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March 28th, 2002
Young People and the Catholic Peace Movement Today

As images of war fill a greater share of the nation’s TV news, many Catholics are tuning in to organizations like Pax Christi USA to uphold the doctrine of nonviolence. A peace movement of over 14,000 members and 140 U.S. Catholic bishops, Pax Christi USA is considered a crucial component of the global peace movement.
So how is Pax Christi USA organizing its efforts in response to current events?
Following is the first of a two-part interview with Johnny Zokovitch, program associate and youth outreach coordinator for the national organization.
Edward Ortiz: How do the rising numbers of young people currently signing up for the military affect your nonviolence outreach programs?
Johnny Zokovitch: While…

March 18th, 2002

It’s widely recognized that children who grow up in the midst of criticism tend to criticize others. Children raised with violence are at risk for perpetuating violence as adults. And children who grow up with experiences of sexual abuse are at greater risk for abusing another person sexually later in life.
Part of the human condition is that people who are hurt are vulnerable to acting out that hurt towards another person later on. It doesn’t mean they absolutely will, and most people go to great lengths not to pass on the hurts they endured. But it is a human vulnerability we need to understand well�especially in dealing with the current church scandal.
Shedding light on the dynamics of sex abuse…

March 17th, 2002
A Piper's Story on St. Patrick's Day

St. Patrick’s Day is not just a day to celebrate Irish heritage. As a bagpiper, St. Patrick’s Day explodes into an entire month of joining together with other pipers, playing parades and parties, and being in the center of cheering crowds. Every weekend brings us to a new town and new people, but always to the same big party.
For most people, pipers appear briefly in March, hang around for a few pints, and then disappear. Our days of celebrating our heritage are limited, like our days of celebrating our faith. Occasionally pipers return, to our weddings and funerals, but where are they in the “off season”? As powerful as this music is, you’d think we’d be heard more often!
So…

March 15th, 2002
Are the cookies the only thing not stale?

All hail that most American of snacks, the Girl Scout cookie, with its two vital lessons in capitalism: Pound on enough doors and your troop goes to Space Camp�or, send the sales sheet with Daddy to the office, and your troop goes to Space Camp.
God love those Thin Mints, but my troop barely left the I-275 beltloop of Cincinnati, let alone the atmosphere. Our cookie sales funded such activities as Beauty and Makeup Night�the marketing division hadn’t yet invented the splashy cookie box photos of Scouts rope climbing or careening past boys on dirt bikes�and summer day camps along the tributaries of the Ohio. At camp we engaged in such empowering activities as cleaning the outdoor latrines, a delicate…

March 9th, 2002

Quilts, like all big projects, eventually become metaphors. It’s no surprise; quilts, like life, are enormous undertakings that should only be started after much careful consideration and, possibly, alcohol. Certainly, I knew how much work would be involved in making my first quilt?my mother’s entire existence seems consumed by her passion for the art form?but I ploughed ahead anyway, without forethought, without booze. Quilting, I figured, is just time, patience, and effort. Surely, with my husband’s help, I’d pump out a blanket with energy to spare.
Steve knew better.
“You’ll have to measure a lot?and keep everything straight.”
“No problem. I…

March 8th, 2002
A Coming-of-Age Tale with Animated Catholic Villains

Catholic high school boys battle adolescent angst while devising pranks against authority figures in the imaginative, entertaining, and heartbreaking film, “The Dangerous Lives of Altar Boys” (ThinkFilm).
This adaptation of the late Chris Fuhrman’s novel, directed by Peter Care, is a 70′s coming-of-age story about best friends Francis (Emile Hirsch) and Tim (Kieran Culkin), who struggle against the strict rules of their critical and moralistic teacher�the one-legged Sister Assumpta (Jodie Foster ).
Francis, a talented sketcher, creates an irreverent cartoon notebook; he depicts Sister Assumpta as Peg Leg, a wicked motorcycle-riding villain who’s out to destroy…

March 6th, 2002
And the Hard Questions

Who can blame those who lost friends and loved ones on 9/11 for thinking God let them down? And who can blame them for thinking that a benevolent and loving deity, if it exists, is not so benevolent and kind? And after all the falling concrete, steel, and blood, who can blame them for thinking that 9/11 proved once and for all that God does not exist?
I certainly can’t. If they all went running into a dark cave filled with the dust of doubt, I’d be there with them. For me the only thing that I know a year after 9/11 is that it happened. And that 9/11 begs a million questions.
Like a snake eating its own tail we were offered a glimpse of our own human horribleness on 9/11. And regardless of who is to blame it’s clear…

