Busted Halo
August 27th, 2008

Contributing Editor Marc Adams Video Blogs from the DNC and speaks with Politico.com’s Chief political writer Mike Allen.

August 27th, 2008

Uh oh. Summer’s almost over and you haven’t finished Thomas Merton’s Seven Storey Mountain like you said were going to? Haven’t gotten around to The Duty of Delight, Dorothy Day’s journals? Never made it through Pope Benedict’s Jesus of Nazareth?

Don’t be too hard on yourself. Those are all great books, but they’re kind of…long. Merton’s is 496 pages. Day’s is—egad!—700 pages. And B16’s is only 400.

At some point you should definitely read each of those books. But for now, maybe you would do better with a few books that are more, um, pithy. So here are three short books, each of which can be polished off in a few hours.

The first is Cathleen Falsani’s Sin Boldly. It’s terrific. Falsani, a religion reporter for the Chicago Sun-Times, is one of the few writers who can bring you to tears and make you laugh on the same page. Her new memoir is a sort of travelogue of grace, and her trip leads her from the very familiar (her family life, her work, her cat) to the very unfamiliar. Her voyage through East Africa is especially powerful and will deepen your appreciation for that fascinating continent.

“Falsani is one of the few writers who can bring you to tears and make you laugh on the same page.”

“Justice is getting what you deserve,” Falsani writes, “Mercy is not getting what you deserve. And grace is getting what you absolutely don’t deserve.” You deserve to read this wonderful new book, which, by the way, has a beautiful cover taken from one of Falsani’s African photos. Sometimes you can judge a book that way.

Jeremy Langford is another Chicagoland writer who’s penned another kind of field guide—to the question of how to live a spiritual life in the modern world. It’s called Seeds of Faith. Through homey examples from his own life, well-grounded reflections on the Catholic tradition and artfully told stories from the lives of the saints and spiritual masters, …

August 25th, 2008

“Does God really care if we gained ten pounds over the holidays? Yes!” announces The Dieter’s Prayer Book.
“If you’ve struggled with obesity all of your life, you may not even be able to imagine yourself free of the bondage of unwanted fat. But God can,” promises The Bible Cure for Weight Loss and Muscle Gain.

As part of the Templeton-Cambridge Fellowship to study the intersection of science and religion, I explored the world of religious diet books. Surprised that such books exist? So are many Catholics, but religious weight-loss and health initiatives that began among evangelical Christians are spreading to other denominations—and other faiths—as Americans continue to put on the pounds.

Worshipping the God of Food?
Gwen Shamblin, author of the Weigh Down Diet, and the grand dame of the Christian weight loss movement since the 1980s, says obesity wounds more than your body—it destroys your soul.

“We’re worshipping the false god of food,” Shamblin says in her online video guide for weight loss. “We have worshiped food and elevated it to a place of unprecedented power in our lives… Our hearts have been devoted to figuring out what the latest fad diet will or will not let us eat” and that has distracted us from a healthy relationship with our creator, she says. Her solution? Pray before you eat so you consume less, and the pounds will come off.

Other religious diet authors claim that eating a specific, fiber-rich, organic diet will bring you closer to God and to a healthy weight. Jordan Rubin, author of The Maker’s Diet, says dozens of doctors were unable to reverse his Crohn’s disease, but when he turned to God, prayer and the basic foods that Jesus would have eaten 2000 years ago, he was cured.

Big Belly = Little Faith?

Most Christian diet books argue that by exerting individual self-control—with the help of prayer and God’s grace—you can lose weight. The underlying message is that if you are heavy you are failing in some way, and not as faithful or devoted to God as you …

August 23rd, 2008

In the early 1980s, when Jerry Kellman interviewed a young, idealistic Ivy League graduate for a $10,000 a year job with Chicago’s Developing Communities Project (DCP) he had no way of knowing it would be a meeting that would follow him for the rest of his life. Now, nearly 25 years later, he is frequently asked to speak about Barack Obama’s tenure as a community organizer and how it shaped the candidate’s sense of himself and the world. What many people miss, however, is how both men’s sense of faith has fundamentally altered the way they see the world.

While Obama and Kellman eventually moved on from DCP—each because they felt that community organizing was not effective enough to solve major domestic problems—they both continue to work for justice in their own, unique ways. Kellman, who was raised Jewish, had a conversion experience and is now the Director of Spiritual Formation for several parishes in the Catholic Archdiocese of Chicago. In this role Kellman—who was the basis for the character “Marty” in Obama’s 1995 memoir Dreams from My Father—leads small group parish missions, weekend retreats and discussions with participants about areas they have struggled in their life.

