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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April 11th, 2012

Mass at a church in Cleveland, Ohio.(CNS photo/William Rieter)

One day Brandon and I made up our minds to run a marathon. If you knew us, this decision would have sent you into laughing hysterics because we are both the most un-athletic people we know. But we were both desperately out of shape and were firmly resolved to do this. We found a running group. They placed us with a coach. Slowly over the weeks, we ran more and more miles. It was horrible. Excruciating. I had never worked so hard physically. I was constantly sore and had little free time. I stopped eating things that I loved like McDonalds or frozen dinners. I had no idea about the theory behind running or the reasons for high knees, veggies and pasta, or changing our pace at different points. I just did what I was told at first then slowly learned more about it. Why it was important to eat carbs at certain times, or when to hydrate, or when it was best to consume sugar. I learned to love running. Not just physically, but in my head, also. I was in shape, eating right. And my body felt the best …

April 5th, 2012
Remembering the poor and marginalized when we're crunching numbers

Ron Swanson, the man’s man parks director played by Nick Offerman on NBC’s “Parks and Recreation,” is a libertarian who believes “child labor laws are ruining this country.” He describes government as “a greedy piglet that suckles on a taxpayer’s teat until they have sore, chapped nipples.”

Despite his extreme views, Swanson holds great admiration for his deputy, Leslie Knope, played by Amy Poehler. Knope is the sunny antidote to Swanson’s anti-government rants; she believes that government is a force for good in the community, providing not only necessary services to residents of fictional Pawnee, Indiana, but also programs and resources that improve their lives. Swanson, of course, disagrees. (Watch highlights of Swanson’s anti-government rants here).

Swanson is a bit of a caricature, and I suspect even he doesn’t believe all of what he says, but the contrast between him and Knope offers a visual of the national debate over government. Though presidential politics continues to dominate the news cycle, another battle is shaping up in Congress, where House Republicans have presented a slash-and-burn budget proposal, seeking to privatize, cut, and minimize the role of government in the lives of US citizens. Not surprisingly, Catholic and Christian relief organizations …

April 2nd, 2012

My first ever homemade batch of hot cross buns© 2012 Phil Fox Rose

Every year, I bring hot cross buns to an Easter brunch gathering of family and friends. Sharing food has always been sacred to me, all the more so when it’s around a spiritual event. I don’t know why I started bringing hot cross buns. We didn’t do it when I was growing up; maybe it’s my British roots, but it just seems the thing to do. (Good Friday is the traditional day, but Sunday is when we gather.) This year, for the first time ever, I am making my own, inspired in part by a recent spirituality of bread baking workshop at my church. Based on the test batch, I think it will work out fine.

The hot cross bun is not complicated to make. At its simplest, it’s spiced bread. Flavor and ingredient-wise, its noteworthy for a few reasons. First, traditionally it’s made with currants, an ingredient unknown in America except in its fellow British baked good, the scone. Second, it sometimes includes bits of candied fruit — the same atrocity that afflicts fruitcake and makes it wildly unpopular. (I prefer mine without, if you hadn’t …

March 26th, 2012
Reaching out to a growing number of hungry people

Natalie Garcia, right, chooses food from the shelves with the help of a volunteer at the Sister Regis Food Cupboard in Rochester, N.Y. (CNS photo/Mike Crupi)

In the shadow of what was once a functioning residency for priests, a line forms toward a door. Word has spread by now, and everyone knows the day and time to be there. They also know what to expect to receive.

