Busted Halo

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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December 10th, 2013

long-walk-to-freedomMandela: Long Walk to Freedom chronicles the life of political leader and revolutionary Nelson Mandela, particularly his struggle to put an end to apartheid in South Africa and reunite the nation peacefully. The film wowed at every turn, exquisitely showcasing the triumphs and hardships of Mandela’s life, and successfully imparting the wisdom and dedication he held in regard to the cause he fought and sacrificed so much for. Long Walk to Freedom treads important ground on the issues of race and power relations, much like another film of this year (and a potential opponent for Best Picture) 12 Years A Slave. What gripped me most about the movie is Mandela’s mantra in regard to power and community. Several times throughout Long Walk to Freedom, Mandela and those associated with him through the African National Congress describe their group by using a clever metaphor — that of a fist.

“Alone, we have no power,” Mandela says, holding up his fingers one by one. Then, he pulls them into a fist, adding: “but together, we have the power to change the world.”

It really got me thinking about how true this principle can be in our lives today, and how it comes …

December 5th, 2013

Pope Francis waves as he arrives for his weekly audience in St. Peter's Square at Vatican. (CNS photo/Max Rossi, Reuters)

Pope Francis waves as he arrives for his weekly audience in St. Peter’s Square at Vatican. (CNS photo/Max Rossi, Reuters)

Pope Francis rocked the media again last week with the release of Evangelii Gaudium,” (The Joy of the Gospel) an apostolic exhortation laying out his vision for a well-run, joyful church and a more just world. America magazine’s James Martin, SJ, wrote that he was unable to “remember a papal document that was so thought-provoking, surprising, and invigorating. Frankly, reading it thrilled me.”

New York magazine’s Dan Amira had some fun with the document, publishing a quiz called, “It’s Time to Play ‘Bill de Blasio or the Pope?,’” in which he asks readers to guess if quotes are attributed to Francis or the ultra-liberal, populist mayor-elect of New York.

Rabbi Abraham Cooper wrote that Evangelli Gaudium “was a serendipitous Chanukah gift, that brought joy to the Jewish world.”

If you haven’t read the full text, a whopping 224-page PDF, you should. It’s accessible, inspiring, and thought provoking. The gist of it says that Christian joy can capture the imagination of the world, revitalize the Church, and compel Jesus’ followers to question the idolatry of the free market …

December 4th, 2013

jerk-for-christmasLike it or not, we are entering the gift-giving season. I personally am really bad at receiving gifts. Of course, I’m gracious and say “thank you” and do all the other things we would hope our kids do when someone gives them a gift, but what I usually want to do is repeatedly bang my head against the closest hard surface.

I have written before about how irked I get when someone gives me a bad gift. It really does make me upset. I hate the idea of the person wasting money on me, adding to the consumerism surrounding Christmas, and I hate having the burden of another thing lying around our house that will not get any use.

But recently I read The Happiness Project. In it, the author spoke of accepting gifts in the spirit in which they were given. She gave the example of the time she told her husband that she wanted a ring for her birthday. Instead he gave her a bracelet. Immediately she was very angry.

This would have probably been my inner dialogue: He never listens to me. How much clearer can I get? Do I have to do all the work? …

December 2nd, 2013

A Ukrainian-made angel adorns the Christmas tree in St. Peter's Square. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

A Ukrainian-made angel adorns the Christmas tree in St. Peter’s Square. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

Having emerged from your tryptophan-induced stupor, you awoke on Friday to the triumphant proclamation that it is Christmas. The TV says so. Every big box retailer in your neighborhood says so. The lights and wreathes and inflatable Santas that appeared like magic overnight say so. To this I say, bah. Humbug!

Ok, here’s the deal: I love Christmas. I love everything about Christmas. But it’s not Christmas yet! It’s Advent. Advent is the liturgical season of preparation that proceeds Christmas. New to observing Advent? Your favorite convert gives you the basics to this beautiful season of hope.

