February 14th — why is it known as Valentine’s Day? Why do those in love send each other valentines? And what feast does the Catholic Church celebrate on this day? Think you know the answers? Think again, because the truth is a lot more surprising than you’d imagine. Watch friend of Busted Halo, Fr. Jack Collins, CSP, wander the streets of New York asking the city’s star-crossed lovers if they know why we celebrate Valentine’s Day.
What is Lent? What are the three practices the Church suggests we do during Lent based on the teachings of Jesus? Why do Catholics eat fish on Fridays and why is it called “Good” Friday, anyway? Fr. Jack Collins, CSP, is once again hitting the streets, this time on Ash Wednesday near St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York, asking these questions and more.
Looking for a quick way to explain Ash Wednesday to your friends? Look no further than Busted Halo’s® two-minute video that describes the day which begins the season of Lent, and why Catholics and many Christians receive ashes on their foreheads.
Bipolar disorder, depression, obsession, loss and isolation — not topics that you would think add up to an Oscar-nominated love story. But Silver Linings Playbook shines a light into the dark corners of life that we often try to ignore and balances them with touching moments of connection and healing. Not to mention healthy doses of football and dancing. David O. Russell, the film’s writer and director, uses humor and empathy to draw attention to serious issues in a story about a flawed man who transforms his life with the help of love and family.
When we meet Pat Solitano, played by Bradley Cooper, he has had a rough year. He spent eight months in a mental institution being treated for bipolar disorder. His unfaithful wife has left him and he has no job. Pat’s endgame — to win back the love of his estranged wife — is misguided, but it gets him out of bed in the morning. It’s only after he meets Tiffany, a young widow with her own mental health issues played by Jennifer Lawrence, that Pat realizes he needs to change course. Tiffany and Pat lean on one another, celebrate small victories, and somehow manage to mend each other’s hearts.
That’s the movie in a nutshell. But there’s another important aspect to the film. Pat is not alone before he meets Tiffany. The one constant in his life is, and always has been, his family — specifically, his parents — and the healing power of family can never be underestimated. It can help center and ground you when you’re adrift. The devotion and support that Pat’s family shows, the lengths the Solitanos go to in order to save their son, are humanity at its best, and it’s the part of the movie that most resonated for me.
There’s always family
Pat is not alone before he meets Tiffany. The one constant in his life is, and always has been, his family — specifically, his parents — and the healing power of family can never be
Tomorrow, the U.S. senator from Massachusetts and 2004 Democratic presidential nominee John Kerry will be sworn in as Secretary of State, taking control as Hillary Clinton begins the next chapter of her very public life. Clinton visited more than 120 countries and racked up one million miles of travel. She introduced a refreshing sort of diplomacy, bringing American soft power to the people, hosting Q&A events with everyday folk in the countries she visited, paying special attentions to issues that affect the lives of the most vulnerable, women, and children.
Kerry, a Catholic, begins his tenure as the nation’s chief diplomat at a time when international flare-ups abound and pressures on the United States at home and abroad are great. He will face the well-known crises of civil war in Syria, the faltering transition to democracy in Egypt, human rights abuses and currency manipulation in China, and a litany of other high stakes affairs.
What, though, are some of the other challenges that Kerry might bring back into the spotlight? Could his faith guide him toward advancing human rights in the forgotten places where U.S. involvement might help individuals lead more dignified lives? Below are five suggestions that the new Secretary might consider.
Standing with the people of Cuba
Last year, Pope Benedict visited this island nation 120 miles off the coast of Florida, following the visit of his predecessor, John Paul II, calling for reform and criticizing policies, both internal and external, that keep the Cuban people poor and curb freedom. While minor reforms from the Castro brothers offer some semblance of hope that change may be on the way, the United States should consider policies that help encourage reform, including even greater travel rights and the loosening of trade embargoes.
