Busted Halo

Caitlin Kennell Kim, seminary grad, baby wrangler, ordinary radical, writes about the life of a convert in the Catholic Church and explores how faith and everyday life intersect.

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December 13th, 2012

Mary and the Child Jesus are depicted in this painting “Madonna and Child.”(CNS/Art Resource/Metropolitan Museum of Art)

This Advent, I am remembering how I came to love (really love) Our Lady. I am remembering an Advent about five years ago when a very pregnant me sat across a gargantuan desk from a stern-faced doctor tossing phrases around like “never be able to carry to term” and “lungs will not function” like he was ordering a meal from a drive-thru window. I remember the anger — the deep and desperate anger — that coursed through me as I tried to understand why God would allow such a thing to happen. I remember feeling like I couldn’t pray. Me — the third-year seminarian who had been trained to pray with individuals and communities in pain. I remember the first time I asked Mary to intercede for me … clutching the medal of Our Lady of Guadalupe that hung from my neck, my face leaning against the cold bus window in complete defeat as hot tears surged down my face. I remember asking her to put the ache that pulsed through every part of me — the aftershocks of a mother’s heart rent …

December 3rd, 2012

A mother holds her children during Mass at Jesus the Divine Word Church in Huntingtown, Maryland. (CNS photo/Bob Roller)

Advent is a time for cultivating our patience in anticipation of Christmas and the coming of Christ. What more fitting way to welcome the infant Jesus into our hearts (and to practice patience) than to go out of our way to celebrate the presence of children at Mass! Here are some tips for folks with and without kids for making Mass a welcoming place for the little ones who are so dear to Jesus.…

Tips for Parents

Feed Them: Little people who are too young to receive Holy Communion are not obligated to fast before Mass. So feed them! I recommend a big breakfast with lots of protein and easy on the sugar. Nobody finds it easy to sit still on an empty stomach.
Sit Up Front: Imagine attending a liturgy (or a play or concert, for that matter) where you couldn’t see what was going on. It would be hard to pay attention, wouldn’t it? Sit as close to the front as you can. You can quietly explain what all of the objects in the sanctuary are (the tabernacle, the

November 26th, 2012

It started out as a perfectly mundane shopping trip. Our youngest (nearly one) sat in the front of the cart and our two oldest (two and a half and four, respectively) were riding in the basket. I was at the helm. It was last winter and we were shopping for sweaters. Our oldest was calling out the color of each sweater on the rack. His sisters clapped with hearty approbation. A woman approached me and, with more than a soupçon of disbelief and disgust, asked me, “Are those all yours?”

“Yes,” I replied, “These are all mine.” She stopped. She stared. She shook her head and clucked her tongue in disapproval. She walked away. I prayed (Oh, Lord did I pray) for the self-control to not pummel her with the diaper bag and assail her with language below the dignity of Christian womanhood. I bit my tongue. Our oldest looked up at me with hurt and confusion. “It’s ok,” I said. “We’re ok.”

Yes, by today’s standards, our family is (kind of) big. Yes, our children are relatively close in age. Yes, we are a large, loud, interracial, Catholic family. And watch out, by the grace of God, we might …

November 19th, 2012

On the eve of our daughter’s third birthday, she and I spent hours in the kitchen baking bread. We mixed. We kneaded. We waited. We shaped the dough. We carefully opened the oven door just enough to fill ourselves up with the smell of baking bread. We got flour in our hair. We made a mess of epic proportions. It was beautiful — her little hands and my not-so-little hands working and playing and creating something good and wholesome together. It was almost prayer.

