Busted Halo

Caitlin Kennell Kim, seminary grad, baby wrangler, ordinary radical, writes about the life of a convert in the Catholic Church and explores how faith and everyday life intersect.

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March 3rd, 2014

Are you stumped / confused / intimidated / flat out terrified by Lent? Have no fear! Your favorite convert comes to the rescue with the basics for Lenten newbies and some words of comfort for the journey. If this is your first time observing Lent in the Catholic tradition, it can be tricky. Believe me. I’ve been there. But don’t be intimidated! Lent is about making a good faith effort to be contrite (i.e. truly sorry for your sins) and to be more like Jesus (i.e. loving, just, merciful, willing to give of yourself for others) in anticipation of our celebration of the Resurrection (i.e. Easter). Do your best. Don’t be discouraged if you mess up. It happens. Pick yourself up and try again. After all, our God is the God of second chances.

Lent (just the facts, ma’am)

Lent is a 40-day period of repentance and fasting in preparation for Easter. It begins on Ash Wednesday (March 5) and ends on Holy Thursday (April 17). (Yes, sticklers for mathematical accuracy, this adds up to 44 days. Sundays aren’t technically part of Lent.) Good Friday, Holy Saturday, and Easter Sunday are referred to as the Easter Triduum.

Practice Abstinence

From …

February 27th, 2014

The nine films competing this Sunday for the Best Picture Oscar are some of the best of the year and very worth your while to check out if you haven’t seen them yet. But if you don’t have time in the next few days, just check out our short synopsis for each of them below with some links to some more in depths looks at the spiritual components of the films, because at A Spiritual Side of Cinema we like to discuss and review the more transcendent qualities of the movies, and we’ve done so this year with the two big frontrunners of the Oscar race, 12 Years a Slave and Gravity, as well as many others…

12 Years a Slave, (click here to read our review): This film hurt. Emotionally, sometimes even close to physically, it was painful to watch … and that’s putting it mildly. The film pulled no punches when dealing with the harsh realities of America’s slave trade and the evil acted out by those who took part in it.

Gravity, (click here to read our review): A tense walk with Sandra Bullock through the worst space trip since 1979, presents itself as a sci-fi …

February 27th, 2014

Benedict Cumberbatch and Chiwetel Ejiofor star in “12 Years a Slave.”

Benedict Cumberbatch, Chiwetel Ejiofor in “12 Years a Slave.”

12 Years A Slave hurt. Emotionally, sometimes even close to physically, it was painful to watch … and that’s putting it mildly. The film pulled no punches when dealing with the harsh realities of America’s slave trade and the evil acted out by those who took part in it. The movie tells the story of Solomon Northup (Chiwitel Ejiofor), a free African-American from Saratoga, New York, who is drugged, kidnapped, and sold into slavery in 1841 by men he thought he could trust. Solomon witnesses firsthand the malice of slave traders as he is passed from master to master as a piece of commerce, experiencing treatment unlike any he had ever received in his life.

Showcasing such horrors as rape, murder, brutal whippings, and lynching, the film doesn’t shy away from the cruelty slaves endured. Rather, it thrusts such cruelty into the forefront, forcing the audience to behold just how dreadful and terrifying life could be for slaves. 12 Years confronts its audience boldly and does not let up. It was a movie (easily “Best Picture” quality) that left me speechless as I stared at the credits, blown away …

February 27th, 2014
Judi Dench and Steve Coogan star in a scene from the movie "Philomena." (CNS photo/Weinstein)

Judi Dench and Steve Coogan star in a scene from the movie “Philomena.” (CNS photo/Weinstein)

We’ve seen some moving tales as part of this year’s Oscar race, from the heartbreaking journey of Solomon Northup in 12 Years A Slave to the harrowing story of Dr. Ryan Stone’s struggle to survive outer space in Gravity. A standout among them, though, is Philomena, which chronicles a woman’s search for the son she had as a teenager and lost to forced adoption. The story goes as such: Philomena Lee (Judi Dench) had a child as an unwed teenager, and as a result was shamed, cast out from her family, and sent to live in a convent where she was punished for her perceived sin. The nuns there gave her no medication during childbirth, one of them even going so far as to say that “the pain is her penance.” After her son was born, he was put up for adoption and taken away from Philomena without warning. Fifty years later, after hiding the pain of her loss for much of her life, Philomena decides to make an attempt at tracking her son down, recruiting the aid of journalist Martin Sixsmith …

February 26th, 2014
The Lenten themes in a movie about survival

all-is-lostSurvival is a natural instinct, no matter what environment a person is stuck in.

