Busted Halo
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October 26th, 2011
Is Halloween really the holiday from Hell?

From my high school students this time of year I often get a lot of questions like this:
“Mr. H., why are we celebrating Halloween? I mean, isn’t it a pagan/demonic/commercial holiday anyway?”
Well, let’s look at a tiny bit of the history of this ghoulish night of witches and goblins. Or is it a gleeful night for saints and angels? Let’s go way back to the 8th century, when a chapel dedicated to the memory of all the holy martyrs in Rome was declared. This feast, which happened to coincide with other pagan festivals — such as the Irish samhain… (pronounced “souwain”) celebrating the end of the harvest and the beginning of winter with a touch of playful remembrance

October 20th, 2011
Now available on DVD

The Way, written and directed by Emilio Estevez (Bobby) and starring his father, Martin Sheen (Apocalypse Now, The West Wing, The Departed), is rather obviously about the spiritual journey. The Camino de Santiago, called “The Way,” is a literal spiritual journey, a 1,000-year-old 500-mile pilgrimage route across the Pyrenees. The lead character Tom (Sheen) takes a physical journey to Spain and eventually on the Camino while also taking a spiritual journey starting with word that his son (Estevez) has died. Many of the other characters Tom meets along the way are on their own spiritual journeys, whether they are Camino pilgrims or not. 

Despite being built around a religious pilgrimage, however, The Way is not a “faith-based” film; rather, it is a movie about a human story, and the human story. There is no preaching; there are no soppy scenes meant to tug at the spiritual heartstrings. Estevez’s writing reveals a sophisticated understanding of the beautiful brokenness of people, the glorious absurdity of it all. One of the overarching themes is how Tom gets thrown together with other pilgrims. Not only was it his intent to travel alone, but if he were to travel with others, these are definitely not the others he would choose. But it is precisely through struggling with each other’s imperfections that we are challenged, pushed outside our comfort zone, and, sometimes, forced to grow spiritually whether we like it or not.

October 18th, 2011
One woman joins an artists' community organized by an unlikely character

I remember the first time I met Fr. Frank Sabatté. It was my junior year at the School Of Visual Arts and I was participating in a group show with two other artists. Me (the photographer) and two painters. The one thing we three had in common was that our work “explored the complexities of the erotic.” So imagine my surprise when a man walked up to me and announced he’s a priest. I found myself struggling to articulate that I was exploring the notion of sexual attraction. Fr. Frank listened with consideration, and before he left we exchanged cards. I thought for sure that was that.
A few weeks later I received an e-mail from Fr. Frank, a Paulist priest, inviting me to a group discussion on art and…

October 11th, 2011

In one of the opening shots of Machine Gun Preacher,… a member of warlord Joseph Kony’s Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) kneels a mother down before her child. He hands the child a club and screams something at him in his native language. The child, terrified, flinches every time the soldier screams at him, and keeps glancing at his mother who, with a quivering lip, nods at her child, eyes brimming with tears. The child looks back at the soldier, who lifts a gun to the child’s head and barks at him again. The child slowly lifts the club over his head, and looks for one last time into the eyes of his mother. He winds up and brings the club down with all his might. The screen goes black.
Later in the movie, viewers learn this child

September 30th, 2011

We’re a nation captivated by coupons. We see them advertised everywhere: Facebook, e-mails, and magazines. Apple has several apps specifically meant for coupon-lovers, and Groupon has certainly become a house-/apartment-hold name.
All of this is nothing, though, compared to the coupon use seen on TLC’s “Extreme Couponing.” For those not familiar, “Extreme Couponing” is exactly what it sounds like: a show that features people who spend hours searching for, printing, organizing, and then using their coupons. These people take great pride in their massive amounts of coupons, their organization skills, and the amount of goods they purchase. It was amazing to see the hoards of products that…

September 27th, 2011
Reconciling MTV, Pop Culture, and Catholic Values

I’ll admit it, I watch the “Jersey Shore.” I’m addicted to the antics of The Situation, the lovable Pauly D, and overly coiffed Snooki. I count down the hours every week to 11:35 Friday morning Central European time, right after the Shore airs in the United States, and I can finally finagle streaming the show overseas to my Berlin kitchen table. But while there is no disputing the bronzed bunch’s unexpected pop culture success, I often find myself wondering if their antics are something I should fill my head with.
How much do things I see on the show affect me? When Pauly D and The Situation bring home girls to the “Smush Room” every night, is there a point where this ceases to shock and instead becomes…

August 4th, 2011

The Busted Halo crew shares what they’re listening to this summer.

