Busted Halo

Busted Halo distributed Flip videocameras to undocumented individuals and agencies and asked them to start videoblogging. We hope Busted Borders gives a personal glimpse into the humanity of these strangers in our midst.

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December 11th, 2009

In this video, Benita discusses her background and the difficulties she faced growing up.

December 9th, 2009

annerice-flashFather Dave talks with the incredibly talented author, Anne Rice! One of America’s most read and celebrated authors, Anne Rice is known for weaving the visible and supernatural worlds together in epic stories that both entertain and challenge readers. Her books are richly filled with history, belief, philosophy, religion, and compelling characters that examine and extend our physical world beyond the limits we perceive. After two volumes of her moving life of Jesus Christ (Christ the Lord: Out of Egypt and Christ the Lord: The Road to Cana) and her spiritual memoir Called Out of Darkness, her newest book, ANGEL TIME is a return to the rich imagination and compelling worlds of Anne’s early novels, combined with the inspiration of her renewed faith. (Originally aired: 11/06/09)

December 9th, 2009


As the former city editor and senior religion writer for Newsday, Pulitzer Prize winning journalist Paul Moses is well aware of what it takes to get the facts right on an important story. But when the story you’re researching is 800 years old, things can get pretty complicated. In the wake of September 11, Moses discovered a little-known episode in St. Francis of Assissi’s life in which he attempted to end the crusades by crossing enemy lines to gain an audience with the Sultan of Egypt.

In The Saint and the Sultan: The Crusades, Islam, and Francis of Assisi’s Mission of Peace, Moses — now a professor of journalism at Brooklyn College and the City University of New York Graduate School — combines his skills as a reporter with his formidable storytelling abilities to recount a remarkable mission of peace in which Francis himself was deeply transformed through his encounter with his enemy. Though the story takes place in 1219, this early encounter between the Christian West and the Islamic east resonates down through the centuries in ways that many Americans will recognize today.

BH: Where did the idea to write about this obscure part of Francis’ life come from?

PM: I was reading The Little Flowers of St. Francis just for some kind of light inspirational reading. It was written in the 1300s and it’s still a very popular book. It had a chapter on Francis and the Sultan that was really interesting because I read this in the period after 9/11. So I was wondering if it was really historical; I looked into it. I read some histories and some biographies that have been done on Francis and realized it was a real event, so I started looking into it.

BH: Obviously there was a relevance to it that hit you specifically after 9/11…

PM: Definitely, because we all know the stories of how poorly Christians and Muslims have gotten along but here’s one that says it could

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December 8th, 2009


Patrick Aleph, lead singer of punk band Can Can, has started an oh-so-needed movement in the Jewish community called Punk Torah . Punk Torah is not necessarily about music, Patrick explains, but it is about rebelling — rebuilding and reapproaching the way Judaism is being done. “If I punk the Torah, it’s not that I’m punking a holy book. It’s that I’m punking a certain way of looking at the book which is inflexible and what drives people away from it,” he said.

Patrick considers himself an observant Jew, but also lives what he believes to be a very progressive life. He gets asked often how he balances being in a punk band with Judaism. His says he doesn’t have to because it’s exactly the same. A recent song he wrote, “Black Rainbow,” describes a parallel between what it’s like to beg a woman into bed and what it’s like to beg G-d to come into your heart. He also wrote a song on his last album, Pretty Motion, about what it’s like being a Jew living in the Bible Belt.

A CNN piece, “‘New Jews’ stake claim to faith, culture,” quoted Patrick recently: "When I’m on stage screaming, hitting my face with a microphone and pouring beer on my head, at least I’m singing about the Torah.” This new wave of young, highly spiritual and proud Jews have taken it upon themselves to find a new approach to expressing their faith, and Patrick is leading the way.