This adage is confirmed by the new movie All Is Lost. The film’s sole character, known simply as Our Man (Robert Redford, giving an Oscar-worthy performance) is sailing on the Pacific Ocean when some debris makes a hole in his vessel. He patches it up, and all seems well until a storm hits. He makes an SOS call, but nobody answers and so Our Man must fend for himself. The storm ravages his boat and his spirits as he struggles to survive, alone on the open ocean.

Our Man never gives any outward sign of being a religious person. However, his saga has strong echoes of Jesus’ temptation in the desert, a touchstone of the Gospels. Jesus’ adversary is the Devil, who tempts him to make stones into bread, throw himself off the temple so as to be saved, and worship Satan to gain power. Though struggling, Jesus resists these temptations and is motivated by his desire to please God. In the process, he is rewarded by the angels. This story of adversity followed by rebirth has a distinctively Lenten bent.

As …

February 25th, 2014
Sandra Bullock and George Clooney star in a scene from the movie "Gravity." (CNS photo/Warner Bros.)

Sandra Bullock and George Clooney star in a scene from the movie “Gravity.” (CNS photo/Warner Bros.)

I’ve got a bone to pick with Gravity, or with its marketing scheme at the very least. The film, a tense walk with Sandra Bullock through the worst space trip since 1979, presents itself as a sci-fi survivalist nightmare (think Open Water in orbit) wherein rookie astronaut Dr. Ryan Stone (Bullock) and veteran spacewalker Matt Kowalski (George Clooney, absolutely stealing the show) are stranded among the stars and have to struggle to survive and make their way home to Earth. I was expecting a cut-and-dry, “How do we get out of this?” thriller with a sense of imminent peril throughout — a notion only emphasized by the posters, previews, and propaganda with the phrase “Don’t let go.” You can almost hear Bullock’s desperate and terrified Dr. Stone pleading the line, as though it’s the only thing between her and certain death. As the debris flew at Stone and Kowalski at the beginning of the film, sending them spinning off into the black void, I was ecstatic — this was the movie I was ready to see.

What I got for the next 90 minutes …

February 25th, 2014
Amy Adams and Joaquin Phoenix star in the movie "Her." (CNS photo/Warner Bros.)

Amy Adams and Joaquin Phoenix star in the movie “Her.” (CNS photo/Warner Bros.)

We look at screens. Eyes? Not so much. I’m hardly breaking new ground by critiquing our culture and its propensity for staring at screens, be it as minuscule as the face of the phone in our pockets or as large as the flat screen mounted on our living room wall. We look at screens.

Indeed, many studies have been done, articles written, and news programs aired focusing on the insidious effect technology has had on modern relationships. Technology has isolated us from one another, wrapping us up into cocoons of warm, fuzzy bandwidth, freeing us to present false representations of ourselves that provide barriers to any real connection or intimacy, all from the safety of our solitary rooms.

Spike Jonze’s Her takes a refreshing look at the effect technology has had on relationships by exploring what happens when a human being, Theodore (Joaquin Phoenix), and an intelligent computer operating system, Samantha (voiced by Scarlett Johansson), fall in love. Set in the not-too-distant future, the film doesn’t take the expected route of damning technology and its undermining of modern relationships, but instead uses technology as a means of …

February 24th, 2014

deactivated2Well, I did it. I deactivated my Facebook account.

