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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.”…

January 13th, 2002
A conversation with the author of An Infinity of Little Hours

BustedHalo: Nancy, your book, An Infinity of Little Hours, is an extraordinary look at life inside a Carthusian monastery, something no one has ever done before. The reason you were able to do it is that you have an unusual connection: you are married to a former Carthusian monk—one of the five monks whose experiences you chronicle in the book. So let’s begin at the beginning: how did you two meet?
Nancy Klein Maguire: I was teaching at Loyola University in Chicago and the other woman on the faculty—it was 1967 and there were only two of us—was asked to look out for an ex-Carthusian who had just left the monastery . She said to me, let’s go have coffee with this young man and see if he needs help adjusting. So she…

January 12th, 2002
A review of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix

We waited and we hoped and then we went to the midnight show. We were not disappointed. They got this one just right; the film adaptation of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix… is perhaps the best so far in the series. Like any other devoted Potter-ite, I have a few critiques but on the whole, as in JK Rowling’s book, Harry’s Occlumency lessons with Severus Snape, the training of Dumbledore’s Army, and the Ministry of Magic’s dogged denial of reality add up to a cinematic ride that pulls viewers along as if they were traveling by portkey (you know, that magical object that gives you the sensation of being sucked forward at an alarming speed from somewhere behind your navel).
If you don’t

January 10th, 2002
JC's Girls' unusual evangelization to the sex industry

“We got some other girls together and we went out to our first strip club.”
It may sound like the beginnings of a wild bachelorlette party but in fact it is elementary school teacher Tanya Huerter’s recollection of the first step she and two other women from Southern California took toward creating an outreach to the adult entertainment industry.
Huerter along with Lori Albee and Heather Veitch are the founders of JC’s Girls a ministry whose mission is to “seek to share God’s message of hope and forgiveness by reaching out in a nonjudgmental way to those who are in the sex industry.” The trio, who is affiliated with Sandals Church in Riverside, Ca, explodes any stereotype…

January 8th, 2002
I'm only five "Why's" away from an ontological crisis

What’s that?
I’m buckling my son into his car seat the other morning when he points to the tool used to scrape snow off the windshield.
“It’s an ice scraper, sweetheart.”
Why?
“So we can scrape the ice off the windshield.”
Why?
“So we can see when we drive.”
Why?
“So we don’t crash.”
Why?
“Because we don’t want to die.”
Why?

What am I supposed to tell the kid? Because we value our lives? I know what his reply will be: Why? Because they are a gift. Why? Um, because life is sacred. Why?
I like to think I have a good education and am respectably literate on matters of meaning and religion, but my two-year-old son reminds me that…

January 6th, 2002
Making room in the classroom for a civil rights' icon and the practice of civil disobedience

The death of civil rights pioneer Rosa Parks on October 24th coupled with the fiftieth anniversary on December 1, of her refusal to relinquish her seat on a Montgomery, Alabama bus allows us to once again examine the state of our nation’s soul. Parks’ small act in defiance of segregation in 1955 on that bus, and her resulting arrest, helped galvanize a fledgling revolution against bias in the United States. It is also challenges us to consider our own cooperation with injustice.
Of course, Parks’ act of civil disobedience was not without precedent. Civil disobedience has long been a major weapon in humanity’s struggle against injustice and stretches back in the U.S. to 19th century…

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