hit the road.

My mother had a plan. We were going to admire the sunrise from the top of Mount Haleakala, the tallest peak on Maui standing at more than 10,000 feet above sea level. Then we might take a hike on the active volcano, soak in the sunshine, and photograph the exotic vegetation. My siblings and I had a slightly different agenda. Our only goal was to get back to our hotel in time for our complementary breakfast buffet. (The endless amounts of pastries and pineapple were too good to miss.)

It was a long car ride, but my reliable mom had rented a GPS for tourists that recited facts and stories about our destination. We learned that Haleakala means “house of the sun” in Hawaiian. Ancient Hawaiian culture says that Maui, a demigod, stood at the summit of Haleakala and lassoed …

July 12th, 2012

Washington was ablaze last week with temperatures soaring into triple digits and the intense humidity adding an extra level of misery to one of the hottest cities in the nation. That’s what my friends told me anyway. I was lucky to have escaped for the week, heading up to New Hampshire for the July 4th holiday on the seacoast with family and friends. I don’t think I was alone. It seemed that the campaigns were on hiatus for a bit and not much news emerged from either camp, though vacationing itself was a subject of some considerable media attention.

Mitt Romney was photographed atop a jet ski being driven by his wife, Anne. One commentator suggested the photo may be Romney’s John-Kerry-windsurfing moment, though conceded that the gasoline powered jet ski might make Romney appear somewhat more relatable than the aloof Kerry.

Meanwhile, the President wanted folks to know that he won’t be enjoying his traditional vacation this summer. For the past three years, President Obama took his family to Martha’s Vineyard for a working vacation. Perhaps not wanting photos surfacing of him enjoying himself on the elite Massachusetts island while the economy sputters, the President canceled his trip. He …

July 10th, 2012

I’m not one of those really proud annoying Texans who thinks Texas is better than every other state. But I am one of those annoying Texans that doesn’t know much about the rest of the country because I’ve lived in this huge state for so darn long. So when I think of New York City, most of my stereotypical assumptions come from either Friends or Seinfeld. That being said, you can imagine what I was anticipating when Brandon and I scheduled a vacation to New York City when Olivia was just six months old.

Brandon had a conference to attend all week and Olivia and I were staying with my best friend from high school who lived in the city. I was so nervous. If you know me at all, you know that I am pretty much the opposite of New York City. New York is big bright lights, fast-paced, hard-nosed. I am pretty much the slowest walker that you’ve ever met, laid-back, and definitely not a “tough guy.” Especially with Olivia in tow, I was dreading how rude people were going to be because I was going to be moving extra slow. Even with all the anxiety, after six …

July 3rd, 2012

A puddle along the Camino.

Early in my Camino, I had a dream I was pregnant. In the dream, I was surprisingly okay with the idea. I say “surprisingly” because for most of my life I have not wanted to have children.

“Maybe it’s a sign of a new self that you’re birthing,” Mona, a fellow pilgrim, told me. “When you dream about birth, or death actually, they say it can be a sign of a big change — part of your old life dying and something new being born.”

Rain that Christens

That new life got its christening two days before I entered Santiago. It had been raining on and off the entire day, but not heavily enough to warrant me pulling out and pulling on my rain pants. Mona, Julie, and I sat in a cafe looking at our maps. We determined we had just about an hour to our destination for the day — a hotel. With real sheets. And fluffy towels. And maybe, if we were lucky, a hair dryer. We headed out again and it started to pour. I wasn’t going to put rain pants on over my already-soaked pants, so I just kept going. …

June 28th, 2012

With anti-Vietnam War protests raging, and the nation bitterly divided, Democrats in Massachusetts searched for a candidate to challenge the pro-war incumbent for the third Congressional district. Recognizing the power of religious leaders in the movement, they turned to the Jesuit priest and professor Robert Drinan. As a priest and academic, Drinan worried that he was not as effective as he could be in advancing Catholic social thought. In an interview with Look magazine in 1970, Drinan said, “I’ve written books and I’m a professor, but who reads books? Who listens to professors? It’s Congress that turns it around, and I should be there.”

