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Busted Halo contributors examine the spiritual themes of your favorite movies. Join us for a unique look at the intersection of faith and Hollywood.

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June 6th, 2014
A new, inspiring documentary follows the journey of six pilgrims along the Camino de Santiago

I’ve always wanted to go to Europe. However, I never imagined that anything could make me want to walk 500 miles — the entire width of northern Spain (as in, the country) — with little more than the clothes on my back. But after seeing Walking the Camino: Six Ways to Santiago, a documentary that followed the experiences of various people who made the journey, I have to say that I am inspired.

Walking the Camino, a film directed and produced by Lydia B. Smith, is an eye-opening experience. Wrapped up in our modern worlds of technology and other complexities, we have grown detached from the simplicity and beauty of the world surrounding us, not to mention the spiritual peace which can at times be difficult to grasp. The documentary follows the travels of six different pilgrims as they make their way along the Camino Francés, one of the many paths of the Camino de Santiago.

The Camino is a pilgrimage route that has been traveled for more than 1,200 years. There are hostels, called albergues, and other centers for hospitality along the path, which offer pilgrims food, beds, medical attention, and anything else that might be needed. …

June 5th, 2014

Pope Francis stops in front of an Israeli security wall in Bethlehem, West Bank, on his recent visit to Palestine. (CNS photo/L'Osservatore Romano, pool)

Pope Francis stops in front of an Israeli security wall in Bethlehem, West Bank, on his recent visit to Palestine. (CNS photo/L’Osservatore Romano, pool)

This Sunday, Shimon Peres, president of Israel, and Mahmoud Abbas, president of Palestine, will join Pope Francis at the Vatican for a “prayer meeting for peace,” the Vatican Information Service said.

The prayer meeting, which the Vatican has been careful to note is not a prelude to formal peace talks, is the result of the pope’s recent trip to Jordan, Palestine, and Israel.

“We’re meeting to pray, only that,” the pope said, “and then everyone will go home.”

The pope’s trip was full of symbolic gestures that promoted peace and condemned violence on both sides. So of course, the prayer meeting is noteworthy because violence in the Middle East remains a tragic reality. If these three men, whose faiths have been at odds for centuries, can inspire others to join together and abstain from violence, the meeting will be a success.

And just as interesting, the meeting demonstrates how far the Catholic Church has come in how it approaches other faiths over the past 50 years.
The pope’s decision to bring two of his friends, one …

May 30th, 2014

Scene from the movie “Million Dollar Arm.” (CNS photo/Disney)

Scene from the movie “Million Dollar Arm.” (CNS photo/Disney)

JB Bernstein is at the end of his rope. He’s had a slick car, a stylish house, and a smooth living as a sports agent, but with clients losing interest, it’s all begun to fall apart. As his last big opportunity slips through his fingers, JB faces defeat. Yet even if it’s only a façade, he has hope for the future — hope that manifests itself in the form of a competition called Million Dollar Arm.

Such is the setup for the film of the same name, which features Jon Hamm as the aforementioned JB Bernstein. Based on a true story, Million Dollar Arm tells the tale of Bernstein’s last-ditch effort to travel to India, recruit two cricket players, and teach them American baseball in the hopes of making them MLB stars. Of course, the plan doesn’t go exactly as he expected (because let’s be honest, if it did, there’d be no movie). Yet, with every hitch in the works, from finding out that the two kids JB thinks are “cricket masters” have never even played cricket to the (somewhat forced) decision to let them stay in his home rather than …

May 20th, 2014
The pope's upcoming trip to the Holy Land continues a tradition of building ecumenical and interfaith relationships

Pope Francis embraces Catholicos Karekin II, head of the Armenian Apostolic Church, during a meeting at Vatican. (CNS photo/L'Osservatore Romano via Reuters)

Pope Francis embraces Catholicos Karekin II, head of the Armenian Apostolic Church, during a meeting at Vatican. (CNS photo/L’Osservatore Romano via Reuters)

Pope Francis is cultivating a “culture of encounter.” And his garden is not just within the Catholic Church, but includes Christians from other churches as well as members of other world religions.

This is not a new style for him. When he was still Cardinal Bergoglio in the archdiocese of Buenos Aires in Argentina, his financial manager was an evangelical into whose office he would regularly come, and with whom he would read some scripture, share some prayer, and drink some tea. When another asked him why he did that, his response was: “People do that with their friends!”

