Personal retreats for a busy lifestyle that keep you spiritually connected.
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April 18th, 2014
Busted Halo has created a series of virtual stations designed for personal devotion. These stations relate to Jesus’ teachings about the Kingdom of God and the reason his vision of this Kingdom led to his death. Find a quiet place to watch these stations, and as you do the devotions be open to how God is speaking to you through the Stations of the Cross.
April 17th, 2014
A scene from “Good Friday Stations of the Nonviolent Cross” in Los Angeles. (Photo courtesy of Michael Wisniewski)
On Good Friday, Jesus not only reveals that he is our Savior, but also, more subtly, that he is our Teacher. During his Passion, was he quietly teaching us not to mourn his death specifically, but rather asking us to mourn human suffering in general? Is there even a way to contextualize Christ’s Passion in the 21st century?
Many Catholic Worker communities try to do just that. By designing their own living Stations of the Cross, they attempt to tie Jesus’ Passion intimately to those who suffer in their own neighborhoods, towns and cities, as well as in far-off places in the world.
I’ve participated in the Los Angeles Catholic Worker “Good Friday Stations of the Nonviolent Cross” (which Martin Sheen dutifully attends every year), and the experience is profound. A large group gathers in downtown Los Angeles, processing to the various “stations,” singing and praying and helping each other carry a large, heavy wooden cross through the busy sidewalks and streets.
Some of the “modern” stations of Jesus’ Passion include the U.S. Federal Courthouse, the U.S. Immigration Court, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, Los Angeles City Hall, the Los Angeles Metropolitan Detention Center, the Emergency Response Call Center, the Police Administration Building and Skid Row, a .4 square mile area of downtown where 8,000 to 11,000 homeless folks are concentrated.
Walking the Catholic Worker Stations of the Cross, one can’t help but think of Jesus in the Upper Room, aware of his impending death, trying to sum up his teachings to his beloved disciples, one final time. He gives them a single commandment to follow, as if speaking to a group of children at the end of the school year: If you don’t remember anything else I’ve taught you, remember this one thing …
This is my commandment: Love each other in the same …
April 16th, 2014
“Signs of Spring (Cleaning!)” image by konarheim licensed under Creative Commons “Attribution 2.0” https://www.flickr.com/photos/konarheim/A long winter is fading into the calendar. Sunlight seems more content to lounge around past dinner and may even reach through the early spring chill and kiss our skin with bits of red if we lean its way.
The world draws us closer together as it warms. The cold and darkness that made us slowly withdraw from one another begins to disappear as birds sing, trees sprout colors, and neighbors who’ve ducked into cars to escape the cold linger once again to catch up and chat across driveways and busy sidewalks.
Winter can make us strangers.
I entered this season of Lent feeling the weight of a winter season in my spiritual life. I have felt a bit like God was my neighbor waving quickly and ducking into his front door across the street to escape the snow and ice the past few months.
With new light of the Easter season fast approaching, I was hopeful my spiritual life, like all of nature around me, might break out of its lethargy.
I stood at the edge of my driveway talking with my neighbor and happened to glance back toward my house. Extended daylight had snuck to the edges of my garage and exposed it before the world as a noticeable wreck with tools and boxes and dirt cluttering the floor. Twilight stood at the hedges near our front porch illuminating the flower beds littered with dead leaves and winter’s grunge covering the path to our front door.
My garage was a disaster and our front porch didn’t look too inviting either. The new gleams of light accentuated the need for a little cleaning … and spring cleaning takes some commitment.
I set aside time to go to work. First, I cleared clutter from the garage, ran boxes of unnecessary items to Goodwill, organized shelves, and swept floors. Then it was time to …
April 16th, 2014
A scene from Holy Thursday at Corpus Christi Church in Piedmont, California. (CNS photo/Greg Tarczynski)Every night, before I go to sleep, I open up my Q&A a Day Book and answer the daily question. Q&A a Day is a trendy five-year journal that prompts the writer to record one line each day, and has 365 questions that you answer annually. They range from “What did you have for breakfast today?” to “Are you the original or the remix?” I like musing over the memories of where I was a year ago, and cultivating curiosity over the empty space of next year. After writing my answer for March 27, I peeked to the next page for March 28. The question of the day was, “What did you remember most about today?” It just so happens that March 28 last year was Holy Thursday. I knew this because my scribble revealed my answer, “The feet washing.”