Busted Halo: What are your thoughts on the ‘New Jew’ movement? What role does Punk Torah play? And is it all really so new considering, as you’ve mentioned, the rabbis who wrote the midrash were artists and musicians expressing Judaism in a radical way?

Patrick Aleph: I think that in contemporary Western society, New Jew, as far as a spiritual direction, is brand new. Jews are sort of behind the curve when it comes

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December 7th, 2009

Sep Kamvar

Feel festive, cheerful and blessed around Christmas — but then slide into the doldrums in the first weeks of the New Year? Financially illiterate — and then suddenly started blogging about how the ups and downs of the stock market impacted you emotionally? Felt patriotic — or depressed — when Obama was elected? The internet knows.

Talk about following the zeitgeist: Computer programmers Sep Kamvar and Jonathan Harris have spent more than four years collecting some 12 million emotions posted on internet blogs. Turns out we’re a pretty predictable bunch: Patterns of the calendar, news events and even the weather influence how we say we feel. And as an increasing number of bloggers worldwide share their lives publicly, we’re developing a new relationship with computers, our fellow bloggers and ourselves.

And this Christmas season, you can track your emotions in their strikingly beautiful, glossy gift book, We Feel Fine (Scribner), that uses sophisticated computer science to underpin its findings about modern human emotion. The brainchild of Kamvar, a professor of computational mathematics at Stanford University, and Harris, a systems designer, the program scans scans all blogs every few minutes and extracts the sentences that contain “I feel” or “I am feeling.” Since blogs often have public profiles, the duo was able to determine the gender, age, and location of the people expressing these emotions, to boot.

Which makes it particularly cool for young adults — and spiritual seekers. You can find out what people your age and faith background are thinking. Who is more likely to feel blessed? What states are most likely to have bloggers talking about religion? It’s all in there — in a really pretty layout that will make you want to flip through the pages time and again.

December 2nd, 2009


There was something very Miracle on 34th Street about Peoria’s new mall. Opening just before the holidays, the “open-air lifestyle center” promised to recreate the feel of shopping downtown. Separate strips of stores, like city blocks, angled about a plaza and a kids’ play park. Department store anchors mixed with eateries and boutiques, selling everything from three-piece suits to little girls’ camis, from bone china to Corelle ware, from gourmet coffee to chili dogs. You could even come out at night for dinner and a movie. Just like downtown.

I was visiting family after living five years in a small town in Louisiana, where I learned what downtown is. Downtown is Bertrand’s Printing, where the clerks find you the right size manila envelope — and sell you just that one. It is St. Landry Homestead Bank, locally owned all of its 90 years, where your favorite teller cashes your check. It is the two-story municipal building (it has an elevator) where you take your cash to pay your sewerage bill, and if you time it right, can buy bags of real, fresh-off-the-hog pork skins from a cooler-toting, roaming vendor.

The mall was not downtown. It was an outpost of excess sprawled over I-don’t-know-how-many acres of prime Illinois farmland, annexing it to the city and the repeating pattern of townhomes in the northwest suburbs — a sacrifice of thousands of bushels of corn, with the world food supply strained under the twin demands of population and biofuels. It was an ant trap drawing people away from downtown, from the independent bookseller and music shop, leaving downtown for regentrified, $200,000 loft living. And the Hooters.

The mall was commerce without community or conscience. It was unfair-trade chocolate raspberry truffle coffee and Royal Doulton china at seven hundred bucks for a service of four. (No, I don’t know how long that would feed a family of four in Somalia.) It was Wonderdogs with onion rings, and jelly wedges made in China — which I suspected cost more than the $14.99 marked on the

December 1st, 2009


Consider this your invitation to join thousands of students already participating in American Idol for charities. It’ll take just a few minutes to vote, it’s absolutely free and it’s just a few mouse-clicks away to help save lives.

A close friend of mine, Dr. Patrick Lee, has dedicated his professional life to providing healthcare services and fundamental rights to the poor in developing nations. Currently, he serves as the Director of Chronic Diseases for Tiyatien Health in Liberia.

