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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June 8th, 2011

boogeyman-flashI have been failing as a Mexican for a while now. I have not been passing on important cultural traditions to my children. This isn’t because it slips my mind; I have consciously been avoiding it.

Months ago my parents bought us some books in Spanish that contain traditional Mexican folklore. One story is “La Llorona.” It’s about a beautiful woman who threw her children in the river out of rage after her husband left her for another woman. After realizing what she did, she ran along the banks trying to catch them until she slipped and fell and died. To this day you can hear her ghost’s shrill cry as she wanders around after nightfall grabbing any children she finds to make them her own.

I know. Scary, right? Can you imagine reading that to a 2-year-old? And yet that story was really important to my childhood. It used to be one of my favorite stories to listen to. All of my friends knew it. It’s so old, La Lupe was told the story when she was a kid. Whenever I hear it, I feel connected to my past because of how long it has been around. …

June 3rd, 2011

brokenphone-flash3Let’s imagine that your friend were sober and broke your phone by sheer accident. Should she feel obligated to compensate you? Yes. She is responsible for the damage, much the way one would be responsible for breaking a dish in a china shop. The fact that she was drunk implies negligence and increases her responsibility, rather than mitigating it. (Consider how a drunk driver who causes an accident incurs greater penalties than a sober driver.) So of course she should apologize for what happened and pay for the repair of your phone. It is reasonable for you to expect that.

As far as whether or not you should demand payment, ask yourself about the nature of your relationship. Is it a strong friendship, which will weather this storm and emerge even stronger? Or is it a casual friendship, which will break under the strain? Is recovering the cost of the phone worth losing the friendship? Or is the friendship not worth keeping in the first place? As a Christian you are called to forgive – every time we say the Our Father we pray that God will forgive us our trespasses “as we forgive those who trespass against us.” But …

June 1st, 2011

babyboom2014-flashLike any young couple with a growing family, Brandon and I have been discerning and having monthly conversations about when we should have our next child.  Recently, the following statement actually came out of my mouth, “Well, Obama’s health care reform will kick-in in 2014 and then we will be able to get maternity care on our insurance plan.  Maybe we’ll just have to wait until then.”

Wow.  As soon as I said it I was just so disgusted by the kind of system we have that would make it so hard to have kids.  Our family planning is going to be based on when a law goes into effect?  No way.  I refuse to be bullied by the insurance industry into letting it dictate our reproductive planning.

Our mailbox has been bursting at the seams with medical bills the last few months.  When I stop to think about all the money we have spent on medical needs in the last year it seriously makes me sick.  Granted, Lina is absolutely worth all the bills (those chubby cheeks are so irresistible,) but it doesn’t make the amount of money that is moving from our savings account to the hospital’s or …

May 26th, 2011

Catholics should remember those who gave their life for country and freedom, just as everyone else does on Memorial Day. Perhaps even doing so at mass is a particular way for Catholics to celebrate the day. It’s not a sin to be patriotic and to remember that some things are indeed worth fighting for when other means have not secured our freedoms. People have sacrificed much for our freedom and gratitude is our response on Memorial Day.

At the same time, we should also pray for peace and hope for solutions that will not require war and bloodshed. Lastly, we should also try to unite with the poor who are often victimized by war, sometimes intentionally. Can we see Christ in all of these people? That is where we might want to try to be — to remember all that God hopes for our own freedom and how we clumsily have tried to achieve that. God who hopes for reconciliation for all people knows all too well that there is always a price to be paid for reconciliation. God offered his only son to us in Jesus and the cross is the obvious sign that we all need to work …

May 23rd, 2011

prudish-flash1Several people have called me prudish for writing my “i love boobies” post.  I’m totally comfortable with this label because I believe our girls are growing up in a hyper-sexualized world.  If someone thinks I am overly sensitive about modesty, well, someone’s got to push the other way, right?

When I taught at a Catholic high school, I was in charge of monitoring the girls’ dress code.  What a great gig – extolling the virtue of modesty to teens everyday.  As I would walk down the hallways, girls immediately started checking the buttons on their shirts to make sure they weren’t unbuttoned too low or tugging at their skirts trying to make them longer.  This was good for them.  There was a voice in their head telling them to cover-up among all those voices telling them to bare it all.  It is all too common for a teenage girl to believe that her power lies in how sexy she is.  Being “hot” and making boys “want them” is the goal, not being kind or smart or funny.