He was making a point about his relationship with evangelicals. Indeed, Cardinal Bergoglio’s election as pope received a glowing response in evangelical circles throughout the Americas. Christianity Today, the flagship publication of evangelicalism in America, ran three high-profile pieces detailing the reaction of leading evangelicals who had worked with him during his decades of ministry in Latin America, or were familiar with it.

Juan Pablo Bongarrá, president of the Argentine Bible Society, recalled when Bergoglio once attended a …

May 16th, 2014

Pope Francis celebrates ordination Mass for new priests in St. Peter's Basilica. (CNS photo/Stefano Rellandini, Reuters)

Pope Francis celebrates ordination Mass for new priests in St. Peter’s Basilica. (CNS photo/Stefano Rellandini, Reuters)

Earlier this week, Pope Francis ordained 13 new priests, and he took great pains in announcing what he considered their main job to be as clerics: Be merciful.

In his homily, the pope said that he gets upset when he no longer sees people going to confession because people were “scolded” by their confessors, “as if the church doors were closed in their face.”

“Please don’t do this,” the pope told 13 new priests he ordained in the basilica. He used the example of Jesus who never tired of showing mercy to others. Pope Francis said priests should remember that Jesus “didn’t come to condemn but to forgive.” More from Vatican Radio:

He called on the newly ordained to “be aware that you were chosen from among men and established in their favour to attend to the things of God,” to “exercise the priestly work of Christ with joy and sincere charity;” to be intent “on pleasing God, and not yourselves.”

Pope Francis concluded his homily saying, “Have always before your eyes the example of the Good Shepherd, who did not come to …

May 1st, 2014
While the NBA shoots and scores, Congress sits on the sidelines

nba-congress1By last weekend, nearly everyone had heard about the racist rant caught on tape, attributed to Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling, and released by the celebrity gossip outfit TMZ.

Right away, anyone who’s anyone was weighing in on Sterling’s rant. Speaking at a press conference in Malaysia, President Obama lamented that the nation still struggles with issues of race, and said that he had “confidence that the NBA commissioner Adam Silver, a good man, will address this.”

Tuesday, Silver did just that, announcing a lifetime ban on Sterling’s attendance at NBA events, a $2.5 million fine, and that he planned to ask NBA owners to strip Sterling ownership rights.

In total, a mere four days passed from the time the world learned about Sterling’s racist rant and his lifetime ban from the NBA.

The mobilization in public opinion, the swift condemnation from public leaders, and the NBA’s punishment shows that things can still get done in this country.
Why can’t our federal government act with the same urgency and efficiency?

Consider three areas where, despite public outrage and political pressure, there’s been no change in law.

In December 2012, just days after the Sandy Hook shooting that …

April 25th, 2014
Papal Saints John Paul II and John XXIII will be canonized — is Oscar Romero far behind?

saintsinthemaking-v2Upon the death of John Paul II, the chants began in the streets of Rome: “Santo Subito! Santo Subito!” (“Sainthood now!”)

Now a pope doesn’t make a saint willy-nilly; this takes careful deliberation. When the process of making saints began, they were named by acclimation of the people in a particular area. That is why we have names like St. Francis of Assisi or St. Anthony of Padua. When the full population in an area followed the example and began calling a person a saint, it stuck. (Obviously, that kind of system can be abused and actually the Church has gone back and removed some saints from the rolls because they frankly just didn’t measure up.)

John Paul II will be named a saint by Pope Francis. Some would say Francis didn’t wait long enough. Many are still troubled by the number of priest-abusers and abuse-enablers that endangered children on John Paul II’s watch. Others think there are people, even other popes, who are more deserving of sainthood.

Say, for instance, John XXIII, who led the Church by calling for the Second Vatican Council and opening the windows of the Church to let in some fresh air. Aggornamento is the …

April 19th, 2014

Experiencing how good ham can be when it’s not just simply combined with cheese and white bread. #pigUPGRADE

Creative Commons/Wikipedia

Creative Commons/Wikipedia

Sad, non-dyed (or boiled) eggs sulking in the fridge. #sadEGG

Flickr: sotheavy Creative Commons

Flickr: sotheavy Creative Commons

Easter Island confusion! #IslandLiving

Flickr: Arian Zwegers Creative Commons

Flickr: Arian Zwegers Creative Commons

Scary, edible bunnies that terrify children. #ChocolateGuillotine

Flickr: Kathryn Decker Creative Commons

Flickr: Kathryn Decker Creative Commons

Scary, non-edible bunnies that terrify children. #BunnyNightmare

Matt Weber

Matt Weber

Age old debate: Game of Thrones or The Ten Commandments? #MosesLannister #beards


Countless Facebook photos of your friends’ children looking even more adorable! #cuterkids