Convinced by party bosses to enter the contest, Drinan won the nomination and narrowly took the general election in 1970. Pope Paul VI and the local hierarchy, including his Jesuit supervisors, permitted him, a staunch liberal, to serve in office. He used his new platform to champion civil rights, fight the war, and further Catholic social teaching. But the intense partisanism of the time and his support for issues at odds with Catholic teaching made Drinan’s presence in Congress difficult. And in 1980, addressing both Drinan and leftist priests with government power in Central America, Pope …

June 26th, 2012

At Notre Dame, I was lucky enough to take some art classes. I love art and these were some of my favorite classes. In fact, I loved these art classes so much you would have thought that I should have been an art major. But I was too scared to put that side of me on display. After we finished each assignment, we would go student by student and critique one another’s work. Even though people were only commenting on my drawing of some fruit, on the inside I felt like they were critiquing how I looked in a swimsuit. I was dying on the inside. I couldn’t handle any kind of criticism of my art. I felt too naked, too vulnerable.

I couldn’t even handle it when my professor was offering individual advice as we worked. I loved painting so much but since I couldn’t get over my insecurity and self-consciousness, I couldn’t learn from our really talented professors. Every piece of advice felt like they were telling me I was awful and should give up. To try and cope with these feelings, I would put on my best shy smile and hope that the professor would cut me …

June 15th, 2012

Rebecca Gallo on the Camino.

I am due to arrive in Santiago on Saturday — a full three days ahead of schedule. I’m eager to get to my destination, but more excited about my early arrival because it means I can spend two nights at Casa do Raposito — a place of reflection for pilgrims who have just finished their Camino.

When I started the Camino 35 days ago, I didn’t know such a place even existed. I heard about it only thanks to someone I met on what I thought would be a terrible day.

I had stayed the previous night at a parish hostel in Berciamos. Sixty people sat at a long line of tables to share a community meal. After dinner, pilgrims from each country sang a song from their homeland. This took nearly an hour as we had 14 countries represented. Twenty pilgrims opted to join in the blessing and prayer offered in the meditation room before we went to bed. While there, we passed around a candle that had been through the hands of thousands of pilgrims before us. When it came to us, we could say whatever we wanted in whatever language, or say …

June 14th, 2012
Reflections on celebrating moments of national patriotism

20120613-230535.jpgA couple of weeks ago, as Britons and the world celebrated the diamond jubilee of Queen Elizabeth II, I was smugly perplexed. I didn’t understand how a nation that prides itself on being so enlightened, so secular, and so civilized could buy into the hoopla surrounding royalty, monarchy, and rule by heredity. As a good American, and a native Bostonian, I know it is my duty to scorn all things royal, so I realized my views weren’t exactly without prejudice.

After reading and watching some of the coverage, the phenomenon became a bit clearer to me. It seems that those standing out in the chilly London rain to watch Elizabeth and her family float down the river aren’t celebrating her, per se, or even the monarchy itself, but instead taking pride in their nation and in an ancient institution that is called to live out a people’s collective values and present them to the world. Idolizing Elizabeth and her family is not a political statement, it seems, but a way to celebrate Great Britain and all that that nation has contributed to civilization.

Rallying around national leaders

In the United States, today is Flag Day, a minor holiday that …

June 13th, 2012

Wedding season is upon us once again. We’ve got four lined up this summer. Weddings always make me remember everything that went into our decision to get married. It was not simple and I had my share of harsh words with God. But in the end, we knew it was the path we were supposed to go down.

Ever since I was little I was always really open to becoming a nun or a sister. I had this very romantic image in my head of being in a cloister and praying all day or becoming a sister and living and working with the poor in some remote village in a far off land. I was ready for that life if God wanted it for me. This was not a hard lifestyle for me to imagine because I was not a boy-magnet in school and frankly, boys scared me. Of course I had my share of “falling in love” in high school and scribbling Mrs. So-and-so all over my notebook but I was always really nervous and intimidated to talk to boys. The idea of marrying a guy seemed a far-off reality when I could barely talk to one.

In my …

June 1st, 2012

[audio format="mp3" src='http://traffic.libsyn.com/bustedhalo/CorbinBleu2.mp3' width="300"]
Download MP3

You may remember Corbin Bleu from the Emmy-award winning Disney Channel movie High School Musical alongside Zac Efron and Vanessa Hudgens. The sequel, High School Musical 2, became the most-watched made-for-cable movie of all time, and the third installment broke opening weekend records in theaters and grossed a quarter billion dollars worldwide. Corbin Bleu has released two studio albums and won an NAACP Best New Artist award. He made his Broadway debut as the lead in Tony-winning Best Musical In the Heights, and now has taken on the role of a lifetime — Jesus — in the revival of the legendary rock musical Godspell.

