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.

Click this banner to see the entire series.

 
facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedintumblrmailfacebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedintumblrmail
September 22nd, 2010

family-idolsI’m happy that the last post has really sparked some good dialogue about trying to balance spirituality and family and how to integrate the two.

I was remembering one of my professors back in college. We were discussing Advent and Christmas liturgy when he went off on a tangent about family life. He said, “You know, sometimes I think people make idols out of their family.” He then went on to talk about this Christian church around his house that actually had no services on Christmas Eve or on Christmas because they believed that you should be at home with your family and not having to take time away from your family by having to come to a church service. I thought that story illustrated his point perfectly.

For the longest time we faithfully went to Mass every Sunday and all holy days of obligation except for Christmas Mass. Why? Because too much needed to be done at home to get ready for Christmas dinner with the family. Cleaning and prepping and decorating and cooking. No time for Mass.

I have found that it is very easy to make an idol out of family. To put family before even God …

September 20th, 2010

This past Sunday, some of the Paulist students were invited to participate in a dialog that was held at Park 51, the site of the new Islamic Center in downtown Manhattan that has been getting so much attention in the news as of late. The event was sponsored by Unity Productions, an organization that has been promoting an initiative entitled “20,000 Dialogues,” in which a particular documentary film is watched about the faith of Islam, followed by a discussion. A few days later, I sat down with Craig Campbell, CSP to ask him about the event.

TG: How did you get involved in this dialogue?

CC: I saw their documentary “Talking Through Walls” on PBS. After the airing, the company who made the film would send it out for free to those who would commit to hosting a dialog, so I ended up hosting one when I was on a parish assignment in Toronto and we had a showing last year here in DC. We’re going to be doing it again in Washington on October 29.

TG: How did the event go?

CC: Very well. 75 people showed up for the dialog at Park 51… the building is basically gutted …

September 16th, 2010

factsfaith-sangennaroFr. Dave Dwyer and Fr. Larry Rice discuss the history surrounding the relic of Saint Januaris, more popularly known in New York City as San Gennaro.  Possible scientific elements are also explained, bringing to question if the relic was made in a lab or if it’s a legitimate symbol of the Catholic culture.…

September 16th, 2010

trust-gap-flashInteresting piece on PsychCentral about the “trust gap” in America: In lab settings and in opinion polls, we tend to report thinking that other people are less trustworthy than we are. But a recent study in Psychological Science suggests that we just don’t have enough practice trusting people because we’re stuck in a vicious cycle of cynicism.

Write authors Fetchenhauer and Dunning of their study:

Participants saw short videos of other people and had to decide whether to trust each person in an economic game. Participants overall underestimated the trustworthiness of the people they viewed, regardless of whether they were given financial incentives to provide accurate estimates. However, people who received symmetric feedback about the trustworthiness of others (i.e., who received feedback regardless of their own decision to trust) exhibited reduced cynicism relative to those who received no feedback or asymmetric feedback (i.e., who received feedback only after they trusted the other person).

Bottom line: When people are shown the trust of others, their trust increases. So show some trust to others, and they are more likely to behave in a kind and trusting way toward you.

While this is interesting, there’s a wide and varied sociological literature on trust… …

September 15th, 2010

lalupe-humilityparenting-flashThroughout my life I have worked with kids a lot.  I started babysitting when I was twelve.  I have about fifty cousins and at least half of them are younger than me.  All throughout high school and college I’ve tutored, mentored, camp counseled, and run programs for kids.  At the Catholic Worker I was basically a second mom to at least 8 kids at any one time.  I helped moms load newborns into the car to ride home from the hospital and had to keep the peace when the kids would fight at dinnertime.  Not that after all this experience I thought I was an expert on kids and discipline but I definitely thought I had a pretty good handle on what it meant to be a parent.

I could not have been more wrong.

I have quickly come to realize that kids are going to cry, scream, shout, kick, and fuss at exactly the wrong time regardless of how good your parenting is.  Parents should still try to lovingly teach their children discipline, but even the most well-behaved kid will sometimes just totally breakdown in public.

Despite our best efforts to teach Olivia how to act respectfully, she is …

September 14th, 2010

magnetic-morality-flashA team of neuroscientists claim that it’s possible to alter a subject’s moral judgments using a large magnet to temporarily disrupt normal brain activity, according to new findings published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. The researchers, led by Rebecca Saxe, MIT assistant professor of brain and cognitive sciences, and lead author on this paper, Liane Young, a postdoctoral associate, find that subjects make different decisions about whether a person’s behavior hypothetical scenario is permissible or forbidden after exposure to this magnetic field.

