Busted Halo

Michael O’Loughlin looks at faith and politics.

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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 …

September 27th, 2013

college-majorWhile I am far removed from my college days, I still have not found that niche of what I’m going to do with my life. I’ve held different jobs every couple years and while I’ve loved most of my jobs, life circumstances have required something or other that has not been compatible with them.

Sometimes I find myself getting anxious about what I’m going to do with my life. I have so many grand ideas in my head. I want to open a store on Etsy and throw myself into that. I want to open up a coffee shop. I want to open a baby store. I want to be a doula. I want to run a community center that focuses on parents. I want to run cooking camps for teens. I have a million ideas, but what should I actually do? What should I stick with?

I think about my major in college and I cringe slightly for not “putting it to use.” Then I quickly shake myself out of this as I remember a girl I met my freshman year of college. I told her I wanted to major in sociology to be a social worker. She shot …

September 26th, 2013

home-sweet-homeA couple Sundays ago, 500 people walked through my house. I — or more accurately my home — was part of the 2013 Tour of Homes. These sorts of things usually showcase large, meticulously decorated places. I, however, live in a 780-square-foot log cabin. There’s a taxidermied rooster on my mantle.

So how is it that this proponent of simple living and small houses finds herself and her abode on a home tour? Well, Asheville, North Carolina, being quite far from Stepford, has plenty of variety in its neighborhoods. And the people who live here really appreciate that. Before coming to my house, ticket holders had seen the sleek lines of a modern home overlooking the city. They had visited an Italian Renaissance Revival home whose living room was once graced by Martin Luther King, Jr.. They walked through a Frank Lloyd Wright-style place whose owner housed not one, but two Porsches in the garage. And then there was my place. A log cabin. With a screened-in porch. Beside a babbling brook.

“I think my house is the smallest on the tour,” one homeowner whispered to me. I assured her that probably wasn’t the case. I was right — mine …

September 25th, 2013
Reactions to the pope's in-depth interview and what it means for young adults

Pope Francis greets the crowd as he arrives for the general audience in St. Peter's Square. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

Pope Francis greets the crowd as he arrives for the general audience in St. Peter’s Square. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

Jesuit Antonio Spadaro, S.J., editor of the Italian La Civiltà Cattolica, has created a masterpiece of an interview with Pope Francis, cobbled together from questions from 16 Jesuit journals, including America magazine here in the United States.

What’s the takeaway for young adults? In this initial reflection, I’m going to share my thoughts on that question. Later, and as we continue to see Pope Francis in action, I’ll reflect more deeply on the issues he’s covered in the interview. For now, my thought is that synthesis makes for easier reading.

Be a humble sinner

The interview starts with a simple question and a short answer: “Who is Jorge Mario Bergoglio?” (Pope Francis’ given name) and his simple yet profound response — “I am a sinner.”

He goes on further.

“Yes, but the best summary, the one that comes more from the inside and I feel most true is this: I am a sinner whom the Lord has looked upon.” And he repeats: “I am one who is looked upon by the Lord. I always felt my motto, Miserando atque Eligendo [By …

September 23rd, 2013
People shelter from rain as Pope Francis leads a devotion at the Vatican. (CNS photo/Giampiero Sposito, Reuters)

People shelter from rain as Pope Francis leads a devotion at the Vatican. (CNS photo/Giampiero Sposito, Reuters)

Recently, a former student came to me for advice about dealing with a group of people who didn’t share the Church’s ideas on a variety of subjects. I thought immediately of what Pope Francis might say.

I noted to the student that relationships take work. And many times we will encounter people in the world who do not share our beliefs. Our goal is not to be dismissive, but rather to stay in relationship with these people anyway. To dismiss them would sever the possibility of relationship. I also noted the words of Jesus in Matthew’s gospel: “If anyone will not welcome you or listen to your words, leave that home or town and shake the dust off your feet.”

