Busted Halo
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July 24th, 2014

Are you overwhelmed planning your annual summer vacation? We’ve narrowed down the list of places to visit to the best spots in the U.S. of A. with saintly names. Take your family somewhere new and exciting, but make it a learning experience too! These places have loads of history, as well as good eats and fun activities.

St. Louis, Missouri 
The city was named for Louis IX of France, the only canonized king of France. In fact, many other places are named for him in addition to this “Gateway to the West.” Louis IX thought of himself as the “lieutenant of God on earth” and died during his second crusade. If you visit the city, you certainly will find plenty to do. For a spiritual adventure, visit the Black Madonna…

July 22nd, 2014

Sometimes the most simple and repetitive moments can lead to something extraordinary. I had volunteered at the St. John of the Cross garage sale for many years, and had never thought about the impact that my volunteering might be having on others. A sunny Saturday in 2004 was when I met Lynda, a woman who would become like a grandmother to me.
The St. John of the Cross School transforms one person’s unwanted item into another’s treasures. A math classroom becomes a jewelry store. A history classroom becomes an art gallery, and so on. About 200 volunteers work hard for a whole week before the garage sale even begins, making the necessary preparations. People drop off their unwanted items at the door, and volunteers…

July 18th, 2014
How volunteering provided clarity for my career

Stacking mountains of canned goods might be considered more of a backbreaking activity than a life-changing one. I was not looking for “life-changing” when I volunteered at my parish food pantry in Chicago a few years ago. I had prayed that getting lost in the canned goods would provide some distraction while I figured out my career path.
I signed on for a four-hour volunteer commitment each week. The first day I arrived at the pantry, I was not sure what to expect. Volunteering in a food pantry or a homeless shelter is not an activity I did with my youth group or even as an undergrad in college. Social justice work was what other people did while I was busy pursuing a career in journalism. Through all of my 20s, I was…

July 16th, 2014

The summer entering my sophomore year of high school was a bittersweet one. I was transferring from my public high school to the Catholic one in the area. I was mad, but wanted to cherish the summer with my neighborhood friends. In order to graduate from St. Thomas, I had to complete 60 hours of community service, and I decided to get it out of the way that summer.
There was a farm down the street from my house which I started volunteering at three days a week. It was a community-supported agriculture (CSA) farm — this means that through funding and volunteer work from the community, we were able to enjoy fresh veggies all growing season. I thought, and still think, that this is a spectacular concept. CSAs teach us the importance…

July 14th, 2014

It’s summertime! That means beaches,
barbecues,
long-awaited vacations and …
volunteering?
We already know all the things that make summer so wonderful, but this year, why not add something new to that list?
Don’t know where to start?
 
Here are five easy ways to find your volunteering niche this summer:

Clean House and Take Action

Go through your pantry and fill a box with nonperishable goods that you could do without. Summer is actually the time of year when food pantry activity is at its highest, since children don’t have access to school lunch and breakfast programs. Now, instead of just dropping the box off at your local food pantry, schedule time to volunteer. There are plenty…

June 20th, 2014
How to pick your team for World Cup 2014

Having trouble picking a team to root for in this year’s World Cup? As the competition heats up, here’s a guide (broken down by World Cup groups) to some of the teams’ Catholic roots.
BRAZIL (Group A)…
Not only is Brazil the host country of World Cup 2014, but for centuries Catholicism has been the biggest religion in the country. Brazilians threw one heck of a party for Pope Francis on Copacabana beach last summer during World Youth Day, and that might be enough reason to give them your support. The team has a player named Hulk who gives them a clear edge. He was recently injured and is muddling through the tournament. But you can’t keep a Hulk down for too long. By the way, there’s a huge statue of Jesus in Rio de

June 17th, 2014
Two years in a row huge crowds have descended upon Rio de Janeiro to celebrate faith (2013) and soccer (now). Can you tell the difference?