Last year at this time, I was working in New York City and living in New Jersey. I was serving a church very close to where I lived, and it brought a new meaning to what I considered a “home parish.” Besides the close proximity to my home (directly next door), I ended up helping out in the office in the evenings. When Hurricane Sandy hit, my roommates and I really dove in with damage control, helping the parish to shelter those who lost their homes. It was the most exhausting and humbling thing I’d done with a team of people at a church. That sort of thing bonds you to a place.
A few months later, Lent was upon us, and the church was on the lookout for extra bodies for the ritual of the foot washing on Holy Thursday. This is the act of washing each other’s feet as a sign of service and humility, just as Jesus washed the feet of his disciples before his crucifixion. I had …
April 16th, 2014
The Old Testament has (almost) never been read at the Eucharist during Easter season. St. Augustine of Hippo in the 4th Century started this based on earlier practices by Cyril of Jerusalem.
While there are no readings from the Hebrew Scriptures during the Easter season, there are several readings from here at the Easter Vigil. Here we draw out the history of our salvation in one night…from creation, through Abraham, through Moses, etc.
During the Easter season, the Hebrew Scriptures are replaced by the Acts of the Apostles. The logic draws upon the practice of looking forward from the resurrection to balance the Easter Vigil’s looking back on our salvation history.
On weekdays in the Easter season in fact, the Acts of the Apostles are read in pretty much a continuous way, with the whole book completed by the end of the season. The Second Readings on Sundays come from I Peter, I John, and the unusual Book of Revelation, during Years A, B, and C, respectively. The Gospel readings are almost exclusively from John.
All of this is to center us on the celebration of the resurrection and to keep us looking forward from that event into today’s time.
April 15th, 2014
Our writers invite you along on their journeys through Lent. Follow the play-by-play of their personal spiritual practices and share your own.
April 15th, 2014
It is easy to share the personal highlight reel of my life, but I will stutter if you ask me the last time I truly felt vulnerable. I enjoy being independent and do not ask for help from others unless I am put in a tough spot. The first time I purchased a car on my own my parents offered financial assistance, but instead of accepting their offer, I picked up extra jobs to save up. When I was in college, I paid for my own tuition with scholarships and by working part-time. Like many young adults, I take pride in my independence and find it jarring to be put in a position where I have to ask for help.
That all changed when I was in a car accident this winter. The wheels that carried me to work and social outings and on road trips were no more. And, mind you, I live in the Midwest where 10˚ feels good on a brisk January morning. Not having a car meant that getting to work would take the careful negotiating of transit schedules, and sometimes it meant calling up a co-worker to get a ride. I was used to offering rides, not asking for them.
I gave up some personal freedom and in exchange was truly forced to reach out and connect with others on a level that exposed my vulnerability — asking for help. I realized that in many instances post-accident, I had to be bold in my requests from friends and strangers. The Sunday following my car accident, I approached a neighbor who also attended my parish and asked for a ride. I peeled back the layers of vulnerability, outwardly admitting that I needed help from her.
Depending on others and asking strangers and loved ones to help enabled me to share more genuinely what my needs and struggles were. No longer was I the one who would walk around saying, “Oh, I’m doing fine.”
During the week, I was walking to work on freezing winter mornings. One day …
April 14th, 2014
Christian pilgrims carry palm branches during the Palm Sunday procession in Jerusalem. (CNS photo/Debbie Hill)
When I returned to the Church in my late twenties, one of the things that became very important to me was fully investing in the liturgical year. As a child, any day at church was just the same as another, and though Christmas and Easter had extra trappings, my adolescent apathy didn’t allow for much conviction or interior renewal. So, when I came back I wanted to learn, appreciate and enjoy all the unique aspects of living life according to the liturgical calendar. And there was no time where that commitment to commitment became as significant as during Holy Week.