A — Advent wreath: Every Catholic church and many Catholic homes display an Advent wreath. This wreath consists of an evergreen wreath, three purple candles, and one rose candle. The candles are lit one by one on the Sundays of Advent and are meant to symbolize Jesus, the Light of the world, coming to dwell among us. The evergreens in a circle represent eternal life. Pine cones or other seed-bearing decorations symbolize resurrection. The purple candles represent prayer, penance, and preparatory sacrifices and the rose candle, lit on …

November 26th, 2013

catching-fireThe Hunger Games: Catching Fire, the second in a series of four in The Hunger Games franchise, has just been released in theaters, and is a worthy follow-up to the first movie. Though I admit some bias, as Catching Fire was by far my favorite of the three novels, the theatrical adaptation truly delivers. The books, begun in 2009 by Suzanne Collins, follow a stubborn, fierce teenage heroine in her reluctant role as the lightning rod for revolution in the fictional future dystopia of Panem.

The film’s biggest success was its refreshingly realistic portrayal of the various forms of oppression in the Districts, namely socioeconomic injustice — a subject rarely explored in “teen movies.” While most of the people in the Districts are living lives of abject poverty, the Capitol of Panem is a seemingly endless font of immoderation and luxury, reaping all of its resources from the Districts that it oppresses. Such oblivious immoderation becomes all the more gruesome in light of the suffering it ignores. As the people in the Capitol attend extravagant parties and wear bizarre, over-the-top fashions (shown in imaginative, colorful visual detail) they are entirely unaware of the suffering and poverty that is daily life …

November 21st, 2013

Parents listen to their daughter during dinner in the family's home. (CNS photo illustration/Sid Hastings)

Parents listen to their daughter during dinner in the family’s home. (CNS photo illustration/Sid Hastings)

In New Hampshire this past weekend, Gov. Martin O’Malley, Democrat of Maryland, told more than 1,000 Democratic activists that pride in oneself and in one’s city is able to transform lives and communities. Speaking at the New Hampshire Democratic Party’s Jefferson-Jackson dinner in Manchester, the Catholic O’Malley recalled his tenure as mayor of Baltimore in the early 2000s, which at that time was the most violent city in the United States. He highlighted a campaign he started to drive down crime and drive up pride. It was simple, he said, once residents believed things could be better. The program was called simply, Believe.

“Belief is important. Belief drives action. Now, like Baltimore in 1999, we, as Americans, are going through a cynical time of disbelief — a time, quite frankly, with a lot more excuses and ideology than cooperation or action,” he said.

O’Malley was introduced by a gauzy black and white video that many in the room considered a marketing test for a possible 2016 run for the White House. It highlighted the reduction in crime in Baltimore, as well as more recent accomplishments, …

November 14th, 2013
Young people hold signs asking for help after Typhoon Haiyan hits the Philippines. (CNS photo/Charlie Saceda, Reuters)

Young people hold signs asking for help after Typhoon Haiyan hits the Philippines. (CNS photo/Charlie Saceda, Reuters)

I used to work for a non-profit that would give out food on a regular basis. We would get donations from the local Food Bank plus any other donations people would drop off at our doorstep. The first time I helped to prepare the food, I was taken aback. There were tables of cakes and pies and cookies and sweet breads, and any other sugary treat you could think of. I stared in awe thinking how happy some little kid was going to be when his grandma came home with a big Elmo cake.

It wasn’t until I worked there a little longer that I learned how this mountain of baked goods arrived at our door like clockwork. One day a woman was at the grocery store and saw all these bakery items getting tossed into the trash. She was horrified at the waste of food and endeavored to get a group of her friends together to go around to several grocery stores to pick up all the leftover bakery goods and bring them to us.

Wow, I marveled. This group of women …

November 7th, 2013

A man panhandling holds an American flag in San Francisco’s financial district. (CNS photo/Robert Galbraith, Reuters)

A man panhandling holds an American flag in San Francisco’s financial district. (CNS photo/Robert Galbraith, Reuters)

I had the pleasure of rereading Economic Justice for All earlier this week as I was researching another writing project. The first time I encountered this pastoral letter, written in 1986 by U.S. bishops, I was a senior in college, some time in 2007, completing an assignment for a Catholic social justice class. I remember being blown away, moved by the unequivocal words of support for the poor and middle class. This document stirred my passion for using politics for good, as a way to lift up the disenfranchised. It would not be an exaggeration to credit Economic Justice for All with inspiring me to work in the Catholic sector, seeking ways to tell the stories of those who feel left out.

