Busted Halo

Monica Rozenfeld moves to Brooklyn with two roommates — a Catholic and an observant Jew — and they each seek understanding of what it means to be religious.

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December 31st, 2010

While there are so many posts written in my head, I thought I should hop on the band wagon and look back on the end of 2010 living in our happy, little interfaith home with Monica and Annie.  It’s time to take a moment to reflect and remember my  kosher kitchenware that has been lost to the traif gods:

Two dairy bowls (donated to Monica and Annie) and two dairy forks (to be re-kashered) were lost a couple of weeks after we moved in during a pasta incident.

A dairy cutting board (donated to Monica and Annie) was lost after it was washed with good intentions.  It has since been replaced.

A dairy bread plate mysteriously made its way into our non-kosher sink.  It has been donated and we still do not know how it got there.

A meat knife was de-kashered after it was mistakenly used to cut a dairy cupcake (to be re-kashered when the snow melts).

A friend broke one of my glasses.  It’s okay, especially since I broke one of his wine glasses back in the day while doing dishes.

The last loss of 2010 (I hope the last since there are less than 24 hours …

December 31st, 2010

Holden Caulfield’s Moments of Grace

The spiritual wisdom of Salinger’s famous teen

Midway through J.D. Salinger’s novel The Catcher in the Rye, the protagonist, Holden Caulfield, notices a child walking along the streets of New York City. Even though Holden is in a bad way — he’s flunked out of school; he feels isolated from nearly everyone he knows — the child lifts his spirits.

“He was making out like he was walking a very straight line, the way kids do, and the whole time he kept singing and humming. I got up closer so I could hear what he was singing. He was singing that song, ‘If a body catch a body coming through the rye.’ He had a pretty little voice, too. He was singing just for the hell of it, you could tell.”

Holden — unlike the drivers of the cars zooming by, the other pedestrians, and even the boy’s parents — notices and appreciates the small singer. “It made me feel better. It made me feel not so depressed any more.”

This scene, which is referenced again later in the story, gives Holden a tangible peace. It gives the novel its name. And it gives …

December 30th, 2010


The word sounds ominous enough when it’s spoken in reference to an older person, but when it’s used to describe the dying months of a 37-year-old woman, it is dreadful to my ears.

One of my all-time favorite people, Elizabeth Bonwich — or “EEEEEEEEEEEEE BEEEEEEEEEE” as I would call her in my best “public address announcer” voice whenever I greeted her — spent her last few months in hospice. She died on Saturday Dec. 18th in the late evening. Elizabeth had five different kinds of cancer for nearly 20 years. Cancer robbed her of her ability to walk without a brace and a cane, caused a constant ringing in her ears and, in general, gave her lots of reasons to be angry at these injustices.

I would often remark to her, “EB, aren’t there things in this world that we should be angry at? Like the fact that people go to bed without food or homes, or that evil people often get rewarded for bad behavior, or that people have horrible diseases?”

Elizabeth would agree but would also challenge me: “Being angry doesn’t help. But using anger to motivate you to action, that’s another matter entirely.” Elizabeth’s anger never …

December 29th, 2010
A fan shares why they're supporting Busted Halo this holiday season

At Busted Halo® we love getting feedback about how we’re doing — what we’re doing right, how we can better serve you, and why you care about our ministry. So this holiday season we asked some fans to share why they care about Busted Halo.

Jack from California

Jack from California

Jack from California:

My name is Jack, and I have been a listener and reader of Busted Halo for about four years. I never get tired of listening to the Busted Halo Cast because of their unique sense of humor but, more importantly, I love the way they approach the questions posed by listeners. The answers Fr. Dave gives are always very insightful, and yet very easy to understand.

At times, I’ve felt like religion doesn’t fit into my contemporary life, but Busted Halo has truly made my Catholic faith approachable. I appreciate that the Busted Halo website looks at things from a young adult perspective and allows for many view points, not just that of the Catholic Church.

Busted Halo has helped me see that religion is still relevant and has helped me explain our Catholic faith to other people. They’ve inspired me to become active in my parish community and …

December 28th, 2010
(1934 - 2010)


After college I had to have my own apartment. Like so many other young women, I saw this independence as an exhilarating and gratifying rite of passage. But it could also be very lonely. I found that at the end of the day, I would put on the television just to have some other voices in the apartment. I really liked to fall asleep with the television on and at the end of the day Lifetime — “the network for women” — was always showing just the right thing to entertain and calm me: The Golden Girls.