July 15th, 2011

Today brings the final book of the Harry Potter series, Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows…, to a close as the last 250 pages will come to life on the big screen. Millions will wait in never-ending lines — with much enthusiasm and outlandish costumes — to enjoy the conclusion of one of the biggest movie series ever ($6.3 billion worldwide). Early reviews have come in and the reception is highly positive (popular websites Metacritic and Rotten Tomatoes scored it in the 90 range). Looks like the film series will end on a high note.
Now that the saga has finished (for now), we can start to look at the core values stemming over the last 14 years: including seven books, eight movies, tons of merchandise and, yes,

July 11th, 2011

I have J.K. Rowling to thank for much of my literary upbringing. Without the Harry Potter series, I am not sure that I would have ever loved reading as much as I do now. I was in the third grade when I was introduced to the first book, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. My grandmother gave it to me as a gift, but I put it on the shelf and didn’t think much of it. Then, when a friend of mine brought in her copy for Sunday school show-and-tell and raved about it, I reconsidered. I went home and found Harry Potter… sitting on my bookshelf, just where I had put it a few months before.
Looking at the cover (and since at age 8, every book I read was judged by its cover), I was skeptical. There was a goofy bespectacled kid on a

July 8th, 2011

I never really knew what the word Catholic meant until I went to Stanford. In my previous Catholic school life it was never a label, never anything I would be judged for. It was just what everybody was.
The “college me” came ready for changes, wanting to learn from new perspectives and walks of life. So I made tons of friends, raging with the best of them. Just in my own undercover Catholic way.
When friends shared post-hookup details that made me incredibly uncomfortable at brunch, I’d get up and get more food. When people vehemently put down religion in class, I busied myself with an important text. I toed a fine line between staying true to my personal boundaries and being like any other Stanford…

July 6th, 2011
Letting go of projections and negative judgments

A friend told me she’d given up negative thinking for Lent this year. “How hard could that be?” I thought. “Way easier than giving up caffeine.” I adopted the practice as well, and found almost immediately that, just as with meditation, I cannot do it anywhere close to perfectly. Or even 25 percent of the time. But, again like meditation, the practice is actually in the noticing that you are not doing it perfectly and gently steering back to friendlier turf. You do this over and over and over, in the way, as Jack Kornfield says, you train a puppy to pee on the newspaper instead of the rug.
And while I didn’t have a single day that was truly free from negative thinking, let alone complaining…

June 29th, 2011

Get in Touch with Nature:

Go for a hike
It doesn’t matter if you live near the mountains — going for a hike, or a long walk through nature, is a great way to get outdoors and get away close to home. Find a state or national park, pack a picnic, bring your friends, and have a great day trip. The best part? The only thing you’ll pay for is gas.
Go on a bike tour
If you live near the shore, this is an especially great idea. Bike paths and easy-to-manage terrain make beach biking relaxing and fun, with beautiful views and cool ocean breezes. Make a few pit stops for ice cream or cold drinks along the way.
Go boating…
Whatever body of water you live near — lake, river, ocean, bay — take advantage of the aquatic

June 27th, 2011

I am lucky to have intelligent friends. They help edit my prose and engage me in witty conversation. And while I value them greatly, I lament there is one thing of which I am envious of them: their realm of education. Many of my friends attended impressive houses of learning — Rutgers, NYU, Columbia and even fair Harvard! I covet their diplomas and access to the college networks they belong to on Facebook, for my alma mater — humble Saint Bonaventure — has neither the prestige of the Ivies nor big time college football like Rutgers.
We are a small Franciscan school in the snowy mountains of Western New York, and our school colors are even demure brown and white. The school numbers around 2,000 undergrads…

May 31st, 2011
The tragedy of trapping religious art

First there’s lights out, then there’s lock up.
Masterpieces serving maximum sentences;
It’s their own fault for being timeless.
There’s a price you pay and a consequence.
All the galleries, the museums;
They will stay there forever and a day.
All the rowboats in the oil paintings
They keep trying to row away, row away……

– Regina Spektor
Have you ever been lost in a work of art? I count among my biggest hobbies imagining life inside of a painting. Fortunate enough to live in Manhattan, I often wander over to the Metropolitan Museum of Art to observe the works of the masters and stroll through the halls taking in the human accomplishments that line the galleries. However, there

May 17th, 2011
Why this show's exploration of faith vs. reason is so appealing

Exploring the tension between faith and reason is just one of the many interesting elements of the television series, Bones, currently in its sixth season on Fox, and one that keeps me watching each week. The partners do more than just examine crimes, they inform each other and the viewers about the dichotomous worlds from which they approach life.