Says Dr. Young:

“It’s one thing to ‘know’ that we’ll find morality in the brain … It’s another to ‘knock out’ that brain area and change people’s moral judgments.”

Here’s how it worked, according to LiveScience:

When people hear news of a crime like a shooting, they likely need more information before they can judge the offender’s actions as right or wrong – was the crime accidental or intentional? If it was an accident or if the shooter was defending him or herself, people are likely to see the act as much more morally acceptable than if it was deliberate and unwarranted.

The study results show that stimulating a specific brain region …

September 9th, 2010

Machete_posterWe often talk about the need positive role models in the media today, but we rarely talk about the need for priests as role models; they are largely absent from today’s modern media landscape. And when they do happen to be included in a television show or a movie, they are frequently presented as older gentlemen spaced out on God who insists on calling everyone he meets “my child” and who inhabit a world few if any of us could reach… and might not want to if we could. Characterizations that on some visceral gut level has the opposite effect of being inspiring.

Which is one of the many reasons I am grateful for the release of the new Robert Rodriguez film Machete. In the interests of full disclosure, films by Robert Rodriguez have been guilty pleasures of mine for a very long time. But when I first saw the trailer for Machete with Cheech Marin as a vigilante cleric…

Priest: “I took a vow of peace… and now you want me to kill all of these men?”

Machete: “Yes bro… I mean, Padre.”

Priest (shrugging): “I’ll see what I can do.”

That’s right, this priest does not only …

September 9th, 2010

ruleofrules-flashI recently came across a fascinating piece on NPR from a few months back in which Alix Speigel interviewed Larry Nucci, a research psychologist at the Institute of Human Development at the University of California, Berkeley about what rules children believe are good, and what rules they think are stupid.

Rules can be broken down into four categories, Dr. Nucci says:

Moral rules: Don’t hit, do share.
Safety rules: Don’t cross the street alone, don’t run with scissors.
Social convention rules: You must say “sir” and “madam.”
Personal rules: Rules about friends and how to express themselves… which is where things get tricky.

According to the NPR report, Dr. Nucci says

“Kids don’t argue at all with parents – or very little argument with parents – when parents come up with reasonable safety rules or rules about not stealing from other children or not hitting other kids… Virtually all of the conflicts that parents are having with kids are over these personal areas.”

Children object to moral rules only about 10% of the time, he finds in his observational studies. But 70% of the “no”s fall into categories of personal rule formation… or at least areas …

September 8th, 2010

lalupe-recdrugs-flash3The latest story about the massacre of immigrants in Tamaulipas, Mexico by the drug cartels has me thinking about the issue of recreational drug use again. Of course it is not a good idea to do anything illegal but I think there is a distinct difference between drug addicts and people who just use drugs at parties or to wind down after a long week. I’ve known plenty of people in this second category. These are educated people, have stable jobs, and are generally aware of social justice issues. We all have skeletons in the closet and we all struggle with certain things but buying drugs, even if only occasionally, is directly supporting the violence that is perpetuated by drug trafficking. How is it justifiable to use illegal drugs?

LA to Santa Barbara. Austin to San Antonio. Chicago to South Bend, IN. Philadelphia to Baltimore. That is how close these immigrants were to the US border. They make the long journey from South/Central America to the US only to be murdered 100 miles from their destination. I can’t stop thinking about how heart-wrenching that is.

Obviously immigration and drug trafficking are extremely complex issues with lots of different factors but …

September 7th, 2010

daily-affirmations-flashOK, I know I’m a little obsessed with self-control research (see my recent posts on Dogging Self-Control and Commitment Strategies 101) but PsyBlog recently posted a fascinating tidbit: Positive affirmations can replenish your self-control.

In a study published last year in the Journal of Personal Social Psychology, participants were asked to write a short essay about something that was important to them-their core values, their relationships etc. But half of the participants had to write this essay without using the letters ‘a’ and ‘n’ while the other half could use the entire alphabet.

Proving yet again that self-control is a resource that gets depleted over time, when folks were then asked to submerge their hands in a bucket of ice-water, those that didn’t have to previously exert self-control were able to hold their hands in the freezing, painful water for longer.