Before I launch into my reasons for leaving, I want to make a few things clear. First, I begrudge no one their enjoyment of Facebook. In fact, for the first two years I was home with our gaggle of pickles, and my superhero husband was slaving away at three jobs while working on his comps and dissertation, Facebook allowed me to intellectually engage with other adults in a way that kept me from going, if you’ll pardon the expression, bat crap crazy. Second, I am not now nor will I ever be holier than thou. This is laughable. A real knee-slapper. Third, I don’t think technology is “evil.” I think technology is (for the most part) morally neutral. It can be used for grave evil. It can also be used for the glory of God.

OK, all that being said, I really did deactivate my Facebook page. Let me tell you, it feels AWESOME. As a pilgrim on her journey to sanctification (a journey wrought with more than its fair share of moral failures and spiritual shortcomings), this seems like the right path for me. It might not be the path …

February 21st, 2014

Ian McKellen stars in the movie "The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug." (CNS/courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures)

Ian McKellen stars in the movie “The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug.” (CNS/courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures)

The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug is nominated for three Oscars — Best Sound Mixing, Best Sound Editing, and Best Visual Effects — and anyone who’s seen the film can attest to the fact that it deserves at least the nominations it’s received, particularly the visual effects nod. After all, it’s nothing short of incredible what can be done visually with computer technology these days; a team like those who worked on Desolation of Smaug can create people and places that interact so seamlessly with the live actors and real environments that you’d swear they were really there. These men and women can make a dragon, and a believable one at that, who walks, talks, and spits bursts of flame without seeming the slightest bit asynchronous or removed from the action. If ever there could be magic in the world, I suspect it would look something like this.

But however blissful this “magic” may be for the audience, unfortunately it appears to not extend behind the scenes, at least not in nearly the same capacity. Though some of Desolation of Smaug’s scenes may …

February 21st, 2014

StLidwina-7A life of faith does not mean a life free of suffering. Whether through the lessons of the Cross or the hard knocks that are an inevitable part of existence, it is a given that often we must pass through dark valleys to reach green pastures.

St. Lidwina is an overwhelming example of this. Born in 1380 in Schiedam, a town in what is today the Netherlands, the Dutch saint had a Marian devotion from a young age. She often prayed before her town’s shrine to the Holy Mother for entire nights. On one such evening, she is said to have had a divine revelation of the pain that would become one of the defining characteristics of her life.

Around the time she was 15, Lidwina fell while ice skating with friends. In the process, she broke a rib that would never heal and began the long journey of severe physical hardship that would only end with her death nearly 40 years later. Her injury is the reason we recognize her today as the patron saint of ice skaters.

Her incapacitation included excruciating headaches, nausea and dehydration. Eventually, she developed gangrene, and her ailment spread throughout her entire body. …

February 20th, 2014
Takeaways for our spiritual journey from Disney’s latest animated feature

spiritual-side-of-frozenI finally gave into the hype and watched Disney’s Frozen. Not only were its music and storyline a delight on a cold winter’s day, the film offered moments of deep meaning for me, something characteristic of many Disney stories. Frozen is based loosely on the Hans Christian Andersen fairy tale The Snow Queen which, like many fairly tales, have strong spiritual themes. Frozen isn’t explicitly spiritual but it teaches us about the importance of feelings, gifts, and relationships.

The story begins by focusing on young Princess Elsa who has the strange ability to magically create ice and snow with her hands. This ability offers lots of fun for her and her younger sister Anna until Anna gets hurt in their play. Elsa’s parents, the king and queen, see little good in Elsa’s ability and have trolls erase Anna’s memory of her sister’s strange gift. The king has Elsa kept in confinement until she is able to control her ability. He even has her put on gloves. “Conceal it,” he tells her. “Don’t feel it,” she says to herself. “Don’t let it show.”

The trolls clearly see her power as a gift, one that can be used for good, but one …

February 20th, 2014

StBernardMontjoux
One of my favorite movies as a kid was a story set in the Alps. I remember being delighted watching St. Bernard dogs and their owners rescuing people who had gotten into trouble on the treacherous snow-covered heights.