Refocusing on Haiti
It was three years ago that 250,000 Haitians perished in a devastating earthquake, but progress in rebuilding has been slow and painful. Catholic Relief Services offers a collection of stories about the hope that Catholics on the island have brought, and much work remains. Haiti is …
What do I miss most about the Camino? If I had to choose just one thing, I’d say, “The simplicity of it all.” More specifically, the fact that there was just one item on my to-do list most days: walk.
“How far did you walk each day?” people ask.
“Twelve to 15 miles in the beginning, but sometimes I did up to 18.”
They are left speechless — a blank stare on their face. “But it’s all I had to do each day,” I tell them. “If you had all day to walk, you could walk that far, too.”
I was reminded of that sentiment last fall when I saw a painting of blue and green mountains. Across the top it read, “Everywhere is within walking distance if you have the time.”
And that’s what it’s about: time. And what we choose to fill it with. How much of it we choose to fill. In his Life’s Little Instruction BookH. Jackson Brown advises us:
“Don’t say you don’t have enough time. You have exactly the same number of hours per day that were given to Helen Keller, Pasteur, Michaelangelo, Mother Teresa, Leonardo da Vinci, Thomas Jefferson, and Albert Einstein.”
To which I want to say, “Yes, but they didn’t have the Internet, e-mail, and a little device that allowed people to interrupt them at any time of the day or night.”
I know — I can turn off my cell phone; I can limit the time I spend on the Internet; I can choose to only read my e-mail when I have time to sit and respond. (Yes — I still get e-mails to which I need to respond. I know this is rare for most people.)
As I looked at my calendar last week, I longed for a simpler life. It’s my own doing, of course. I could learn to say no more often. To my credit, I say “no” more than I used to — sometimes even without guilt.
But what is it that makes us feel like we need each moment …
Three years after college graduation Mark Irons is asking, Now what? He hits the streets of New York City with a camcorder to see if other young people are asking some of the same questions. More importantly, how did they go about making the big decisions in their lives?
Warning: This article contains some spoilers about the movie.
It’s the perfect Hollywood plot: “the story of history’s greatest manhunt for the world’s most dangerous man.” You couldn’t ask for a more sinister villain — Osama bin Laden, the man responsible for history’s worst terrorist attack on the American people. And even before its release, controversy surrounded the film. Does the movie take a pro-torture stance? (Director Kathryn Bigelow responded to these accusations for the first time this week.)Did the filmmakers have access to classified materials during their research of the film? Is it a docu-drama or a work of fiction? Hollywood loves this type of publicity because it draws attention to a film and helps sell the story. It certainly piqued my interest and I was curious to see how the filmmakers interpreted the real life drama for the big screen.
Zero Dark Thirty did not disappoint. Look, we all know the ending. Bin Laden is killed. Yet I was on the edge of my seat the entire movie, along with the rest of the audience. You could hear a pin drop in the theater. I was expecting a Hollywood action thriller, and those elements were there, but what took me by surprise was the underlying story of faith and perseverance.
For nine years Maya is steadfast in her belief that this man will lead her to bin Laden; she doesn’t give up even when other CIA intelligence suggests otherwise. I was moved by her determination and commitment to her mission, even when those around her lost faith. It would have been easy to give up and walk away, let someone else take a turn.
Maya, the film’s protagonist played by Jessica Chastain, who won a Golden Globe for her performance, has spent her career as a young CIA agent gathering intelligence related to al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden. A detainee reveals the name of a man working as a personal courier for bin Laden. For nine years, Maya follows this lead, unearthing any information she …
Once upon a time there was a Mary. No, not that Mary. A different one. This Mary lived in Egypt at the end of the fourth century. She made her way across the better part of the ancient near east by trading sexual favors to pilgrims for food and lodging. She boasted heartily about her ability to seduce and, if legend bears any truth, her licentiousness knew no bounds (seriously).