This scene is a familiar one every Friday in the Little Village neighborhood on the southwest side of Chicago. Donna Oborski, R.N., has taken on the health and needs of Our Lady of Tepeyac parish and surrounding neighborhoods since she assumed the role as parish nurse in 2009. The parish food pantry, which opened in 1995, has been growing steadily over the years. Feeling strongly about keeping the pantry open and growing, Oborski took over its operations when she came on staff. At the time, the pantry was serving, on average, eight people during each distribution day. Now, the line has grown to an average of 74 people. “I am proud that we now have ‘one stop shopping’ for the community,” Oborski says. “They can have food, diapers, formula, clothes, and we steer …

March 22nd, 2012
How candidates’ views on immigration reform are shaping up in this year’s election

People wave US flags and hold signs calling for action on immigration reform as President Barack Obama visits El Paso, Texas, in 2011. (CNS photo/Gael Gonzalez, Reuters)

The Republican Party may have a Latino problem on its hands. The remaining candidates seeking the party’s nomination have taken an unusually harsh tone regarding immigration, and the two Catholic candidates are at odds with their Church about the rights of migrant people. Republican frontrunner Mitt Romney has moved to the far right on immigration, and Latino voters are responding by falling in line behind President Barack Obama. Understanding what the Catholic Church teaches on immigration, and how those teachings might influence crucial Latino communities, may give the GOP nominee a reason to reconsider the harsh rhetoric.

Romney dominated the Puerto Rico primary last week, trouncing Rick Santorum, his main rival, winning more than 80 percent of the vote and all 20 delegates. Romney benefitted from the support of Puerto Rico’s governor, and he tried to appeal to voters by coming out in favor of statehood with no preconditions. Santorum, who campaigned on the island, made a major gaffe when he said that he would support statehood for the US territory only if …

March 20th, 2012

A student serves meals at a ministry center in Oklahoma. (CNS photo/Dave Crenshaw, Eastern Oklahoma Catholic)

The other day I was buying some food from a food truck and I noticed a homeless man sitting by the truck playing his guitar. I bought some extra food to give him as I walked back to my car. As I stopped to give him the food and tell him to have a good night, he grabbed my hand and asked me to listen to his song. So I did. I sat next to him and listened to the love song he had written. And then he talked to me for some time about the lady the song is about. He didn’t look twice at the food and seemed to have forgotten about it by the time I headed home.

I forget sometimes that charity isn’t complicated. This man didn’t care too much about food. He was just really, really lonely. He was heartbroken and just wanted to chat about it. I can relate. I remember being in college and needing to talk to my friends for — I’m sure for them — agonizingly long periods of time about my latest heartache. This …

March 12th, 2012

Last year writer and brewing expert J. Wilson published Diary of a Part-Time Monk, which tells of his Lenten fast: subsisting on nothing but water and beer. Wilson had heard the legends of the Benedictine monks of Neudeck ob der Au, who were said to have developed a particular beer style — the doppelbock — that is rich in carbohydrates, vitamins, and calories, to sustain them through periods of Lenten fasting.

Wilson was sufficiently intrigued by this legend and he decided to embark on 46 days of beer-and-water for Lent. In the process, he lost nearly 26 pounds, and gained some significant insights into self-discipline, physical and mental rejuvenation, and plenty of media attention.

It goes without saying that such odd and extreme forms of fasting aren’t what the Church envisions for the observance of Lent. Anyone who embarks on a diet entirely free of protein and fiber for 46 days is inviting medical problems. It’s also very unlikely that the 16th century monks of Neudeck subsisted solely on beer and water; more likely they saw the rich beer as a helpful supplement during Lent, but probably not on strict fasting days. In the 16th century, fasting likely …

March 8th, 2012

Elizabeth Warren speaking at the Women in Finance symposium in 2010. (wikimedia commons) US Senator Scott Brown from Massachusetts. (CNS photo/Brian Snyder)

Radio provocateur and conservative ringleader Rush Limbaugh entered the national conversation around the Health and Human Services contraception mandate, taking the already heated rhetoric to a new low.

A Georgetown University law student, Sandra Fluke, testified before Congress that she supported the HHS mandate and stated her desire for her school, a Jesuit institution, to provide coverage for contraception despite the Catholic Church’s opposition to artificial birth control. Limbaugh reacted to the testimony on his radio show.