After two decades of civil war, more than 40 percent of Liberians suffer from major depression and post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Up to 5 percent suffer from epilepsy. This fall, he and his organization began providing free, community-based mental health care in rural Liberia.

Soon after, many young adults joined his cause — spreading messages of social justice at major universities. “What’s been remarkable about Tiyatien Health in the past few months has been the wave of support we’ve gotten from the Harvard undergrad and med school community,” Dr. Lee told me. “We’ve literally tripled our U.S. staff size, most of them students.”

And it was one of Dr. Lee’s enterprising students that suggested an easy way to mobilize the interests of young people; and this is where Busted Halo social justice seekers like you can make a difference.

Be a Changemaker… for FREE!

Tiyatien Health is one of the finalists (out of 340 submissions from 42 countries) in a Changemakers Inititive “Rethinking Mental Health” competition, and Dr. Lee has until December 9 to garner enough votes to be declared one of the three winners. When he sent me the email asking for my help, I wanted to spread the word more broadly. It’s totally FREE, takes less than 3 minutes (trust me, I did it) — and you could make a real difference:

Please take a few moments to VOTE for the “Rebuilding Hope After War” initiative on the Changemakers website. The $5,000 prize would go directly to our

November 30th, 2009


This is one I still struggle with. A lot. I’m in no way an expert in getting places on time. But I’m much better than I used to be. And the reason I’ve improved is that I’ve come to understand more and more how it’s not just about time management. If you’re a chronically late person, it can carry behind it a lot of other issues — disrespect, dishonesty, creating chaos, self-centeredness, to name a few — and it bothers other people more than you realize.

There are so many reasons to be on time. The most obvious is that running late is stressful. It adds to the anxiety in your life with no change in outcome. Whether you’re early, just in time, or late, once you’re there, you’re there. But running late or cutting it close means that the whole period of time leading up to it is stressful. Usually some of that anxiety spills over into the time after you get there too. And the childish thrill of getting there in the nick of time does not erase any of that stress.

Being late is an expression of disrespect to those who are expecting you. You are saying, either consciously or unconsciously, that you don’t value their time as much as your own. This has been a bad pattern of mine at jobs throughout my life – a part of the attitude that they are lucky to have me. It’s worse than that, though. There’s a qualitative difference between your time and theirs. Because you know you’re late, whereas they don’t know what’s going on. So, in many cases, they’re putting everything else on hold because they are expecting you to show up at any moment, when you still might be 15 or 30 minutes away. You can help alleviate this a bit by calling ahead and letting them know you’ll be late. It won’t get you there on time, but at least it gives them the possibility of putting that time to good use.

November 25th, 2009





























Grand Prize Winner! Meg M. from Washington DC
Congratulations to Meg for winning the customized iPod Nano Grand Prize! Many thanks for the thousands of entries we’ve received over the course of Advent. We hope you’ve enjoyed following our “What Are You Waiting For?” calendar and that it has added some joy and mindfulness–as well as the inspiration to take action–during this holiday season. Our Advent Calendar might be done on Christmas day but the feature it grew out of–our Daily Jolt–continues, so make sure you stop by everyday for the Daily Jolt’s dose of …

November 25th, 2009


I was just a child when I first began learning about Christianity in my hometown in North Carolina, but I was soon faced with a powerful choice: Would I accept Jesus Christ into my heart as my own personal savior?

It is the single most powerful question a Christian can ask a person. If you say yes, you get into Heaven after you die. It is that simple: you have to believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, that he took flesh, that he sacrificed himself for the rest of us, that he was crucified for the rest of us, that he died so that our sins would be absolved. You have to believe that he rose from the dead, and that he is going to return. You also have to believe that if you don’t believe, if you don’t accept Jesus Christ as your own personal savior, you will burn in hell for eternity. You have to believe that there truly are good people and bad people, and that the bad people will be forever punished for being unrepentant non-believers.

