Busted Halo

Paulist seminarian Tom Gibbons reflects on his formation experience and his life as a seminarian right now. Along the way, some questions will be will be answered, and a lot more will come up.

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March 22nd, 2011

In today’s media environment, we invariably hear the stories about which things go wrong.  I guess it’s human nature to focus on the negative, but the focus of news organizations do have its place.  I think that when issues like the sex-abuse crisis continue to unfold, we do need to be reminded of it so that we don’t turn our eyes away from it, lest we conveniently skip over the lessons that we may have to absorb as a Church.  I remember during Benedict’s visit a few years ago, a Catholic commentator was on television claiming that the Church sex-abuse crisis had been put behind her and now we could all move on… 18 months later it exploded again in Europe.  Sadly, negativity has its place in the world.

That being said, I realized after writing my last post which focused on the letter a friend of mine wrote to me concerning the sex abuse crisis, it might be important to take a step back and share what I like about the Catholic Church.  Because I can get stuck focusing on the wrongs of a person or the failures of an institution as much as anybody.  I am more than …

March 21st, 2011

lentenbandwagon-flash2My biggest problem during Lent is that I listen to too many other people’s Lenten sacrifices and get so excited about doing them myself that I take on too many things.  One year in college I was feeling particularly scrupulous and decided to give up sweets and meat and promised to go to daily Mass everyday (including Saturdays) and even do night prayer every single night.  That lasted all of four days.  Pitiful.

After many years of this I’ve come to realize that I won’t instantly transform from a regular schmo to a saint just because it’s Lent and I pretend to be a monk and give up snickerdoodles.  That’s why the Church gives us this time every year, because it takes time.  We can slowly and yearly become a little more like the person God wants us to become, but it cannot, and does not, happen from one day to the next — it takes a lifetime.

I don’t have any problems with people giving up sweets or beer or whatever they decide, but I’ve found this practice doesn’t help me in the slightest.  I usually just replace what I gave up with something else and go completely …

March 19th, 2011

For those of you who don’t know, the holiday of Purim is coming up March 19 – March 20 (21st in Jerusalem).  The holiday is kind of like a cross between Halloween and St. Patty’s Day with a Jewish flare – imagine dressing in costumes and drinking until you can’t tell the difference between good and evil.  To put you in the holiday spirit, and to understand more about Purim, enjoy this video from G-dcast narrated by my super talented spoken word princess and friend, Vanessa Hidary AKA the Hebrew Mamita.…

March 19th, 2011

virtuesBIGsmallI usually write about news events and the latest research, but virtue is all around us — and our best chance of character development comes in our relationships with our families. So here’s your to-do list for the day:

(1) Check out this website:

A college friend recently sent me a link to For Your Marriage, a website run by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. It’s been around since 2007, but recently received a design overhaul to attract more readers.

It has tips on strengthening relationships, the importance of premarital preparation and — right up my alley — a section on marital virtues, updated each month.

I instantly liked the site because the lead story cites research from author and journalist Tara Parker-Pope on the myth about the all-too-often-quoted statistic that 50% of marriages end in divorce. While that may have been true for marriages in the 1970s, the statistics are a lot more promising for couples — especially college-educated couples — getting married today.

So…

(2) Remember this bit of cocktail party conversation:

Have a college degree? You’ve taken a big step toward a healthier, happier marriage: College graduates are less likely to …

March 17th, 2011

laoflw-stpatrick-insideSt. Patrick’s Day has never been a holiday I paid much attention to. I don’t have any Irish heritage. I don’t like green beer. I’m not the biggest fan of corned beef, and am really not a fan of cabbage. I don’t really like parades either. It’s a bit lost on me. And, despite having lived in New York for most of my adult life, it never occurred to me to go to St. Patrick’s Cathedral on St. Patrick’s Day. So today I ventured into midtown to do just that.

It was a little bit ironic that during Mass I could hear the drums and bagpipes from the parade marching down 5th Avenue, and that in order to even get into the church I had to wade through rowdy groups of people looking for a party in the afternoon who chose the Cathedral as a meeting point. I have to imagine this is one of the busier days of the year for St. Patrick’s, but it was still a very personal experience, even with crowds of tourists roaming through the Cathedral, looking on in wonder during Mass.

I do have a soft spot for Ireland and Irish culture, even …

March 14th, 2011

post1-flash-40I consider myself a part-time Catholic. My faith is solid, I observe every Church holiday, but I’m not so good about getting to church every single week. My parents are involved in their church, and I always come over when they’re having the priests for dinner. These same priests were present at my wedding to my agnostic husband.