And I’ve known all this for…pretty much as long as I’ve been alive.  I remember being really young, like 7, and knowing that …

May 20th, 2011

rapture-flashFather Dave talks to a caller who has a question that is on (nearly) everyone’s mind: is the apocalypse going to happen on Saturday, May 21st? Multi-millionaire Christian radio host Harold Camping thinks so…should we?

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.sirius.com orwww.xmradio.com to get subscription information.

May 18th, 2011

This past month has been a major period of reflection. Since my full-time job ended in April I’ve been looking for additional freelance work, but things are slow. The more I think about it though, the more determined I am to stick with music journalism.

After going to various networking events and gaining tips from journalists in the field I’ve realized that while part of their success is a result of being at the right place at the right time, most of their success is because of their determination.

I don’t know why I have this unyielding passion for music when other friends are struggling to find their path. Obviously God has a reason for this and won’t allow me to give up despite my endless questioning. Remember that job I was devastated about not getting a few months ago? Turns out I’ll be covering a conference for them while I’m in Nashville this June for the CMA Music Festival. It may take a while to figure out why things pan out the way they do, but in the end I’m a strong believer that everything happens for a reason.

Joe Nichols’ latest single, “The Shape I’m In,” features an …

May 12th, 2011

I know I’ve been quiet for a while, but maybe it’s because there’s just too much to say.  For the past couple of months I’ve been…conflicted.  So many thoughts running through my head, so many questions, yet not finding the right words to express myself.

The holiday of Purim came and went in a whirl with a vodka-filled and -emptied flask by my side. I will admit, something felt off, but it was a fun time nonetheless. Just the right amount of debauchery, and while my friend was spinning me around during wild dancing, I kind of felt like I was in a circus scene in a movie. Everything was a blur around me.…

May 9th, 2011

confession-flashThere are at least two kinds of penitents: one who goes in and wants a lengthy conversation with the priest about their sinfulness and how to change and another who just wants to get in, list their sins, get absolution, get out and get it over with.  Both styles are legit and priests seem to be sensitive and respectful of both.

As for me, I usually want to be like penitent #1 but get mistaken for #2 every time.

I am horrible at confession.  I really am.  Though my confessions are valid — I’m contrite, truly want to avoid sinning in the future, etc. — I am never satisfied with my confessing style.  When I go to confession I want it to be like spiritual direction with absolution at the end.  I want to have a dialogue with the priest about what I am doing wrong, why I am doing it, and how I can change it.  I want to truly hash out my sinfulness.

But in reality, I don’t really know how to start that conversation.  I’m so anxious walking into the confessional that, once seated, I nervously stammer out a vague list of sins, the priest offers …

April 29th, 2011

doubledownI love The Onion.  I do.  If there is one media source that I can go to at any given time and KNOW that I’m going to have at least one good laugh, it’s the Onion.  I’ve been reading it for almost fifteen years, and I’m still amazed at how funny and biting it can be.  You may agree with me on this, but the more I read the Onion and the more I watch the news, the more the “real” news headlines begin to remind me of The Onion’s fake headlines.  I mean, do you remember the “Double Down” sandwich offered by KFC last year that did away with the bread and offered two fried chicken breasts instead with bacon and cheese in the middle?  I swear it was not until I actually drove by a KFC a few days later that I was convinced that it wasn’t a gag headline along the lines of “New Taco Bell Menu Item Ready For Testing On Humans.”

I share this because between the various Facebook postings and news alerts I receive during my sporadic opportunities to watch TV these days, I’ve already heard way too much about the …

April 28th, 2011

dejection-flash1It started April Fool’s Day if you can believe it.  We’d been going to the Friday Fish Fry at our new parish all of Lent, and it had really become the highlight of our week as we loved the community we found there.  We left our house a little later than usual and  unfortunately arrived at the end of a line of about fifty people.  We had brought separate food for Olivia (who is allergic to dairy and eggs) so she and I parked our stuff at a table while Brandon stood in line with Lina.  As we waited, a man at our table with a terrible hacking cough threw the napkins he was using to cover his mouth directly onto Olivia’s plate of food.  Shoot. There went her dinner.  Brandon ended up waiting in line for an hour, after which Lina started to break down because it was so near her bedtime and Olivia because she was hungry and we had no food for her.  We dejectedly drove home with the girls crying the whole way.