The Golden Girls originally aired on NBC from 1985 to 1992. I remember my grandmothers watching it when they came to visit my home, but I wasn’t a fan until it was in reruns. Each of the four older female stars, Bea Arthur, Betty White, Rue McClanahan and Estelle Getty, has her own unique personality. Bea Arthur was Dorothy the divorced substitute teacher, Betty White the naïve farm girl, Estelle Getty the wise and spicy Sicilian; but the one I loved the most and wanted to emulate was the devil-may-care Blanche, played by Rue McClanahan.

Yes, there are other, not very flattering …

December 27th, 2010
Given the painful revelations of the sex scandal, why are Catholic churches not empty?

Every Sunday, all around the globe, a minor miracle is occurring that has gone almost unnoticed: despite continuing revelations about the sex abuse scandal in the Catholic Church, somehow the churches aren’t empty. Despite all the terrible news about the Catholic Church sitting at the top of everyone’s RSS feed for days on end, it was still standing room only at the Holy Week events. While it is strictly anecdotal evidence, people are still coming to church even when the reports of the sex scandal are so dire. Can you imagine any other organization on earth weathering this type of negative publicity over this long a period and still being able to function?

So we asked young Catholics themselves why they still come to church. Is it simply out of obligation? Do they defend the church? Are they able to see value in their faith despite institutional mismanagement?

Bill McGarvey, Joe Williams and Brittany Janis visited a parish with a large young adult population to ask that question and several others. This video is a small sampling of the many thoughtful answers we received.

But we would like to hear your thoughts as well…

Share your thoughts about the scandal, …

December 26th, 2010
They block us from our full potential -- are you willing to let go of yours?


In my recent interview about the spirituality of being on time, I talked about the fact that the spiritual answer is not just to behave, but to change oneself interiorly. Of course, that’s beyond the scope of this column, but I want to talk in this column about one aspect of what needs to change: character defects.

In twelve-step recovery programs, there’s an inventory process, where the person identifies those recurring patterns or tendencies that have caused them trouble — things like dishonesty, self-seeking, and envy. (Opinions vary as to the benefits of listing specific versus broad defects.) The Sixth Step then says, “Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.” Right away, you’ll notice something interesting about the phrasing. It says, “ready to have God remove.” This is not a self-help exercise, giving a checklist of things to “work on.” We are not running the show. God removes the defect. If you are doing this work, your job is to surrender it to God, to be “entirely” willing.

Not only do we not remove the character defects ourselves, we also don’t choose which ones are removed and when — or even if one is …

December 26th, 2010

The Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph. Father Dave highlights the fact that not just the Family of Jesus is a holy one, but indeed all families are holy. (Preached on Sunday, December 26th, 2010, St. Paul the Apostle Church, 59th St. and Columbus Ave., New York City)

December 22nd, 2010
Convert, mystic, evangelist, American


Isaac Thomas Hecker died on December 22, 1888, at the Paulist House on 59th Street in Manhattan.

As the following biography of Hecker illustrates, being a “spiritual seeker” is not unique to the 21st century. Hecker’s own faith journey in the mid-19th century included Methodism, political activism, struggles with depression and dark nights of the soul, Transcendentalism, and, ultimately, Catholicism. It also brought Hecker into associations with such titans of 19th-century American thought as Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry David Thoreau, Bronson Alcott and Orestes Brownson.

The harvest moon hung round and fat and orange over New York City’s East River that warm October night. The luminous disk, cutting cleanly into the blue-black sky, released a golden cone of light upon the river’s black currents racing into the bay below. Sitting alone on a wharf, a young man leaned against a piling, pulled his knees to his chest and turned his eyes upward to nature’s silent grandeur. The gigantic moon floating in the tranquil night bathed his sore spirit.

Seventeen-year-old Isaac Hecker, the youth rapt in contemplation on the East River dock, was experiencing profound loneliness and bewilderment. He had never felt so alone as he did that October evening in …

December 20th, 2010
How sincere are you when winning friends and influencing people?


Is being polite honest? Young adults aren’t quite sure. And as Christmas and New Year’s parties abound this time of year, there are lots of opportunities to ponder this question as you smile and glad-hand your way through the holidays.

We young folks are a generation raised in the therapeutic culture, readily turning inward to analyze our emotions. But we are also a generation known for blunt communication styles and a lack of fidelity to social conventions. Indeed, for many of the college students I teach, being too polite or conscious of the feelings of others is a concerning sign that you are out of touch with your core self.

