Busted Halo

Fr. Jake Martin, SJ, looks at the Academy Award nominees and this year’s best films and performances through a spiritual lens — and makes a prediction or two along the way.

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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 …

January 31st, 2012

I’m going to be honest. At the end of December I was not in a good place. I was unhappy with everything — my home, my relationship with everyone in my life, my spiritual life, my performance at work. Everything. I felt really bad about how I was doing all around. I just kept playing these scenes over and over in my head about times I had screwed up or done something to offend someone or said the wrong thing. I couldn’t get these conversations out of my head.

On my first day of vacation I just couldn’t shake this cloud that was hanging over me. So as I usually do when I’m feeling crummy, I decided to poke around the Internet for something interesting to read to get my mind off of myself. Whoa, did that make everything worse. I read about a mom who homeschools her kids and built a kiln in their backyard to teach them about chemistry and how it applies to pottery and glazing. Then I read about a Notre Dame grad with a beautiful family who is home with them full time, has a really successful sewing business, has great style, and has one …

January 25th, 2012

I always pictured my life differently. I’ve always been a simple girl with simple wants. I pictured that we would have a home without a TV, definitely no video games, a big garden out back where we’d grow a lot of our food, chickens for eggs. We’d make everything, our own clothes, our own laundry soap, etc. A pretty hippy existence all in all. My husband has a totally different picture in his head. He envisions a life where we would have most of the new gadgets that come out on the market. He is really interested in new technologies and how they can be integrated into everyday life. How the iPad or the Kindle Fire or smart phones can help us and actually be learning tools for the girls. Whenever a new piece of technology is released, we inevitably have to have a conversation about it and how it would fit into our life.

I’d say this is the hardest part of our marriage, having to blend my idea of life with his idea of life. This is something that a lot of marriages struggle with. When you get married, you’re not the only one calling the shots about …

January 24th, 2012

This seems to be the dream: to grow up and play in the World Series or the Super Bowl, or the NBA Championships. Every American boy sits in front of the television watching the world’s finest athletes stretch themselves to their physical and emotional limits, hoping that one day, they too will garner a nugget of athletic immortality — hold the trophy, wear the ring, sell the shoes. I was not that boy, and this was not my dream.

This is not to say that I didn’t have my own gather around the TV time — I did — but it had nothing to do with athletic accomplishment and everything to do with self-congratulatory behavior of the highest order. Of course I’m talking about the Academy Awards, the source and summit of every filmmaker’s, film actor’s and film lover’s year. That completely unnecessary, yet utterly imperative, exercise in informing all of show business just how important all of show business is. So while the other kids got excited about the 49ers versus the Dolphins or the Royals versus the Cardinals, I got worked up over Goodfellas versus Dances with Wolves (I still think you made a terrible call on that …

January 23rd, 2012

People gather at the annual Vigil for Life at the National Shrine. (CNS photo/Nancy Phelan Wiechec)

You know, I probably shouldn’t say this, but on this Pro Life weekend, I really didn’t know what to say today. Every time I started to write one thing about the March For Life, two other concerns came to the fore. This was an issue that I used to look at in very black and white terms when I was younger. Then I got to a point where I could only see it in terms in gray. Now I guess I am at a point where I look at it in terms of black and white…and gray.

At first glance it’s a black and white issue, an open and shut case, there’s really not much more to discuss. And I have to say that this past October, I was given the amazing gift of two nieces — each from my two sisters — and I even got to be in the room for the birth of one of them.  During Christmas I got to hold each one of them in my arms and during that moment, the sacredness and holiness of each life could …

January 17th, 2012

Every year the rollercoaster speed at which the year passes from Thanksgiving to New Year’s is always baffling. Every year I’m caught so off guard when Christmas Eve rolls around that I’m positive that everyone else has their days mixed up. This year was no different.

This year we had both Thanksgiving and Christmas here at our house. And if that wasn’t enough pressure, La Lupe actually made the trek out to Austin to spend it with us. In case you don’t remember the debacle from last year, which was my hostessing skills, it suffices to say that I ended up sitting in a pew on Christmas Day crying because I felt like I had ruined Christmas. That was my first try at being the matriarch of the family. It was a total fail.

But this year was different. Well, a little different. I entered the holiday season determined to mellow out a bit and take things in stride. With La Lupe in town, I knew that I wouldn’t be in complete control of everything. I knew she would call some of the shots. And that made me feel a lot better.