Once she followed a procession of pilgrims bearing a piece of the True Cross through Jerusalem to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. Donned in clothes meant to advertise her sexual availability, she sauntered among the pilgrims in search of her next conquest. When the procession reached the door of the church, she was barred from entering by a powerful and inexplicable force. Her eyes fell upon on image of the Blessed Virgin Mary and her heart instantly overflowed with humility, love, and repentance. Mary of Egypt (St. Mary of Egypt, to be precise) was suddenly able to enter the church where she worshipped God fervently and joyfully. She was allowed in as she was — dressed in a way meant to elicit lust. She was compelled to enter by that same force which, only moments before, had prevented her entry. She came in with a heart clothed in contrition, adoration, and surrender. She came clothed in dignity.
I have heard many good and holy people express a myriad of prescriptions for proper and modest dress at Mass. Some have told me that it is immodest for a woman to show her shoulders at Mass. Others baulk at hemlines above the knee. Still others suggest that any blouse that reveals a woman’s collarbone is unacceptable. I have heard a few suggest that pants and uncovered hair for ladies is tantamount to scandalizing the clergy. Immodest dress — especially at Mass — is offensive to God. (At this point I am just barely containing my overwhelming desire to launch into a lengthy and unapologetically venomous diatribe about how all …
This weekend, up to 800,000 people will converge on Washington, D.C., to celebrate President Barack Obama’s second inauguration, down from the 1.5 million who braved bitter cold four years ago but more than the second-term crowds greeting his two predecessors.
There’s less palpable excitement this time around, for sure, but there’s still the sense of a new beginning, hope for cooperation and work that will address some of our nation’s challenges.
What, I wonder, will those 800,000 individuals hope for from Obama’s second term? Each person there, I imagine, has his or her own wish list for the president. Here’s part of mine.
Comprehensive Immigration Reform
The President owes his reelection, in large part, to the overwhelming support he and his fellow Democrats received from Latino voters. The Republican Party realizes that their future is bleak without attracting some of this key bloc, so their leaders are ready to do something to get back in the game. The time is ripe for comprehensive immigration reform. People of faith, including Catholics and other Christians, have an important part to play in this conversation. We must advocate for immigration policies that enhance human dignity, uphold the primacy of the family, and create opportunities for those already living and contributing to our communities. The President should use his cache with the Latino community and his mandate from voters to push for an immigration bill that finds a path to citizenship for the 11 million undocumented people already here, fixes loopholes to keep families of all kinds together, and secures the safety of those living in border states.
Strengthening Small Business and the Middle Class
Small business and the middle class remain the backbone of the American economy and yet both seem to be headed toward oblivion as the upper classes consolidate their wealth and squeeze out the remaining capital. Both the Democrats and the Republicans seem unable or unwilling to make the difficult decisions that will strengthen the middle class and provide relief for small businesses. President Obama managed to raise tax rates on …
“So how far are you planning to walk today?” was a question often heard on the Camino.
In the early days of my walk to Santiago, I knew the answer. I had an Excel spreadsheet that listed all the towns in which I planned to stop and the distances between them — in both miles and kilometers. I printed it on purple paper before I left home so I could easily find it, usually stuffed in the middle of my guidebook. “It’s just a rough idea,” I told fellow pilgrims who saw it.
My plan was to ease into long distances. I did five miles on my first day into the Pyrenees. I crossed into Spain on my second day — walking 10 miles. My goal for the third day: 13 miles. But I didn’t follow my plan. I followed Vincenzo. Or, more accurately, his advice.
Vincenzo had walked the Camino twice before. He looked at my purple paper and told me not to stop in Zubiri as I’d planned. He said it wasn’t a very nice town and that instead I should walk on to Larrasoana. So I did. I walked 17 miles that day — more than I’d planned to walk in any single day on the Camino. And my body would soon revolt.
Two days later, I swung my legs onto the ladder to climb down from my top bunk. As soon as I put weight on my left foot I knew I was in trouble. Pain shot through my Achilles tendon. I almost fell off the ladder. Oh no, I thought. I didn’t know if I could walk to the bathroom to brush my teeth, let alone walk the trail to Santiago.