Case in point: Ask a college student to define honesty and the response invariably will be inward-focused. Honesty is about personal integrity, being true to yourself and facing your fears, my students tell me. However, challenged to explain their attitudes on outward-focused honesty — honesty in social interactions — the conversation slows to a stammer of uncertainty.

Is it honest to look for the positives in an otherwise distasteful situation? Is it honest to search for some element of shared interest, and focus on that, to get someone to warm …

December 19th, 2010
Suggestions we've made in recent weeks, if you still need a little help


Still struggling to find a Christmas gift for someone? Consider these suggestions we’ve made recently.

If you have someone on your list who would appreciate a book, we’ve highlighted two gorgeous options recently that are easy choices.

The Saint John’s Bible is an amazing new illuminated bible we featured last month (Meeting Scripture Through the Illuminated Word) and it has been reproduced in seven gorgeous coffee table volumes, following the classic sections of the Bible. The first six are available and each can be purchased separately. Whether as a treasured home bible, a collection of sacred art, a tool for lectio divina, or all three, it’s hard to imagine a better gift for the right person.

Author Judith Dupré contributed an article to Busted Halo recently that was based on her new book, Full of Grace: Encountering Mary in Faith, Art and Life — which is filled with thought-provoking essays and a trove of Marian art. This beautiful volume mixes classic and modern art renderings of the Virgin Mary with 59 essays by Dupré ranging in topic from Mary’s Jewish roots to the roles of women, from Our Lady of Guadalupe to Mary’s relevance in 21st-century life.


December 19th, 2010
Purifying the Christmas Air

The author's family Christmas trees, 40 years later

The author’s family Christmas trees, 40 years later

Very few of us want to be remembered for the worst moments of our lives. Even if those worst moments are numerous, there have to be some times when we were our better, more authentic and loving selves.

As the days shorten and darkness covers our late afternoons and evenings, we naturally have some extra time to ponder significant moments of our lives. At holiday times, we remember Christmas and New Year celebrations of decades past. For those of us who grew up in households crossed by the affliction of addiction, holiday celebrations were often marred by unpleasantness, if not outright violence.

My Dad had numerous “worst moments” in his life, but it’s the holiday snafus that stand out in memory, when alcohol too often fueled his smoldering rage. One Thanksgiving was ruined when, after a liquid feast of Schmidt’s beer and Canadian Club instead of turkey, he lost his temper and started wailing on us kids. There was a Christmas when I was home from college, and Dad — who hadn’t lived with us for years — showed up drunk. Long and short of it, I had him arrested that Christmas …

December 16th, 2010

facts_of_faith-alternative_gifts-largeFr. Larry Rice and Fr. Dave Dwyer offer suggestions on gifts for the holidays that keep on giving: fair trade products, shares in Catholic Relief Services and other options worlds better than ugly sweaters.

A few of the organizations Fr. Larry mentions:

Heifer International

Advent Conspiracy

Catholic Relief Services Fair Trade

Ten Thousand Villages

Global Exchange

December 16th, 2010
The most valuable gifts don’t involve frantic trips to the mall


After making my way through the panicked hordes of last minute shoppers at Best Buy, I found myself in the long winding line. Standing behind a mom with a wailing baby strapped to her side and a Doritos-munching daughter whose hunger was not satiated by her own junk food and whined for every candy in the aisle, I calculated the damage my mom’s last few Christmas gifts would cause my dwindling bank account.

As the mother in front of me valiantly tried to push her four large packages forward, while shushing the baby and keeping her daughters powdered “cheese”-covered fingers away from every impulse offer in the checkout, I felt something buzzing. Struggling to balance my boxes against my hip, I plunged a hand into the abyss known as my purse. As I finally clamped down on the smooth contour of my cell phone the buzzing stopped. The penetrating dirty looks of the shoppers behind me, who wondered what was stopping the gratifying sensation of moving forward (even though we weren’t even close to cashiers), compelled me to ignore the call and shuffle on.

After finally paying and making my way into the cool night air I checked my cell …

December 14th, 2010
Coming home to Christian faith through Buddhist meditation


I don’t think it was my parents’ goal to raise a family of passionless, non-churchgoing Protestants of an indeterminate denomination, but my religious education was made up mostly of playing Handel’s Messiah in the school orchestra and feeling a wistful crush on St. Francis in the movie Brother Sun Sister Moon. That sounds flippant, but those impressions rang a thrilling chime deep inside me that was hard to describe. I found that trying to talk about that feeling with adults brought out the same tone of condescension they would use concerning pre-adolescent crushes. Yes, they seemed to say, you’re having some strong feelings you don’t understand, but there’s time enough for that when you’re older.