Catholicism is part of who I am, even if it isn’t woven into the daily fabric of my life. Every year Lent is my chance to make up for my inattentiveness the rest of the year. I get my ashes every Ash Wednesday, I don’t eat meat on Fridays, and I always give something up for the 40 or so days.

If I have a bad habit (aside from the short attention span that often keeps me out of church), it’s definitely swearing. Despite my best efforts to control it, I am ultimately a product of my environment: My mother taught me to speak my mind, and my father taught me the vocabulary. Though I do my best to keep it in check in business meetings and around my elderly relatives, when left to my own devices it sounds like a very …

March 13th, 2011

thenwere4-flashIt’s logical that the more you do something the better you get at it but it’s very strange to me that you can actually get better at giving birth. I did recently, giving birth to our second baby, Maria Catalina.  I handled the contractions much better and this time around it was a totally natural — no pain meds, no pitocin, not even an IV to stay hydrated.  It was a slow and long labor but we made it.

Our nursing situation was almost comical.  We had an awesome nurse at first but with a shift change 2 hours later we lost her pretty early in the game.  Then we got 3 nurses – a supervising nurse, a new nurse, and a student studying to be a nurse on her OB rotation.  It was quite the party in L&D Room number 7.

Our “new nurse” kept having to go ask the supervising nurse how to do stuff because it was so uncommon for her to be working with a woman that didn’t have an epidural.  That part was pretty annoying.  Um, I’m not sure if we can take the heart rate monitors off, let me go ask.  I’m not

March 12th, 2011

funA recent study suggests that some 30% of Americans has trouble relaxing and putting work aside to enjoy vacation – and a handful of us suffer from more acute “leisure sickness” and “weekend headaches” from our attempts at fun.

Reports the Wall Street Journal

Only 53% of working Americans say they come back feeling rested and rejuvenated after vacation, and 30% say they have trouble coping with work stress while they’re away, according to an Expedia.com survey of 1,530. Some try to cram in so much activity that they come back more exhausted than when they left. Others stay so plugged on Blackberrys and cellphones that colleagues and clients don’t even suspect they’re away.

“It’s been my experience that an ‘out of office’ response means nothing anymore,” says Edward T. Creagan, a medical oncologist who writes the Mayo Clinic’s stress blog. “We’re driving ourselves wacko with no time to power down.”

Attempting to relax even makes some people sick. Some 3% of the population suffers from “leisure sickness” when they go on vacation. Symptoms include fatigue, muscle pain, nausea and flu-like symptoms, according to a 2002 study in the Netherlands. And a phenomenon of “weekend headaches” accounts for roughly one-third …

March 3rd, 2011

800px-Vallee_OssauI went back to Hillsong NYC yesterday with my best friend Wendy. Walking into Irving Plaza with Wendy is the norm as we’ve been attending and covering shows together since high school. However, the idea of having Sunday service at a concert venue still boggles my mind.

Yesterday’s service talked about three ways to make it through a valley. I couldn’t help but think of of my previous post, Coping with Rejection that seemed to strike a chord with many of you. I’m always reminded of the phrase, “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger,” but sometimes it’s hard to remain positive when you don’t land that dream job, when your boyfriend breaks up with you or when there’s family conflict.

Luckily, pastor Carl Lentz gave three steps to dealing with hard times.

1. Stay Active. If you keep giving to other people you will keep moving forward.

2. Stay Connected. Your relationships will make you or break you in a valley season. Everybody needs somebody.

3. Stay Focused. Refuse to take your eyes off of God’s promises.

Too many people let go of their dreams when a valley hits, don’t fall victim at the last minute, right before the …

March 1st, 2011
Amidst the social unrest and political upheaval in Egypt's capitol

nanci-martin-large

Father Dave interviews Nanci Martin, the Associate Vice President for Communications and Marketing at the American University in Cairo, about what it has been like living as an American Catholic amidst the social unrest and political upheaval in Egypt’s capitol.

Fr. Dave Dwyer: If you could give us your perspective as someone who is not just taking in what our American media is portraying as this situation… I mean, we usually don’t think of Egypt as a country where people live under oppression. Has it been horrible under [Hosni Mubarek], as we’ve been hearing? Has it been, “Phew! Thank God he’s out of there. How did we let him stay in there so long?” Was revolution warranted, in your opinion?