It is happening again. Nearly a year after Rio de Janeiro hosted World Youth Day, millions of screaming, face-painted, flag-waving fanatics have flocked to Brazil to fill up the streets and stadiums and make some noise. But this time it’s not the Catholic faith or Pope Francis inciting these pilgrims, but rather their love of a sport and the likes of Ronaldo, Suarez and Messi motivating them as they journey to worship at the altar of soccer, or as they call it all over the rest of the world, football, for the World Cup 2014. Noting the similarities in dress code and nationalistic pride between the two groups of pilgrims (or disciples, zealots, or supporters, depending on which vernacular you prefer…

June 9th, 2014
How walking across Spain for two weeks changed my life

There is a saying amongst pilgrims on the Camino de Santiago, Spain’s ancient pilgrimage path: “The real Camino doesn’t begin until you arrive back home.”
The place where we grew up is typically “home.” It’s an anchor, and we can always return to that physical location. But the thought of returning also brings up a sense of apprehension because home is usually, in some way, dysfunctional. It can be difficult to leave home and return when older, as a different person.
Starting at a young age, I emotionally ran away from the arguing and fighting dysfunction in my family. When college rolled around, I physically ran away from my hometown of Portland, Oregon, to Spokane, Washington, hoping to escape…

May 28th, 2014

I don’t remember the first time I made someone laugh, but I must have liked it. As a boy growing up in suburban Chicago, I watched David Letterman nightly with a devotion bordering on obsession. Sleep, school and grades were all sacrificed at the altar of Stupid Pet Tricks and Top Ten lists. The world of late night television seemed to be so contrary to the grim, hyper-organized world of school, which dominated my life with its obligations, tasks and duties. Late night was a world of irreverent pranks, loud music and fun conversation. This was a world I wanted to be a part of. Little did I know.
Before becoming a Jesuit, I spent the better part of my 20s as a struggling comedian, and I can tell you right now that a life…

May 7th, 2014

It is the time of the church year when we consider that a dead man came back to life and walked among us for 40 days. In the lingering energy of Easter’s festivities, I sat down to catch up on ABC’s new drama, Resurrection, which is set in a small town in Missouri where people begin to return from the grave.
The show began as a couple wrestled with the reappearance of their precious 6-year-old boy who had drowned decades earlier. In recent episodes, the town’s pastor must face the sudden return of his love who had committed suicide years earlier. The uniqueness of the series is grounded in human emotion. We witness the resurfacing of feelings that death had exacted in the lives of these characters, and the unravelling…

May 1st, 2014

High school students are entering a critical time of year — college acceptance/rejection letter season — when seniors find out where they got in and decide where they will attend in the fall. For most students, it marks the beginning of the biggest transition they’ve ever experienced in their life. But while you may be at the top of your class, the bottom or somewhere in-between, everyone is challenged by some bad habit or another when it comes to school. If you’re a high school junior or senior you may already be painfully aware of the bad habits that get you into trouble and make your life more difficult than it needs to be. The real danger with high school bad habits, though, is that they often…

April 15th, 2014

It is easy to share the personal highlight reel of my life, but I will stutter if you ask me the last time I truly felt vulnerable. I enjoy being independent and do not ask for help from others unless I am put in a tough spot. The first time I purchased a car on my own my parents offered financial assistance, but instead of accepting their offer, I picked up extra jobs to save up. When I was in college, I paid for my own tuition with scholarships and by working part-time. Like many young adults, I take pride in my independence and find it jarring to be put in a position where I have to ask for help.
That all changed when I was in a car accident this winter. The wheels that carried me to work and social outings and on road trips were no more.…

March 20th, 2014
A look at the intersection of Catholic colleges and the NCAA College Basketball Tournament

As the Madness of March and college basketball descend upon the sporting world, once again there are many Catholic colleges in the mix. Over the years, Georgetown, Marquette, Gonzaga, Notre Dame and many other Catholic schools have been a part of the landscape that is men’s and women’s college basketball. Of the more than 350 schools that compete in Division 1 NCAA basketball, about 10 percent of them are affiliated with or classified as Catholic schools. And year after year, the presence of Catholic schools in the NCAA tournament stays true to the 10 percent, or more often exceeds it. This year, nine of the 68 teams in the men’s bracket are Catholic schools (13 percent) and seven of the 64 teams…