Matt Weber

Matt Weber

Flickr: Justin Barton Creative Commons

Flickr: Justin Barton Creative Commons

The rare site of a church parking lot that is completely full! #ArriveEARLY

Finding a hidden egg from last year’s Easter egg hunt. #EggsactlyWhereILeftIt

Flickr: M S Creative Commons

Flickr: M S Creative Commons

Giant, festive hats worn proudly! #HAPPYeaster


April 11th, 2014
A companion for the Stations of the Cross if you are struggling with your health
Busted Halo Family,

I write this companion for the Stations of the Cross as I begin my wait for a kidney transplant. I am blessed to feel healthy, energetic and very optimistic. Meditating on the Stations has been especially fruitful for me this Lent. I wanted to write a version for those going through a difficult time with their health. If your way of sorrow does not include illness, I hope these Stations will help you find your own words to draw nearer to Jesus in a time of uncertainty.

Have a blessed Lent and Godspeed to you on your journey,


Opening Prayer

Jesus, today I accompany you on your Via Dolorosa — your way of sorrow. You walked this way of sorrow for me. Out of boundless love for all humankind you suffered and died. Lord, forgive me. I know that the weight you bear is not only that of the cross but of my sins. By meditating on your Via Dolorosa, I desire a spirit of repentance.

Lord, I am walking my own way of sorrow. I am ill. My body is failing me. I am afraid. Walk with me, Jesus. You will never abandon me. By …

April 10th, 2014

sxsw-vanessaEven though I have an admitted issue with ever expanding technologies, I went to a SXSW Interactive party with Brandon last year. Instead of finding people interested in making a buck or talking about the latest microchip processor, I found people using technology for social good. I engaged in conversations about orphans in India and the difficulty of reaching teens about faith. I discussed things I didn’t think I would have with techies. I was hooked.

This year I was lucky enough to go to SXSW Interactive where I met lots of different people, I listened to lots of ideas, and I took lots of notes. If you have any preconceived image of a modern day techie, pitch it out the window. I felt pretty un-fashion-forward. Most around me had beautiful leather satchels carrying the latest and sleekest laptop with acid wash skinny jeans and thick-rimmed glasses peeking through their swooshy bangs. After I stopped ogling laptop bags, I started listening to what people had to say.

Even though I met lots of different people from all over the world working in many different professions, it was clear the 20- and 30-somethings were mostly coming from the same place. …

April 4th, 2014
A review of Darren Aronofsky's latest film and tips for watching and reflecting on it

Jennifer Connelly and Russell Crowe star in a scene from the movie "Noah." (CNS photo/Paramount)

Jennifer Connelly and Russell Crowe star in a scene from the movie “Noah.” (CNS photo/Paramount)

With Darren Aronofsky’s Noah out in theaters, one of the major questions that’s been floating around is: Is the film accurate? The answer, honestly, depends on what you define as “accurate.” The film gets quite a few biblical details wrong (and adds plenty of its own dramatic tweaks and twists, though that sort of thing has come to be accepted for pretty much any film adaptation nowadays), but understanding the overall accuracy of Noah begs a larger question: How do we interpret the story of Noah and the Flood in the first place?

To start, yes — there is historical basis for the story of Noah, at least on the flood front. However, it is merely basis, as Catholics consider the tale to originate from an ancient rhetorical style that commonly employed myth, emphasis, and embellishment to explain certain truths. Noah’s “Great Flood” is not the only story to use this pattern, as many mythological traditions include details about such a flood — the Epic of Ziusudra, the Epic of Atrahasis, and the Epic of Gilgamesh. This mythological background, of course, is where the story …

April 4th, 2014
40 Days Searching for the Sound of Silence

Con algunos amigos peruanos.

Con algunos amigos peruanos.

My decision to commit to praying in silence for 10-15 minutes each day seemed pretty simple. In the weeks leading up to Lent, I was overwhelmed by words, both others’ and my own. I felt like I was surrounding myself in noise almost all the time, and I knew I needed to do something deliberate, however insignificant, to address it. No matter how inconsequential or small the stretch of time was, I felt it was a first step in hopefully bringing some peace to the rest of my day and, even more hopefully, going deeper in my spiritual life.

