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December 25th, 2002
Men and Women and the Perils of Gift Giving

There’s nothing like cheap impersonal crap for Christmas, is there?
A buddy of mine once worked at a company that at the corporate Christmas party proudly presented to each and every employee�an extension cord. Well, hoop de holly. At least it beat the previous year’s gift, which was a wall clock featuring the company logo.
They say that it’s the thought that counts�and that’s the point. Tempting, isn’t it, to sail down the aisle at Walgreen’s on December 23 and grab the first battery-operated gyrating Elvis in a Santa hat you see. But if you’re going to run through a mall and snatch up the first plastic angel statue you see just because you “need”…

December 25th, 2002
The Pressures of the Holidays for Recovering Alcoholics

Many people have mixed emotions about the holidays. Families separated the entire year are thrust together again under difficult circumstances. Old wounds and resentments resurface. Relatives with whom we have limited contact and conversation suddenly appear in Aunt Sherry’s kitchen on Christmas Day. Siblings tolerate each other while distant parents and relatives share superficial small talk. Such situations and family gatherings can be particularly challenging for people who practice twelve-step recovery programs.
And doesn’t it seem like everyone wants to hand you a drink?
Get thee to a meeting
The recovery program of which I am a member is Alcoholics Anonymous . I find it necessary…

December 23rd, 2002
The Unconditional Heart of Yuletide Lunacy

My father is never satisfied with the trees my mother hauls home from the gas station Christmas tree lot. Every year he produces the garden shears and goes about pruning. No one bothers trying to stop him anymore. We gather to watch dismembered tree pieces fall to the living room floor and agree when he says the thing looks much better. When he wanders off we fill the gaping holes with tinsel and reminisce about the time he broke out the saw.
Norman Rockwell doesn’t live hereIn my family, we don’t have Christmas traditions so much as recurring patterns of well-established holiday behavior we have all come to expect. Like my mother corralling all seven of her unwilling kids down to the Styrofoam Santa Castle…

December 14th, 2002
The Economic Winners in a Conflict with Iraq

Who will be the benefactors of any war on Iraq ?
The winners are all about past relationships. And where President George W. Bush’s administration is concerned, those past relationships are measured in barrels of crude oil.
Take Condoleezza Rice , our nation’s current National Security Advisor. Rice owns the distinction of being the only cabinet member ever to have an oil tanker named after her. This honor comes from her spending a decade on the board of the Chevron Corporation . Such close relationships between the senior staff in the Bush administration and the oil industry are a hallmark of G.W.’s presidency.
Big oil interests will reap the benefits of war. And taxpayers will pay for their…

December 13th, 2002

This morning in Rome it was announced that the pope had accepted the resignation of Cardinal Bernard Law, the Archbishop of Boston. This brings to an end one part of the yearlong priest sex scandal in the Catholic Church, especially as it has been centered in Boston. Cardinal Law had been shown in various court documents and depositions to have knowingly reassigned to other parishes priests accused of molesting children and teenagers. Once reassigned many struck again.
In the Cardinal’s remarks at the time of his resignation, he apologized for this and asked the forgiveness of the people of Boston.
For many months, increasing numbers of Catholic laypeople, priests, and public officials had called for…

December 13th, 2002
Special to BustedHalo.com

December 13—This morning in Rome it was announced that the pope had accepted the resignation of Cardinal Bernard Law, the Archbishop of Boston. This brings to an end one part of the yearlong priest sex scandal in the Catholic Church, especially as it has been centered in Boston. Cardinal Law had been shown in various court documents and depositions to have knowingly reassigned to other parishes priests accused of molesting children and teenagers. Once reassigned many struck again.
In the Cardinal’s at the time of his resignation, he apologized for this and asked the forgiveness of the people of Boston.
For many months, increasing numbers of Catholic laypeople, priests, and public officials had called…

December 13th, 2002

There I was, driving down the road with my teenage son in the front seat and my daughter and her friend Lauren in the back. Lauren says to my daughter: “How old were you when you found out Santa Claus was your parents?”
My son didn’t say much, but my daughter (who is younger than he) admitted that she began to suspect years ago, when she recognized that the wrapping paper on one of her gifts suspiciously matched some she had seen in our closet. We went on to talk about the Tooth Fairy, and in spite of my futile attempts to explain things and salvage the remaining shreds of childhood innocence (theirs AND mine), I was able to keep driving without veering off the road over an embankment. But just barely.
When…

