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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September 14th, 2009

Nicole talks about the difficulties she’s facing uprooting her four kids and moving to a foreign country.

In video one, Nicole explained how her husband was barred from returning to the United States. Because of this, she is planning on moving with her kids to Mexico.

September 14th, 2009


On a recent Friday night a friend of mine called to tell me her husband had died suddenly. He didn’t suffer and she was with him, but he was young and they’d only been married for a little over a year. At first I thought I hadn’t heard correctly. I was expecting the news that she was pregnant, or that there was a new job on the horizon. Even when someone calls to say they have bad news, death is far from my mind.

“I’m so sorry” was all I could keep repeating. The next week I flew out to see her, brought chocolates and sat there as she told me the whole story. I told her again how sorry I was, and wished there was something more I could do.

While I hope this isn’t something that any of you have to deal with, I was so unprepared to be supportive to my friend that I did some research on bereavement within a Catholic context, especially for young adults. Here’s what I learned:

What to say

Words can’t express the pain you feel for them, or the pain they will suffer through. Just being a compassionate listener, saying how sorry you are and expressing your support, is enough.

“Listen to her pain. She will want to tell you her story over and over,” advises Ingrid Seunarine, president of the National Catholic Ministry to the Bereaved. “She will be very angry at God, the world, the doctors and even at her spouse for leaving her.  She will rhetorically ask you questions for which of course you will have no answers.  Don’t be afraid to say, “I don’t have the answers, but I’m here for you.’”

September 11th, 2009


One of country music’s great survivors, Charlie Louvin has a career that reads like a Southern gothic novel. He grew up singing sacred harp music — a harmonically complex form of Southern congregational music — with his brother Ira, and the duo would help lay the foundation for the country-rock movement with their close harmonies and stark tales of faith, family, and death. Among their early fans were a young Elvis Presley and Johnny Cash. Both would later open for the brothers, and carry their influence around the world.

The Louvin Brothers’ story was soon shrouded in the same kind of tragedy that hung around the corners of their songs when, after years of alcoholism and erratic behavior, Ira died in a car wreck in 1965. His duet partner gone, Charlie was left to spend the rest of his career hearing his brother’s harmonies echoing through his head.

In the mid-1970s, a generation of bluegrass and country artists stretching from Emmylou Harris to Ricky Skaggs regularly paid tribute with Louvin Brothers covers, and Charlie was hip again. Some lean years and overlooked releases followed, but by the turn of the new century, Charlie was the patron saint of the alternative country movement — Wilco’s Jeff Tweedy, Elvis Costello, and George Jones all turned up to sing with him on his 2007 self-titled return. Now, as he progresses through his 80s, it’s fitting that he has returned to where he began nearly 60 years ago, with an album of songs from the hymnals of his youth, the Grammy-nominated Steps to Heaven. Humble and happy to talk to whoever wishes to phone him, Charlie is making sure he takes time to enjoy the latest chapter in his remarkable story.

Busted Halo: So I saw your Steps to Heaven record got a Grammy nomination. Was that your first Grammy nomination?

Charlie Louvin: No. I had one in 1964 when I first became a solo artist. And in 1968 me and Melba Montgomery got one, and then I had one in 2007. But

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September 7th, 2009


I’ve written several columns here with suggestions that are rather directive — get enough sleep, use the downturn to find your calling, meditate regularly… and then there was my column about not saying ‘should’ and ‘have to’.

“Um,” said a reader after the ‘don’t should’ column, “How do I know when to make a change and when to go easy on myself — how do I know when to apply which principle?”

It’s a great point, and I’m grateful to be called out on it. It’s all well and good to say we should live in the now and accept God’s plan as it unfolds, but that doesn’t mean we should be passive. Using the metaphor of the stream of life, there are times to watch the water flow by, and there are times to row the boat. We have to decide which is called for, and the right answer will vary depending on the situation.

A lot of the religious guidance out there is in the form of directions — do this, don’t do that — and there’s a place for structure — the banks of the river, to continue the metaphor. But, as then-Cardinal Ratzinger has said:

” have the impression that the Church’s real function is only to condemn and to restrict life. Perhaps too much has been said and too often in this direction — and without the necessary connection of truth and love.”

September 4th, 2009

A red Hyundai with a Darwin fish and an “atheist” license tag eases up to a fast food drive-through window in Huntsville, Alabama. A van pulls up behind it. Five children slip out, line up along one side of the car and chant “God loves you” and “Praise Jesus.” The kids scramble back into the van, congratulated by a high-fiving mother.