At college, where questions of ethics (let alone spiritual truths) were considered hopelessly old hat, I came to believe that my childhood yearnings for something “beyond” were in the same category as wishing for a prince on a white steed to whisk me away to a sparkly kingdom. I was not the most likely candidate to sign up for a ten-week class in Buddhist meditation. Yet that is where I found myself, on the recommendation of a therapist. She had described it merely as …

December 12th, 2010
The only gift we can all afford this holiday season

We look to the holiday season to lift our spirits and yet come January we are sometimes utterly depressed because our expectations were not met. There is reason to hope despite our engagement in two wars (or, to be more exact, one war and one occupation); facing global financial insecurity because of corporate greed; people losing their homes to foreclosure; millions of others who have no medical safety net; still more who are homeless, hungry or living under brutal and repressive regimes in Africa and around the world. Despite all this and more, there is reason to hope as we embark on the holiday season. In the center of all of this, in the center of our lives as families, faith communities, neighborhoods — our life together on planet earth — dwells the Prince of Peace. At the very center of who we are dwells the nonviolent One, Jesus the Christ. Our greatest power and our greatest gift come from a manger in Bethlehem and a cross on Calvary: the gift of nonviolence.

The occupying Roman army surrounded the manger; the Cross resulted from the rich and powerful brought to their knees by a nonviolent love they had to kill. …

December 9th, 2010

While everyone has been going crazy over Yeshiva University’s Maccabeats Chanukah video, let me share this with you by my friend and spoken word artist Danny Raphael.…

December 9th, 2010
The author of Full of Grace reflects on the many ways Mary is relevant in our lives today

A Chicano prisoner, tattooed with the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe as she appeared on Juan Diego's cloak in Mexico in 1531, kneels in a detention center. Artist Delilah Montoya draws connections between the deities of the Náhuatl Indians and Guadalupe, who is beloved by prisoners, gang members and others wounded by life. Photo: © Delilah Montoya, 1999

Our Lady of Guadalupe is beloved by prisoners, gang members and others wounded by life. La Guadalupana © Delilah Montoya, 1999

A while ago, just as summer was ending, I went to an art opening at Yale University. I met a student, a young girl about 18 years old, who possessed the kind of guileless beauty that needs no embellishment. As we talked in the heat of the crowded galleries, she took off her jacket, revealing to my surprise that she was covered, neck to wrist, with tattoos. Inscribed into her body were beautiful, artful images of flowers and storybook characters — several of Maurice Sendak’s Wild Things crept along her upper arm, Ariel from the Little Mermaid swam cunningly on her forearm, the rag woman Sally in Tim Burton’s Nightmare Before Christmas peeked from behind her elbow. These characters were the ones she loved best from childhood, she said, inflecting her words as though her youth were decades past.

We continued to make small talk, and eventually drifted off into conversations with others, but the memory of her painted skin and quiet beauty stayed with me. I was overwhelmed by the feeling I had been looking at the Virgin …

December 8th, 2010

How do you listen to God? Please give to our Double Your Dollars Holiday Fund Drive @ www.bustedhalo.com. Church Search for the Immaculate Conception. 12-8-10.…

December 8th, 2010
A fan shares why he's supporting Busted Halo this holiday season

Mike from Connecticut

Mike from Connecticut

At Busted Halo® we love getting feedback about how we’re doing — what we’re doing right, how we can better serve you, and why you care about our ministry. So this holiday season we asked some fans to share why they care about Busted Halo.

Mike, from Connecticut:

“This year I have decided to add someone new to my Christmas gift list: Busted Halo. The reason is simple, more often than not I find myself nodding in agreement with something that is said on the radio show, written on the website, or covered in a podcast. Addressing everyday issues with a modern Catholic voice is refreshing to all of us who consider ourselves spiritual seekers, but compelling content cannot create itself nor can it distribute itself through various points of contact. That is why I am supporting Busted Halo’s Holiday Fund Drive and hope you will consider doing the same.”

This holiday season share why YOU care and (from now to January 9th) make TWICE THE IMPACT during our Double Your Dollars Holiday Fund Drive.

If you value the discussion going on at Busted Halo please let us know by:

becoming a monthly supporter
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