Busted Halo
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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

March 30th, 2011
When your team is far from the Final Four

Half the fun of the World’s Fair is the train ride getting there.
My dad frequently mutters this spiffy mantra to himself, having been in attendance at the 1964 World’s Fair. I’ve overheard it most often on the ride home after watching our hometown basketball team get destroyed — it thus carries a bittersweet significance, as does the life of a recreational ascetic: a Rutgers basketball fan.
My father and I have had season tickets for Rutgers games since my most awkward years of the seventh grade. Memories of winter night games are highlighted by the smell of popcorn, the tunes of the pep band and periodic Rutgers wins — my beloved Scarlet Knights have not been to the NCAA Tournament…

February 24th, 2011
A universal tale of community, faith and the value of suffering

The first images of the monks’ daily lives in Of Gods and Men… are peaceful ones: They tend to gardens, pour jars of golden honey, and care for the sick who line up beside their clinic. They join in the occasional celebrations and sorrows of their Muslim neighbors. They sing and pray. The monks’ daily tasks seem a perfect balance of action and contemplation, and they perform them with a comforting combination of surety and peace.
It’s easy to assume things will always be this way, but viewers familiar with the real-life story of these French Trappist monks in Algeria during its 1990s civil war will know that this is not the case. The monastery is adjacent to a small Muslim village and an early montage

February 23rd, 2011
Spiritual questions from this year's Oscar-nominated shorts

Murder, sex, war, love and prayer.
The subject matters of five short films you’ll catch glimpses of if you’re tuning in to the Oscars this year, likely awarded around the two-hour mark of the broadcast, sandwiched in there someplace between the sound mixing and visual effects categories. Every year of the last five, my friend and I have ventured out to our local independent film theater, Oscar fever peaking, committing ourselves to three or four hours of watching the nominated short films attempting to give these often overlooked gems the attention they deserve.
This year, I found the live action shorts teeming with spiritual themes, ranging from moral concerns of faith and forgiveness to more…

February 22nd, 2011
An Oscars preview

There is something remarkably innocent and pure about the Academy Awards which draws people back in front of their TV screens year after year — in spite of the inevitable bloated telecast, bad jokes and ridiculous production numbers. At its core, however convoluted the whole procedure might be, the Oscars is about rewarding excellence, and more specifically being rewarded for excellence by a jury of your peers.
While not an official part of the Church’s liturgical calendar, awards season (along with its athletic counterpart the Super Bowl) provides remarkable comfort in the ever-so-ordinary time of Ordinary Time — post-Christmas and pre-Lent. It’s culmination, the Academy…

February 11th, 2011
Lady Gaga's latest single is an anthem for the marginalized

Lady Gaga’s new single, “Born This Way,” is an anthem for the different. The song offers words of encouragement for everyone on the margins of society, including gay people, members of racial minorities, and even the “broke.” She insists, God makes no mistakes,” and later adds:
Whether life’s disabilities
left you outcast, bullied or teased,
rejoice and love yourself today,
’cause baby, you were born this way.
Gaga is spreading the good news of Jesus Christ, whether intentionally or not. Her views on celibacy, personal strength and individuality are certainly laudable; and far more compelling is what she has to say about human nature and human suffering.…

January 28th, 2011
The latest priest-as-demon-slayer film tries to be more

Blame it on the Jesuits. Were it not for the experiences of one of their own, whose exploits combating the possessed inspired the film The Exorcist, perhaps the Catholic Church would not find its presence in contemporary cinema relegated primarily to priests splashing around Holy water at head-spinning, projectile-vomiting teenage girls — the role of priest as demon slayer added to the pantheon of stock horror characters alongside the mad scientist, the teenage babysitter and the faceless slasher. Mikael Håfström’s The Rite… is yet another entry in this ever expanding catalog of films reducing the Catholic Church into Grand Guignol spectacle, inspired as always by “true

January 24th, 2011
On loving books in a digital age

In the last week, two different people have asked me if I have any interest in owning a Kindle. My answer both times was a slightly softer version of “when hell freezes over.”
It’s not that I’m morally opposed to e‑readers. I don’t see them as the spawn of Satan, or anything like that. It’s a style thing; if you like to read that way, more power to you. I just happen to be pretty nuts about yesterday’s style: old-fashioned, paper-and-cloth books that you can pick up and hold in your hand.
Why? For one thing, reading is an imaginative and mental experience, but it’s also a sensual one. Think of people who love the smell of new cars and you know how I feel about books.…

January 19th, 2011
(1936 - 2010)

It is fitting that the first film Dennis Hopper appeared in was Rebel Without A Cause, yet it is even more appropriate that he was not cast in the titular role. That iconic leather jacket was, of course, worn by James Dean who would subsequently co-star with Hopper in the film Giant, where once again Hopper played second fiddle to Dean’s leading man.
The reality is that Hopper was the authentic “rebel without a cause” in lowercase. He appeared in some of the most significant films of the past half century — including the paean to the 1960s countercultural movement Easy Rider…, which he also co-wrote and directed — but he was always overshadowed by his more affable co-stars, such as Dean,