Nanci Martin: Well, you know, it’s funny because I’ve been here nine years… Egyptians are incredibly patient people… their perspective and history is so different from ours. We have such a young country. They’ve got a lot of patience. They’ve lived under English rule and they’ve had the military, so to speak. They had Sadat, and Nassar, and then Hosni Mubarek, all military men, since 1952. I think for a long time, Mubarek was very well respected, and I think

February 24th, 2011

bffWhen I was a ‘tween and teenager, I had two best friends. The three of us were our own little clique — inseparable and bonded in a sisterly way. Having two best friends instead of one caused some problems, sure, because there was often a tension between who was closest to whom, but generally, it worked. We were the Three Muskateers. We were Heuy, Dewey and Louie. We sat in the same place in the hallway of our middle- and high-school, we helped each other with homework, we had sleepovers and weekend adventures our albums are now filled with photos from confirmations to graduations to weddings.

As an adult, however, I’m blessed to have expanded that friendship circle to at least six women (not to mention a husband) with whom I confide my deepest, darkest secrets and joys. Which is better? A New York Times article on whether the “best friend” is something to be discouraged among children grabbed my attention.

While kids want a best friend, their helicopter parents and well-meaning educators are concerned that socializing as a pack might provide more emotional support, especially when emotions run high. Writes Hilary Stout

Most children naturally seek close …

February 20th, 2011

bhutan-refugee-largeYou haven’t heard from me in a little while. Miss me? School started just a few weeks ago and I’m already in the deep end of reporting. One of my first stories back was on refugees from the country of Bhutan.

Bhutan is this tiny nation nestled in South Asia, a country made up entirely of Buddhists. I was fooled once to believe it is a euphoric territory on earth, but soon learned that the nation had exiled more than 100,000 Nepali people from its land simply because they were Hindu. To add irony to the equation, the nation of Bhutan claims to measure its country on a metrics of “Happiness,” an emotion engrained into their public policy. How then do Buddhists, who claim such perfection, exile a people on religious ground?

This, of course, is not simply a religious matter. It is very much a political one. But the irony remains.  The beauty in this story is the faith.

When I interviewed activists who help Bhutanese refugees acclimate to the United States, the most important thing for these refugees, they said to me, is a place to pray.

One activist told me that the first thing refugees do when …

February 19th, 2011

trying-or-not-flashChildbearing outside marriage is on the rise, with some 40% of all births to unwed mothers. And more than half of unplanned pregnancies occur among women who were not using any form of contraception the month they conceived. Were all of those women just being careless?

Nope.

According to new research, led by Julia McQuillan at the University of Nebraska at Lincoln, some women are trying to conceive, others are trying not to conceive — but a significant proportion of women, both unmarried and married, don’t fall into either category: They’re OK with either outcome. And to understand the new realities of American fertility means learning more about these women and their choices.

McQuillan and her coauthors, Arthur L. Greil of Alfred University and Karina Shreffler of Oklahoma State University, found that women who plan pregnancies tend to married–and a bit older, wealthier and more educated than the average American woman. Those who are trying to avoid a pregnancy tend to be in a cohabiting relationship, or have several children and/or step-children already.

Using data from nearly 5000 women ages 25-45 collected by the National Survey of Fertility Barriers, the researchers, whose findings are forthcoming in Maternal and Child

February 15th, 2011

I recently heard that the second priest to have ever dined in my parents’ home had been implicated in sex abuse scandal. As a former child abuse prosecutor and now mother of four, it has been a particularly difficult question to answer why stay in light of the crimes committed by an astounding number of priests and the subsequent systemic cover up by members of the hierarchy…

So began the letter of an old college friend with whom I have recently connected on Facebook.  This friend has been an active member of the Catholic Church for as long as I’ve known her; in college she served as a sponsor for RCIA and after college she spent a year as a full-time volunteer.  As the note continued, she did make a point of saying that she had not left the church and she is indeed making sure that her children are being raised in the faith.  Still, the frustration was there… and I recognized it because it is the same frustration that I have also been trying to move beyond.

FistFor years, the scandal and the ensuing cover-up served as one of the main reasons I resisted joining the priesthood… hence …

February 8th, 2011

Freedom-flash1When I think of feeling free, I see the stereotypical scenes of me on a beach somewhere, enjoying a drink with a little umbrella in it. That feeling of carefree-ness, no rush, no worries, no impending deadlines.

Honestly, I rarely feel this way.

Sometimes being a wife and mom (a very pregnant mom at that) can feel pretty burdensome. Most of our friends do not have kids so we always miss out on a lot of events: parties, birthday dinners, and pretty much anything that takes place after 6pm. Of course, we get a babysitter for more important things like weddings, but on most regular days I see nightfall through my window. This is suffocating sometimes. Especially right now when anything I do is seriously hampered by the impending birth of our next one. I’m the size of a house; my movements are very slow and need to be very calculated. It’s nearly impossible to find a comfortable position sitting, standing, or lying down. Sleep is such gift when it finally happens uninterrupted for several hours.