Rightly and predictably, Limbaugh’s critics have assailed his comments as out-of-bounds and inappropriate. After several advertisers began pulling their revenue from his show, Limbaugh issued a half-hearted apology. President Obama called the student to offer his support.

In response to the debacle, Georgetown’s president, the lay Catholic John J. DeGioia, issued a letter condemning the heated rhetoric and calling for cooler minds without ceding ground on the debate. From the letter:

In our vibrant and diverse society, there always are important differences that need to be debated, with strong and legitimate beliefs held on all sides of challenging issues. The greatest …

March 7th, 2012

I am a workaholic. When I have a job to do I am almost obsessive about it. Especially working in education, there is just so much to be done. There are always so many things to figure out: how to better serve the students, how to better teach the students, how to better meet the students’ needs, how to better meet the families’ needs. In this line of work there is an endless amount of time and effort that could be put in. Each day it is hard for me to detach myself from my work and attach myself to the other important parts of my life.

When I wake up in the morning the first thing I do is check my work e-mail and then I’ll check it again right before I leave for work. Sometimes I find myself praying at night — Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with, shoot, I forgot to submit that announcement I need read in the morning. Should I get up and send an e-mail right now? No, it can wait. The Lord is with Thee, oh, I need to stop at the grocery store on my way into work to …

March 6th, 2012

fastingonsundays-flashA lot of people will tell you that when you give something up for Lent, you can take a “cheat day” on the Sundays of Lent.  ”Hogwash!” says Father Dave as he gets on his soapbox (his words). Good stuff.

The Busted Halo Show with Father Dave Dwyer is on Sirius/XM Satellite Radio, Sirius 159, and XM 117, Monday through Friday, 7:00pm to 10:00pm EST. Give us a call with your questions and comments: 1-888-3-CATHOLIC, or at bustedhalo@thecatholicchannel.org. Go to www.sirius.com orwww.xmradio.com to get subscription information.

Published on: Mar 11, 2011

February 29th, 2012

I ate fast food for the majority of my life. Jack in the Box one day, Taco Bell the next, McDonald’s for breakfast, Sonic for dinner. We ate out almost every meal growing up. I didn’t know anything about what I was eating or how it was grown or how it was cooked.

It wasn’t until I moved to Austin about five years ago that I quickly fell in love with food. Not chicken nuggets kind of food, but real food. For the first time I saw the value in eating food grown locally and cooked even more locally — in my kitchen.

Austin is such a hippie place that it didn’t take long to finally learn more about the world hiding behind food I had eaten my whole life. Food was being genetically modified, vegetables were being doused with poisons, artificial ingredients were being added to food production, and animals were being treated inhumanely. Yuck. But still after learning about all that, it is really expensive to buy humanely treated, not-pumped-full-of-antibiotics meat. It can be hard to find organic veggies, and it is definitely extremely time consuming to cook absolutely everything that we eat.

While I am not a …

February 27th, 2012

(CNS illustration/Emily Thompson)

Lent has a way of sneaking up on me. It’s kind of like the Grinch who stole Ordinary Time. I’ve barely recovered from the Christmas season (and I celebrate every last day) and all of a sudden, it’s Ash Wednesday! One of the high school juniors I teach inquired as to what I was giving up “I haven’t yet decided what to give up.” “Perhaps,” replied the same student, “you could give up ending sentences with prepositions.” While I was walking across the room to enter a big, red “F” in my gradebook I thought about how this season of repentance is both difficult and rewarding.

Many of my friends — Catholic and non-Catholic — and even more of the high school students I teach are quite curious about this whole idea of “giving something up” for the Lenten Season. Before I shock you by telling you that it really isn’t about denial but acceptance, perhaps a little lesson is in order. Here now, the history of Lenten sacrifice in a nutshell. In the Gospel, we hear of three penitential acts we must perform in order to do the will of God. They are prayer, giving, and

February 23rd, 2012

“Mr. Martin, why would you wanna be a priest when you could be a comedian, and have all that money and be famous?” asks Ricky. (Ricky is one of the freshmen in my sixth period theology class. He likes to cause diversions. He also makes some strong assumptions about my talent.) In my first post I wrote about how the Oscars were my Super Bowl growing up. I was in awe of the movies and everything related to them and I couldn’t wait to grow up, go to Hollywood, and be a part of that glistening world.