I believed all of that back then. I rejected it in college, with some trepidation. I don’t believe any of it now. And that is why I believe in God again.

I no longer believe in the creation story. I have real problems with some of the New Testament, and I flat out don’t believe any part of Revelations. I don’t believe that God will judge us, and I don’t believe that sinners will burn in an unending Lake of Fire for all eternity. I don’t want to believe that there are some people who will be spared, and some people who will have to endure eternal torture. That is something I can neither internalize nor rationalize.

Praying because I want to

When I was a child, I didn’t pray because I wanted to, or because I thought it was the right thing to do; I did it because burning in hell didn’t sound like a great way

November 19th, 2009


With a shock of sandy blonde hair that perpetually seems to be on the verge of revolt and a conversation style that is best described as a benign form of rapid-fire free association, it’s easy to picture Professor Jim Fisher, 52, as the young taxicab driving college dropout living in Hoboken, N.J., that he once was in the late 1970s. This was during the difficult period after Hoboken’s once flourishing port had moved a few miles south to Newark and Elizabeth, and long before gentrification turned Hoboken into New York City’s unofficial sixth borough in the 80s and 90s. When Fisher resided there it was just another struggling post-industrial city living on past glories that amounted to two trivia questions:

What is Frank Sinatra’s hometown?
Where was the Oscar Award-winning classic On the Waterfront filmed?

Three decades later — following stints at Rutgers, Yale and Saint Louis University — his career as a teacher and writer has brought Fisher back to his Northern New Jersey roots. In his new book, On the Irish Waterfront: The Crusader, the Movie, and the Soul of the Port of New York (Cornell University Press, 2009), the Fordham professor explores the untold history of both the New York and New Jersey sides of the Hudson River’s enormous port (once the largest in the world). A recent review in the Wall Street Journal proclaimed it “a fascinating work of history that explores the rise of New York’s commercial port from the early 1900s to the 1950s and the corruption that eventually infiltrated all levels of the cargo business, until a crusading priest helped to put a stop to it — and inspired a classic film along the way.”

On the Irish Waterfront is an ambitious book that combines the economic, cultural, ethnic and religious histories of the New York waterfront from the first half of the 20th century. Until now, most people’s only connection to that history could probably be summed up by Marlon Brando’s legendary lines from On the Waterfront: “I coulda been

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November 17th, 2009

In this video, Walter talks about his love for creating music.

In video 4, Walter talks about how soccer has helped him cope with his immigration issues.

In video 3, Walter talks about the difficulties of facing an uncertain future.

In video 2, Walter talks more about how he did not know he was undocumented until he was applying for college.

In video 1, Walter explains how he was caught by ICE and detained for twenty day.

November 17th, 2009

rendezvous_tout-flashIn Rendezvous with G-d, twentysomething blogger and journalist Monica Rozenfeld explores what it actually means as a young Jewish woman in New York City to have a relationship with G-d.

From sitting at dinner tables with the ultra-Orthodox, non-believers and everything in-between, Monica asks herself tough questions about religion and spirituality. What does it mean? Does it matter? And where can I find some?

In her new blog Rozenfeld explores the issues of faith, religion and spirituality, and invites readers on her Jewish journey to the random places she meets G-d.

Starting now, you can find this new Busted Blog at bustedhalo.com/rendezvouswithg-d, and on the Busted Halo homepage.

November 13th, 2009


For Christmas one year, when I was in high school, my grandpa gave me the video of The Sound of Music. I was thrilled: my favorite movie, the one I’d loved since childhood, was mine to watch at will.

My cousin Mark, in his early twenties at the time, regarded my new tape with good-natured disdain. “That’s such a corny movie,” he said.

I froze in horror. “It is not corny!” I answered vehemently. Not my finest comeback, but outrage was making me inarticulate. We went a few rounds. Neither of us conceded any turf, so we left it at that. It was Christmas, after all.