December 9th, 2002
Old Holiday Cartoon Specials and Materialist Madness

I will be the first to admit that when it comes to Christmas, I am one big, wishy-washy mess. Christmas, to me, is what Disney World is to some other adults—a time and place where I become a kid again. In that spirit, I celebrate as if I were still running around in my pajamas with the feet and licking the 22-cent stamp for my letter to Santa.
As part of the return-to-my-childhood Yuletide traditions, I like to throw on some flannel pajamas, make some hot cocoa, and dig out the old videotape of Christmas cartoons that has collected a little dust during the past year.
This year, as I curled up and warmed my hands on my reindeer mug, I had a new thought: What lessons are taught in these cartoons? Will I want my kids to watch them?…

December 6th, 2002
Love As Speed Bump on the Road of Faith

Phew. What a relief—at 24, I finally had it all figured out. I mean, how difficult could this whole religion and God thing be? Well, it turns out that I had a lot more to learn.
As this crazy year starts to come to an end, I look back at where my faith journey has taken me and let me tell you, it’s quite the roller coaster. It was a ride that I would gladly take again though.
Spiritually out of whack I had come to the realization that I was not happy with my relationship with God or my relationship with the Catholic Church. But instead of pushing it away, I decided to dive in headfirst. In order to fix it, I knew that I had to pinpoint exactly what was leaving me feeling dissatisfied.
Well, the first thing that I recognized was…

December 5th, 2002

I was sentenced to an alarm clock and cold cereal on my first day of kindergarten. I dressed myself, rode my bike to summer activities, and took the yellow bus to school until I got my driver’s license. I was raised to be independent and thrive on it.
Entering the adult world of college and full time employment, I was already accustomed to doing things on my own, usually out of necessity—others are too busy, convenience, schedule. But when seven people attempt to exist in an intentional community (like that of my Jesuit Volunteer Corps house), independent action is like trying to pick up a bowling ball with a standard table spoon.
Here’s what I mean. In mid-October, I was purposely elusive about a speaking…

December 4th, 2002
The Emperor's Club Laments Moral Emptiness Among the Elites

“How will history remember you?”
That is the question that Mr. Hundert (Kevin Kline ) puts to the boys of St. Benedict’s Prep School in his classics classroom. He asks himself the same question when he meets these students again 25 years later.
The secondary question is: “Does history give us an accurate picture of those it remembers, or are only accomplishments recalled without regard to how they are achieved?”
No Dead Poets hereFor those of you who think this movie is a continuation of Dead Poets Society, you could not be further from the truth. Both tell the story of an inspiring prep school teacher, but that is where the comparisons end. Hundert teaches character along with history…

December 3rd, 2002
Seen the "Gift of the Year" Lately?

Remember all that news footage of mothers beating one another over the head in a mad rush to snag the Must-Have, Hot Gift Of The Year, the one their children are whining for and will tire of approximately four seconds after opening it?
I haven’t seen one this year. It doesn’t exist.
Nice, huh?
Some look upon this annual Olympic wrestling at the mall as the act of a loving parent fulfilling the wishes and dreams of the baby she carried and bore, the mighty efforts of a woman desperate to keep alive a child’s innocent love of and trust in Santa Claus in this cold, cruel world.
Others look upon this as sick.
Perhaps I inherited the latter attitude from my mother, who patently refused to participate in the…

December 3rd, 2002
Reflections on Overeating in America

Remember the days before “super size”?
Remember when the smallest size coffee you could order was—you won’t believe this—a “small”?
When was the last time you ate out at a restaurant and felt full only after finishing your meal? Within the lifetime of Busted Halo visitors, it seems American society has actually institutionalized gluttony. Regarded as a sin since the earliest recording of the seven deadly sins 100 years before the birth of Christ, our culture has turned overeating into the norm. Bizarrely, we’ve somehow been able to do this while at the same time depicting the likes of Kate Moss as the pinnacle of beauty.
Cheap food, big portions, larger AmericansFood…

December 1st, 2002
Embrace Those Moments

When I was young and na�ve and honestly thought that little girls who could not add or subtract in their heads could grow up to become astronauts, I presented significant sums of allowance to NASA Line , an 1-900 number that allowed the dialee to eavesdrop on Houston-astronaut chatter during space shuttle missions. Occasionally a commentator would break in to translate the flying acronyms.
Imagine the yo-yo of horror and delight I shot through upon moving to Cape Canaveral when I discovered that what I had been listening to was the live audio track of NASA TV mission coverage, which I could now experience all day, every day�for free.
Always one to glut on over-information, NTV (for nothing is officially attached…

December 1st, 2002
Something Wrong at the Yuletide?