Following are excerpts from the full audio interview, which you can play or download at the top or bottom of the page.

[Starting at 1:41]

Father Dave: Now, I’m sure everybody, almost, that talks to you asks you about the big success of “High School Musical,” but here on the Catholic Channel, and as a Catholic priest, I’d like to know — your faith is a big part of who you are, and even your career — if you read your blog entries, you’re always closing with a …

May 29th, 2012

“Don’t let your fears load your pack,” Rick said to me on our third day on the Camino. He’d read this advice on a Camino Forum, but admitted he didn’t follow it close enough. As we walked along, he decided to heed this advice and let go of his bedbug spray. Years ago the hostels along the Camino had a problem with bedbugs, but I’d read it had since been remedied. I hoped that was true. So did Rick.

It took me six days to get up the courage to leave my fears behind. At my hostel in Estella, I left a pair of flip flops, a paperback book, and a pair of rain covers for my shoes. Indeed, fear was what had me pack those things to begin with. The flip flops were packed after my sister’s warning about contracting foot fungus in the communal showers. The paperback was to combat potential boredom. The rain shoes were the hardest (and heaviest) to let go, but easier once experienced pilgrims told me all the ways to dry my shoes should they get wet. (Besides the fact that my mother had doused my hiking shoes in waterproofing spray before I left.)…

May 22nd, 2012

The trail marker was ambiguous. I thought it pointed to the mowed path off to our right. My new friend Michel thought it meant we were to stay on the paved road we were on. I recalled that my map indicated we’d be walking along a road for most of the day, so I listened to Michel, but was nervous we were going the wrong way. Walking through the Pyrenees with 22 pounds on my back, I didn’t want to have to backtrack.

“Is this the right way?” I asked God in my head.

“Just follow Michel. You’ll be fine.” God replied.

“Can’t you just show me another trail marker so I feel better?”

“Follow Michel,” he said. God often has to repeat things for me. I’m not the best at believing him the first time — or the fifth.

So I followed the Frenchman I’d met only an hour earlier. He had come up quickly behind me as I struggled up the mountain road. We greeted each other after which I thought he’d be on his way. But he slowed his pace to mine and we traded life stories. As I conversed with him in French, I thought of …

May 17th, 2012
Mitt Romney and Barack Obama are faithful men who don’t shy away from talking about their beliefs. What does this mean for American religion?

President Barack Obama writes eloquently about his faith journey in The Audacity of Hope, describing Easter and Christmas visits to church, Chinese New Years spent at Buddhist temples, and time at Shinto shrines and ancient Hawaiian burial grounds. His multivalent childhood gave way to a deeper examination of faith when he lived in Chicago working for Catholic-funded nonprofits as a young community organizer. Finally, after struggling through an inner journey of doubt and disbelief, Obama writes that he:

was finally able to walk down the aisle of Trinity United Church of Christ one day and be baptized. It came about as a choice and not an epiphany; the questions I had did not magically disappear. But kneeling beneath that cross on the South Side of Chicago, I felt God’s spirit beckoning me. I submitted myself to His will, and dedicated myself to His truth. (208)

Last week, Obama once again spoke about his faith, saying that it compelled him to take a stance that is perhaps outside the mainstream Christian canon, but nonetheless playing a role in his deliberations.

Prompted by his Catholic vice president’s comments on same-sex marriage during an interview on Meet the Press a few days prior, …

May 3rd, 2012

Living in Washington, D.C., the loud buzz of helicopters is a standard piece of the city’s soundscape, blending in with the traffic and sirens that stop silence dead. Earlier this year, when I read about various governments in the Arab world that had deployed armed security forces to ride around in helicopters and kill protestors and dissidents, that noise became a bit jarring. The image wouldn’t leave my mind. When I ran around the national mall, whenever I heard that loud hum I couldn’t help but think of those who were killed by thugs in the sky. I imagined what it would be like to experience something similar, and my eyes would dart around looking where I might hide. There was really nowhere to go.

Earlier this year, The Onion bitingly asked: Could the use of flying death robots be hurting America’s reputation worldwide? The video was of course referring to the use of drones by the U.S. Air Force and CIA in remote regions of the world.

Until now, the U.S. government has consistently denied using drones, remotely controlled aircraft used for surveillance and missile strikes even though it remains a known fact that they have been used since …

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