I packed my bag and limped out the door. There I found a few other pilgrims getting a later start. We decided to delay even further and have some breakfast at a local cafe. While there, I accepted their wisdom and their natural healing products. I also popped two Ibuprofen and paced around attempting to stretch out my Achilles tendon — I convinced …
In any normal, and might I add boring, cinematic year, the results of the past week’s Golden Globe and Critics’ Choice awards would strongly indicate this year’s big Academy Award winner for Best Director and Best Picture will be Ben Affleck and his 1980s Iranian hostage crisis rescue-film, Argo. But Affleck was snubbed at last week’s Oscar nominations (along with Kathryn Bigelow, among others,) so despite Argo winning both Director and Best Picture prizes at these latest awards shows, the field remains (sort-of) wide open. Now critics, fans and those in the industry can all finally agree on one thing: that this is one of the most interesting, exciting and hard to predict Awards Seasons in years (excluding Daniel Day-Lewis and Anne Hathway, of course, who are virtual locks in their acting categories.)
But enough about predictions. Here at Busted Halo®, we don’t pride ourselves on prognosticating so much as we specialize in spirituality, even where Hollywood is concerned, and strive, as the Jesuits do, to find God in all things. So we present to you A Spiritual Side of Cinema, a guide to the religious and faith aspects of this year’s nominated films.
Ever wonder where God is in cinema these days? Well perhaps you haven’t seen a handful of this year’s Best Picture nominees. Beasts of the Southern Wild, Les Misérables, and Life of Pi are inherently spiritual films dealing with themes of redemption, salvation, forgiveness, and sacrifice. We’ll be delving deeper into these, specifically Life of Pi, in the coming weeks because honestly you can’t have an Oscar nominated film about a Catholic Muslim Hindu and not write about it in a dedicated Oscar blog on a spiritual website.
I’ve always been a person who doesn’t like to hear excuses. I don’t dismiss all excuses because some are completely valid and the situation is out of the person’s control. But, especially since I work at a high school, I believe most excuses are people slacking off and trying to get away with it.
Recently, though, Brandon and I were given the opportunity to coordinate a Marriage Preparation Weekend for engaged couples. This is a ministry we’ve always been interested in helping out with, so we jumped at the chance to be able to facilitate the weekend. We should have more seriously considered that we would have a 6-week-old at the time, but we were optimistic about our time management skills. As the weekend approached Brandon was freaking out that we didn’t have more of it planned. I kept saying, “Look, Brandon, we have a new baby and two older girls that never sleep in past 7 a.m. Cut us some slack.” At some point Brandon looked at me and said, “Stop giving me that excuse. We could have had all of this done before the baby, and we didn’t do it. Now we have to get it done. We don’t have an excuse. It has to get done.”
He was right. I am at a point in my life when I can give all the excuses in the world about why I don’t get things done and these excuses would be completely legitimate.
No, Brandon, I haven’t made out the grocery list. The girls have kept me busy.
No, Doctor, I haven’t been taking my vitamins. Things are just so busy at home.
No, Mom, I still haven’t folded the laundry I washed a week ago. Things have just been so crazy.
No, Dentist, I haven’t been flossing at night. I’m lucky to get my teeth brushed in the morning trying to get everyone ready.
Now, I am very busy, but that’s not the reason I haven’t done these things. I haven’t done them because I haven’t made them a priority and just gotten them done. …
Pretzels come in many flavors, shapes, and sizes — not unlike us. These treats are great with cheese or other dips or just by themselves. But have you stopped to consider they actually have an historical place in Lent?
If you take a moment to look at the typical twist pretzel, you can see that it is a model of the common prayer position from the early 600s of folding your arms over each other on your chest and putting your hands on your shoulders.
Pretzels were developed as an option to satisfy abstinence and fasting laws of the time. Eggs, fat, and milk were forbidden during Lent. So, the remaining ingredients that one could use included water, flour, and salt. A young monk baked the first pretzel — making a Lenten bread of water, flour, and salt, forming the dough into the prayer position of the day, and baking it as soft bread. These first pretzels would have been much like the soft pretzels we have today.