March 6th, 2002

Moments of extreme fear. We’ve felt them. Your life is hanging in the balance. And the outcome is anything but certain.
The seconds before your car hits another. Moments before the surgeon administers general anesthesia. Witnessing a violent crime.
Since September 11th, I’ve wondered with sadness what it was like to be a passenger in any of the four hijacked airplanes. To know that your plane�the one you’re on�is being hijacked. And it’s not clear you’ll ever see your family again, walk in the sand, celebrate another Christmas.
During those last few minutes of life, many probably knew intuitively they wouldn’t make it. Was the experience profoundly lonely? Was…

March 2nd, 2002
A Bad Case of 'Sympathy Envy' for the USA

Could it be that the United States is suffering a severe case of “sympathy envy” these days?
Surely no other nation’s been too keen on the morality of U.S. war aims since it earned the honor of the first nation to use weapons of mass destruction on Hiroshima and Nagasaki at the end of World War II.
From the secret bombing of Cambodia during the Vietnam War to the leveling of poor neighborhoods in Panama City during the hunt for Manuel Noriega in 1989 it’s been one case of bullying after another. Nowhere has the playing field been remotely level (leveled is more like it).
Perhaps all the recent eavesdropping, browbeating, and bribing the U.S. is reportedly doing at the United Nations is a consequence…

March 2nd, 2002
Sex Abuse in the Church

The other day a priest I know, wearing his roman collar, was walking down the street in Manhattan. A mother and her toddler child were heading in the opposite direction. When she saw my friend, she grabbed her child’s hand and pulled him close, away from the approaching priest. It was a nearly automatic reaction, he told me. Not hard to understand at all, a sign of the times even, but certainly demoralizing.
Clergy sex abuse has been in the news for weeks now. All over the nation, bishops have been removing priests (and most recently themselves) from ministry on account of past accusations.
There have been denunciations, calls for Cardinal Law’s resignation in Boston, demands that priests be removed,…

March 1st, 2002
Film Review: Signs

“There are two kinds of people in this world,” says Graham, the ex-Episcopalian priest played by Mel Gibson in Signs, the new thriller from Sixth Sense director M. Night Shyamalan. There are those, the widower and former clergyman means to say, who see the signs of a Higher Power at work in the world and those who don’t.
“Which are you?” That is the big question for Graham, his brother Merrill, his young children, and each of us sitting in the audience.
It’s a bizarre proposition, a otherworldly film (a la The X-Files ) literally about giant etchings in the corn crops that explores the idea of whether or not the Man Upstairs (as my grandmother used to say) is looking after us or…

February 28th, 2002

Will we ever know why the elder and younger Presidents Bush have such a fervent obsession with toppling Iraq?
Morally, can the United States government justify making war on the people of Iraq on the grounds that it possesses weapons of mass destruction when the U.S. is the only nation ever to have used the atomic bomb?
It all comes down to the laying out of a solid premise.
Every dramatist is familiar with premise. It’s the foundation of all good drama. It’s a surefire way of building something from nothing and having people buy into it. A solid premise can always be made into a well-made play. And a solid premise can always sell a war to the public.
So which premise is at play with the U.S. plan to invade Iraq…

February 18th, 2002

Kandahar captures what every U.S. radio, television and print journalist has been trying to make come to life for Americans over the past four months.
If you’re like me, you’re a kind of numb to all the media coverage of the plight of the Afghani people by now, and yet, Afghanistan and its people still seem like a far away and remote place.
But Iranian-born Mohsen Makhmalbaf’s recently released film “Kandahar” is a beautiful movie that succeeds in piercing a numb U.S. heart long enough to connect with the distinct personalities and dreams of the film’s characters.
Filmed before Sept. 11, “Kandahar” tells the timely story of Nafas (played by Nelofer Pazira),…