The next Friday came.  Brandon had a meeting out of town but had plenty of time to drive back to Austin, pick up …

April 27th, 2011

It was as if it never was here. When one is in graduate school, the most important thing is a break, a vacation – Disney World. Annie and I up and went last minute to the land of dreams, miracles and fairytales; a land where Passover almost doesn’t exist.

I didn’t even think about it.

You might remember another time when I wouldn’t have considered missing Passover. I would be the one in the family to make sure we get to shul, to be upset if my family was not getting together, to seek out seder meals. But I don’t feel that way anymore. After this trip, however, I wonder if I’ve become altogether dismissive of the power of a Jewish holiday.

skyliner

It was a bit ironic that on the third day of Passover, four days before Easter, Annie and I show up to the gates of Disney World and in the sky was written “U + God = Smiley Face.”

It went on to write JESUS. Invictus. And some other words that faded as soon as it hit the sky. It was as if a fanatical religious man stole a skywriter and had a field day. But it reminded …

April 27th, 2011

mkcastleThis past week, Monica and I escaped to Florida during her spring break and my time off from work. We headed to Orlando with the intention of reverting back to our childhood and being kids again. I think we both had a wake-up call and quickly realized we’re no longer children with our parents planning the trip and making sure everything runs smoothly.

Our first snafu came as we arrived at the airport to find there was no shuttle to our hotel, despite being promised one. We eventually took a way-too-expensive cab ride, which made us miss the easy and accessible commuting options of New York.

Throughout the remainder of our stay in Orlando I realized how grateful I am for my parents. Every summer we’d vacation together and they planned everything. I never had to worry about transportation anywhere or having enough cash on me. It seemed we came across badly behaved kids everywhere in Disney World, making me more and more thankful I had parents who paid attention to me, disciplined me when I needed it, and, most importantly, loved me unconditionally even when I frequently expressed that I would have rather been at a friend’s birthday party …

April 26th, 2011

cursingbegin-flashHappy Easter one and all. I’m back to work with the better half of a chocolate egg on my desk and my newly restored vocabulary. A few days later and I find I’m still thinking twice before I say certain words, but more often than not I’m letting myself slip and speak all those words I’d given up during the last six weeks.

I’ll take my small achievements where I can get them: For the first time I can remember, I made it through Lent without eating meat on a Friday. And it may have taken me four weeks to finally tame my language, but my average was still less than one obscenity every two days. I know for many people that would still qualify as pretty filthy, but is quite possibly a record for me.

While giving up swearing has been a yearly practice for me for the last several years, this year has been a bit different for me. The truth of the matter is, I think my weekly reflections about what Lent means to me ended up benefiting me a lot more than coming up with creative ways to express my anger at traffic or surprise when …

April 20th, 2011

holy-week-homestretch-flashWe’re into the homestretch now and there is something I find really fascinating about Holy Week. There is more drama in this one week leading up to Easter than in all the four weeks of Advent: Jesus’ triumphant return to Jerusalem, the Last Supper, the betrayal, a different kind of parade through the streets of Jerusalem, and His death.

It doesn’t have the same fanfare as Christmas, nor the same commercialism — a few chocolate bunnies is nothing compared to the months of lead up about what should be under the tree. At the same time, I feel it makes Easter more special that it doesn’t have an exclusively secular appeal. There will be TV specials about bunnies and egg hunts and discounted chocolates and marshmallow chicks, but never enough to detract from the true meaning of the day. There’s no War on Easter for anyone to complain about, and few decorations to offend non-celebrants. It’s still pretty much a holiday reserved for those who believe.

Nothing quite brings home the significance of the week more than the Easter Vigil. Three hours in church leading up to midnight, the Passion, lighting candles, reciting saints’ names, it’s pageantry unlike any …

April 14th, 2011

andyblog-flashThe longer Lent carries on, the more exposed I feel as a Catholic. I don’t mean this in a negative way, it’s simply that certain restrictions come in conversation more often. When the contents of a pot boiled over onto my recently cleaned stove the other night, my reaction was, “Oh bother,” — not my normal reaction (see my post about giving up bad language for Lent.) In a month, it will not likely be my reaction. My husband recognizes this. Anyone who knows me relatively well would recognize this. But for now, those are the sorts of Winnie-the-Pooh statements I’m making. Somehow, that is more notable than if some four-letter word escaped instead.