Holy Week is the apex of our liturgical year. The entire week is one of continued heightening, building and expanding of our faith in and love for Christ, culminating with the celebration of the Resurrection on Easter. There’s so much to do during the week, and the ups and downs of the scriptural events throughout can seem rather chaotic. I’ll admit my first few Holy Weeks upon my return to Catholicism had me feeling frazzled and overwhelmed, because I wanted to have the full-on, no holds barred Holy Week experience. Instead, I wound up finding myself burnt out and exhausted by the time Easter came around. This is a rather common experience amongst the faithful, so I offer some gentle guidance and things to focus on during the week in order to make for a rich and rejuvenating encounter with God.
To make things simpler, it might help to look at Holy Week as a journey, one that moves from the interior to the exterior. We begin in an interior space on Palm Sunday — the traditional start of Holy Week — allowing ourselves the opportunity for both anticipation and reflection. In the account of Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem, read during the blessing of the palms at the beginning …
April 14th, 2014
Whenever I move to a city, something big seems to happen. When I moved to St. Louis in 2006, the Cardinals won the World Series. When I moved to Chicago, President Obama was elected in 2008 and the Blackhawks won the Stanley Cup in 2010. And when I moved to Boston last year, the Red Sox won the World Series. Each of these events united the city I lived in, and I spent much time partying in the streets, as they say.
However, in April 2013, I experienced something that united a city, yet was a tragedy. Not only a tragedy for Boston, but for the entire nation.
The day of the Boston Marathon bombings began as a beautiful day. The sun was shining, and you couldn’t imagine better weather for a marathon. The entire city shut down, and I was eager to join the festivities in the streets. I was also there to watch a good friend and Jesuit run. Seeing him run through the street in Kenmore Square, I couldn’t have been prouder. He was just over a mile away from the finish line.
I had never been to a marathon finish line, but that day, I decided I should go. I was supposed to meet my friend around there, anyway, and who wouldn’t want to see the excitement at the end of a race well run. I made my way down near Copley Square, and soaked in the excitement. I snapped a few pictures, even ones near the rows of international flags, which would become tragically iconic in the hours to come.
I never thought, as a resident assistant at Boston University where I attend graduate school, that I would have to use the emergency procedures that we were taught in training. I never thought I’d be handed a roster of my residents and asked to report back on whether or not each person was alive and accounted for.
I met my friend at the end of his run, met his parents, and celebrated his great achievement. Afterward, I wanted to go to …
April 11th, 2014
When I heard that Fred Phelps was gravely ill, my immediate visceral reaction was sinful in the extreme. My immediate visceral reaction was: good.
I am not proud of this.
If you don’t know, Fred Phelps was the founder of the infamous Westboro Baptist Church, known for its protests of military funerals and its virulent homophobia. Church members, mostly Phelps’ own relatives, celebrated the deaths of American soldiers as acts of divine retribution. They touted signs proclaiming “God Hates Fags” and “Thank God for 9/11.” The WBC has made hateful statements about not only homosexuals, but Catholics, Muslims, Hindus, Jews, and various Protestant denominations.
So it isn’t surprising that Phelps’ death has triggered some self-righteousness — even glee. In what’s probably one of the most brazen examples, a band chose to commemorate the occasion with “Good riddance” T-shirts. More common, I imagine, are reactions like my own — quiet stabs of schadenfreude.
Let’s be clear about who Phelps was and what he represented. He was a disturbed and evil man who made it his business to spread misery, who did not deserve the attention his toxic spewings attracted for him.
How do you love a person like that? Because apparently that’s what we’re supposed to do.
In a perfect world, I suppose, no one would know about the WBC. We would all collectively ignore them. Since, for better or for worse, we haven’t done that (and maybe it’s just as well; it would be a shame if Phelps’ victims interpreted our silence as indifference to their suffering) we have a delicate balance to strike. Part of loving a person is not allowing that person to persist in sin unchallenged. We have to be clear that hatred is unacceptable. We also have to love and respect Phelps and his ilk as human beings created in the image and likeness of God, however warped by anger or ignorance. To that end, immediately following Phelps’ death, counter-protestors arrived at a WBC protest with signs reading, “Sorry for your loss.”