I have always found bread making to be an intensely spiritual endeavor. Somehow flour, water, yeast and salt — the most common and mundane of ingredients — are combined to make something warm and hearty and magical. A miracle. A little “ex nihilo” creation right in my kitchen. It is sensual. It requires creativity and attention and patience and hope. It yields something good and wholesome. It has the ability to nourish, to comfort, to provide a moment of reprieve from all of the coldness and harshness that bombards us out there in the world. I love bread. A lot. And what I love about bread is not so different from what I love …

November 5th, 2012

(CNS photo/Gary Cameron, Reuters)

It is an unseasonably warm morning in Northeastern Ohio. The pickles Kim (shorthand for the three little people who live at our house) are running wild in a choppy sea of motley leaves. (Raking is on the list. The list is long.) I ask our 4-year-old — the one loping around with a Tyrannosaurus Rex strapped across his torso in a self-styled Baby Bjorn whilst brandishing a stick/pirate sword — what I should write about voting. Without stopping, without so much as lowering his wooden scabbard he yells, “Tell everyone about how you love God.” Not bad, Captain Dino-Daddy. Not bad at all.

I love God. And this makes voting complicated. I don’t mean to be disingenuous. I am not an undecided voter … at all. What I’m trying to say is that neither of the candidates stands in line with the totality of Catholic moral teaching. Neither one of them perfectly conforms to the beautiful vision of Blessed John Paul II’s “culture of life.” Neither one of them has put forward a foreign policy that adequately addresses the most dire human rights issues facing our world. Neither one of them has addressed grave problems plaguing …

October 29th, 2012
A convert's guide to an eerily Catholic Halloween

Growing up most of the kids I knew from Christian families weren’t allowed to celebrate Halloween. Here are a few thoughts on the meaning of this Catholic celebration (yes, really!) and why it matters.

H — Holy. That’s right, folks. Halloween is a derivation of “All Hallows’ Eve” aka “All Saints’ Eve” aka “the vigil of All Saints’ Day”… a Holy Day of Obligation for Catholic Christians. All Saints’ Day is a celebration of the holy saints in heaven who were exemplars of Christ’s love in life and now enjoy the eternal reward of heaven. The saints are our sisters and brothers in faith who pray for us. Let’s feast them well! Why not try making it to a vigil mass this year before the festivities begin?

A — Ancient. The traditions of Halloween date back to the beginning of the Church. In fact, many of them pre-date the birth of Christ. The pagan and pre-Christian traditions of many cultures have been woven into the tapestry of the Catholic faith. This, by far, is one of my favorite things about being Catholic. It is not necessary for a culture to be obliterated or brought into conformity with any universal set …

October 21st, 2012

My dad is the king of Sunday morning. When I was growing up, Sunday was a day of ritual and beauty. Also, it should be noted that it had nothing to do with church or putting on fussy clothes or being anywhere at any particular time. It was about waking up to the smell of eggs cooking on the stove. (And not just eggs – dad eggs. These involved throwing random things from the refrigerator and freezer into the skillet to create awesomeness. I have tried this. Apparently it’s dad-specific magic.) It was about padding down to the living room in my jammies to find John Wayne or Judy Garland waiting to take me on some new adventure as I snuggled up on the couch and was issued a bowlful of eggs as provisions for my journey. It was about my dad taking his place in his big green chair to serve as my trusty guide. It was about family and digging in your heels to make time pass a little slower for just one day and enjoying each other… really and intentionally enjoying each other. It was Shabbat Shalom par excellence.

Now I have a family of my …

October 15th, 2012

Both of my parents believe in God. I can’t say much more about what they believe because religious beliefs are so idiosyncratic and personal and tangled up in who a person is deep down in their marrow it seems presumptuous to try to articulate any but one’s own. Also, to be perfectly frank, my parents very seldom shared these beliefs with me. We did not go to church. We did not pray as a family. We did not read the Bible. I had the freedom to discover God on my own. And even though there were times when I wanted to go to church and I wanted to learn more about the Christian God cryptically entwined in the pages of the Bible my mother had received as a child, I am thankful for this. I am thankful for the freedom to feel that God is mine to know… mine to discover.

And then high school happened. Like any self-respecting American teenager, I set out to rebel against the mores of my parents… my once-hippie, liberal parents. I started attending a Pentecostal church with a friend. I joined an Evangelical Bible study club at school. It made my mother crazy. To …

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