This breed of dog is named after St. Bernard of Montjoux (c. 923 – c. 1008). His family origin is disputed — but his work in the Alps is not. For 40 years, St. Bernard founded schools and churches in the Diocese of Aosta, a region of Italy that borders France and Switzerland. As vicar general of the diocese, he traveled not only throughout the diocese, but as far as Geneva and Novara. He is primarily remembered for establishing two facilities on an ancient path through the Alps, which is perpetually snow-covered. Located at 7,076 and 8,000 feet above sea level these facilities provided shelter and food for Rome-bound French and German pilgrims. Through the centuries, the monks who eventually staffed these two hospices have continued to provide hospitality and, along with their highly-trained dogs, operate search and rescue missions. Pope Pius XI proclaimed St. Bernard the patron saint of skiers and mountain climbers in 1923.

I love watching people ski. Watching …

February 19th, 2014
St. Thérèse is a patroness of Russia, where the 2014 Winter Olympics are taking place in Sochi.

St. Thérèse is a patroness of Russia, where the 2014 Winter Olympics are taking place in Sochi.

When I returned to the Catholic Church after a long time away, I made a general confession and started fresh with a clean slate. Confession of sins to a priest in the Sacrament of Reconciliation is truly good for the soul. Of course, committed Christians should do our best to avoid offending God. Unfortunately, some of us can go too far with vigilant concern for sin in a way that is spiritually and psychologically unhealthy.

I’m referring to the age-old problem of scrupulosity. The OCD Foundation describes this as “a form of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) involving religious or moral obsessions. Scrupulous individuals are overly concerned that something they thought or did might be a sin or other violation of religious or moral doctrine.”

It’s like being a moral hypochondriac. In Catholics, this problem manifests in people going to confession too frequently. There are also irrational fears that, somehow, one’s confession wasn’t really valid or the Sacrament didn’t quite count because of some imagined technicality. People with Scrup/OCD worry excessively about sinning — whether by having “bad thoughts” or through other human imperfections …

February 18th, 2014

StJulianNorwich-4I’m not a sports fan, but I’m a sucker for the Olympic Games. Except for the artistic events like ice-skating and gymnastics, the Olympics themselves are not thrilling to me; what excites me, instead, is the camaraderie.

On any given day, the media delivers conflict, turmoil and scandal into our homes, but the Olympics offer us something radically different: diversity, overcoming the odds and friendly competition. And wherever we are while watching the Games, we know that folks around the world are sharing a similarly uplifting experience.

So what does this have to do with an obscure mystic from the 14th century? Not much, but it has everything to do with that obscure mystic’s vision.

Julian of Norwich, as we call her, lived as a hermit at St. Julian’s Church in Norwich, England. We actually don’t know her real name or anything about her early years. What we do know of her comes from the tome she penned, Sixteen Revelations of Divine Love, which is said to be the first book in the English language by a woman published.

February 17th, 2014

A medal carrying the name and image of Michael the Archangel. (CNS photo/Nancy Phelan Wiechec)

A medal carrying the name and image of Michael the Archangel. (CNS photo/Nancy Phelan Wiechec)

The Winter Olympics Games put a spotlight on Sochi, Russia, as the host city. The media has largely focused on the venues of events, unfinished hotels, and one athlete using his strength to escape a bathroom in the Olympic Village. If you take a closer look at the city of Sochi itself, you will make the unique discovery of the presence of a particular saint — St. Michael the Archangel.

There are two landmarks carrying the image of Michael, most notably the Cathedral of St. Michael the Archangel. It’s the oldest Orthodox church in Sochi and was restored at the beginning of the post-Soviet era in the 1990s. (Sochi’s Wikipedia page identifies Michael as the Patron Saint of Sochi.) Another attraction devoted to St. Michael is an Archangel Column built in memory of Russian soldiers who died in Sochi during the Caucasian War. A bronze statue of Michael the Archangel stands at the top of the column.

St. Michael is traditionally regarded as the defender of the faithful and safeguard and protector from forces of evil. Michael is mentioned throughout scripture and …

February 14th, 2014

February 14th — why is it known as Valentine’s Day? Why do those in love send each other valentines? And what feast does the Catholic Church celebrate on this day? Think you know the answers? Think again, because the truth is a lot more surprising than you’d imagine. Watch friend of Busted Halo, Fr. Jack Collins, CSP, wander the streets of New York asking the city’s star-crossed lovers if they know why we celebrate Valentine’s Day.

