Busted Halo

Monica Rozenfeld moves to Brooklyn with two roommates — a Catholic and an observant Jew — and they each seek understanding of what it means to be religious.

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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 …

January 26th, 2011

KS_DiscourseIn retrospect, I realize it wasn’t fair that the shooting in Arizona two weeks ago was immediately blamed on the poisonous quality our political discourse has taken over the past number of years.  But I also can’t lie — my knee jerk reaction on hearing about the shooting was that the crime was indeed a crazed ideologue committing this heinous act.  And the fact that I was far from being alone in making that immediate assumption does bespeak of a larger issue going on in the nation.

While wrestling with the question of how to proceed, I spotted a bumper sticker.  It said, “Don’t Drink and Derive… Alcohol and Calculus Don’t Mix.”  That one didn’t help me out too much, but then I saw another bumper sticker that seemed to help me: “WWJD?”

Indeed, “What Would Jesus… um… Discourse?”  Though I’m certain the bumper sticker meant another more quaint phrase we’re all familiar with, it did get me thinking.  I began to reflect on the nice version of Jesus on which I was raised.  You know, the James Taylor version who always wore Birkenstocks and sang John Denver songs.  This is the Jesus who says in the Gospel of Luke, …

January 25th, 2011

uninsuredpregnancy-flash2An uninsured pregnancy. Definitely not a boat expectant parents want to find themselves in. The common perception when you hear those two words together is that the mother must be poor, young, and uneducated. Wrong. This describes me and many other women I have met.

How did my husband and I find ourselves in this predicament? After Olivia was born, we decided I would be a stay-at-home-mom and we went down to a single income. We had the option of paying for insurance under Brandon’s new employer but it was just too expensive. We couldn’t afford it. We decided to find an individual plan and did a lot of research. We made sure the individual plan we found paid for well-visits and vaccines for Olivia, as well as eye, dental, etc. This individual plan, when compared to the employer insurance we were trying to substitute, looked identical but for half the price. Awesome. Until I got pregnant. I went to my first OBGYN appointment to confirm the pregnancy and to my total shock they returned my insurance card to me and told me that they don’t cover maternity care.

So while I do have health insurance, they do not pay …

January 21st, 2011

dearboyrfriend-flashDear Boyfriend,

I’ve been thinking a lot about what you said the other day. You told me that you’re all or nothing, and if you found that G-d exists you would be more religious than me, because how can one believe in G-d without accepting all of his commandments and abiding by all of His laws? There is so much that can be discussed and argued from your one statement and you’ve got me questioning myself, my faith, and those around me. Why don’t I see things in terms of black and white, or all or nothing, but instead my practice falls along not in shades of gray but all colors of the rainbow? I never did a 180, going from non-practicing to suddenly wearing skirts and long sleeves and praying three times a day. Because how does one do that when not knowing Hebrew, not knowing anything really? But maybe you’re right. If I believe with all my heart that there is a G-d, why do I find it acceptable that as long as I keep kosher and observe the Holy Sabbath that it’s okay for other areas to slide? That I don’t have to say all the prayers …

January 21st, 2011

ideashavesex-flashI was predisposed to like this piece in Scientific American based on its title alone:

When Ideas Have Sex: How free exchange between people increases prosperity and trust

But it’s not just a provocative title. The parallel between the benefits of intermixing genes to create new life and the benefits of sharing ideas to create prosperity makes a lot of sense.

Writes Michael Shermer:

the free exchange between people of goods, services and especially ideas leads to trust between strangers and prosperity for more people. Think of it as ideas having sex. That is what zoologist and science writer Matt Ridley calls it in his book The Rational Optimist: How Prosperity Evolves (HarperCollins, 2010). Ridley is optimistic that “the world will pull out of the current crisis because of the way that markets in goods, services and ideas allow human beings to exchange and specialize honestly for the betterment of all.”

Sex evolved because the benefit of the diversity created through the intermixture of genomes outweighed the costs of engaging in it, and so we enjoy exchanging our genes with one another, and life is all the richer for it. Likewise ideas. “Exchange is to cultural evolution as sex …

January 17th, 2011
The subject of The Rite discusses what is and isn't true concerning exorcisms

therite-flash

Fr. Gary Thomas is a Vatican-certified practicing exorcist whose experience is the subject of the new movie The Rite, starring Anthony Hopkins, scheduled for release on January 28. That movie is based on a 2009 book about Fr. Gary by journalist Matt Baglio, The Rite: The Making of A Modern Exorcist.

[Read our review of the movie The Rite here.]