January 11th, 2011
(1930-2010)

I’m 7 years old and the Yankees are king. It seems as if they never lose and I hate them with a passion. Their owner George Steinbrenner and manager Billy Martin argue publicly over the way the team should be run. They even take their screaming match to TV and jokingly poke fun at their rift in a light beer commercial. “Tastes great” and “less filling” are the least of their problems. Their public feud gives New Yorkers something to talk about. And it all keeps Steinbrenner on the back pages. My childhood saw more of Steinbrenner on the back pages of the local papers than I can recall.
It’s amazing how much one remembers from childhood and George Steinbrenner’s was no different.…

January 6th, 2011
(1925-2010)

“We’re like sisters!” the big ugly woman with the Bronx baritone replied caustically and I laughed. I laughed so hard I had to roll off of my 8-year-old belly so as not to hurt myself on that bleak Friday night in front of my grandmother’s old RCA television. My sense of humor, still in its embryonic stage, didn’t grasp a lot of the humor in Billy Wilder’s Some Like It Hot, but Tony Curtis in drag attempting to justify his relationship with Marilyn Monroe’s Sugar Kane was one of the funniest things I had seen in my young life.
Tony Curtis was easily the best part of my first excursion into the world of black-and-white films — or any film that pre-dates Star Wars…, for that

January 5th, 2011
Alexander McQueen (1969 - 2010), Mark Linkous (1962 - 2010) and Andrew Koenig (1968 - 2010)

These people, who had contributed much to the world; who could be gratified by the lives they had touched; who seemed to have a passion and a calling; who had more accomplishments to point at than most of us ever do — each took his own life, a heinous act of nihilism, in his 40s. This past year saw the campaign, “It gets better,” telling kids struggling with bullying to stick it out, saying that once you grow up, you can put all that in perspective and move on with your life. Well, many people struggle with depression and hopelessness as adults too…

January 4th, 2011
The passing of Barbara Billingsley (1915-2010), Peter Graves (1926-2010) and Leslie Nielsen (1926-2010)

Bob Hope, at his peak, was considered one of the funniest men on the planet. But show his performances to someone from the generations who have come after him and they may not elicit a lot of laughs. It’s not because Bob Hope wasn’t a good comedian, but because his humor was so dependent upon the time, place and circumstances in which the jokes were told. Consequently, if the time, place and circumstances are removed from the equation, the humor being conveyed loses most — if not all — of its impact.
I mention this because 30 years after the film’s release, Airplane!… remains one of the funniest movies ever made. Gag after gag is packed into this film like a carry-on bag stuffed with three

December 31st, 2010
(1919-2010)

Holden Caulfield’s Moments of Grace
The spiritual wisdom of Salinger’s famous teen
Midway through J.D. Salinger’s novel The Catcher in the Rye…, the protagonist, Holden Caulfield, notices a child walking along the streets of New York City. Even though Holden is in a bad way — he’s flunked out of school; he feels isolated from nearly everyone he knows — the child lifts his spirits.
“He was making out like he was walking a very straight line, the way kids do, and the whole time he kept singing and humming. I got up closer so I could hear what he was singing. He was singing that song, ‘If a body catch a body coming through the rye.’ He had a pretty little voice, too.

December 28th, 2010
(1934 - 2010)

After college I had to have my own apartment. Like so many other young women, I saw this independence as an exhilarating and gratifying rite of passage. But it could also be very lonely. I found that at the end of the day, I would put on the television just to have some other voices in the apartment. I really liked to fall asleep with the television on and at the end of the day Lifetime — “the network for women” — was always showing just the right thing to entertain and calm me: The Golden Girls.
The Golden Girls… originally aired on NBC from 1985 to 1992. I remember my grandmothers watching it when they came to visit my home, but I wasn’t a fan until it was in reruns. Each of the four older female

December 19th, 2010
Suggestions we've made in recent weeks, if you still need a little help

Still struggling to find a Christmas gift for someone? Consider these suggestions we’ve made recently.
If you have someone on your list who would appreciate a book, we’ve highlighted two gorgeous options recently that are easy choices.
The Saint John’s Bible is an amazing new illuminated bible we featured last month (Meeting Scripture Through the Illuminated Word…) and it has been reproduced in seven gorgeous coffee table volumes, following the classic sections of the Bible. The first six are available and each can be purchased separately. Whether as a treasured home bible, a collection of sacred art, a tool for lectio divina, or all three, it’s hard to imagine a better gift for the

October 8th, 2010
St. Paul the Apostle Church hosts 4th annual exhibit of contemporary artists

As the Artist-In-Residence for the Paulist Fathers in New York, Fr. Frank Sabatté seeks to foster conversations among artists to explore the connections between creativity and spirituality. The outgrowth of that mission has been “Openings,” an artists’ collective in New York that sponsors weekly discussions among artists as well as numerous small group shows and one large annual exhibit of contemporary art at St. Paul the Apostle Church.
This year’s annual exhibit, entitled “Naked Measures,” expanded to include 20 artists — the largest group yet — whose work is hung throughout the church next to more traditional sacred art. In the video here, Fr. Sabatté,…

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