February 16th, 2002

It was playwright Bertold Brecht who said that the only crime greater than robbing a bank was founding one. Brecht must have been thinking of powerful and cunning individuals like Enron chairman and CEO Kenneth Lay when he said that.
Lay, who drew a salary and compensation package of nearly $42 million in 1999, and other top-level executives at Enron, recently cashed in a lucrative bag of stock options before the bubble burst on the company’s troubled scheme of investments.
For Lay the take was a cool $150 million. No doubt, every Ponzi scheme organizer and rapacious con man must be red with envy. But anger, not envy, is needed here.
Sure, Enron employees who saw retirement accounts disappear faster than a…

February 8th, 2002

World Youth Day is this absolutely insane gathering of Catholic young people from all over the world, who converge on some poor unsuspecting city and basically take over the place.
In 1984, Pope John Paul II “invited” Catholic young people to Rome (you know, hey, guys, stop by for a drink). It was so cool that he decided that this should happen more often. So, about every two years, a different country hosts (what were they thinking?) this event…World Youth Day has been in Spain, Poland, Denver, Manila, Paris, and back in Rome in 2000. Toronto, Ontario, Canada, is gearing up for WYD2002 from July 23-28.
You might be thinking at the ripe old age of 22 or 27 or 35…hey, I’m no “youth”…oh,…

February 2nd, 2002

“Love on the rocks, ain’t no big surprise.
Just pour me a drink and I’ll tell you some lies?”
– From Neil Diamond’s “Love On the Rocks”
While flipping through my bible (Entertainment Weekly) the other day, I stumbled upon an ad that, well, let’s just say it caught my attention. The ad depicted a scene of a happy, dancing threesome, one guy pressed up between two women, with a third woman dancing in front of them, looking to join in. At least, I think they’re supposed to be dancing.
Don’t get me wrong, they’re all fully clothed. Other than a few violations of the guidelines for “personal space,” (even for this type of dancing),…

January 18th, 2002
A conversation with the former nun and author of The Tulip and the Pope

BustedHalo: If there were only one question I could ask you, it would be what you meant by “Faith is partly a matter of humbly applied wit.”
Deborah Larsen: What a great question. I meant that, while faith is a gift (as everything is a gift), it is also nurtured by thought—using one’s wits—about the mysteries that inhere in and surround that Presence which we call God. Reading, studying, prayer, meditation, talking to others—all of that is using one’s wits, which means doing actual hard work as well as disposing yourself to moments of grace. And I just think a humble or an open heart, as opposed to an arrogant one, is what’s required for any growth in faith. The humble…

January 16th, 2002

This is my very favorite at-work freakout story.
An office worker, fearing anthrax contamination, pulled on a pair of rubber gloves to protect him as he opened a stack of mail. As we worked, he was horrified to discover white powder scattered on his pants. He leapt up, called security, and the usual evacuation, sample collection, and general hysteria followed. After an interminable wait, the results returned from the lab: The suspicious white powder was� residue from the rubber gloves.
This biting of ourselves in the behind is entirely understandable in a world in which metal detectors are stationed at the entrance gates to Disneyland. First it was psychos bursting into boardrooms with mail bombs and guns;…

January 16th, 2002
An Infinity of Little Hours: The Trial of Faith of Five Young Men in the Western World's Most Austere Monastic Order

What would it be like to see the face of God with your own eyes?
In the year 1084 St. Bruno of Cologne and six companions climbed a mountain in the French Alps with the goal of doing exactly that: achieving union with God in their own lifetime. Despite the intense cold, they built huts for themselves at the very top of the mountain and took up lives of solitude, contemplation and prayer. In doing so, they founded the Carthusian order, the most austere monastic order in the Western world.
Nearly 900 years later, Paddy O’Connell, a young Irishman not yet thirty, pulls the bell rope outside the gatehouse of the imposing Carthusian monastery in Parkminster, England, and asks admittance. Hans Klein, an East German,…

January 14th, 2002
A New Year's resolution to move out of our comfort zones

In the mid 1980s, I was studying theology in Boston. Several other young Jesuits and I moved from Cambridge—where the Jesuit School of Theology was located near Harvard Square—to live in Roxbury, the black and Latino section of town. Each day when I would get on a bus I would almost always be the only white person riding. As soon as I boarded, all conversation would cease. After a few days of these silent rides, a large black woman turned to me and said loudly, for all to hear, “Can you puhleeze tell me why it is that the Police is riding this bus?”
“No, Ma’am” I replied. “I’m not a cop. I’m a studying to be a priest. I’m living on Copeland Street.”…

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