We interviewed Fr. Gary on the heels of the book’s release, about what is and isn’t true concerning exorcisms and demonic possession, and what this means in terms of our faith life. The book and upcoming movie chronicle Father Gary’s own Vatican training to become an exorcist, and give an inside look of the church’s use of the rite of exorcism and its role in contemporary life.

I’d you’d prefer to listen to the interview, you can play it here:

[audio src='http://media.libsyn.com/media/bustedhalo/10-29-09_FrGaryThomas.mp3' width="300"]
or download the mp3.

Fr. Dave Dwyer: Father Gary, many of our listeners might be surprised to know that having a priest on staff at a diocese in the role of an exorcist is still something that we do. They may think, “Oh, well gee, isn’t that a thing of the past,” or, “Didn’t

January 14th, 2011

simulatedethics-flashGuys, just an FYI: Next time a simulated image of a woman asks you to make a moral or ethical choice about sexual infidelity, know that your decisions might be impacted by whether she’s real-looking or not.

Huh?

Yep, welcome to cutting-edge social science. According to a study by researchers at the Indiana University School of Informatics at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis, men — but not women–are more likely to think that infidelity is wrong when the computerized chick outlining the scenario looks like a real (presumably hot) woman.

Explains study co-author Karl F. MacDorman, Ph.D., an associate professor in the Human-Computer Interaction Program at the School of Informatics

a simulated female character presented participants with an ethical dilemma related to sexual conduct and marital infidelity. The character’s human photorealism and motion quality were varied in four ways. The changes had no significant effect on female viewers, while male viewers were much more likely to rule against the character when her visual appearance was obviously computer generated and her movements were jerky.

“Although it is difficult to generalize, I think the general trend is that both men and women are more sympathetic to real human characters than to simulated …

January 13th, 2011

matriarch-flashI cannot believe that Christmas and New Year’s is over.  It passed by in such a blur.  This year the holidays were very different for me than before.  This year I became the matriarch.  This year I was in charge.  And let me tell you, I don’t know how much I like this role change.  To be in charge of Christmas, that is a lot of pressure.

As I am sure many other couples do, we alternate holidays between the Kraft family and the Gonzalez family.  Whenever it is the Gonzalez’s turn, we pack up and head to El Paso to see La Lupe. This year Brandon’s mother and brother (and brother’s dog) all came down to Austin and spent a week with us.  It was great.  We don’t get to see them much and Olivia loved having them here.  I am lucky to have married into a family that is so laid back and easygoing.  Add to that my parents who came into town for a few days around Christmas.  It was a full house and it was great…except that since I am the wife and mother of the house, I was in charge…of everything: cooking, Christmas activities, fun, …

January 11th, 2011

monica-eatprayloveSo, recently, I’ve been trying out this new thing called bubble baths which I hear are great for relaxation. I make a warm bath, get in, and read a good book for about a half hour or so. For the past week, during these baths, I’ve been rereading Eat, Pray, Love (which I had forgotten how G-d heavy the book is). And here it was, after all this time of not praying, author Elizabeth Gilbert reminding me how to begin.

If you’ve never read her book, you must. It’s all about leaving behind the things that do not fulfill us (in her case, her marriage) to discover the things in life that do. And at her lowest points, when she did not know what to do, Elizabeth would cry on her bathroom floor to G-d and He would say to her, “Go back to bed, Liz.” G-d has a plan.

So in this sort of holy soul-searching story, Elizabeth Gilbert seeks to find balance between worldly pleasures and godly presence. She begins to pray in an unusual way. Instead of crying on bathroom floors again, she writes a letter to herself, in a stream of consciousness, to see what writes …

January 7th, 2011

While I adore the parish at which I am serving this year, I sometimes wonder if it is run by Quakers rather than Catholics.  Because at the beginning of Daily Masses at my Church, only the priest seems to have an assigned role.

Of course roles are much more defined during the Sunday services, but for whatever reason the role of lector and Eucharistic minister at my church is left to whomever the Spirit moves during the week; daily Masses are usually characterized by the assembled faithful giving each other looks that communicate after the Opening Prayer is finished, “Are you going to do it? Do you want me to go up?  Are you sure?”

Partially because I like to read and also partially because I am the seminarian, I usually walk up if other people have not suggested (verbally or non-verbally) that they would like to read.  Except this past Monday another wrench was thrown into the service after I approached the altar; when I walked up to the lectern, the book was not put out.

And it’s not as if this was necessarily a national disaster—the 5:20 evening crowd tends to be a laid-back bunch who don’t freak …

January 5th, 2011

2010 has been one of the most fun, invigorating, stressful, emotional and satisfying years yet. I never dreamed my passion  for music would evolve into my becoming a music journalist and that I’d actually make money from doing what I love — attending concerts and interviewing some of my favorite bands.

