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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.…

February 10th, 2011
The exorcist and Lila Rose

On February 1, Lila Rose’s Live Action organization debuted the first video of its biggest scoop yet — an undercover video “sting” allegedly revealing Planned Parenthood employees aiding a purported sex trafficker. That same day, Fr. Euteneuer, in response to online rumors, released a statement confessing that the real reason he left HLI was that he had admitted to “violating the boundaries of chastity” with an adult woman he was exorcising.

Judging by the reaction to these stories in the Catholic pro-life media, it seems many took these coinciding stories simply as an instance of “good news/bad news,” with Lila Rose a heroine and Fr. Euteneuer a tragic figure. Perhaps it would be wise for Catholics dedicated to defending life to pause and reflect upon the confluence of events, before the news cycle moves on. It may be that the Holy Spirit is trying to tell us something about what happens when good people, with the best of intentions, attempt to justify deception.

February 10th, 2011
Helpful tool or digital distraction?

As Ginny Moyer’s recent article here on e-readers and the reader responses showed so eloquently, you’re either comfortable with digital replacements for technologies or you’re not. To me, while they have their limits, for sure, I love their benefits. For example, my iPhone and iPad are loaded with digital study bibles from Olive Tree and the iMissal app for daily readings and the hours. (I’ve also sung the praises of the amazing handwritten Saint John’s Bible and my home is filled with books.)
There’s a new iPhone app, Confession: A Roman Catholic App, from Little iApps, that’s been making quite a stir this week. Since I’m always looking for tools that might…

February 9th, 2011
Revolution from another perspective

I didn’t think Revolution would feel like this. John Lennon, Tracy Chapman and other artists have made it sound so upbeat, so sure of its legitimacy, and so containable in a three-minute music track. The reality is unsure, insecure, and very much “watch and wait.” There are the usual runs to the banks, the stocking up on four liters of milk and all of the rice that could possibly be eaten in a year. There was the filling of the bathtub with fresh water. The preparations — endless preparations — for that which we hoped would never come.
Except we did want it to come. Everyone did. Egyptians are starving and dying from preventable and treatable diseases. The trash here is literally smothering…

February 3rd, 2011
Money talks in relationships

Relationships experts often tell young couples that as things get “serious” it’s important to have some conversations about money. But what exactly should you talk about during that conversation? Are you going to lay down your W-2s and 1099s to compare numbers? Are you going to have amorphous discussions about money that are really more about who’s the power broker in the relationship? Fights about money are rarely about the dollars and cents themselves and typically more reflective of some other disconnect in your relationship. So I’d like to offer a new spin on this “money talk” advice: Before you start talking numbers, take a moment to look inward and figure…

January 31st, 2011
A Muslim reflects on the old laws

Growing up as the token Muslim in my small Florida town, I was often the go-to person for all things related to Islam. Talk about pressure. Before 9/11 no one really bothered or had any reason to ask me questions, but after that day, curiosity piqued and I did my best to answer the questions of my peers. Most wanted to know if I believed in God, Jesus, Moses and the Bible, while others simply wanted to know why Muslims hated people in the West.
I’m no religious scholar by any means, but once I started explaining the basics of Islam to my peers, they shrugged and said, “Oh — I guess we’re more alike than we think.”
Ten years later, I still find that to be true.
Islam builds upon the foundations…

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 27th, 2011
Facing questions of direction and purpose

The other day, I was reading a biography of Fr. Isaac Hecker, founder of the Paulists, and it was describing the American challenge into which he was born: unlimited freedom of choice leading to a groundlessness — children weren’t expected to follow their parent’s career choices; people didn’t spend their whole lives in the same community and learn to live with and love their neighbors for better or worse; the authority of people and institutions was not recognized automatically. But what the American of 1850 saw as groundlessness would today seem stodgy and limited. Comparatively, we live in a world of almost complete lawlessness. This makes the desire for a sense of purpose —…