Blair Scott — the 38-year-old, cherub-faced man in the red car — still chuckles about it a year later, joking that the kids yelled “god-scenities” at him. The quick-to-laugh Scott shrugs off the negative attention — which also includes 75 hate emails and at least one death threat a week. Scott is the founder of the largest atheist organization in the state, the North Alabama Freethought Association (NAFA) in Huntsville.

In 2004, NAFA had two members; today it has more than 200. Scott says that a decade ago, three atheist organizations in Alabama floundered, but now 10 thrive. “Atheists are on the rise in Alabama. But we may not be what you think,” he beams.

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September 2nd, 2009

100_words_bishops-insideA bishop is a priest who receives “the fullness of the sacrament of Holy Orders” (CCC, 1557) and is the visible head of a particular local church. Their first task is to be a teacher of the faith, “preaching the gospel to all” (CCC, 888). Bishops are also “sanctifiers,” meaning they are the ones who ordain other men to the priesthood.

Bishops stem from the first Apostles. Christ chose the Apostles to be the people who would spread the gospel to all nations. They acted together as a body or a “college,” but they also spread out to preach the good news to local areas. Bishops have succeeded these original disciples and have a presence as the rulers of the Church in local areas, known as dioceses, where a ranking archbishop acts as chief administrator alongside auxiliary bishops who teach, help with administration, ordain priests and perform regular priestly duties as well.

All bishops are led by the pope, the bishop of Rome, who succeeds St. Peter, the Apostle chosen by Jesus to lead that first apostolic college.

September 1st, 2009

The practice of yoga has been popular in the United States for many years, but Fr. Dave Dwyer, CSP from the Busted Halo® Show on Sirius XM Radio recently discovered a twist to this ancient discipline in the form of Laughter Yoga. Laughter Therapist and author Vishwa Prakash is the head of the North American office of Laughter International, an organization of 10,000 active clubs worldwide that promotes spiritual, physical, and psychological well-being through the practice of laughter yoga.  The Laughter Yogi recently invited Fr. Dave to partake in his Laugh Yoga workshop in New York City.

And listen to Father Dave’s extended interview with Laughter Yogi Vishwa Prakash on the Busted Halo® Show.

August 31st, 2009


Jeff Whitfield shouldn’t need any help meeting women. When he talks in his calm, Kentucky drawl about his past rambunctiousness and the salvation his faith provided him, he sounds charming, self-possessed, and likable — not the kind of guy who would need an online dating service. In fact, he wouldn’t have expected it ether. Jeff’s initial impression of the people who use internet dating sites was characteristically blunt. “They’re losers,” he used to say.

The problem is, the people he kept meeting weren’t exactly winners. Jeff was tired of the bar scene but wasn’t sure where else to go, so he thought he’d give CatholicSingles.com a try. After a few fizzles he met Nicole, who worked at a Starbucks out in California. They agreed on everything from natural family planning to the greatness of Braveheart, and felt an intense connection that grew stronger with every email and long distance phone call. Their first meeting occurred about a month after they had started talking, when Jeff paid for Nicole to visit him in Indiana — where he was working in student affairs at the University of Southern Indiana. He asked her to marry him the weekend she arrived. They married on August 16, 2003, and about a year later they celebrated the birth of their first child.

Jeff and Nicole are not alone. More and more people are going online to find a date or meet the love of their life. According to Online Dating Magazine, the number who have participated in online dating in the United States is now nearly 40 million.

By the numbers, internet dating just makes sense. “One hundred sixty million people have internet access and 80 million people are single, and it only stands to reason that people don’t want to have to introduce themselves to strangers at strange places to meet someone” says Evan Katz, an expert on online dating and the author of I Can’t Believe I’m Buying This Book: A Common-Sense Guide to Successful Internet Dating, “Lots of people are looking

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August 31st, 2009


Katie, 27, and her fiancé, Ryan, got engaged in October, 2008, just as the economy was beginning its free-fall. Ryan was graduating from law school and, with a job lined up at a good firm, he planned to start paying off more than $150,000 in student loans. But in February, Ryan’s law firm withdrew their offer, laying off employees and downsizing their operation. Katie’s salary as a Catholic school teacher wasn’t going to be enough to make ends meet and pay off the loans. While Ryan searched, unsuccessfully, for another legal job, the young couple was in a bind. “Should we still get married? How will we live and survive?” Katie remembers asking herself.