I couldn’t be more blessed and grateful to have finally jumped completely out of my comfort zone last year. Not a day goes by that I don’t thank God that Monica convinced me to move from Jersey to Brooklyn in August. Moving out was a  major transition and I quickly found out living with Monica and Farrah would be a learning experience like none other.

When Monica first told us the idea of this blog I was intrigued, yet skeptical. What did I have to offer my two Jewish roommates and a Website of spiritual seekers when my visits to church mostly consisted of weddings and Christmas Eve mass? Farrah goes to services weekly and prays daily when I could barely remember the last time I stepped foot in a church.

I expressed my concern to Monica to which she said matter-of-factly, “music is your religion.” And, right then …

January 1st, 2011

no-yarmulke-largeThey say opposites attract.  For example, in the play “Can I Really Date a Guy Who Wears a Yarmulke?” the protagonists are two people with very different religious views.  According to the play’s website “Eleanor is a smart, savvy, New Yorker, whose secular brand of Judaism might include the occasional latke but definitely does not include God. Aaron is Dr. Right – he’s got the brains, the looks, the wit…but wait! He’s also got a serious case of religion. Can Eleanor see past his yarmulke to find love?”

While the two characters struggle, ultimately they go for the happily ever after. That’s all well and good for fiction, but what about real life? I’m, for all intents and purposes, an observant modern Orthodox Jew (a Neo-Chassid, if you will). But my boyfriend (yes, boyfriend) is an atheist. So maybe opposites really do attract. I have a strong belief in G-d and he’s a science guy. I have faith in a higher power, and he says that he is jealous of those who do but he wasn’t raised with the notion of G-d.

We’ve been together for almost 3 months. From the start of our courtship it has …

December 28th, 2010

In October, I wrote about a difficult week when three close friends and family members were admitted to the hospital. Last Saturday I found out the worst news when I was told my cousin Silvia would never make it home. After eight weeks of battling an infection, pneumonia and what they eventually found to be an extremely rare form of cancer, she passed away at the age of 56.

While I know no one is fond of death, wakes or funerals, this was especially hard and I, like many at times like these, started questioning my faith and God’s existence. Silvia was like an aunt to me and was even my confirmation sponsor back in high school. She was selfless and loved nothing more than spending time with her family. My heart broke for my two cousins, her daughters, only in college, who will have to go on without a mother.

What is the reasoning behind this?

Why would God allow such a thing?

I really don’t know. The answers never get easier. Even when I was on the alter reading from the New Testament’s letter of Timothy about fighting “the good fight” and having “kept the faith” at her …

December 24th, 2010

factsoffaith-romanmartyrologyFr. Larry explains to Fr. Dave how the Church fixes the approximate date of Christ’s birth and His incarnation breaking into human history.…

December 23rd, 2010

saying-yes-flashThe other day I was scooting down the stairs with Olivia when I was struck with such a strong feeling of gratitude for her that I immediately began crying and clutched her to my chest.  I know it seems rote to say, but having a child is one of the greatest gifts that God can give.  I almost cannot contain the love that I feel for her sometimes.  There is not a single day that passes that I don’t feel thankful for being a mother.

Don’t get me wrong.  Being a parent, while more wonderful than I imagined, is also way harder than I ever imagined it being.  It isn’t always rainbows and puppies.  Olivia’s sleeping was a nightmare for a while.  I (thankfully) did not have postpartum depression but around O’s 8 month mark I definitely sunk into some kind of depression.  I just couldn’t quite adjust to my role of being home all the time.  Our marriage has definitely borne its share of neglect because of focusing too much on Olivia and our separate jobs.  Point is: it hasn’t been a cakewalk, but, like most things that are hard, it has been worth it.

During a Catholic wedding …

December 22nd, 2010

I realize that in my last post, I might have come off as kind of a grump… exams and papers will do that to you.  Not that I take back anything that I said regarding the importance of Advent or the true awfulness of the song “Last Christmas,” but when I hit the “Send” button on my last paper of the semester this past Saturday, the holidays began for me!

Still, after my last post I do feel the need to prove that I am not a total Mr. Potter.  In fact, it’s because I like Christmas music so much that I can’t stand when it is co-opted in order to give second-rate musical artists a shot towards achieving some “American Idol” style mediocrity.  So with that in mind, I would like to offer what I will be playing on my iPhone this holiday season!

Barenaked Ladies and Sarah McLachlan: God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HGVNzgUxE-g
Made me proud to be Gen X!  Modern, fun, and reverent… not an easy hat trick but the Canadian artists pull it off.

Jack Skelington: What’s This?

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZuWD-mSUtrU

“This children are throwing snowballs… instead of throwing heads!  There’s frost in every window, …

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