But here’s where it gets interesting: Among the group that had exerted self-control in their essay writing, some were instructed to reaffirm good things about themselves – thinking about what makes them proud, focusing on the positives – and for those folks, their self-control recovered quickly and they were able to hold their hands in ice-water …

September 2nd, 2010

Friday night was, for the first time in a while, a much-needed night for Shabbat. And while I had plans to go to an 80’s dance party with my one roommate Annie, I still had to ask Farrah what she was doing for Shabbos.

Photo Credit: Sam Felder

Photo Credit: Sam Felder

“I’m going to dinner at this really cool family’s house. Want to come?!”

Yes, as a matter of fact, I did. I looked for a Shabbos outfit that could somehow translate to 80’s in case I could milk both events for the night. My unruly, curly hair worked out either way.

I got to dinner at 9 pm (Shabbos starts late in the summer) with Stella in hand. About two dozen people were in the apartment, waiting for dinner to start. I was immediately taken back to all the times I kept Shabbat, and how meaningful they were for me.

With phone off, reciting prayers I can only recite with transliteration, good food and meeting new people, I forgot all about the 80’s party I planned to go to, and wasn’t all that upset to miss it. It was past midnight when I left, walking home without thinking about taking the lazier …

August 31st, 2010

lalupe-a_life_of_significanceWe regularly receive the Houston Catholic Worker newspaper and the latest issue contained a big surprise.  The couple that founded Casa Juan Diego, the Houston Catholic Worker, is having another book released in November.

If I tried to tell you about the myriad of services that Casa Juan Diego offers there is really no way of doing it justice.  It is a house of hospitality for undocumented women, children, and men.  They have an ever-growing huge ministry helping the undocumented sick and injured.  They have food and clothing distributions several times a week for the community.  They have clinics with a variety of doctors and dentists that donate their time.  They have a big organic garden that provides food for all these different houses.  They print a newspaper.  And the list goes on and on.  Somehow the couple that runs the place has found time to write another book.  It’s truly amazing.  These people really work and live as if everything depended on it.

After Brandon and I read through this paper and pre-ordered their new book, we just sat in our living room staring at each other.  When you hear about a life like this that is so clearly …

August 27th, 2010

The big thing in the news right now is the debate on the Islamic center in lower Manhattan.  I have to say that I’ve been struggling for a few days with what to say on this topic, but too much has been going on to not say anything.  After all, if I write a blog for an online magazine for spiritual seekers, it’s kind of hard not to comment on an issue that focuses so much on faith.

I do have to say that my first response to this issue was not as of a spiritual seeker, not as someone who is devoting his life to religious life, but as someone who is an American.  It was hard for me to not see this as a freedom of religion issue.  While I do understand the arguments by some who are against this project—those of course who are not obviously using the issue to stoke fear for their own political gain by calling us down to our lowest common denominator instead of up to our highest values—I would still have to argue that the Bill of Rights does not exist because it assumed that people of different faith traditions would usually …

August 26th, 2010

vv-lovetrustonline-flash2bTrust is a crucial element of a successful relationship, experts tell us. But sometimes, as President Ronald Reagan said, “trust but verify.”

According to a new nationally representative study of nearly a thousand British married couples, nearly half the time, at least one member of the couple is snooping on the other’s internet and email activities.

Reports PsyBlog, respondents told researchers it was unacceptable if

their partner fell in love online (90%)
had cybersex with someone else (84%)
flirted with someone else (69%)
or communicated relationship troubles with someone else (70%)

And perhaps unsurprisingly, women were more likely to be concerned about potential online transgressions, and more likely to do the snooping.

Most common ways to snoop?

Reading emails
Reading text messages
Checking web browser history and trolling the cache

Now, remember, this might be a vast under-reporting, because if you’re stealthy enough to do all this snooping, you’re clever enough not to go telling people-even researchers-about the details.

So are you being watched by someone who claims to love and trust you? Probably. Does that weird you out? Join the club.…

August 25th, 2010

bacon-lightswitchesIf only it were that simple. If only considering to live with a non-observant Jew and a Catholic was only about not cooking bacon in the apartment and keeping the light on in the bathroom during Shabbat.

I spent an hour on the phone with Monica gauging Annie’s love of bacon and her knowledge of the rules of the Sabbath. Even before my kosher-keeping days I’ve had an aversion to bacon. Once, while staying with a friend and her then boyfriend, I sat on top of their couch with my head hanging out the window while they made Sunday brunch: eggs and bacon. While complaining about my bacon-induced nausea, Monica confessed her distaste for shrimp after a college roommate had Costco-sized cravings. Okay. No shellfish, no pork. Check.