The pastoral letter, written a year before I was born, was shockingly relevant to me even 20 years later. As I soaked it in again this week, it still reads like something that could be written today. On the one hand, it’s encouraging that the words have stood the test of time. Kudos to the bishops for their foresight. But in reality, …

November 6th, 2013
Hugh Jackman, as Jean Valjean, and Anne Hathaway, as Fantine, in Les Miserables.

Hugh Jackman, as Jean Valjean, and Anne Hathaway, as Fantine, in Les Miserables.

Les Miserables punched me in the gut. It showed the depths of desperation and the most crass and compassionate responses of the human heart. It had the good, messy, lovely and hopeless parts of people wrapped into one cohesive and fragmented whole, and I saw myself and my life reflected there — without any pretty filter. It wasn’t something easy to forget.

Making assumptions

When I saw Les Miserables, I had recently had an encounter with a homeless man that showed me who I really was, and how far I was from who I hoped to be. I had finished a day of shadowing at a hospital, and was waiting to be picked up. A gentleman approached me in the lobby, and began to ask questions. He wasn’t entirely coherent, but seemed kind. He asked for money. I had $23 with me. I gave him $3.

Now, I am one of those self-proclaimed social justice people — I talk a lot about those in need and forgiveness and love — but when it came down to the moment, I found myself doing what I had …

November 5th, 2013
Pope Francis embraces a boy at World Youth Day in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. (CNS photo/L'Osservatore Romano)

Pope Francis embraces a boy at World Youth Day in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. (CNS photo/L’Osservatore Romano)

Mark Mason is a gay activist and an outspoken atheist. He’s an unlikely Catholic cheerleader. So why is he such a fan that he’s set a Google Alert so he can read every piece of news coverage on Pope Francis?

Busted Halo: How did you arrive at your place of atheism?
Mark Mason: I was not always an atheist, but sometime after college I pursued my course of increased rationalism, which, to me, led me to the lack of evidence around believing in any god. One thing I think it’s really important to say is that atheism is not a club. The only thing we have in common is a lack of belief.
BH: Pope aside, what is your overall perception of the Catholic Church today?
MM: I think the Catholic Church in this day and age is unfairly buried in the crisis that happened of a sexual nature. And to me that’s unfortunate because sexual addiction happens regardless of religion or race or socioeconomics. But our pop culture’s attempts at comedy have framed the church as almost paralyzed by scandal.


October 30th, 2013

Jack is back, this time hitting the streets of New York City’s East Village to find out what people know about the saints. Are they all perfect people? Do they have to be Catholic? What are their best qualities? Follow our friend and colleague, Fr. Jack Collins, CSP, as he journeys the city to find out what people know.

Music: Kevin MacLeod

October 21st, 2013

Young adults gathering in the Diocese of Rockville Centre, New York. (CNS photo/Gregory A. Shemitz, Long Island Catholic)

Young adults gathering in the Diocese of Rockville Centre, New York. (CNS photo/Gregory A. Shemitz, Long Island Catholic)

Well, it’s that time of year again. The leaves are falling, everything is suddenly pumpkin-flavored, and the RCIA (Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults) is starting in parishes all over the world. Whether you’re an inquirer (a person interested in learning more about the Catholic faith), a catechumen (an unbaptized person seeking to receive the sacraments), or a candidate (a baptized person seeking full communion with the Church), here’s a bit of advice from yours truly — a former RCIA participant and Adult Faith Formation parish minister.

1. Invest: Let’s talk about some tools it would be helpful to have on hand as you begin your journey. First, I highly recommend having access to a Catholic edition of the Bible. What’s that, you ask? Don’t all Christians read the SAME Bible? Great questions, you brilliant almost-convert! The short answer is: The Catholic Bible is the Bible that was used exclusively for the first 1,500 years of the Church. In addition to all that you would find in a standard Bible, Catholic editions contain books and chapters of books the …

October 17th, 2013
How the U.S. government shutdown impeded government’s good work

The statue of Grief and History stands near the U.S. Capitol dome in Washington. (CNS photo/ Kevin Lamarque, Reuters)

The statue of Grief and History stands near the U.S. Capitol dome in Washington. (CNS photo/ Kevin Lamarque, Reuters)

This past weekend, I ran the Chicago Marathon. I sometimes use my time running to think of ideas for columns, hashing out arguments and counter-arguments, and figuring out what I want to say, who I want to interview, and discern what people might find interesting or helpful. Knowing that my Church & State column would be due following the run, I decided to spend some time thinking about what’s going on in the world of government. Of course, with the government having been shut down for two weeks by race day, the answer was, not much.