A few weeks back, I introduced Busted Halo readers to Kevin, a young man who was struggling with dating and romance in this economic downturn. I asked readers to share their personal stories and wow, did I get some heartbreaking — and inspiring — tales.

P.J., a 34-year-old single man, says he relates to Kevin’s predicament: The recession has dealt a serious blow to his dating life because feels he doesn’t have enough money to “court properly” and his job “is not stable or professional enough to attract the type of attractive women I would like to date.” Others, however, reported silver linings of family time and deeper emotional connections after some of the material pressure of a go-go-go economy had been removed.

Indeed, dozens of you responded to our survey. As summer turns into autumn and we approach the one-year mark of the worst of the recession, it’s time to reflect on how finances have impacted our relationships.
Looking at cheaper alternatives
From pedicures to lattes and travel to eating out, some 68 percent of Busted Halo respondents have cut back on their day-to-day spending in the last year. K, a 25-year-old woman engaged to be married, says she’s cut …

August 27th, 2009

Facundo’s family left Argentina to find work in California.

August 26th, 2009


“Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.”

For many who go to church every Sunday, these words roll off the tongue like a drop of dew on a morning leaf. Most of us don’t even think about the radical forgiveness we are committing ourselves to granting, every time we say the Lord’s Prayer. We acknowledge through the words we speak, however, that the forgiveness we receive from God is tied closely to the forgiveness we grant others. Nothing, I believe, can be tougher yet show more of God’s love than a true act of forgiveness. For that reason, it behooves me to add a slightly different, questioning voice to the debate raging over the recent decision by the Scottish government to release Abdel Al-Megrahi, a convicted terrorist, on grounds of compassion.

The news was splattered across every television screen and newspaper around the world, sending the blogosphere into a torrent of typing. Abdel Basset Ali al-Megrahi — a man convicted in the bombing of Pan Am Flight 103, which killed 270 people over the small Scottish town of Lockerbie in 1988 — was heading home to Libya, a free yet dying man. And before Al-Megrahi even set foot on the tarmac of the Glasgow Airport in Scotland, the world’s ire was zeroing in on one man, Scottish Justice Minister Kenny MacAskill, who stood in front of the cameras and delivered a bold statement:

“It is my decision that Mr. Abdel Basset Mohamed Ali Al-Megrahi, convicted in 2001 for the Lockerbie bombing, now terminally ill with prostate cancer, be released on compassionate grounds and be allowed to return to Libya to die,” MacAskill said.
Criticism from politicians and family members
The criticism came quick and swift.

“The news today from Glasgow turned the word ‘compassion’ on its head. The bombing of Pan Am 103 was unforgivable,” Senator John Kerry said in a written statement.

“This man was convicted of murdering 270 people. He showed no compassion to them. They weren’t allowed to go home and die with …

August 25th, 2009


Around the middle of last February, just as the Lenten spirit of penitence was starting to kick in, an unexpected guest turned up at evening Mass. Tall and lean, graying and bearded, wearing a Dominican habit and an air of stern benevolence, he looked like central casting’s idea of a Grand Inquisitor.

It turned out that wasn’t too far from the mark. He was, in fact, novice master for our province of the Order of Preachers. After the Gospel reading, he took the pulpit and delivered what amounted to a recruiting pitch for the order. To my own surprise, I found myself straining to take in every word. Becoming a Dominican sounded like a capital idea. Between the travel and the scholarship, it reminded me of grad school with a guaranteed income.

Suddenly, all my humiliating career reverses had meaning. My misadventures in the field of home finance didn’t make me a loser; on the contrary, they were signs I had been earmarked for a higher purpose. Who needs a career when you’ve got a calling?

After Mass ended, I raced out of the church and introduced myself to the novice master, who received my inquiries warmly. He told me that I wouldn’t be eligible to begin my novitiate until I’d been in the Church two years, which gave me a year to wait. Still, he said, I should write to the province vocational director. “That way, when you do become eligible, you’ll have a regular contact person.”

Publishers who would shrug at a submission from Max Lindenman might fight for the rights to the work of a Fr. Thomas Mary, O.P. Warmed at the thought, I began outlining my autobiography. It would be just like The Seven Storey Mountain, only with better one-liners.

I delayed writing. If experience had taught me anything, there’s a catch to everything, and I wasn’t at all eager to find out where this one might be. The daydreams I’d started spinning were too tasty to throw aside. Entering the priesthood would mean inheriting a literary venue. Publishers who …

August 24th, 2009


Niles Goldstein is famous for taking Judaism back to its roots: tradition, rebellion, mysticism and G-d. His last book, Gonzo Judaism, showed the exciting, provocative and exhilarating parts of being Jewish and living Jewish lives. His new book gets a littler more personal. The Challenge of the Soul is part memoir, part soul-help, and proves that G-d really does give kudos to the badass.