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 20th, 2011
Readers respond to the Church's definition of "single as a vocation"

Is being single a vocation within the Catholic Church? Can one be called to a single life — not the Sacrament of Marriage, not the Sacrament of Holy Orders — as a vocation in and of itself? Last month I wrote a piece asking and answering these questions, and Busted Halo readers had a lot to say.
Click here to read the original piece, but in short, according to the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, being single is a state in life, not a vocation. Being single can be support for your vocation to follow God’s call to you to help others, to do good works, etc., but it is not a vocation in and of itself.
That blunt answer stung a lot of singles, and perhaps rightly so.
“‘Singleness’…

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 14th, 2011
A Jesuit comedian looks at reactions to the infamous Doritos ad

Sitting at the dinner table after Mass one evening in those incredibly dewy and pious days of Jesuit novitiate, my novice brother Gary mentioned through a mouthful of broccoli that he thought the best way to give the Church a better understanding of the divinity of the Eucharist would be by replacing the standard host with Krispy Kreme doughnuts, the incredibly glazed, sweet and greasy breakfast pastry that has become a symbol for excessive dietary habits in the U.S. The six of us seated at table with Gary concurred — all the while laughing at the absurdity of the suggestion — then went back to eating our broccoli.
Our Christian ancestors were eaten by lions; surely we can look a 30-second advertisement…

January 14th, 2011
Ex-L.A. gang members carry a message of hope to a small Alabama town

For over 20 years, Homeboy Industries has offered a way out of gang life for thousands of young people in Los Angeles. Established by Fr. Greg Boyle, SJ, in 1988, Homeboy has garnered national recognition and become a model across the country for helping people transition out of gang life. Their many programs include job training and placement assistance as well as small businesses — including a café, bakery, catering service, merchandise, landscaping service and maintenance service — where the most difficult to place individuals are given transitional jobs, thus providing a safe, supportive environment in which to learn both concrete and soft job skills and to build their resume.
In 2007,…

January 11th, 2011
On the anniversary on the Haiti earthquake, a reflection on the devastation and the hard road back

While putting away the Christmas decorations, I came across my daughter’s letter to Santa. Most of her list contained items typical for a 6-year-old: bike (check), dollhouse (check), The Polar Express… DVD (check). But the last item gave me pause. A month ago, when she was writing her letter, she asked me how to spell “hotel.”
“Why?” I asked.
“Because I want to ask Santa to build a new hotel in Haiti.”
In 2006, I left New York City and my job as an attorney at a law firm and moved to Haiti to teach for a semester, hoping to find fulfillment in a new career. Just as quickly as I learned that teaching was not my passion, I found another unexpected calling. I fell in love with an orphaned

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 10th, 2011
Walter Parker (1939 - 2010)

When my neighbor Walter Parker passed away in October, I knew the following: he was one of the sweetest people I’d ever met; he spent a lot of time in front of our building shooting the breeze, or just enjoying it; and he had some crazy-sweet deal on his rent. That was about it. Walter was my neighbor for 15 years and occasionally we chatted, usually about the building or the weather, or something equally innocuous; often I would just nod and say “hi” and he’d do the same.
But when I attended his memorial service at Grace Church, I was startled to discover that Walter was a prominent and active member of his church community and a serious student of the Bible.
My first thought was, “Oh, what…

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 5th, 2011
Encounters at the Jon Stewart - Stephen Colbert rally

Ask most any twentysomething in the United States where they get their news from these days, and one of their answers, if not the only one, will undoubtedly be The Daily Show or The Colbert Report…. The two hit satirical news programs from Comedy Central attempt to weed through the inundation of far right and far left, always opinionated, and often extreme cable news shows. Replaying one-sided and frequently ridiculous clips from Fox News, MSNBC, CNN and the big three networks, these shows attempt to bring to their viewers a filtered bit of truth (or truthiness, as Colbert would say) about politics and the media.
The goal each night for both Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert is to shine a half-hour’s light of sanity

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

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