The small but influential contingent of Tea Party Republicans that forced the government shutdown didn’t seem to have a single goal in mind. At first, they cited their opposition to the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare, and claimed that they wanted to delay its implementation for a year and repeal the medical devices tax that would pay for part of it. When this tactic gained no traction, the talking points shifted. The problem, they said, was big government in general. So they moved on from …

October 12th, 2013

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After six long days witnessing intense competition between 32 of the most ferocious, yet lovable, school mascots, Catholic Mascotology ends with a clear winner rising in victory above the rest. “Petey,” the Canisius College Golden Griffin, claims the title of Best Catholic Mascot.

round5-final-votes2Cousin of the hippogriff, and two animals in one, we feel the Griffin is a worthy beast and school emblem to hold the mantle of best mascot, while also recognizing Petey’s journey was not an easy one. He began the first round by tearing through St. Bonaventure’s Bona Wolf, and went on to face a long lost relative, the Boston College Eagle. Following that, he beat up on the Iona Gael and then the Fordham Ram, but nothing was more difficult than the challenge he faced yesterday. “Iggy,” the Loyola Maryland Greyhound, had proven to be one of the toughest, and by far most surprising, competitors in the competition when in Round 2, in a complete upset, he beat up on the Notre Dame Fighting Irish Leprechaun and advanced to face off against the Providence Friar and then the Holy Cross Crusader. Yesterday saw a big back and forth between the Greyhound and the …

October 8th, 2013
Pope Francis weighs in on workers’ dignity and the global economy
Pope Francis wears a hard hat he received from a miner during Mass the outside Shrine of Our Lady of Bonaria in Sardinia. (CNS photo/L'Osservatore Romano via Reuters)

Pope Francis wears a hard hat he received from a miner during Mass the outside Shrine of Our Lady of Bonaria in Sardinia. (CNS photo/L’Osservatore Romano via Reuters)

Many advocates for economic justice were struck by Pope Francis’ candid remarks last month about our global economic system and the “idol” of money.

The pope’s impromptu comments came after a meeting with unemployed workers in Cagliari, Sardinia (an island off the coast of Italy), who shared their stories of struggle. Francis discarded his prepared speech and let the Spirit lead his remarks for nearly 20 minutes.

“It is not a problem of Italy and Europe,” he said of an economic system that marginalizes the poor and vulnerable. “It is the consequence of a world choice, of an economic system that brings about this tragedy, an economic system that has at its center an idol which is called money.”

Francis’ remarks were a solemn reminder that our current economic system does not reflect our values as Christians. All God’s children deserve work, and to work with dignity. We deserve to be compensated fairly for an honest day’s work. Work should provide the means for a roof over our head and food on …

October 4th, 2013
A conversation between a saint and a pope named Francis on the saint’s feast day (October 4).

Pope Francis kisses a hand-carved figure of St. Francis given to him at a hospital in Rio de Janeiro. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

Pope Francis kisses a hand-carved figure of St. Francis given to him at a hospital in Rio de Janeiro. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

St. Francis: Your Holiness, it’s so nice to see you!

Pope Francis: We can cut the formalities. After all, I took your name!

St. Francis: True, Jorge, true. I was honored but then I got jealous thinking you’ll be the more famous Francis.

Pope Francis: Ignatius of Loyola must be giving you a lot of grief!

St. Francis: Nope, but he lost a bundle! He bet that you were going to take his name after you were announced. I gave him 3-1 odds that it wouldn’t be “Ignatius.”

Pope Francis: Ouch! He’s gonna give me a lot of heartache for that one. Since I’m a Jesuit and all.

St. Francis: The fact is that you’re giving him a lot of good press. And you’re doing a swell job!

Pope Francis: Thanks, thanks. It’s not easy. Do you have any advice?

St. Francis: Well, I appreciate you highlighting my teachings about the poor. Lately I’ve been known as “that guy with all the animals.”

Pope Francis: Yeah, Pope Benedict thinks I should get a cat, but I’m more …

October 3rd, 2013
What lessons could U.S. leaders learn from Pope Francis?