Booth, a former altar boy, attends Mass every Sunday but doesn’t put much thought into understanding his faith on a deeper level. He doesn’t need to be convinced to believe; he just does. Dr. Brennan, is the polar opposite. Being a forensic anthropologist, she believes that all things can be proven logically thus negating any need for a god. These partners hash out the faith vs. logic debate as they work together solving murders for the FBI.

May 9th, 2011
Roland Joffé's new film is part biopic, part inspirational drama, part epic war story

For some, it will not be possible to separate the movie There Be Dragons from their views about Opus Dei, as it tells the story of that organization’s founder, St. Josemaría Escrivá. The majority of viewers, though — whose only awareness of Opus Dei is the absurd fictional albino killer monk in Dan Brown’s The DaVinci Code — will find an inspiring and moving, if at times melodramatic and muddy, film about forgiveness and the choices people make in tough times.

It will be hard to walk away from There Be Dragons without admiring Josemaria. Much of the credit for this compelling portrayal of the future saint goes to British actor Charlie Cox, known for his starring roles in Stardust and Stone of Destiny — the latter a delightful film and one of my favorites of the last few years. (I interviewed Cox about the movie several weeks ago and you can read that conversation here .) It would have been easy to portray Josemaria as either too pious or too worldly, but Cox and writer/director Roland Joffé strike the right balance, giving the character both human vulnerability and the sense of someone following a divine calling.

But, ultimately, the film isn’t even centered on Josemaria.

May 5th, 2011
And why the Gaga haters hate her

The video for Lady Gaga’s song “Judas” has premiered, ending weeks of speculation stirred up by several religious spokespeople who denounced it before seeing it. The video is set in a motorcycle gang; Jesus is the leader, Judas a thuggish member and Gaga is torn by her attraction to both. As a quick first reaction, I find it moving, both artistically and spiritually. What has always fascinated and frustrated me is the disconnect between the Gaga haters and what I, and some of my friends, see in her work. Many of my religious young adult friends love Gaga; most of the rest don’t have any serious problem with her. They understand what she’s trying to do, even if it isn’t their taste. This is true across Catholics, mainline Protestants and evangelicals. So, what is it about Gaga that excites one devout person and intimidates another?

May 3rd, 2011
The man who plays St. Josemaria Escrivá in the upcoming There Be Dragons talks about forgiveness, Opus Dei and how playing a saint has affected him

When I talked last week with Charlie Cox about his role as St. Josemaria Escrivá in the movie There Be Dragons (written and directed by Roland Joffe (The Killing Fields and The Mission…), to be released this Friday, May 6), Osama bin Laden’s death and the public reaction to it had yet to occur, and while Blessed John Paul II’s beatification was on the calendar, it was not a topic in our interview. It’s interesting then that we spoke of the central role of forgiveness in Christianity. This should not be surprising however, since, as Charlie Cox said in referring to the film, forgiveness is “always going to be key when you’re talking about Christianity at all, especially if you’re

April 8th, 2011
The story of surfer Bethany Hamilton, who lost an arm in a shark attack, is one of struggle and faith

Bethany Hamilton never really saw the 14-foot tiger shark that bit off her arm in the Hawaiian waters. In the recreation of that scene in Soul Surfer, a film that follows the incident and its aftermath, the viewers don’t see much of the animal either. Which is fine. Because although the way in which the now-nationally-ranked surfer lost her arm in 2003 at the age of 13 is terrifying, it is, in many ways, the least interesting part of her story. Far more engrossing and inspiring are the role of faith in her recovery, the series of physical struggles, and the family tensions that followed, all of which are captured successfully — for the most part — in Soul Surfer.

April 3rd, 2011
Neil Jordan's take on one of history's most infamous popes is just not interesting

When legendary filmmaker George Cukor was asked what he thought about his 1935 adaptation of Romeo and Juliet, he said if he could do it over again he would “get the garlic and the Mediterranean into it.” What Cukor meant was that his staid retelling of Shakespeare’s legendary tome of star-crossed lovers lacked the intensity and passion at the heart of the tale. The same could be said of another story of a Renaissance family on the Mediterranean: Showtime’s latest offering of historical fiction, The Borgias….
The show focuses on the life and times of one of history’s most infamous popes, Alexander VI (Jeremy Irons), aka Rodrigo Borgia, and the escapades and intrigues of his nefarious

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