Kellman recently spoke with Busted Halo® about his experiences with Obama and his own evolution as an activist and believer.

BustedHalo®: You’ve received some attention as one of Barack Obama’s mentors since you hired him as a young man for Chicago’s Developing Communities Project. Are you surprised with his fast rise through politics and his run for President?

Jerry Kellman: I’m not surprised that people respond to Barack. He’s carried himself with integrity and he has had the discipline to be successful in his political career.

BH: What did Obama learn from you and DCP during his tenure there?

JK: He didn’t learn from me, he learned from the experience. Barack came in idealistic, but the streets of Chicago made him practical and realistic in a way he had not been. He learned he liked working with people in the …

August 17th, 2008

Jim’s new internship could have been a great opportunity, but instead it turned out to be a big setback requiring embarrassing explanations to his parents. He lost his internship when his new employer found online pictures of him stumbling-drunk—pictures he’d posted himself. Susan was a bit smarter. She ‘scrubbed’ her online presence when she was hired for a high-security job, taking down all but the most basic information.

Of course everyone understands the internet is a great way to stay connected. For the majority of college freshmen, next to their cell phones, it will be their most important communication tool and the best way to stay in touch with family and friends. Unfortunately, in a few short years the pictures posted of freshman year exploits could come back to haunt a recently graduated job-seeker. Pictures from the party or road trip that seemed like harmless stupidity or the ‘not-for-public-viewing’ photos swapped online with a current boyfriend or girlfriend could seriously limit your options later on.

It’s easy to feel like nobody’s watching when you’re posting personal material, whether it’s a heated political debate on a message board or glassy eyed shots of you and your buddies partying at the club. A handful of your friends might see the pictures, and the chances of some encountering the folks who participated in your political debate are slim to none.

Public Domain
No matter what you believed would stay buried on the web, here’s the dichotomy of the internet: what feels like a private note to friends or a living room conversation is actually a billboard. Just because nobody has driven past that billboard yet shouldn’t make you feel safe. It all seems private, until, very suddenly, it’s not.

“It’s not illegal for a company to Google a prospective employee, and it’s not illegal for them to look …

August 17th, 2008

No matter how well (or how poorly) you did in your classes back home, or how pleased your high school teachers were with you and your work, one significant difference you’ll find on campus is that the college professor is a whole different animal. Behavior, expectations, communication and attitude vary widely between the two species. Understanding the distinction between your high school teachers from senior year and your college professors this fall can mean the difference between making it your first semester or not.

Deceptively Simple
Is it hard to make a professor happy? How do you know what they’re looking for? While it may seem mystifying at first, focusing on the basics is a good place to start. Thomas O’Brien, Ph.D., a professor of theology at DePaul University in Chicago, says the most important things a student can do to ensure success in a class are, “Come to class. Submit assignments on time. Participate and stay engaged. Read and follow the syllabus.”

Rick Malloy SJ, Ph.D., an anthropology professor at Chestnut Hill College in Philadelphia echoes the sentiment, “It will help tremendously if the student has gone to every class. Missing class is a loud message to the professor, ‘I want an “F” for this course!’ On the other hand, if you are in class every day, how can a professor admit he or she was unable to teach you anything?”

It sounds pretty easy. Just show up and the rest will fall into place, right? Well, not exactly.

The Hard Facts
You will surely encounter some fantastic and very engaging teaching on campus, just as surely as you will have teachers that can bore you to sleep in the first ten minutes of class. College can be a mixed bag when it comes to the quality of teaching. Though many professors make an effort to keep student interest piqued, …

August 12th, 2008

Joseph Miller says he likes driving Italian sports cars, drinking tequila and partying all night—and, oh yeah, he’s an Amish teenager. “But that doesn’t mean I still can’t get up early to do a mean cow milking,” he jokes.

On a remote Pennsylvania farm road, Miller opens a secret compartment in his buggy, revealing the latest high-end sound system. “If my folks knew about this, they would die.” Miller flips on his stereo. Rap music thunders from six speakers. His horse winces. “When I crank this sucker up, it really screams,” he shouts over the din.

Miller, who like all the Amish quoted for this story asked that his real name not be used, says that sometimes, when an older tourist sneaks up to photograph him in his buggy, he blasts his rap music and watches their expressions. “It’s priceless,” he laughs.