Too often people use these words to justify a position that we believers possess the truth, and if others don’t heed our words we should simply go on our merry way and disregard their friendship. However, a careful reading shows that Jesus required more of us. He said only to move on if people don’t welcome you or listen to you. They …

September 19th, 2013

Sister Maria Asterone Dodeka chats with a woman outside St. Joseph Co-Cathedral in Brooklyn. (CNS photo/Gregory A. Shemitz)

Sister Maria Asterone Dodeka chats with a woman outside St. Joseph Co-Cathedral in Brooklyn. (CNS photo/Gregory A. Shemitz)

Since the feast day of Blessed Mother Teresa earlier in the month (September 5), I have been reflecting on the vocation of women religious. (Interestingly enough, Sisters and nuns are different, but I will use nuns to refer to both.) I’ve always loved nuns and was very open to the vocation until I met Brandon. So in honor of Mother Teresa, here are 3 reasons nuns are amazing and how their example has changed my life:

1. Habits – The habits that nuns wear are awesome. Especially the really old school ones. If I ever had become one, I would have hoped for the big pointy head covering. There is something so bold about the public witness of a nun wearing her habit.

I believe that symbols are important and a habit is such a beautiful symbol. When we see a nun out and about, our mind is brought to God. It reminds me that I have no idea what work God is performing through the people around me and reminds me that we are all “walking around shining like the sun.”

September 19th, 2013

Children eat breakfast at the Baltimore Catholic Charities Head Start program in Edgewood, Maryland. (CNS photo/Nancy Phelan Wiechec)

Children eat breakfast at the Baltimore Catholic Charities Head Start program in Edgewood, Maryland. (CNS photo/Nancy Phelan Wiechec)

First, a heartwarming story out of Boston.

Glen James, a homeless man in his 50s, was walking through a parking lot when he noticed a black bag. Curious, he opened it, and what he found was astonishing. According to the Boston Globe, inside was $2,400 in cash, $40,000 in traveler’s checks, a passport, and some personal papers. James could have used the money to find a place to live or buy the essentials that many of us take for granted. Instead, he did what all of us should do: He turned the bag over to the police.

“Even if I were desperate for money, I would not have kept even a penny of the money found,” he said Monday in a handwritten statement. “God has always very well looked after me.”

The Boston Police Department took note, and James was honored with a citation. Commissioner Ed Davis highlighted his “extraordinary show of character and honesty.” And, according to NPR, an online fund has raised more than $64,000 for James as a sort of reward for his altruism. The missing money, by the …

September 16th, 2013
The first papal phone, donated to Pope Pius XI by Catholics in the United States, was used for decades until the end of Pope John XXIII's pontificate. (CNS photo)

The first papal phone, donated to Pope Pius XI by Catholics in the United States, was used for decades until the end of Pope John XXIII’s pontificate. (CNS photo)

When my class of high school students wrote to the president, I had high hopes. I could see it now: I get a stately letter — very official looking — and gingerly open it to find a beautiful handwritten note from Barack Obama himself. It would be the ultimate fist bump, one you could frame and brag about for years. Well, no such thing happened. We got a generic letter, an electronic signature, and a picture of Bo, the dog, which was a nice touch. I framed it anyway. While I’ve given up my quest for a presidential letter, I’m not entirely ready to throw in the towel. Lately, I’ve been thinking I should start writing to Pope Francis.

The world has been watching as the pope has made a number of phone calls to people who have written to him: an Italian man whose brother was murdered, a doorman at the Jesuit mother house in Rome, and the pope’s shoemaker and newspaper deliveryman in Argentina. The most recent

September 10th, 2013

back-to-schoolboy-2Writing as a 29-year-old adult with a full-time job, I am pleased to no longer be in school. I’ve put in my time (22 consecutive years of class), played the degree game and am happily out of it unscathed. While there is much I do miss about returning to school, I am comfortably enjoying the fruits of my labor. Tonight, I write in a carefree manner, watching my beloved Red Sox and eating Ruffles potato chips. I have no homework and fear not midterms, finals, or font size on long papers. Until I had that diploma in hand, it seemed like every hour of every day meant something was due to someone and they were going to judge me on it; and those judgments seemed like all that mattered toward happiness at the time.

Additionally, starting college, I was really confused about this new thing called a salad bar. There were too many lettuce options. What is kale? And why am I guilted into low-fat raspberry vinaigrette when a solid ranch option sits idly by? And because everything is weighed, how come I am now valuing croutons over my beloved (yet denser) cucumbers?