We had 12 people staying with us, so …

January 12th, 2012

January 12, 2012 marks the second anniversary of the catastrophic 7.2 magnitude earthquake in Haiti, which hit the nation’s capital of Port-au-Prince, destroying more than 97,000 homes and displacing 1.3 million people. Paul Jeffrey, United Methodist Missionary photojournalist and author of the new book, “Rubble Nation: Haiti’s Pain, Haiti’s Promise” talked with Fr. Dave about the state of Haiti then and now.

The Busted Halo Show with Father Dave Dwyer is on Sirius/XM Satellite Radio, Sirius/XM 129, 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.siriusxm.com to get subscription information.…

January 12th, 2012

When you study to be a priest, attending Mass is as much of a part of one’s routine as brushing your teeth and applying deodorant. It may not happen EVERY single day, but it usually happens every day.

Anyway I mention this because I consider myself to be a pretty connected person in terms of news events; what I do not learn through my iPhone, I typically pick up during church. When you go to a Mass in which most in attendance feel free to vocalize the thoughts, concerns, and groanings in their souls, it can serve as a regular RSS feed on what is going on in the world. And, ironically, it was in this manner that I learned that the famed-atheist Christopher Hitchens had passed.

I struggled to write this reflection for a while; I was actually asked to do it two weeks ago. On the one hand I cannot claim to have read much of Hitchens’ material, so it seemed unfair to comment on the life of someone of whom I was only tangentially familiar. I had seen him on Bill Maher a few times and while I may not have always agreed with his conclusions — …

January 10th, 2012

A homeless man eats lunch in St. Vincent DePaul Community Center in Oakland, California (CNS photo/Greg Tarczynski)

For the past 18 months, I have seen a man pass our house in his wheelchair every week. He has long, dirty hair, lots of bags, and a bandaged foot. The first time we saw him was startling. If you remember, I previously wrote about how we moved into a suburban-ish area. We were unpacking boxes when we saw him move slowly past our window. He stood out. He wasn’t a twenty-something jogger listening to an iPod, he wasn’t two moms pushing their strollers and chatting, he wasn’t our neighbor walking his dog, he was a sick, slow moving man who, very likely, did not have a home. We stopped what we were doing and peered through our window until he was out of sight.

As time progressed, we figured out his schedule. He spends his time doing laps around our community. In the mornings I see him making his way along the running trails, in the afternoons I’ve seen him parked over by the lake, watching the waterfalls, and in the evenings he makes his way past our house. I never …

December 29th, 2011

Fr. Jack takes on tourists in Times Square to ask people what new year’s resolutions are going to be this year, what feast the Catholic Church celebrates on January 1, and if anyone knows about the biggest resolution ever made in all of human history.

Music: Kevin MacLeod

December 25th, 2011

A blessed and merry Christmas from the staff of Busted Halo!

(The Advent calendar contest is over. Thanks so much for being a part of it.)…

December 23rd, 2011

(CNS photo/Roi Azure, Reuters)

Keeping vigil has always been a spiritual practice in Catholicism. This is what we are essentially doing by attending any “Vigil” mass, we wait in joyful hope for the coming of the Savior.

There is also a Biblical reference here that can be included. The Shepherds in Luke’s infancy narratives in his Gospel were keeping watch over their sheep on the nightly vigil. In a sense, we are the same shepherds today and we are entrusted to keep watch over one another.

While we wait for God during Advent, it’s also important to note that God also keeps Vigil for us. Many people “come home” at Christmas and find God welcoming them back home once again. We pray that they find our church to be a welcoming place and that we show them the love that God always offers to us. In doing so, we have the opportunity to continually welcome them home each week and pray that they will be part of our community regularly.…

December 19th, 2011

My family really isn’t one for setting traditions in stone. For instance, most years for Thanksgiving, my family will all get together for a traditional turkey dinner, the deliciousness of which is only soured by the fact that I still apparently haven’t earned my spot at the adults’ table. But, there was one year where my family ate Thanksgiving dinner in a Del Taco in Anaheim, California. We were on our way to Disneyland, and our schedule had been thrown off by an unexpected extra two hours of traffic. That was a very testy Thanksgiving.

The same is true for our Christmas traditions — some years my dad will put lights on our house; other years he’ll refrain and then try to get me to put them up when I complain but I’m not falling for that. Sometimes, being San Diegans who are accustomed to temperatures that never go below 63°, we’ll drive out to the mountains where it snows and have a good laugh at how priceless my younger brother’s reaction is when getting pelted by a snowball with a nice rock nestled inside. My mom is actually the only one who is completely consistent with her …

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