But here’s the thing: in some deep secret part of myself, I knew that Mark was right. And now, twenty years later, I will freely admit it to the world. Yes, The Sound of Music is a very corny movie.

But it’s a corny movie that has profoundly shaped my life.

This year marks the fiftieth birthday of The Sound of Music. In November of 1959, the play opened on Broadway; six years later, the film version was released, to immense popular acclaim. My own acquaintance with the musical came in 1977, when I was four. That was the year that my mom took my sister Amy and me, along with our neighbors Becky and Doug and their mom, to see the film when it came to the local theatre.

A deep impression

The movie impressed us kids deeply. Back at home, Amy and Becky ran across the lawn twirling like juvenile Marias. I, by virtue of my age, had to be a Nazi storm trooper with Doug. We rode our Big Wheels ferociously down the sidewalk, on the hunt for imaginary von Trapps cowering in graveyards. We were too young to know that you never, under any circumstances, want to be a Nazi. In fact, we did not even know what a Nazi was, except that they were the only ones in the movie who got to drive really fast.

As the years rolled along, The Sound of Musicwas

November 11th, 2009

In this video, Walter talks about how soccer has helped him cope with his immigration issues.

In video 3, Walter talks about the difficulties of facing an uncertain future.

In video 2, Walter talks more about how he did not know he was undocumented until he was applying for college.

In video 1, Walter explains how he was caught by ICE and detained for twenty day.

November 9th, 2009

kicking_tout-flashAs a Paulist seminarian Tom Gibbons has spent the past three years immersed in the academic study required of any man who will be ordained a Roman Catholic priest. During that time, Gibbons has written a lot about the experience, and his new blog, Kicking and Screaming is an intimate look at the questions and doubts he’s struggled with over the past few years while studying for the priesthood, as well some of the answers he’s come up with along the way.

Now at the halfway point in his formation process, Tom’s blog will also be a window into what his life is like now that he’s outside the seminary classrooms doing hands-on ministry work at a parish in Austin, Texas. Gibbons’ blend of honesty and humor offers readers a rare glimpse into the deeply personal nature of what the question of “vocation” is really all about, and how discovering one’s true vocation — religious or otherwise — is a universal journey we are all called to go on — even if we sometimes can only do so Kicking and Screaming.

Starting now, you can find this first of the new Busted Blogs at bustedhalo.com/kickingandscreaming, and on the Busted Halo homepage.

Stay tuned for the launch of Monica Rozenfeld’s new blog Rendezvous with G-d next week.

November 9th, 2009


As a young professor at a big university, I’m able to talk to my students about rather personal issues like hooking up, relationships and sex. In one class, I asked students to diagram, on a large whiteboard, the evolution of a relationship — from first meeting to marriage. This was a fascinating exercise, and highlighted one key challenge in the dating game for young adults: “Hook-ups” are very common, but no group of college students can agree on exactly what the term means.

Studies tell us that more than half of college relationships begin with a hook-up. Translation: Before two college students have a dinner date, a meaningful conversation or even exchange phone numbers, there’s a good chance of a hook-up.

But what is a hook-up?

Does hooking up mean smooching? Some intense making-out? Maybe some hands wandering? Or does it mean sex? And what are the emotional expectations surrounding a hook-up?

Back in my day (I graduated from college in 1999, so a while ago, but not eons in social change terms), if a friend told me she’d hooked up with a cute guy the night before, I’d have assumed they made-out, maybe a bit more, but certainly not had sexual intercourse. Today, some of my students tell me that hooking up usually means sex — or “at least” oral sex — while others say just kissing can be considered a “hook-up” as well.

And it’s this ambiguity that causes problems.

False information

If you hear tales of many friends “hooking up” and you assume that it’s sex, then you would also assume that everyone else is having a lot more sex than you are. Then, when you’re in an intimate situation, you might go farther sexually than you might otherwise feel comfortable doing, because you think that “everyone’s doing it.”