I guess it’s natural to hate the hateful. Even as …
April 8th, 2014
A few years ago, I was rushing to catch the Staten Island Ferry. Missing the ferry could mean a 30- or 60-minute wait for the next one. I had minutes until the next departure. Nothing else was on my mind.
A man stood at the top of the stairs asking for money. I had seen him several times before. But wouldn’t you know it, of all times, this was the moment that he approached me. My response? “I don’t have any money on me, but I will pray for you.” Little did I know that this was the beginning of one of those unforgettable moments when God breaks through the hustle of everyday life.
“You will?” he asked me.
“Yes, I will,” I responded while at the same time the tension in me was mounting because I HAD TO CATCH THE FERRY.
“Will you pray for me right now?”
Something in his voice made me realize how important my offer was to him.
“Yes,” I responded. “What would you like me to pray for?”
“I want to hear God’s voice.”
“I want to hear God’s voice.” Doesn’t that capture the longing present in each one of our hearts? The reality is that God does speak, but that we have a hard time hearing. God says as much in Deuteronomy: “Surely, this commandment that I am commanding you today is not too hard for you, nor is it too far away. It is not in heaven, that you should say, ‘Who will go up to heaven for us, and get it for us so that we may hear it and observe it?’ Neither is it beyond the sea, that you should say, ‘Who will cross to the other side of the sea for us, and get it for us so that we may hear it and observe it?’ No, the word is very near to you; it is in your mouth and in your heart for you to observe.” Deuteronomy 30:11-14
“What would you like me to pray for?”
“I want to hear God’s voice.”
“I want to hear God’s
April 7th, 2014
CRS Rice Bowl. You might read those words, click on the link, and think that you’re headed toward a tasty recipe on Pinterest. Or a trendy new restaurant. No, not quite.
CRS stands for Catholic Relief Services, an international humanitarian agency of the Catholic community in the United States. CRS Rice Bowl is a way to dedicate Lenten prayer, fasting and almsgiving to help those in need. A CRS Rice Bowl is actually a small cardboard box (rice bowl) where you collect your gifts. Through giving, daily reflections, weekly prayers, meatless recipes, a mobile app and stories of hope from around the world, CRS Rice Bowl engages people — body, mind and soul — in Lenten sacrifice.
This year, CRS Rice Bowl has invited college students to reflect on their Lenten journeys in short videos. A new video is being posted every day of Lent. You can take a look at all of the videos here.
Below are some of the videos and written reflections from the young adults about Lent. See how their spiritual practices are bringing them closer to God and creating a greater awareness of the needs of others.
It’s not too late to use CRS Rice Bowl as part of your Lenten practice! Go to the CRS Rice Bowl website for details.
Breaking a habit
“I have learned that Lent is about conversion rather than just giving something up. Lent is about rejecting our desires and becoming closer to God just as Jesus does when he was tempted by the devil in the wilderness.
“I chose to give up biting my nails for Lent: A habit I have attempted to break many times in my life but have failed each time. It may be silly, but biting my nails is an unhealthy way for me to deal with my stress. Instead of praying, reflection or reading the Bible, I zone out and bite my nails. I bite my nails when I am bored, I bite my nails when I …
April 1st, 2014
It’s April already and though the first day of the month is a time for practical jokes, things get a little more solemn later on as we head into Holy Week. Also, spring is finally here and if you’re looking for a good way to celebrate Earth Day on the 22nd, look no further than the Busted Halo® Virtual Retreat.
April 1st, 2014
The news straight from the Vatican earlier this morning is that Busted Halo’s® own Fr. Steven Bell, CSP, has been named a Roman Catholic cardinal. While it’s rare in modern times for a priest who is not a bishop to become a cardinal, it’s not unheard of. Asked how he felt about this great honor, newly named Steven Cardinal Bell exclaimed, “Amen!”
March 31st, 2014
Like the dark smudge on your forehead, Lent is something that has already disappeared for many in today’s stressful world. However, observing Lent can alter our perceptions and how we view the world can be greatly transformed. So, while there is still time during this season, all is not lost.