U.S. Capitol is photographed behind a chain fence in Washington. (CNS photo/Kevin Lamarque, Reuters)

U.S. Capitol is photographed behind a chain fence in Washington. (CNS photo/Kevin Lamarque, Reuters)

The U.S. government is shut down. Have you noticed? Probably not. Planes are still flying. Trains are still moving. The post office is open, Social Security checks are still being delivered, and the military remains on guard. For most Americans, the closing of the federal government doesn’t interfere with the daily grind. Now, this isn’t to diminish the very real problems that a government shutdown creates, especially for those who rely on government for their livelihood and services such as nutrition assistance. For them, the shutdown of the government is quite painful. Rather, it’s worth noting that by making the effects of a shutdown as minimal as possible for most people, the rage that Americans should feel toward their seemingly inept leaders is lessened, and we’re left with even less incentive for Congressional accountability.

So, how did all this happen? Driven by ideology, some Republicans in Congress have used procedural tricks and lawmaking loopholes to try to defund President Obama’s healthcare reform, the Affordable Care Act (ACA). The law was passed in Congress, signed by the president, reviewed and declared constitutional by the Supreme Court. Then …

October 2nd, 2013

St. Francis pictured preaching to the birds in a fresco in the Basilica of St. Francis in Assisi, Italy. (CNS photo/Octavio Duran)

St. Francis pictured preaching to the birds in a fresco in the Basilica of St. Francis in Assisi, Italy. (CNS photo/Octavio Duran)

I always had a mild aversion to St. Francis. The only way I ever saw him depicted was surrounded by animals. Well, I hate animals. I do. It’s not that I don’t appreciate the beauty of all of God’s creation, but I’m just a city girl who’s never had a pet in her life. To say the least, St. Francis did not appeal to me.

That is, until I got married on his feast day. It was the only date available at the church. In a slightly horrified tone, I asked if any dogs were going to still be walking around the church courtyard when we were going to be saying our vows. On St. Francis’ feast day most churches invite people to bring their pets for a blessing in the early morning. The church assured me that all the animals would be gone.

Later I stumbled across a biography of St. Francis by G.K. Chesterton. Since we were getting married on his feast day, I figured I at least owed it to the guy to read a …

October 1st, 2013
Pope Francis blesses a boy as he leaves his general audience in St. Peter's Square. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

Pope Francis blesses a boy as he leaves his general audience in St. Peter’s Square. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

Steve Lehmann isn’t Catholic, but as a grad student at the University of Notre Dame and self-described “armchair theologian,” he watches the Catholic Church closely. Nearly six months after the beginning of Pope Francis’ leading that church, here is what the new pontiff has meant from one evangelical’s perspective.

Busted Halo: Tell us about yourself and your religious background.
Steve Lehmann: I was born and raised on Lake Michigan, in a little town called Ogden Dunes. I went to undergrad at a little liberal arts college, Valparaiso [University]. I studied engineering and the humanities. After the recession, I ended up in Oxford doing a postgraduate course in Christian Apologetics. I studied with Alister McGrath and John Lennox, famous for his debates with atheists. I’m a big fan of existential questions.

I was raised Lutheran, in the Missouri Synod. Right now I’m a member of the Christian Reformed Church, one of the standard evangelical churches. I attend South Bend Christian Reformed Church, which I love.

BH: Regardless of who is pope, what’s your perception of the Catholic Church in this day

September 30th, 2013
Or, Everything I know about Adoration I learned from my 2-year-old

guidetoadoration11This year, for the first time ever in Kim family history, the two biggest pickles are in school. (Ok, I’m getting a little verklempt. Talk amongst yourselves.) So, Thursday mornings the two littlest pickles and I have a standing “praydate.” With Jesus. Yep, that’s right. We go to Adoration.

What is Adoration, you ask? Adoration (short for Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament) is an opportunity for prayer that happens at almost every parish throughout the world. After each Mass, any consecrated host remaining after the faithful have received the Eucharist is placed in the tabernacle (the gold box on an altar in the sanctuary usually accompanied by a lit candle). During Adoration, the consecrated host (the Body of Christ!) is taken from the tabernacle and placed in a monstrance (a gold case) on the main altar and the community is welcome to come spend time with the Lord in prayer. Some parishes even have a chapel where Adoration happens around the clock!

Adoration is new to me… at least as a weekly spiritual discipline. Here are some important things I’ve learned about Adoration from our second youngest — the 2-year-old — the one who, thanks to her …

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