I have been operating under the assumption that this is not a luxury, that it is really not too much to ask in life. In a sense, I still feel that way. I think we all need an occasional moment’s rest, a few seconds in which nothing calls our attention, if only to maintain our sanity.

What I have begun to consider in a new light, however, is that while we who yearn for silence in a modernized society must go against the grain to choose it, many others have no choice at all. For better or …

April 3rd, 2014
40 notes to 40 people in 40 days

gmailIn writing handwritten notes the past four weeks, I’ve learned a few things:

1. You don’t put links in notes – One distinct difference between writing notes/cards v. writing e-mails is links. I mean — sure, I could jot down the url to that great vegan recipe I tried last night or even a link to this very blog, but it just feels somehow wrong when you’re writing a handwritten note to someone. Not to mention cumbersome. That’s what e-mail, Facebook, and Twitter are for. Handwritten notes are personal. You might even say emotional because they are an expression of how you feel about someone or something that’s happening to someone (birthday, wedding, loss, etc.).

2. This Lenten challenge is brought to you by the Post Office – You know — that place where you go to mail things. I’m not talking about a Google server in North Carolina or another part of the world that’s filtering e-mails. I’m talking about a building in your neighborhood with a flag waving outside and people wearing Post Office uniforms inside. A place where — at least in New York City — there is always a line. Mark my words, it might …

April 3rd, 2014
The role young adults can play in addressing the great challenges facing society today

U.S. bishops celebrate Mass at border fence in Nogales, Arizona. (CNS photo/Nancy Wiechec)

U.S. bishops celebrate Mass at border fence in Nogales, Arizona. (CNS photo/Nancy Wiechec)

Last weekend, more than 100 students gathered at St. Clement Parish in the Lincoln Park neighborhood of Chicago. Representing Catholic campus ministry centers from colleges and universities throughout the United States — Catholic, private, and public — these students were wrapping up a year of leadership training and faith formation as participants in ESTEEM (Engaging Students to Enliven the Ecclesial Mission), a project of the National Leadership Roundtable on Church Management and the St. Thomas More Catholic Center at Yale University.

The students spend their ESTEEM year attending workshops, small group sessions, retreats, and engaged in service opportunities. They read church documents on a range of subjects in order to become familiar with how the church operates, from the structure of the Vatican, to how bishops run dioceses, to the role of parish councils. The idea is that when students graduate and leave their vibrant campus ministry centers, they should feel empowered to take on leadership positions in their parishes. As Kerry Robinson, my colleague at the Leadership Roundtable, says, students should feel ready to be the church they want to see.
When students were given the …

April 2nd, 2014
Lenten Facebook Fast

typing-296047_1920I’ve always admired people who read books on buses. I’m an avid window gazer, so I’m often lost in my thoughts, staring at the scenery going by. And, to be honest, I’ve never been much of a reader. When I see someone reading on a bus, I often think: I should be doing that. There’s something about their apparent habit that is committed to self-growth. Instead of doing nothing, they’re doing something. Something worthwhile.

Earlier this week, I stopped by our IT department for a one-on-one software help session. After the session, the IT employee and I began to make small talk about Macs versus PCs and where we think the future of technology is going. He talked about how he remembers when having a laptop was cutting-edge, and now, laptops are becoming obsolete. Obsolete?! I was surprised by how quickly I became protective of my laptop. “Everything is becoming phones and tablets,” he said. “But what about typing?” I demanded. “People are more interested in consuming these days, not producing,” he replied.

The phenomenon he was referring to is that we have become avid consumers of online … anything: Candy Crush, Farmville, iTunes, surfing the web, viral Youtube videos, …

March 27th, 2014
President Obama’s trip to the Vatican is a coming home of sorts

President Obama shakes hands with Pope Francis at the Vatican. (CNS photo/Stefano Spaziani, pool)

President Obama shakes hands with Pope Francis at the Vatican. (CNS photo/Stefano Spaziani, pool)

As President Obama and Pope Francis lock eyes for the first time, I imagine that the pope’s pastoral presence has brought back many memories for our country’s Commander in Chief.