“But what about Shabbat?” I asked. Would Annie find it odd that I wouldn’t turn the lights on and off from sundown Friday till nightfall Saturday? “Annie is the nicest, most easy-going person. She won’t think you’re crazy,” Monica reassured me. Okay. Maybe this wouldn’t be so bad after all. Until, of course, I was left with my thoughts and over a week later it dawned on me – what about

August 24th, 2010

sweatlodgeIt’s been nearly a year since three people died and dozens more were injured during a self-help retreat led by the now-infamous James Arthur Ray. At the time, I wrote a piece in The Washington Post and was outspoken about the fact that, although we’d like to write them off as New Age wackos, the folks who stayed in a steamy sweat lodge well past when it was physically safe were just like you and me: Seekers who were smart, educated and interested in pushing themselves to achieve greater things.

In this month’s SELF magazine Shepelavy has a terrific piece about the lessons we can all learn from last year’s deaths. Roxanne and I logged in several hours of talk time over the last few months as she crafted the piece, “When Self-Help Harms,” and she did an excellent job. (Yes, I’m quoted extensively, but I don’t rave about all the pieces that quote me, lemme tell ya!)

Check it out here—and, because it’s always more fun to read glossy magazines than words on a screen, buy the September issue in hard copy.

Self-help doesn’t have to be harmful, but too often gurus lead enthusiastic people astray. I …

August 20th, 2010

You may have been following my adventures at Rendezvous with G-d, from covering a website for religious Jews seeking extramarital affairs, to interviewing Muslim women and their views on wearing veils. You might remember stories about my personal life, some of which were so personal I chose to later take it down. And today, I close a small chapter of this blog, and open a new one as I move out again. This time I am moving to Brooklyn with a (non-practicing) Catholic and (semi) observant Jew. And more difficult than finding the apartment, might be how to live in the apartment with such varying religious traditions.
So meet the girls who have decided to take this interreligious journey with me. They too will now be contributing to Rendezvous with G-d, as the three of us use our day-to-day living as material for this blog. What will happen if one of us forgets and breaks an important law during Shabbat? Will we get scared of the religious man torching our kitchen in order to make it Kosher? Will one of us become more, or less, religious during this experience? These are all the questions we ourselves are curious to …

August 19th, 2010

emailforwards-flashThe dreaded email forwards.  Pictures of puppies wearing hats, drawings of angels, images of sunsets.  I don’t get a lot of these emails except for the occasional prayer chain letter from my mom.  But poor Brandon gets a lot of them.  I think it’s because he likes computers so people think he will like any email sent to him.   Usually they are pretty harmless.  The ones that I can’t stand are the ones the spread ignorance and intolerance.

Brandon recently received an email forward from a person that he knows in a professional capacity.  I won’t repeat the exact email but it was a joke about Mexicans that insinuated that they are all lazy and should go back to Mexico.

Let’s put aside for a moment that this man sent this email to my husband knowing full well that I’m Mexican-American.

What makes me mad is that the people who write things and forward things like this are not putting any thought into their opinion.  They are not making logical arguments or good points or adding anything to the immigration debate except unfiltered xenophobia and prejudice.  There are many opinions about immigration and many different solutions but calling immigrants lazy …

August 19th, 2010

market-morality-flashAre Shoppers Fairer? asked John Tierney in his New York Times column and blog.

Do markets and morality – as we like to definite fairness in modern societies – reinforce one another? Does shopping at Wal-Mart, as the fair-minded people in Missouri do, strengthen one’s tendency to follow the golden rule in dealing with strangers?

Turns out that in a multi-country anthropological experiment, Americans shoppers scored higher in a test of fairness toward strangers than those surveyed in Fiji, Papua New Guinea, Africa, Asia and Latin America.

The researchers played the game “dictator” with folks around the world: The person who is in the “dictator” role is given a sum of money and told they can keep it all, give it all away or share some part of it with another player, whose identity remains secret.

How much would you give? Half? A bit less than half?

That’s what standard American ideas of fair would suggest… but that’s not necessarily everyone’s definition of equity. Some nomad communities would only share a quarter of the prize. Indeed, the study finds, “most hunter-gatherers, foragers and subsistence farmers were less inclined to share.”

Why? Tierney explains:

In explaining attitudes toward fairness, Dr. …

August 18th, 2010

How does the Church really feel about games of chance? Tune in to hear what Fr. Larry and Fr. Dave have to say……

powered by the Paulists