Goldstein is all about using adversity as opportunity. He’s a black belt in karate and founded the New Shul in Tribeca. In this new book, Goldstein reminds us that spirituality, and G-d, exist everywhere we let them in.  It’s up to us to tap in for strength.

“We must accept that life is, fundamentally, a mystery,” Goldstein says in The Challenge of the Soul. “Our ability to respond effectively to that mystery, rather than becoming paralyzed by it, helps to define us.”

A self-proclaimed gonzo rabbi, Niles takes teachings from all sects of Judaism and other world religions to reinforce the idea that the purpose of religion is not to restrict us, but to develop us and let us live greater lives. The purpose, the goal in life: a balanced, and seeking, soul.

We talked with Niles about his life, soul search and yetzer hara, evil inclinations.

Busted Halo: The press has called you the “Bad Boy Rabbi.” I don’t know you well enough to say if that‘s true. Does the label resonate with you?

Niles Goldstein: If that means I’m unethical, then I’m not comfortable with that label. But if by “bad boy” — and this is what I think they meant in the article — that I didn’t play by other people’s rules, I was willing to push the boundaries, I broke a lot of people’s presumptuous stereotypes, I was hard drinking, womanizing, and liked to push the envelopes in ways that most ordained members of the clergy wouldn’t — in that sense, I don’t mind being called a “Bad Boy Rabbi.”

BH: Your new book, The Challenge of the Soul, is entirely immersed in G-d, spirituality,

August 23rd, 2009

People of faith are not of one political party or the other — not all conservative or all progressive, all right or all left. But most people of faith believe as a core principle that we should love one another and care for one another — that this is how we express Divine Love.

Can we agree on this: Can we agree that it’s a scandal that tens of millions of Americans live in fear of getting sick, because of the ruin it might bring to their lives? And that many of the rest of us are only a layoff away from the same situation? This is not a statement of rights. This is not an argument for exactly how to extend to those people the security of universal coverage. But can we agree that it is for the Common Good that this be done?

It upsets me how little I’ve heard from religious leaders. Most notably, what I’ve heard from the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. While the bishops have gone on record multiple times in favor of universal coverage, their recent focus on attacking the current proposals gives the impression they are hostile towards the whole effort. I know the bishops want universal coverage. I’ve read the urgency of their words on the subject. But that’s not the message that’s reaching politicians or the general public.

August 20th, 2009

Often it’s the things that don’t turn out the way we’d planned that teach us the most about ourselves and what’s important. A more philosophical way of putting it—experience is what you get when you don’t get what you want.

Patti started out at small women’s college. She made some great friends right off the bat but found the small college environment a little too small. Erin was the classic ‘so good at everything’ student. She had to make a choice and dive in so she could find out what was right for her. She ended up finding out what WASN’T right for her.

At some point during freshman year nearly every student asks the question “Is this where I belong?” Sometimes it’s because he or she is simply uncomfortable in a new environment or still sorting out what they’d like to pursue. A conversation with an advisor or just a little more time can usually solve—or at least settle down—those worries. Although these situations are not always an easy fix, switching schools, transferring to a new college when you’ve just gotten used to one, is not a decision to make lightly. We asked transfer students Erin and Patti to share their stories.

Erin’s Story
I was told college is the time to learn about yourself: who you really are, what you actually want to do, how loud you can play Journey without the RA’s hunting you down. You don’t even notice, but your actions fall into patterns that you begin to recognize, and you really get a grasp on what your strengths are.

Leaving high school, I didn’t know my strengths at all. I had no idea what to major in or what college to look into because I didn’t specialize in one thing. I was that kid who did everything—I had no real calling. Everyone said to follow my heart, but the things I loved to do were dance and write, and …

August 19th, 2009

A mother of six wants her daughters to avoid female genital mutilation.

August 18th, 2009


I knew I was in trouble the day I wrote a headline about Michael Jackson being a gay crossdresser. He wasn’t even in the ground yet, his dear family was mourning, and here I was exposing an intimate speculation about his life for the whole world and their grandma to read.

This was Michael Jackson. I spent all of 1984 kissing the cover of the Thriller album, and 25 years later here I was throwing him under the bus for… traffic?