We can take a page from a Jewish rabbi on this. On Yom Kippur he gave out to each member of his congregation a small piece of paper. On one side of it was written: “It’s later than you think!” On the other side, it said, “It’s never too late!” What he was speaking about is a sense of mindful prayerfulness — being in the now with our eyes wide open to the presence of God in so many different and wondrous ways. And, fortunately this Lent, we still have time if we take it now. So, why not reflect on the following four ways Lent can change you?
Simply read and reread the following four ways in the morning during the remainder of Lent. During the day, over lunch or a break, skim through them again, and finally, before you go to bed, give them a final check. In doing this, avoid judging yourself as to how Lent and your life is going. Catch yourself if something spurs the blaming game in which you find yourself thinking negatively of others. And finally, don’t get discouraged if your Lent seems to be less than you want it to be. Just seek to be intrigued with how God is working in your life.
Remember the ashes: The message of “from dust to dust we shall
March 26th, 2014
Pope Francis embraces a patient at St. Francis of Assisi Hospital in Rio de Janeiro. (CNS photo/Reuters )
Recently, I’ve been rereading selections from Henri Nouwen’s writings in the bathroom, as they are short, to the point, and open into deeper reflections. Some may protest at the idea of doing spiritual reading in the bathroom, but I find it a perfect place. No one bothers you. Your cell phone cannot buzz or twitch at you. For just a while you are protected from real life, all except the parents of toddlers who do not respect any kind of doors.
Henri Nouwen was a Dutch priest and theologian of enormous output. He wrote many books, lectured widely, inspired thousands in their spiritual journeys, and wound up living his later years in a L’Arche community in Canada, which pairs mentally abled adults with mentally disabled adults, and both benefit from shared work and connection. His book, The Wounded Healer has influenced countless people, and the way he drew on his own darkness, his sense of unworthiness, makes him a good spiritual companion for someone like me.
During a recent reading in the blessed silence of our necessary, I came across something I’d never realized before — the difference between empathy and compassion. Henri speaks eloquently of how we spend our emotional energy sympathizing with our needy friends, reaching out to troubled ones, and identifying with their situations. We almost see ourselves in their shoes. You know how this goes. We all have friends who have used up our empathy meters. We keep putting in coins — praying, looking around for resources to help them, talking way too long on the phone to help support their shaky selves — and then we collapse because the meter has run out.
When we pray for God’s guidance and open our hands to the startling possibility that maybe — just maybe — we cannot fix the situation but
March 24th, 2014
When I was in grade school I bought two goldfish and named them Calvin and Hobbes, after the beloved comic strip characters. I looked forward to years of watching these small orange creatures swim laps above the neon rocks that lined the bottom of their bowl. Three days later I found Hobbes floating at the top of the tank. Crushed, I scooped him out and placed him on a cotton bed in a small cardboard jewelry box. Determined not to let his short life go unnoticed, I recruited a friend and my younger sister to join in a mid-afternoon funeral procession. Singing “On Eagles Wings,” we marched into the woods behind our house where I had dug a shallow grave (about six inches, rather than feet), and I covered the tiny box with soft earth. I would later mark the spot with a smooth rock on which I had painted the fish’s name in puffy fabric paint.
Anyone who happened upon these proceedings might have viewed them as sweet and childlike, or possibly insane, but generous souls might also label the actions a Corporal Work of Mercy.
The seven Corporal Works of Mercy include feeding the hungry, giving drink to the thirsty, clothing the naked, sheltering the homeless, visiting the sick, visiting the imprisoned and burying the dead. These actions connect us with God by connecting us with each other. They allow us to see Christ in our neighbors. The corporal works of mercy are rooted in the Gospel of Matthew, in which Jesus says, “For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, a stranger and you welcomed me, naked and you clothed me, ill and you cared for me, in prison and you visited me.” Of course the folks listening to Jesus wonder when, exactly, they did these things for him. “Whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me.” These are strong, unambiguous words. We are called to serve God through these acts. But that doesn’t mean …
March 22nd, 2014
Pope John XXIII
“See everything. Overlook a great deal. Correct a little.”
-Pope John XXIII
I do not know much about the soon-to-be canonized Pope John XXIII, but the above quotation has been one of my favorites ever since encountering it a few years ago.