Sometimes I look at our married friends without kids and get jealous of their freedom. They can go out to dinner at 9pm without …

February 7th, 2011

Filippino Lippi's Madonna and Child

Filippino Lippi's Madonna and Child

I have to tell you a secret.  A few weeks ago I started to feel reeeeeaaallllly funny.  Like, I was having a connection with Christianity out of the blue, and it wasn’t just some curiosity – it was a weird affinity, like I was having an existential crisis or something.  Now, if you read my blog posts on here you know one thing – a main thing – about me: Judaism is a HUGE part of who I am.  Understandably I was starting to freak out.  Let me take you all on my short-lived Jesus journey.

It all began one Shabbat afternoon when the sun begins to set and the end of Shabbat is near.  I was reading the Saturday Times and saw a short listing of a new exhibit at the Met where the featured painting was this Madonna and Child.

Seeing this painting sparked something within me.  Firstly it reminded me of my high school Art History class that I loved so much.  But even more than that I said to Annie, “I want to go to Italy for Christmas.”  I want to go somewhere for Christmas???  I never speak in terms …

February 5th, 2011

Think you’re too busy to read a good book, have a quiet hour with your spouse or go to the gym five days a week? You’re not, you just choose to spend too much of your time on unimportant and less rewarding activities, argues Laura Vanderkam in her book, 168 Hours: You Have More Time Than You Think.

Every week, you–and everyone else–get 168 hours in which to work, sleep, exercise, do chores, run errands, spend time with your kids and save the world. Let’s say you work 50 hours a week and then sleep for 8 hours a night, that still leaves 62 hours to do other things. Sure, you’ve got to commute, bathe and do chores, but 62 hours is a lot of time. What exactly are you doing with it?

Odds are, you have no idea. The first part of the problem is that we lie on time-use surveys. We tell researchers we work longer hours and spend more time on chores than we actually do. And then we under-report our sleep and leisure time. It’s not that we mean to fib: It’s human nature to overestimate the hard stuff and underestimate the good stuff. But, …

February 2nd, 2011

reformandchurch-flashOur baby is due mid-February and in last week’s post I wrote about how our health insurance plan does not cover maternity care.  In fact, many pregnant women are not cared for adequately by our health care system in its current form.

Bringing up the subject of health care reform is a risky move these days as the issue has become an increasingly hostile partisan debate.  Just turn on the TV or radio and you will witness mud-slinging and fear-mongering on both sides of the aisle.  Both sides would agree our current health care system needs some kind of change, but it’s hard to know which side and which arguments to support.

The media likes to report on what the Catholic Church says about certain hot-button issues.  Every time I hear a news story attempting to explain the Church’s stance, I usually end up mad at the Church, expressing, “Come on Church, that can’t be right.”  Then I turn to the USCCB website and read up on what the Church’s actual response is and realize how unclear and slanted the media can be in explaining the Church’s stance on matters.

This happened with health care reform.  I was upset with …

January 31st, 2011

2011 started out how past New Year’s have: surrounded by friends and family with numerous hopes and resolutions made. After ending 2010 with a much coveted interview for what I thought was my dream job, I was confident 2011 would be my best year yet.

Unfortunately, I soon found out I didn’t make the cut and I was devastated. I quickly began questioning my life and career choices as well as my own abilities. Why am I so passionate being a music journalist? Why would God give me this writing talent only to be accompanied by numerous failed job interviews? No one likes rejection and I was trying my best to see the silver lining, but had a much harder time than I care to admit.

So, of course I turned to music. Oprah Winfrey just launched her OWN network a few days before and one of her first aired shows, Master Class, featured Jay-Z discussing his life, struggles, failure and the importance of staying true to yourself. He knew when he was writing all his rhymes and rehearsing them as a child that he had something special that the world had to hear. He didn’t shy away from …

January 29th, 2011

sparehalfologue-flashScientific American has a fun podcast on one of the more irksome elements of modern life: Hearing half of the inane conversation of a fellow passenger on mass transportation.

Researchers have found that it is more distracting to listen to half of a conversation — dubbed a halfalogue — than it is to listen to two people chatting in front of you. Although, as someone who spends a lot of time working at coffee shops, it’s really distracting to a) listen to someone get fired; b) hear to one woman offer bad dating advice to another woman; and c) try to focus when two men are discussing their weight-lifting regimens – and the importance of interspersing yoga three days a week – in very loud voices. But I digress.

Reports FoxNews.com

Whether it is the office, on a train or in a car, only half of the conversation is overheard which drains more attention and concentration than when overhearing two people talking, according to scientists at Cornell University.

“We have less control to move away our attention from half a conversation (or halfalogue) than when listening to a dialogue,” said Lauren Emberson, a co-author of the study that will be …

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