My work as a showbiz reporter for a popular website often leads to a dichotomy of values. My position can be positive or straight-up provocative; exciting or, sometimes, brutal. I hunt like a fox for updates on the Gosselin divorce, but then worry that their children are traumatized. My story on Jude Law’s lovechild scored mentions all over the web, but I was secretly bummed out that the ex-girlfriend had been forced to compose a baby registry alone. Since I was a kid, I’ve wanted to work close to the stars… but now that I’m a reporter, I often face an ethical dilemma.

Sister Kathryn King is a spiritual director and Franciscan Sister of Peace at St. Ignatius Loyola Parish on Manhattan’s ritzy Park Avenue. Sr. Kathryn says that unfortunately we forget to make an important distinction when we choose which stars to emulate, and she sets the bounds for us, explaining: “There are who accomplish something of significance that contributes to the common good in some way, and they develop a reputation based on their competency or contribution.” Morally and psychologically, we can feel pretty okay about following these stars. But, she continues, “then there are other who seek to become famous for its own sake. They value notoriety and money no matter how it’s acquired, or who is harmed.” Sr. Kathryn says that an important question for us to keep in mind is, Does our culture value being famous over other values such as education, family, personal health, or making a social contribution? In other words, it’s …

August 17th, 2009

var flashvars = {};flashvars.soundFile = “http://www.bustedhalo.com/wp/wp-content/uploads/2009/08/03%20From%20This%20Place_%20master.mp3″;flashvars.width = “290″;flashvars.height = “24″;flashvars.leftbg = “0×840000″;flashvars.lefticon = “0xffffff”;var params = {};params.menu = “false”; params.wmode = “transparent”; var attributes = {};attributes.id = “myDynamicContent”;attributes.name = “myDynamicContent”;swfobject.embedSWF(“/audio-player/player.swf”, “myContent”, “290″, “24″, “8″,”expressInstall.swf”, flashvars, params, attributes);Click above to play From This Place, the title track from Deanna Witkowski’s new album, or launch the popup player. Purchase mp3 tracks or the physical CD on Deanna Witkowski’s site.

Pianist-composer-vocalist Deanna Witkowski‘s dual paths of disciplined jazz musician and person of faith converge in her fourth recording, the genre-defying From This Place. Marrying ancient and modern sacred texts with the richness of jazz, it is her most honest and soulful work.

Ms. Witkowski’s three previous releases, Length of Days (2005), Wide Open Window (2003), and Having to Ask (2000) clearly demonstrated her prowess as “one of the best of the new generation of jazz pianists” (Jazz Journal International) and showcased her rich fusions of jazz, Brazilian, and Afro-Cuban music. Her “consistently thrilling playing” (All Music Guide) was publicly confirmed in 2002 when she won the Great American Jazz Piano Competition. Invitations to appear on National Public Radio’s “Weekend Edition Sunday” and “Marian McPartland’s Piano Jazz” followed in 2003.

In May, Witkowski appeared at the Kennedy Center’s Mary Lou Williams Women in Jazz Festival with her project, “Moving with the Spirit: The Sacred Jazz of Mary Lou Williams,” an official educational component of the annual event.

Busted Halo: You mentioned before we started that you never really grew up in one place…

Deanna Witkowski: Originally I was born in New Hampshire but we moved eleven times while I was growing up. My dad used to be in radio and he kept moving around to different radio stations. Primarily, a lot of the moves were between western Pennsylvania and western New York, like in the Rochester area. He was a DJ for about half the time and the other half he was a sales person.

BH: Was he a DJ for a pop station or a

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August 17th, 2009

100words_confirmation-insideWhile Baptism is the first sacrament of initiation, confirmation imparts what the name implies: it “confirms” baptismal promises and calls believers into living a bolder faith. “Confirmation brings an increase and deepening of baptismal grace” (CCC, 1300) and calls upon the Holy Spirit to impart the gifts that the spirit offers.

“Although Confirmation is sometimes called the “sacrament of Christian maturity,” we must not confuse adult faith with the adult age of natural growth (CCC, 1308). God imparts grace on us to make us bolder, despite our age or intellect.

The essential rite of the sacrament is conferred through anointing with chrism on the forehead and the words: “Be sealed with the Gift of the Holy Spirit.” The sign of peace follows the anointing. Often the sacrament is conferred upon teenagers, although some receive it closer to their baptismal age. A bishop usually confers the sacrament.

Those receiving the sacrament often take a “confirmation name,” although there is no requirement to do so. A “sponsor” promises to guide the young person in faith much like the “godparent” they had at Baptism.

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