There’s something wrong here.
It’s December, and I am not only jacketless, but wearing shorts. I lived four years in South Bend, Indiana�December is loss of sensation in the lower extremities.
The lights started going up here in Cape Canaveral a week before Thanksgiving, the citizens hanging tinsel in sandals and tank tops. They twined lights along palm tree trunks and set up giant inflatable snowmen in sun-burned yards.
It’s 24 degrees in South Bend right now and an SUV is currently skidding through snowbanks on the television set. I have the air conditioning on.
There is something very wrong here.
Or maybe not wrong, but different. (Approximately fifty degrees of difference.) I think…

December 1st, 2002
A Young Dad on What to Do with the Kids for Advent

Passing down faith to my two teen and pre-teen kids is tough. Since I’m still figuring out the ropes myself, I’m sometimes limited in what I say or do to help them get charged up about the relentless pursuit of God (perhaps I should start by using different terms than “relentless” and “pursuit”).
A case in point is the Advent season, and how to make it relevant for them. It shouldn’t just be the few weeks in December before their Christmas break. Not on my watch, it won’t.
Although the Advent season (the four weeks or so before Christmas) and the Christmas story are rife with mysterious comings and goings, they still lend themselves to young audiences because they…

November 28th, 2002
A Supermarket Surplus Demands That We Share

Propped up against the wall of my tiny kitchen, absentmindedly chain eating Entenmanns’s chocolate chip cookies, I was engrossed in an article from the Catholic Worker about the life of St. Alphonsus Liguori, founder of the Redemptorist order of priests.
As I shot my hand into the box for yet one more cookie, I was confronted with Bishop Liguori’s response to famine in 18th century Italy: “When people are hungry, everyone should fast.” Caught red-handed in the cookie box, I paused and looked from my hand to the paper and back again. There was no way to hide it; Alphonsus had busted me as Part Of The Problem.
For me, gluttony begins at the supermarket. Aisles upon bright aisles of choices,…

November 28th, 2002
The Agony of Living

Every time I attend a burial, the weather’s not good. Rain, cold, mud; the universe seems to provide a climate in tune with the mood of those gathered around the grave.
The rain returned this week as I stood in the mud and watched my brother-in-law’s aunt laid to rest. She was young, only 67, and entirely undeserving to be dead. Sprightly, bubbly, fun—pick any happy adjective and its meaning wouldn’t fully encompass the passion she had for life. I knew her for only a year but she had known me, through my sister, for a decade. When I finally met her last Christmas she folded me into her family as though we’d never been strangers.
So, this week, it was odd to stand near her grave. I knew her briefly…

November 28th, 2002
A Thanksgiving Story

You know the routine pretty well. Getting ready for Thanksgiving means much planning, shopping for a lot of food, and with me there was the over-achieving cooking for two days straight.
Thanksgiving was also a time when we made sure we invited friends to dinner who were far from their families. So we always ended up with a houseful of people—there was my girl friend the Puerto Rican New Yorker Buddhist, who always got into heated discussions with the Argentinean film student. At the table was also the six-foot-four Black musician who imitates the Muppets singing show tunes with my four-foot ten best friend, the daughter of a former ambassador. My single friends made a pretty nice Thanksgiving picture, not quite…

November 26th, 2002
A Lesson in Checking Your Nostalgia

Yes, it’s official. Freddy’s dead. That’s what I said. This is the story of how I was painfully notified.
I was planning to call my cousin Jim to wish him Happy Birthday. Rather than do something traditional, like yawn through the garden-variety version of “Happy Birthday,” I thought it would be better to sing it like Fred Flinstone’s Water Buffalo lodge buddies sang “Happy Anniversary” to him and Wilma. Surely you recall that episode? It went a little something like this:
“Happy anni-versa-ry. Happy anni-versa-ry. Happy anni-versa-ry. Ha-ppy anniversary. Happy happy happy happy happy anniversary. Happy happy happy happy happy anniversary.…

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