“But it serves them right. How would you feel if strangers came up to you all the time, snapping pictures?” he says, taking a swig from a carton of chocolate milk.

“Anyway, I’m in my rumspringa phase, so I guess I’m supposed to get a little out of control,” he adds, wiping away a chocolate mustache.

The Running-Around Years

Until baptized, Amish youth are not official members of their community and are given a lenient period called rumspringa (running-around) to sample the non-Amish world of drinking, car driving and wearing modern clothes. This permissive period for Amish youngsters—which some believe is becoming too lax—normally begins at 16 and continues to the early twenties, or until baptism.

A middle-aged Amish father says he’s not crazy about Amish kids today driving cars, drinking and staying out late. “They’re doing more than I ever did during my rumspringa,” he says. “But it’s a different era. Maybe they need more time today to decide if they want …

August 12th, 2008

Best-selling author Clyde Edgerton’s ninth novel, The Bible Salesman (Little, Brown), is the story of Preston Clearwater, a car thief who picks up hitchhiker Henry Dampier, a 19-year-old Bible salesman.

When Clearwater offers Dampier a lift on the road in post-war North Carolina, he convinces Dampier he is an FBI agent in need of an associate. Dampier joyfully seizes the opportunity to lead a double life as both a bible salesman and a G-man.

But Dampier’s fundamentalist upbringing doesn’t prepare him for the complexities of his new life. He falls in love, questions his religious training, begins to see he’s being used, and realizes that he is now on his own in a way he never imagined.

David Sedaris told USA Today, “I read a galley recently on a trip to Greece. I howled with laughter. It’s called The Bible Salesman by Clyde Edgerton. Now I have all his previous books to enjoy, too…How good it feels to throw back one’s head and howl with a great comic novel. The ‘burial tuck’ alone should make The Bible Salesman a classic.”

A Statement About Belief
By Clyde Edgerton

I think about religion a good bit. And I write novels in which characters think about religion. In my most recent novel, The Bible Salesman, the main character is reading the Bible on his own for the first time and throughout the narrative he is confused and delighted and puzzled by what he reads. His thinking sometimes reflects my own, but managing and understanding my character’s “belief” or “unbelief” was not difficult because I had relatively good control of his mind and the influences on it, and what he experienced, whereas with my own mind, what is out there staring at me is a universe of scrambled information and judgments and feelings. And while I believe there is a design of some sort going on out there …

August 12th, 2008

Chip Taylor

If he’d done nothing more than pen the seminal “Wild Thing,” Chip Taylor would still be a force to be reckoned with. The garage stomp classic that The Troggs topped the charts with in 1966 has become so emblematic of the genre that if you mapped the DNA of rock ‘n’ roll Taylor’s name would no doubt appear on several strands.

But Taylor has done more…much more. During the 60s and 70s the Yonkers, NY native also wrote “Angel of the Morning” which has been a massive hit in three different decades—the 60s, 80s and, most recently, in 2001 with a reworked version by Shaggy. Taylor — who was born James Wesley Voight and is the brother of Oscar-winning actor Jon Voight and renowned geologist Barry Voight (talk about DNA…) — also wrote scores of hits for rock ‘n’ roll acts like Janis Joplin, The Hollies and Jackie DeShannon as well as country legends Wille Nelson, Waylon Jennings and Emmylou Harris. His songs have also been recorded by such luminaries as Frank Sinatra, Fats Domino, Dean Martin and Bonnie Raitt.

Going Pro
After becoming disillusioned with the music business in the 1970s, Taylor switched careers and became a professional gambler who specialized in blackjack and horse racing. True to form, Taylor excelled at this as well, becoming one of the foremost thoroughbred handicappers in the United States. His skills as a card counter were so good that he was banned from major casinos in Las Vegas, Atlantic City and Europe.

On the ride home after a particularly successful day at the track in the mid 90s Taylor had an epiphany that changed his life. The revelation came while bouncing between two different radio programs featuring a preacher and a self-help guru. It led him to quit gambling completely and go back to making music. Eventually he began to share his insight — what he calls The Church of the Train Wreck — through his website and podcasts (and, soon, on satellite radio).