Aside from my concerted efforts to not swear or eat meat on Fridays (and I’ve been completely successful in the latter — it might be the first time ever,) I have mostly exposed my religion and myself because, like many 20-somethings in New York, I am overly inclined to discuss my work. Right now, Catholicism is not just my faith, it’s my work too.

It’s an interesting experiment for me. When I was in school, I took classes on religion, read the Bible several times from …

April 11th, 2011

bucketlist-flashI know I’m in my twenties so the idea of being worried about a bucket list already may seem somewhat silly, but one of my good college friends just visited last weekend and reminded me how quickly life is starting to pass us by.  She came to check out Austin because she got into grad school here at UT.  I asked her what made her want to go to grad school.  She responded, “Well, we’re getting to the point in our lives where everything we do is going to dictate the next 20 years.  I want to get this out of the way because I’ll need it eventually and it’s easy to do now without a family.”

We started talking about how, even though we’re only a few years removed from college, everything is moving much faster.  People know more of what they want.  We’re not 21 year-olds new to adulthood and testing the waters; we’re at the point where people want to begin settling down, starting careers and families and such.

Then she said something that totally blew my mind.  She talked about how incredible it is that our 10 year high school reunion is coming up.  No, no, …

April 6th, 2011

nomeat-flashEvery year during Lent I try really hard not to eat meat on Fridays, and every year I usually fail at least once.  Sometimes it’s intentional, like when I’m trying not to offend someone who’s cooked for me, and sometimes, despite a post-it note stuck to my computer clearly reading NO MEAT, I just forget what day it is.  Last week, I bought a lot of fish for dinner and prepared many pies and pastas — all very enjoyable.  However, I timed things badly, and we finished all of the fish before Friday.  A mild inconvenience.

So, in my kitchen last Friday, trying to figure out what dinner should be, my husband shared my lament at having finished off the fish we should have saved for later in the week.  After flipping through a few cookbooks, we found a recipe for a mushroom-based dish and he went out to buy the necessary fungi.

My husband isn’t Catholic.  He isn’t religious at all, actually, but he probably still falls under the category of agnostic.  He doesn’t need to give up meat on Fridays during Lent, but he does anyway.  If he’s the one cooking dinner that night, he makes …

April 4th, 2011

church-hopping-flash3The more years that separate me from my time at Notre Dame, the more I realize how easy college made certain things in life.  Making friends was easy as I was surrounded by a great community of people with whom I had a lot in common; I never had to spend a lot of energy finding people with similar interests.  We also had Mass in our dorm, which meant we all went to Mass with our closest friends — it didn’t take a lot of extra work to be part of a spiritual community.  In fact, being a theology major and, in general, just being a Domer, it was never difficult to find tons of groups, retreats, events, or volunteer opportunities that guaranteed an awesome spiritual community.

Then I graduated and lived in a Catholic Worker house.  As a community we said daily prayers together, usually attended daily Mass, and were always having discussions about faith and Church teachings and how to live out the Gospel.  It too was a wonderful spiritual community.

Then came Austin — when I finally found out how hard it is to make friends in the “real world”.  There was no longer a guaranteed community.  …

April 2nd, 2011

The scene: 10 eighth-grade religious education students, their teacher, and yours truly—a plucky seminarian who was brought in for “Vocation Awareness Day.”  I talk, explaining the many ways we can all serve God in our lives, and that religious life is one of those ways — a very good way… yada, yada, yada.  Are there any questions?  A hand goes up.  I graciously call on the inquisitive young child.

“Why are priests always so fat?”

It is important to note that there was still some sugar on my shirt from the doughnut I had just scarfed down after Mass… black clothes do a terrible job of hiding sugar.  It is also important to note that the previous evening I had more than my fare share of Texas Barbecue at an establishment known as “The Salt Lick” and I can only guess as to how much brisket my system was still digesting.  The morning before that I delighted in a jalapeno-and-cheese sausage breakfast burrito.  At this point, I had gained eight pounds since arriving at my pastoral assignment with four months to go.  That’s in addition to the ten pounds I had gained since joining religious life.

KS_Priest_HotDog_CROPWhile I cannot claim …

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