It lends itself to all corners of life. So often, I think our very human inclination is to feel the need to address problems with radical change. If something is not working, best to throw it out and rebuild or take on something new.
What the Good Pope’s reminder indicates to me, however, is that we can meddle in a way that is ultimately counterproductive. What needs to be fixed is often only a minor detail.
Yesterday I was speaking with a Jesuit priest who needs to light a candle and face a window for his prayer to have any chance at carrying some significance. He has a few ideas as to why this is the case, but he is ultimately resigned to this simply being the way it is. It was a discovery he made on a day when, for whatever reason, he was not looking out a window during his prayer. A small shift later, and his meditation had regained its vigor.
I have similarly begun to experiment with my prayer – where and how I sit or whether I am sitting at all; the time of day I pray; where I place my hands; what noise I allow around me, etc. These may seem like superfluous details, and in some cases, they might be just that. But sometimes, the little corrections are the ones that count.
March 20th, 2014
Georgetown basketball player blocks a shot during a regional final game in 2007. (CNS photo/Mike Segar, Reuters)
As the Madness of March and college basketball descend upon the sporting world, once again there are many Catholic colleges in the mix. Over the years, Georgetown, Marquette, Gonzaga, Notre Dame and many other Catholic schools have been a part of the landscape that is men’s and women’s college basketball. Of the more than 350 schools that compete in Division 1 NCAA basketball, about 10 percent of them are affiliated with or classified as Catholic schools. And year after year, the presence of Catholic schools in the NCAA tournament stays true to the 10 percent, or more often exceeds it. This year, nine of the 68 teams in the men’s bracket are Catholic schools (13 percent) and seven of the 64 teams in the women’s bracket are Catholic schools (11 percent).
Many Catholic schools even gain national recognition through their basketball teams. Without any understanding of Catholic or Jesuit higher education, I remember growing up in the 80s hearing all about Georgetown basketball. And later on, as a cheerleader at University of San Diego, I discovered the collegiality with other schools in the West Coast Conference that came through shared opposition to our communal rival, Gonzaga.
Why are so many Catholic schools good at basketball?
Some conferences have many Catholic schools. My own Fordham Rams and University of San Diego Toreros are in such conferences. Putting aside conference composition, I would like to focus on the particular characteristics and spirituality of Catholic higher education.
Catholic education is holistic; it focuses on developing the whole person. When an athlete comes to one of these schools, it is not only their athletic skill that is fostered, developed and cared for. Athletes in Catholic colleges are developed intellectually, spiritually and ethically. That is not to say that these places are free from imperfection. But the …
March 18th, 2014
“The Glory of Christ” by Stephen B. Whatley (CNS photo/Stephen B. Whatley)You might have heard the phrase during a typical Catholic high school dance. The chaperone would diligently separate hormonal teenagers on the dance floor by yelling, “Make room for Jesus!”
Now, I’ve never experienced this firsthand, but the stories from my friends have stuck with me. And it has occurred to me that this phrase might help challenge us during our Lenten journeys.
A typical question this time of year is “What did you give up for Lent?” Loosely translated: “How will you be depriving yourself this season?”
Unless there is real meaning behind what we’re doing, it can just sound silly. The purpose of Lent is not to further our fitness goals with Hail Mary sit-ups or to lose weight by giving up pastries.
Fr. Miguel Marie Soeherman MFVA, describes Lenten fasting as “a way of preparation or as a means to deny ourselves or to decrease our selfish will so that the will of Christ may grow within.” We typically do this by abstaining from certain foods. It’s a simple way to offer up suffering because we need food, but we can do without varieties of food like chocolate or chips (as much as we try to convince ourselves). To fast from something is to willingly deny ourselves earthly pleasures to, you guessed it, “make room for Jesus.”
In the absence of something sweet, we are made more aware of our bitterness, and turn to God for guidance. It’s like cleaning your room and discovering how much dirt is actually on the floor, and having a friend around to help you sweep up the mess. But we don’t have to take the approach of self-mortification like Saint John of the Cross or Saint Theresa of Avila to get the full picture.