Taylor’s “church” isn’t intended to replace …

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August 11th, 2008

After the attacks of September 11th, it seemed like everyone was asking the same question: Why do they (the terrorists) hate us (Americans)? Some offered various answers, and some argued the answer didn’t matter. What mattered was that the terrorists killed lots of Americans and now Americans should kill lots of terrorists. For a while trying to learn why the terrorists hate us seemed like giving them credibility. But now Andre Dubus III’s new novel, The Garden of Last Days, takes a long, hard look at why one fictional terrorist hates Americans so much. Dubus follows Bassam, a 9/11 hijacker, from a strip club in Florida all the way through the checkpoint at Boston’s Logan International Airport, giving readers a detailed map of one religious fundamentalist’s thoughts.

Almost the whole novel takes place during one night in Florida, when April (a stripper) can’t use her regular babysitter, and so she decides to bring her daughter to work. Bassam visits the strip club with sixteen grand in cash. He takes April (who goes by “Spring” at the club) into the V.I.P. lounge. While they’re in the lounge, April’s daughter wanders outside, where A.J., a man with very little to be happy about in life, puts her in his truck and drives away. To recap: a stripper brings her baby to work; an Islamic fundamentalist sins like an American; and a drunk drives away with a baby. Through each event, Dubus shows us why these characters think what they’re doing is a good idea. A.J., for example, is very drunk, and he sees so much danger around the little girl who has wandered out into the strip club’s parking lot, sees it as his duty to keep her safe in his truck and drive away.

Dubus’ ability to show how characters see the world and rationalize their decisions is put to good use with Bassam, who has to justify going to a strip club to see naked women—something forbidden to those of his faith. We learn that Bassam and his fellow terrorists think they …

August 4th, 2008

Recently I received a request from Susan, a longtime reader of my Pure Sex, Pure Love column:

How do you deal with a partner whose dealing with depression? Can you help—and if so, how? And where the lines are drawn between being supportive and looking after your own emotional needs, since depression doesn’t just affect the person going through it. Do you deal with a loved one’s depression differently if you are married versus dating?

I pondered this email as I left for my final week of the Templeton-Cambridge Journalism Fellowship, where one of our lectures happened to be about the recent studied of Buddhist meditation used in the treatment of chronic depression.

“Estimates are that 1 in 6 people will experience depression at some point in their lives, and women are more likely to experience depression than men.”

The first episode of a clinical depression usually occurs in a person’s mid-20s—right when we’re finishing up school, starting jobs, in the middle of dating and early relationships or marriage. Estimates are that 1 in 6 people will experience depression at some point in their lives, and women are more likely to experience depression than men. Worse yet, if you’ve been depressed once, you’re more likely to become depressed again, and each bout of depression further increases your chances of a relapse.

Depression & Relationships
To Answer the Questionnaire, click here.

Fake name
Relationship status (single, dating, engaged, married, separated/divorced, widowed)
Should Susan continue her relationship with John? (Yes/No)
What would be your advice to Susan about how best to deal with John’s depression? (Short answer)
Susan and John are dating. If they were married, would you offer different advice? (Yes/No)
If yes, what kind of advice would you offer to a married person whose spouse is dealing with depression?
In your opinion, is prayer a useful tool in treating depression? (Yes/No)
What can the Catholic Church do to address the challenges for young-adults dealing with depression? (Short answer)
In your opinion, should Catholics be open to meditation and practices from Buddhism and other faiths in the treatment of depression? (Yes/No)
Have you ever

August 1st, 2008

Once upon a time, superheroes were simple.

Superman was virtually invulnerable; he fought for “Truth, justice, and the American way.” Batman was a handsome billionaire playboy, dishing out punishment to a deserving criminal underworld. Wonder Woman, Captain America, and Captain Marvel fought evil robots, mind-controlling worms, and scurrilous Nazis. All provided straightforward, idealized role models for an anxious populace facing the Depression, Fascism, World War and the Nuclear Age.

But this summer’s profitable crop of big screen superheroes is different. We’ve got Hancock’s title character, a self-loathing homeless alcoholic; Iron Man’s Tony Stark, a vain, womanizing alcoholic-in-training; The Hulk’s Bruce Banner, whose rampaging, id-fueled alter ego often does more harm than good; the titular Hellboy, a demon superhero whose red skin, lengthy tail, and sawed-off horns evoke Satan (“Believe it or not,” trumpets the ad campaign, “this is the good guy”); and the second film in Christopher Nolan’s reimagining of the Batman mythos, in which Bruce Wayne is almost—if not equally—as deranged as those he brings to justice.