What most people don’t know is that while the president is not a Catholic in terms of religious denomination, he was certainly steeped in the tenets of Catholic Social Teaching in his early days as a community organizer in Chicago. Those days shaped most of his political social thought as well as his religious outlook. Take this quote from President Obama’s commencement address to graduates at Notre Dame in 2009:

And something else happened during the time I spent in those neighborhoods. Perhaps because the church folks I worked with were so welcoming and understanding; perhaps because they invited me to their services and sang with me from their hymnals; perhaps because I witnessed all of the good works their faith inspired them to perform, I found myself drawn — not just to work with the church, but to be in the church. It was through this service that I was brought to Christ.

This all …

March 26th, 2014
Lenten Facebook Fast
The College Church on Saint Louis University's campus, where my love for Jesuit spirituality developed.

The College Church on Saint Louis University’s campus, where my love for Jesuit spirituality developed.

I love the Jesuits. I’m quite outspoken about this love, in fact. I often refer to myself as a “Jesuette,” a Jesuit cheerleader.

I’ve always liked the idea of taking something on during Lent (in addition to giving something up), and this year, I decided to both give up Facebook and take on deepening my relationship with God. Given my deep love for the Jesuits, it comes as no surprise that when I decided to work on my relationship with God during Lent, I turned to a dear friend, who is a Jesuit. After hearing where I’m at with God and where I’d like to be, my friend lent me his copy of the Spiritual Exercises. To be honest, I was quite touched. For a Jesuit to lend his personal copy of the Spiritual Exercises — that’s a pretty big deal, at least to me. I know he did it because he’s my friend, but still.

I’ve been working through the exercises each day, and in a way, I feel as if I’m going through them with my friend, too. His notes in the margins, …

March 25th, 2014

caitlin-doorknobLast Wednesday was the Feast of St. Joseph. Truth be told, St. Joseph is a favorite of mine. As the priest who lovingly shepherded me into the Church is fond of saying, “St. Joseph’s wife was conceived without sin, his adopted son was, well, God … and then there’s good ‘ol Joe.” In the light of the aforementioned company, he seems terribly ordinary. Even unimportant. And this is why I love him.

St. Joseph gets zero spoken lines in the entire Gospel. Zippo. We never hear his voice. He does not get a Magnificat. He is a manual laborer — an “average Joe” with an extraordinary family. He is visited by angelic messengers but only in his dreams and only to receive marching orders from on high. His death comes and goes without mention. He has a supporting role in the narrative of salvation.

This year we marked his feast by papering the fridge with coloring pages of Joseph with the child Jesus perched on his work bench. We made him a small altar in the dining room. My husband had to work late for the second evening in a row and the hours passed rather uneventfully. As …

March 20th, 2014

It seems as though the old adage is true and actions do indeed speak louder than words. Pope Francis’s deed of washing, drying and kissing the feet of 12 inmates last year on Holy Thursday has edged out his famous “Who am I to judge?” quote to become the official winner of Francis Madness. Thanks for participating. If you still feel a little Francis fever, feel free to continue down memory lane by clicking here to review the first round of Francis Madness that includes a short description of each of these wonderful words and works.

And to see the results and stats of all the match-ups, just scroll below here under the bracket to see how the quotes, acts and deeds all fared against each other…

[+] Enlarge

francismadness-round6-flash-aOn Holy Thursday when Pope Francis washed, dried and kissed the feet of 12 inmates (2 Muslim, 2 women) at Casal del Marmo jail, a juvenile detention center.
































March 19th, 2014
40 notes to 40 people in 40 days

lenten-oppositionAt the two-week mark I’m facing the toughest “opposition” to my Lenten challenge of writing 40 notes to 40 people in 40 days. It’s me v. the clock. In other words, my opposition is time.

Work. Volunteering. Writing — three pages every day, I hope. Church. Social life. Pilates. Being a wife, daughter, sister, “aunt”/godparent, and friend. Housework — yes, that most thankless of tasks, but definitely takes up time. Cooking/meal prep — because it’s healthier if I make my own meals and skip take-out, right? Maybe a little more work or volunteering or church.

These things all take time. And there’s not a whole lot more time left when they are all done. So, you can see how sending handwritten notes might quickly (or in two weeks) turn from spiritual practice into “chore.”

I was hovering somewhere between those two after waking up Monday morning with some serious jet lag from travel to the West Coast. The chore mentality was creeping in.

Then, I began another spiritual practice to avoid the complete and total demise of what I want to be a meaningful Lenten discipline. I took a deep breath. I started breathing — really breathing and noticing my …

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