Originally published February 13, 2012.

February 13th, 2014
Hugh Jackman and Paul Dano in a scene from the movie “Prisoners.” (CNS photo/Warner Bros.)

Hugh Jackman and Paul Dano in a scene from the movie “Prisoners.” (CNS photo/Warner Bros.)

This year’s Oscar race has certainly been an interesting one, especially on the spiritual front. The nominees have shown incredible depth and range as far as spiritual themes go, and Prisoners is no exception. The film, now available on DVD, showcases the transformative effects on a man of one tragic event, as we watch Hugh Jackman’s character abandon his morals in pursuit of the people who took his daughter.

“We do it to wage war against God,” one of the kidnappers tells Jackman’s character, Keller Dover, when pressed for their motive, “because losing a child turns good men like you into demons.”

By their own definition, then, it would appear that by the end of the film, the kidnappers win — Dover has been through all kinds of hell (some of which he imposed on himself) as he hunted for his missing daughter. He has allowed irrationality, violence and vengeance to get the better of him and transform him into something that he is not. When we last see Keller Dover in the film, he is not only a demon, but a beaten …

February 11th, 2014

spiritually-unfit-2Who has a Catholic cramp? Maybe a dogmatic double chin? What is the equivalent of spiritual flab? Right now, I am in the midst of some holy heaving, pious panting, and am in great need of a soulful sit-up.

If there were a spiritual Olympics, I am not even sure if I would qualify as an athlete. There is no medal or podium in my near future, as my soul is very much out of shape. (Quick note: to my mother who is almost undoubtedly reading this and now wondering/worried if I have lost my faith or am depressed — the answer is no, but…) I still attend church each Sunday, pray each night before I go to bed — yet I am finding that I’m doing just the bare minimum of “practice” to stay on the team.

It’s been a tough year for me personally and sometimes playing the game and suffering a few crushing defeats makes you just want to sit it out. Or to put it in the context of a spiritualized Winter Olympics: I’ve been riding the two-man luge with Jesus this past year, and we’ve taken some tumbles — several in fact — and I …

February 6th, 2014
Looking back on four years of “La Lupe”

LaLupe100-2When I first started writing for Busted Halo® back in 2010 I was mentally in a place that a lot of young adults find themselves in — unfulfilled, lonely, and unsure how to make life better. I had just left my teaching job to stay at home with our first daughter. While babies are such a gift and being able to stay home was such a blessing, I had NO IDEA what I was doing and was totally unprepared for this drastic change in my life. All I did all day was stare at Olivia and listen to her cry ceaselessly. I just didn’t know any better. I didn’t know that I could get out there and make new friends, find a community, continue living my life. I was spiraling downward quickly. I totally disconnected myself from the world and to be honest, from my own sense of self.

Enter Busted Halo®. Brandon used to work with the Paulist Fathers, and he found out Busted Halo® was looking for some new bloggers and suggested I give it a shot. I sent over a few things and La Lupe was born. I’m not going to say that Busted Halo® gave …

January 30th, 2014

In her poem “Shrinking Women,” Lily Myers confesses that she has unknowingly accepted what society has taught her: to keep her mouth shut, neither letting words out nor calories in. Her preoccupation with carbs, her inability to ask a question in genetics class without first saying, “Sorry” — Myers blames these learned behaviors on her “shrinking” mother and the other mothers that came before her.

When I read this poem, I applauded Lily Myers. It takes a lot of courage and self-reflection to acknowledge our weaknesses. To acknowledge that we have an unhealthy relationship with food. To recognize our need to speak up for ourselves. I agree that girls from a too-early age are taught to care more about their appearance than their abilities. They are taught to be quiet and reserved while boys are encouraged to say and do whatever they want with the utmost confidence.

I am exactly that girl. In high school and college I was scared to death to say anything in class. Whether it was participating in class discussions or asking a question, I never dreamt of raising my hand. I envied those boys in class that just blurted out the first thing …

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