“These little breads were shaped in the form of arms crossed in prayer and were called bracellae (Latin, ‘little arms’). Among the Germans the word became ‘bretzel’. These pretzels were a common Lenten food throughout the Middle Ages in Europe, and became an all year round snack, in its original shape only in the last (19th) century.”
The suggestion of arms crossed in the form of prayer may have led to pretzels being given as a reward to young children when they could recite their prayers. Pretiola means little reward, which could also be a derivative of the term pretzel. The three holes in a pretzel are also said to represent the Holy Trinity.
After their invention, pretzels became a symbol of good luck, long life, and prosperity. They were commonly given to the poor and hungry. The legend of the hard pretzels that we snack on today tells of an apprentice baker who fell …
Seven-hundred and thirty-three million dollars. That’s how much the Washington Post estimates the two candidates spent on television advertising during this presidential election. Of that, just shy of $658 million was spent on negative ads, both President Barack Obama and Mitt Romney choosing to use their money to tear one another down about 90% percent of the time. And did it work? We feel divided, bitter, and cynical. (Note: The total spent by candidates, parties, and outside groups in this election will add up to some $2.6 billion.)
This morning, I suspect, half of us are happy and half disappointed or angry. It’s now clear that Barack Obama will serve a second term as President of the United States. But unlike in 2008, when he rode into office awash in a sea of triumphant enthusiasm, when the electorate, though perhaps divided, seemed generally to take pride in electing the nation’s first black president, 2012 finds Obama limping across the finish line, inheriting a bitterly divided nation with oppressively grave fiscal problems and a legislature that, by nearly all accounts, remains dysfunctional.
There is no antidote to help us heal quickly after such a bruising battle. Though it seems silly when we step back a bit, even our Thanksgiving dinners may be rife with partisan tension. Certain classmates or coworkers are probably as upset as you are happy with the results, or vice versa, and studies show that election results can have actual impacts on our mental and physical health.
So what can we do to move on?
First, recognize the sincere feelings and good intentions of those on the other side, whichever side that is, and don’t pick fights. Two of my close friends worked on rival sides, each with quite serious professional stakes should their candidate lose. Since I know both individuals well, I was able to be proud of their achievements and root for both of them, even though I knew one would be feeling pretty …
Why would a woman with serious doubts about her Catholic faith embark on a 480-mile pilgrimage trail across northern Spain? Maybe I’ll know by the time I finish. For now, the answer to that question is this: I just know it’s something I’m supposed to do. My gut, my intuition, my heart, my God (I use them all interchangeably) has never steered me wrong. From the moment I decided to take this journey, everything has fallen into place — as it usually does when you trust in God.
I will fully admit, however, that I had my doubts — and still do. Doubts not only about my ability to complete this pilgrimage, but also doubts about my faith — or perhaps, more accurately, the religion into which I’d been born. In Catholic elementary school, God played a role similar to a parent or teacher. He had rules for me to follow. There were consequences if I disobeyed. God had things to teach me, which I took to be true because kids believed adults. Still aiming to please adults in high school, I continued to do as my religion instructed — but started to question the reasoning behind it all. In college, the Jesuits were approachable and listened to my questions. They gave me the freedom to explore my religion.
I moved to Boston after college and became involved with a wonderful community at a parish associated with a university. Many of the parishioners who’d attended while in college continued to attend well after graduation — some even driving in from the suburbs to do so. During this time, God became a friend I could talk to, laugh with, and question. My relationship with God became a two-way conversation.
I could no longer be part of a religion that so blatantly ignored a huge problem all the way up the patriarchal chain, only to remain tight-lipped once it was exposed… I wanted no part of it.
Yet here I am, about to embark on a religious pilgrimage. How is
I really do. I can’t stand waiting for progress in people. You can call me a product of my generation. I need instant gratification. It’s not that I don’t want things to get better, it’s just hard to be patient enough to wait for it. I don’t want the excruciatingly slow army crawl toward a goal; I just want to arrive at it.