February 6th, 2014

This February brings about a very special time in the sports calendar that comes around only once every four years: the Winter Olympics. The coastal resort town of Sochi, Russia, has been selected to play host to the world this winter. There will likely be much fanfare and media attention given to the medalists and other contenders whose prominence transcends their own sport. Over the years, Kristi Yamaguchi, Peekaboo Street, and Shaun White have become names familiar to the U.S. Olympic enthusiast. Additionally, athletes competing in sports particularly popular during the Winter Games have become household names and a part of the pop cultural landscape, sometimes for the drama beyond the sport itself (think:…

February 5th, 2014
The connection between faith, writing and waiting

I just read a really terrific short story, and now I feel myself bobbing like a cork toward a deep dark cataract of despair. On the one hand, part of me truly delights in this well-crafted, mysterious piece of prose by a writer of growing renown. At the same time, though, the marvelment I feel is coated in a very thick layer of, not envy exactly, but a sense of comparative professional inadequacy. I stare at the pages in my hands like I’m trying to decipher hieroglyphs, and I ask myself: How did he do that? How did he write something so subtle and memorable and complex? Why can’t I do that? When will I be able to do that? Will I ever?
I say that I’m floating toward a deep dark cataract of despair — deep and dark, yes,…

February 3rd, 2014

Lonely blue jays and cardinals mark the days of midwinter, spreading color sparingly with their fretted flights above browned lawns and bare, grey trees. Even silver-haired snowbirds are growing weary of southern hibernation and long to return to the blooming laughter and hustle of families and children along street corners, park benches and backyard barbecues.
The world moves with stiff joints and shallow breaths through mornings where the step from bed feels like an arctic swim, while our motivation to change seems as stuck as a Prius on the Pennsylvania Turnpike in an ice storm. With many weeks of cold still ahead, we are already growing irritated with wool coats, early evening’s darkness, frosted windshields…

January 29th, 2014

January is drawing to a close, which means football season is as well. For some, this is a bittersweet time, full of Super Bowl fervor followed by a hollowness that cannot be filled until the draft starts up in May (or at least until SportsCenter begins avidly discussing new prospects later in February). But for others, myself included, the Super Bowl is a time of dread. This year, with Super Bowl XLVIII coming to my city, I cannot be less enthusiastic about a bunch of burly men rolling around on some fake grass. And with a snowy polar vortex in full swing, I think we already have enough to worry about without traffic jams, crazed fans, and the “NFL Experience” taking over the New York metropolitan area.
If you’re…

January 27th, 2014

We often hear of things being super, but how super are they really? Superstorm Sandy was not any fun for people in the Northeast. Superman isn’t even a real human person, only a character of comic and film fiction. And the Super Mario Bros. don’t have anything on me and my two brothers. (Please… we can jump higher and grow better mustaches.) But the Super Bowl? That might actually be worthy of being called “super.”
It’s Super Pop Cultural
Although the Super Bowl is really just a football game, is it so much more than that. The Super Bowl is one of the most watched athletic events on television every year. It carries with it many pop subcultures. Super Bowl commercials are often more watched and talked…

January 15th, 2014
Making the most of a day off courtesy of Mother Nature

When I was a teacher, I used to view snow days very differently. Each time school was called off, I’d feel like I was back in my twin-sized bed, under flannel sheets, in my Garfield nightgown, with my mom peeking through my bedroom door to deliver the good news before going to work. Few experiences could transport me back to childhood so quickly in my adult life as having a snow day, even if I was the one, now, in front of a room full of squirrelly students saying, “Let’s not get ahead of ourselves. We’ll have to listen to the news tomorrow morning,” secretly praying for school to be called off and just as excited.
In my years after teaching, I started working another job and began commuting to work. Snow days quickly…

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