This new crop of movies speaks of cynicism, disillusionment, and sour self-examination. But while it obviously has a lot to do with our current situation as a nation—including an ongoing war in Iraq over weapons of mass destruction that turned out not to exist—its roots go farther back, to that original period of American disillusionment: the 60’s.

For What It’s Worth

There’s something happening here, as Buffalo Springfield said in November of 1966. At the time, U.S. troop strength in Vietnam had passed 400,000, the Cold War was getting worse, and the term ‘Black Power’ entered the common lexicon. The stark good guy/bad guy morality of Superman comics no longer fit a world now painted in shades of gray.

Along came Marvel Comics, and a young writer named Stan Lee. His new characters (the ones now ruling the multiplex) included Spiderman, the Fantastic Four, the X-Men, Iron Man, and the Hulk. Lee wrote from a new angle: the younger side of the generation gap. His characters suffered money problems, family problems,girlfriend problems. They were sometimes selfish, often proud, inevitably flawed.


July 29th, 2008

The modern-day pilgrim who struggles across Spain to the shrine of the Apostle James faces one more challenge in a church office that gives out an official certificate to those who complete the journey on foot or bicycle. A clerk asks: Was the reason for the trip spiritual?

For many of those who hike or bike the Camino de Santiago, a pilgrimage trail all the rage during the Middle Ages and catapulting in popularity in recent years, it’s not an easy question. In walking a segment of the route in June and another chunk five years ago, I found that the reasons people had for undertaking the trip were often mixed. In more than a few cases, the spiritual aspect of the long trek grows on them unexpectedly. It did for me, too, even though the religious nature of the journey was an attraction from the start.

Many set out for the physical challenge, or even for an inexpensive vacation staying at pilgrims’ hostels, or refugios, for three to six euros a night. But I noticed something else: Quite a few were at some crossroad in life. Some had lost jobs or loved ones. Others were graduating from college, or entering graduate school. They may not have put it in religious terms, but they were looking for something.

Ancient and Popular
In this age of seekers, that may explain the sudden bolt in popularity for the Camino, a network of trails leading to the Cathedral of Santiago, or St. James, in this city in the cool, rainy, Celtic-influenced northwestern corner of Spain. Last year, 114,026 people arrived at the cathedral to gain a certificate granted to those who walk at least the last 100 kilometers or bike the last 200 (it’s also okay to go on horseback, as 364 people did). That’s more than quadruple the number who went 10 years earlier, and up from just 2,905 people a decade before that.

And so I was following a well-worn and ancient path when I set out on foot from Ponferrada with two friends on June …

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July 29th, 2008

To be honest, I was never a fan of Sex and the City when it was on television so I really had no interest in seeing it when it hit the big screen earlier this summer. I just didn’t think it was my kind of movie as a nun, if you get my drift. But after it had such extraordinary success at the box office—its opening night grossed more than Indiana Jones, establishing SATC as “by far the best of all time for a romantic comedy,” according to EW.com—a call from a friend of mine piqued my curiosity. He mentioned during our conversation that he was surprised at the broad range of women he knew who absolutely loved the movie. Whether it was college-age young women, accomplished 20, 30 and 40-something professionals (both single and married) or older grandmothers—it seemed to make no difference—women from all different social, economic, geographic, racial and religious backgrounds seemed to embrace this film with a remarkable amount of passion.

He then asked me an interesting question: who are these women who have elevated this quartet of New York women to such iconic heights? What do they see in SATC that makes them such avid fans of it? His question provided me with all the motivation I needed to visit the local multiplex and plunk down $11 for a ticket.

The most striking thing for me about SATC was that it does a good job of portraying what I have come to call “women forming community.” Through the bond of friendship that exists among women, we are able to create meaning and navigate the rest of our lives. SATC has made the friendship of Charlotte, Miranda, Samantha and Carrie the story. Despite the fact that I personally cannot relate to the characters’ issues or lifestyles, I found their bond of friendship deeply engaging.

Do SATC fans connect with it in the same way? Do they relate to the themes? To the lifestyle? Or is the friendship element the connection with them as well? I sent …

July 24th, 2008

“Why do you think people are so fixated on celebrities?”

July 23rd, 2008

This morning I traveled to Riverview for a Catechesis (teaching) session along with some young adults from Chicago who are active with Charis Ministries in Chicago—an organization that does retreats for people in their 20s and 30s (BustedHalo Retreats is essentially an affiliate of this organization).  Riverview is the site of a Jesuit High School where the Magis Experiment is taking place. The Jesuits decided to gather young adults together from their various provinces and to do a type of retreat pilgrimage
the week before World Youth Day.  So my travel partners have been here in Sydney a week longer than I have.  After a brief catechesis I was able to talk with three very
impressive young adults from 3 different countries.