As newlyweds, Brandon and I found that this was the first big issue that came up in our marriage. I had such a hard time being patient with Brandon. In college, neither of us was particularly tidy or used to cooking. We went from living with our parents to a dorm room and dining hall for four years then a few years of us living in separate messy apartments eating a lot of cereal. After getting married we had no sense of what it took to keep a whole apartment clean, to cook food that was good for us, or even how to merge our stuff into a coherent home. Very quickly, most of our fights were about me wanting us to be a perfect married couple with a picture perfect home and routine. I tried endlessly to develop good housekeeping habits in us but I had no patience with how long it takes to develop a habit. I just wanted Brandon and I to become perfect overnight.
Up until we had kids, I didn’t know how to work on projects slowly over time. I, instead, would kill myself working on something obsessively until it was done. In high school it was reading whole books in one night before the test. In college it was writing 10-page papers in five hours, hitting print, and sprinting to class. While teaching, it was letting papers stack up for weeks and then spending 18 hours straight grading them.
If I was God watching me go through these scenarios day after day, year after year, I’m pretty sure I would have hit me over the head with something. Thankfully God was more merciful than that. …
Mourners gather at St. Rose of Lima Church for a vigil service in Newtown, Connecticut. (CNS photo/Andrew Gombert, pool via Reuters)
Enough. This is enough. I look at the faces of our three children — our son the same age as the youngest victims of Friday’s tragedy — and I declare that this is enough.
It is Advent, the season of hope. It is the season of making ourselves ready for the coming of Christ. We … our grieving sisters and brothers in Newtown, Connecticut, and all of us who keep watch with them and pray with them and weep with them … have witnessed a dark shadow descend over this season of light. We have seen the hopes and dreams of little children and the selfless adults charged with their care extinguished by an act of indescribable violence. Enough.
We are a people who walk in darkness. In the mire of wanton death and destruction, we scratch and fumble and claw for some glimpse of light. And we have seen a light … small and fierce … beginning to penetrate the gloom. We have seen the people of Newtown wrap their arms around each other in love and solidarity. We have seen the people of this country — people of all races, faiths and walks of life — express their care and support and outrage in the wake of Friday’s tragic events. We have seen an outpouring of love from all across the world. It is a precious ray of hope in this time of deep sadness. But love and goodwill (in and of themselves) are not enough.
We are called to recognize the fact that we have failed each other and to own the horror that our failure has been visited on the innocent among us. We — the grown-up people of this country — need to have the courage to engage in some difficult conversations.
We have heard a call. Terrible and deafening. We have heard a call that must shake us to our bones. We are called …
As you probably know from this Busted Halo video, Advent for many Christians is a time of joyful preparation and longing for Christmas. During this season, we are called to spend time with family, reflect on the blessings we enjoy in our lives, discern how we might help others, and set aside time to find peace during an otherwise hectic and stressful few weeks.
It was within this context, during the second week of Advent, that I read with horror — on Twitter as it happened — that a masked gunman opened fire in a suburban Oregon shopping mall, spreading terror, and ultimately killing two individuals before succumbing to gunfire himself.
Last week, a member of the NFL’s Kansas City Chiefs, Jovan Belcher, shot and killed his girlfriend and then drove to Arrowhead Stadium where he shot himself in the head in front of his coach, another player and the team’s general manager.
Over the summer, a young man wearing full body armor entered a crowded movie theatre in Aurora, Colorado, during a midnight screening of The Dark Knight Rises. He threw canisters of tear gas into the audience and used several guns to fire indiscriminately into the crowd. Twelve people died and 58 others were injured.
Despite all this, despite the nearly 12,000 individuals killed by guns in the United States, which is guided by the National Rifle Association, an organization that spends hundreds of millions of dollars each year promoting a robust gun culture, gun rights advocates are quick to claim that more guns on the streets make us safer. They claim that families need guns in their homes to protect themselves and that assault weapons must be available for hunting enthusiasts.
A gun in the house minimally doubles the risk that a household member will kill himself or herself. (Some studies put the increase in suicide risk as high as 10 times.) An American is 50% more likely to be shot dead by …