Yet as the product …

September 6th, 2013

world's-endEdgar Wright and Simon Pegg, the duo behind Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz, have done it again with The World’s End. Clever and biting, the film offers up a less bland version of the “man-child stuck in the past” edge that we’ve already seen in this summer’s The Hangover Part III and Grown-Ups 2 with an excellent sci-fi twist that’s straight out of Invasion of the Body Snatchers. The World’s End starts out as a movie about a man desperate to re-live his youth by means of a 12-bar pub crawl. It morphs into a tale of robots who aren’t robots and humanity facing off against a galactic threat, but at its heart the film is always a story about humanity’s flaws and imperfections, embodied particularly in Simon Pegg’s character, Gary King.

King, in brief, is a screwup. He’s an oblivious 30-something who never moved past his “cool kid” days in high school, and still lives his life as though he’s the same rebellious teen he was then, drinking his days away with no regard for himself or anyone else. But when everything hits the wall and he suddenly comes face-to-face with just how bad his life has …

September 5th, 2013

Pope Francis caught even BuzzFeed’s attention over the weekend when expressing his views on possible foreign intervention in Syria via Twitter:

War never again! Never again war!

— Pope Francis (@Pontifex) September 2, 2013

We want a peaceful world, we want to be men and women of peace.

— Pope Francis (@Pontifex) September 2, 2013

How much suffering, how much devastation, how much pain has the use of arms carried in its wake.

— Pope Francis (@Pontifex) September 2, 2013

And to hammer home the point that the Catholic Church is against launching missiles into Syria, bishops here in the United States have launched a campaign of sorts against a possible war. In an e-mail blast, bishops implored Catholics to:

Contact your two U.S. Senators and your Representative and urge them to vote against a resolution authorizing the use of military force in Syria. Instead, ask them to support U.S. leadership, in collaboration with the international community, for an immediate ceasefire in Syria and serious, inclusive negotiations for peace.

So, what’s actually going in Syria?

If you have some time, check out this breakdown from the Washington Post, but here’s the gist. The ruler of Syria, Bashar al-Assad, is …

September 4th, 2013
Pope Francis asks us to fast for peace in Syria this Saturday, September 7

A Syrian Muslim girl stands at the top of Mount Qassioun, which overlooks Damascus. (CNS/Khaled al-Hariri/Reuters)

A Syrian Muslim girl stands at the top of Mount Qassioun, which overlooks Damascus. (CNS/Khaled al-Hariri/Reuters)

“I appeal strongly for peace, an appeal which arises from the deep within me. How much suffering, how much devastation, how much pain has the use of arms carried in its wake in that martyred country, especially among civilians and the unarmed! I think of many children will not see the light of the future! With utmost firmness I condemn the use of chemical weapons: I tell you that those terrible images from recent days are burned into my mind and heart.” — Pope Francis

With the recent revelations that chemical weapons have been used in Syria’s civil war, the United States has been clear about how seriously it takes these human rights violations. Over the weekend, Secretary of State John Kerry reported that Syria’s government has used sarin gas against its own people.

To be clear, Pope Francis also abhors these human rights violations.

President Obama will be asking congress to authorize a military attack against the Syrian regime that will be tactical in nature. “No boots on the ground” has been the promise from the president, but rather, a narrow military strike. …

August 30th, 2013
Hang on for a roller coaster ride that will leave you blessed

let go and screamMy first ride on a roller coaster was on The Comet at Hershey Park. I think I was about 10. I remember my mother yelling worriedly at my uncle, who was riding with me, to hold on to me tightly. The experience was frightening, reckless, erratic, stomach churning and… phenomenal! It began a 35-year love affair that is as fresh now as it was then. Not so for many of my friends who had their fling with thrill-seeking rides and called it quits because of age or doubts about keeping down lunch.

So, here I am, a man of a certain age. I’ve gained more than a bit of weight and lost more than a bit of naiveté. I’ve had my first major surgery and enough health issues to remind me that I’m not as supple as I used to be. I have a wiser view of who I am. And who I am is looking better and better to me — better than the man I once thought I should be. Through it all, the experience of the roller coaster has always attracted me.

Anyone who knows me knows that I love adventurous rides about as much as …

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