Dolores Hart was a part of that world. In the late 50s and early 60s she was an up and coming starlet, sort of the Selena Gomez or Amanda Seyfried of the Eisenhower era. She co-starred alongside the Justin Bieber of her time, Elvis Presley, in not one but two movies. Her star was ascending and she seemed to have it all. And just like that, she gave it all up and became a nun. Hart’s story is the subject of the film God Is the Bigger Elvis, which is nominated for an Academy Award for Best Documentary Short.

I’ve known the …

February 23rd, 2012

Yesterday was Ash Wednesday, the day that Catholics and other Christians set aside to begin a season of reflection, repentance, and preparation for Easter, the holiest feast on the Christian calendar. Catholics and some “high-church” Protestants, especially Lutherans and Episcopalians, mark Ash Wednesday with a smudge of ashes of their foreheads, compelling them to don a public marker on their faith and to be a reminder to others of our shared mortality and need for a savior.

You might have seen some well-known Catholic politicos sporting ashes yesterday. Vice President Joe Biden regularly receives an imposition of ashes, leading to a memorably bizarre exchange between two BBC reporters who suspected the burned palms were a bruise or stray makeup. Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich said he would not attend Ash Wednesday services, while Rick Santorum said he planned to receive ashes. Santorum campaigned with ashes on his forehead, but he did not sport a smudge in last night’s debate.

I usually receive ashes at Washington DC’s Cathedral of Saint Matthew the Apostle, a vast structure adorned with beautiful mosaics mere blocks from the White House. Masses throughout the day, including the noon Mass celebrated by Cardinal Donald Wuerl, are standing …

February 21st, 2012
A guide for the Gulf Coast native living away from home during Carnival

As the plane from New Orleans starts to descend into Tulsa, you glance out the window and notice dunes of powdery white stuff on the ground beneath you. “How did all this sugar sand wind up in Oklahoma?” you wonder. That’s not sugar sand, chère; that’s snow, and snow is what will keep the first king cake you order from reaching your apartment in time for the party you’d planned. Don’t panic. Whip up a batch of bread pudding with the last loaf of Whole Wheat Nature’s Own on the grocery store shelf.

During your party, explain to your guests what a king cake is and why we aren’t having one after all. Say: “It’s like a giant cinnamon roll-slash-Danish-slash-donut — a big ring of braided dough, bready like a brioche, with white icing and purple-green-and-gold sugar on top, and usually some type of filling.”

“That sounds good,” they say. Assure them that it is good. Eat the bread pudding they leave on their plates for breakfast the next morning.

The king cake will arrive, hard as a Zulu coconut, three or four days later, after the roads have been cleared. Eight seconds in the microwave is enough to revive …

February 20th, 2012

My hands coated in synthetic butter, Diet Coke gurgling up through my straw, I thought, “Lord I believe that I am in your presence and you are loving me.” This is the standard opening of St. Ignatius’ prayer of examen and a line I say regularly, if not rotely. I didn’t expect it to pop into my head an hour into watching Hugo at the local multiplex.

When I decided to enter the Society of Jesus and began to tell friends and family, once the usual pleasantries were exchanged, the interrogation began. Invariably the conversation would turn toward the Spiritual Exercises, that is, the 30 day silent retreat that every first year Jesuit novice is expected to do.

“You mean you can’t talk at all?

“What do you do all day?”

“Don’t you think you’ll go crazy?”

My answer to the last question was invariably, a big, firm, “Probably.”