But everyone isn’t doing “it”: Repeated surveys of college students find that the average undergrad has one or fewer sexual partners in a year.

Think of it this way: If the reality is that hook-ups are more innocent — passionate kissing, for example

November 4th, 2009


Thousands of you read, responded to and shared my August piece about the health care debate and Catholicism. We are now in the final phase of the Congressional process and some things are clearer than they were then. Catholic Church leaders wanted undocumented immigrants included in the bill. They are not. Sadly, the Church stands almost alone among organizations in this country in its concern for the undocumented. They wanted universal coverage, and to the surprise of many, it looks like it will happen.

But, though the House bill does not fund or encourage abortion services, the bishops and most Catholics wanted specific language keeping abortion out of the bill entirely, and making it impossible for a future administrative action to change this, effectively bringing the Hyde Amendment into the bill and codifying it in a way that is stronger than its current status. This still could happen, as pro-life Democrats take up the cause. But what if it doesn’t?

The US bishops have a clear answer: Kill the bill. The US Conference of Catholic Bishops began a massive final push on health care this past weekend, hitting 17,000 parishes with a bulletin insert and email campaign to be distributed over the next few weeks. The bishops’ final stand on the absence of strong enough pro-life language: “If these serious concerns are not addressed, the final bill should be opposed.”

But what of universal coverage? What of help for the uninsured, some of whom die and suffer for lack of medical care?

In September, Cardinal Renato Martino, head of the Vatican’s Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, expressed a very different view, equally grounded in Catholic teaching. Having lived for 16 years in the US, Cardinal Martino said he “could never explain” the fact that a large number of Americans lacked health care assistance, something every other developed nation provides for its citizens, concluding, about President Obama’s efforts for health care reform, “So I cannot but applaud this initiative.”

As I said in my earlier piece,

November 3rd, 2009


If you were able to conduct a free association exercise among Catholics, the term “Jesuit” would most likely evoke responses like “educators,” “intelligent,” “worldly” and perhaps even “liberal.” But as the largest male religious order in the Catholic church, the Society of Jesus—as the Jesuits are officially known—has nearly 20,000 members spread out across 112 nations around the globe who are involved in an endless variety of work ranging from education and pastoral ministry to medicine, the law, social justice etc. The one common bond that ties this diverse international group together however is their experience of the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius.

Formulated in the early 16th century after Ignatius of Loyola’s conversion, the Spiritual Exercises represent Ignatius’ gradual understanding—through prayer—of how God worked in his daily life. It is a powerful tradition that enables people to understand their relationship with the divine through their own unique experiences in the world. While all Jesuits are required to do the Exercises in a 30-day silent retreat at the beginning of their formation, countless others—religious and lay alike—feel drawn to Ignatius’ spiritual insights and do the Exercises as well. The Jesuit Collaborative is a an East coast organization, headed by Jim Conroy SJ, whose mission is to promote the Spiritual Exercises outside the Society of Jesus. In the following interview, Fr. Conroy discusses the origins of Ignatius’ approach to prayer and why young seekers looking to make sense of their world are often drawn to it.

Busted Halo: Can you tell me what exactly the Spiritual Exercises are?

Jim Conroy: Sure. The Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius is a 500-year-old tradition of prayer based on the experiences of Ignatius of Loyola, who was a 16th century solider, courtier of the Spanish court. He was wounded in a battle in Pamplona as this massive conversion experience, and then begins to go more deeply into his relationship with God. And it’s really out of those experiences — a reflection on life and how God was present within

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November 3rd, 2009

In this video, Walter talks about the difficulties of facing an uncertain future.

In video 2, Walter talks more about how he did not know he was undocumented until he was applying for college.

In video 1, Walter explains how he was caught by ICE and detained for twenty day.

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