But I survived the Spiritual Exercises unscathed. Actually, I wound up learning a thing or two along the way, one of the most significant being the rules of discernment, Ignatius style. There are 22 in all, rules that is, and I’m not about to list them here, however I will say …

February 14th, 2012

The White House issued an accommodation Friday exempting religious employers from having to pay for contraceptive services in their insurance policies. When I heard this first line, I immediately rejoiced that the Administration had heard the cry of its people and changed its policy. Then came the next line, “Contraception coverage will be offered to women by their employers’ insurance companies directly, with no role for religious employers who oppose contraception.”

The USCCB has understandably responded to this accommodation with caution as outlined here. This is drastically more articulate than my response to the accommodation which was, “Wait, what? How does that make sense?” Or posed as Olivia’s favorite question, “How they do that?”

So according to the government, religious employers (which was not defined) will not have to pay for contraceptive services, but instead insurance companies will pay for the contraceptive services themselves. Last time I checked, insurance companies were not in the business of doing stuff for free. Now that insurance companies will have to cover the contraceptive services that religious employers won’t, wouldn’t that make insurance companies raise the rates on religious employers’ plans because they will have to pay for those claims? I just don’t see …

February 9th, 2012

Who’s art is better, Gaga or Adele? In a competition of art vs. art, how can you compare such different work? Every year at the Oscars, handfuls of excellent but similarly disparate works are pitted against one another for the biggest prize in show business.

This year’s best actor category is a perfect example. Who gave the better performance, George Clooney or Jean Dujardin? Brad Pitt? Gary Oldman? Or Demian Bichir? When one of these men picks up the golden statuette on Feb 26th does that mean it’s irrefutable that he gave the year’s best performance?

No.

It’s highly likely that one of two men will take home the Oscar: George Clooney or Jean Dujardin. Each has given a remarkable performance fully deserving of every accolade they have received. If either wins, they will richly deserve it. And yet, to attempt to compare these performances, let alone pick the better of the two, is absurd at best.

Clooney gives easily the finest performance of his career in The Descendants, as Matt King, the conflicted father of two attempting to keep his family together after his wife winds up comatose. Vulnerability is not the first word one associates with Clooney. …

February 7th, 2012

Kathleen Sebelius, Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services, and President Barack Obama at the White House in 2010. (CNS photo/Reuters)

I voted for President Obama in the 2008 election. Leading up to that election and after it, I’ve fought an uphill battle trying to explain how I could be Catholic and vote for a president that so obviously has pro-choice goals. In my argument, I kept coming back to the USCCB’s statement, “As Catholics we are not single-issue voters. A candidate’s position on a single issue is not sufficient to guarantee a voter’s support.” There are 7 principles of Catholic Social Teaching. When I weighed how many of the principles McCain stood for and how many Obama stood for, my tally was overwhelmingly in favor of Obama. Just to name a few, Obama is in favor of the DREAM Act and more comprehensive immigration reform. Obama wanted to reform healthcare (an issue I have written about at length). Obama’s economic policies were intended to directly help those at the bottom as opposed to using the trickle-down effect. And on and on. Even though Obama is pro-choice, I couldn’t ignore all those other extremely important issues that …

February 3rd, 2012

Home for the holidays, I told my mother that my students couldn’t believe I was in my thirties. Her response without missing a beat was, “That’s probably because you act so juvenile.” I wish I could say it went uphill from there, but sadly as I was helping to clear the table of turkey, etc., my grandma lamented, “Oh Jake, and you were doing so good! You look like you’ve gained all the weight back.”

In the safe white light of New Years, a colleague’s response to my tales was: “Wow, your family is really harsh.” My family is harsh… sometimes; and sometimes they are ridiculously loving, tender, supportive, manipulative, cowardly and courageous. All of the time, they are human.

Two of this year’s Oscar nominees for Best Picture: Tree of Life and The Descendants, explicitly deal with the very complicated situation of being a member of a family. For better or for worse, we are someone’s daughter, son, father, mother, sister, brother or spouse — and that is no easy task, saturated as it is with all sorts of conflicting agendas and claims that cannot be compartmentalized like a job. With family, you’re in it for life.

While …

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