Colin, from Ireland.

Allen from Kenya.

And John from Tanzania. John did a Jesuit Volunteer year in Tanzania and decided to stay for a second year because he had been so moved by the people.

The Pope arrived this afternoon by boat with several pilgrims from all over the world. He looked very much at ease with the young people who chatted with him on the way. Travelling is a bit daunting for the 81 year old pontiff, who admitted as much in his address to the pilgrims at Barangeroo. Two things stood out for the Australians in his talke. He welcomed the Aboriginal people whose land we have been standing on throughout our time here. There has been a lot of discrimination of the Aborigines for many years here, in fact it was only last year that the government here apologized for the oppression inflicted on them in the past.

Secondly, the Pope stressed care for the environment and spoke out against relativism and individualism. Environmental issues have been at the heart of Benedict’s papacy, as well as, a hot topic amongst young people here. In a secular country that values individual experience, Benedict highlighted that experience, while …

July 22nd, 2008

My husband, Peter, is a lawyer, and recently accepted a job with Legal Aid, a non-profit organization that provides legal services for the working poor. In states nationwide, community legal services groups are expanding their personal bankruptcy practices as this economy continues to soften, and he’ll be working with many families in financial crisis.

As we spent hours talking about the clients he’s going to work with and their difficulties making ends meet, we began thinking about our own finances. Are we saving enough? Peter drives 30 minutes to work and back each day; if gas prices continue to go up, do we need to cut back in other areas to pay for that increased expense? Our savings are dwindling as the stock market falls. Should we be concerned?

For most of my life, I’ve watched the financial news without a lot of interest. I lived in New York City, and everything was more expensive than the national average, and that was just part of living in the Big Apple. But subways and busses meant that I didn’t drive a car, so rising gas prices didn’t seem to affect me directly.

Fine Line
In the last year, I’ve gotten married and moved to Iowa—and I’ve become a lot more aware of the fine line most American families walk to stay in the black, why the price of gas matters and how difficult it is to talk about finances, even in an otherwise strong relationship.

Money is often a conflict area for couples–nearly half of Busted Halo® respondents said that the current state of the economy has made money discussions with their spouse or significant other more tense, and more than 40% said talking about finances makes them emotional.

Not talking about money is one reason that the personal savings rate has been declining for years, economists say, and according to a 2006 survey, about 42 percent of people 18 to 49 report they are likely to spend more than they can afford.

What To Do?
Especially for us young adults, we’ve never experienced a prolonged financial slow-down. Do we know …

July 21st, 2008

I woke up this morning in my nice cozy hotel room thinking about my companions sleeping out in the dewy cold air at Randwick Racetrack and awaiting the Papal Mass amidst 150,000 young pilgrims. When I left them the place was packed and kissy-faced teens were starting to huddle together, others were breaking out footballs and hackey-sacks.  My only thought at leaving my 10 young adult female friends out there amongst the teens was simply: Better them than me.

However, revenge is often sweet indeed. Upon awaking a bit later than I had planned I tried to take a taxi over to the racetrack and was snubbed by all the cabbies.  No cars allowed anywhere near the racetrack.  So I took a subway to the Central Train Station and then walk the entire 3.5 km pilgrimage trail back to the Racetrack getting there just in time for the Papal Mass.

I’m not very pious by nature and I generally pray in my own voice, usually to Jesus and occasionally to Mary. But on the pilgrimage walk, since I was by myself, I decided to pray the rosary.  It was a beautiful cool morning, a comfortable jaunt.  I removed my jacket and my sweatshirt and prayed in my short sleeves letting the coolness of the air wash over me and helping me get into the theme of the week: Receive the Power of the Holy Spirit.  It was a wonderful time to be nearly alone with God (maybe 15-20 pilgrims jaunted near by but nowhere near the throngs of people that I had been with all week).

I was able to think about where God is calling me as a husband, a lay minister, a person of faith.  The rhythms of the Hail Marys helped deepen my reflection and to think about my role as a layman in the Church who does ministry, who writes books and articles and who mentors young adults in spiritual direction. What more is God asking of me? How can I do what I do better?  Where am I being led as a …

July 20th, 2008

CNS Photo

This morning the U.S. Bishops celebrated mass outdoors for American Youth at The Domain—a first at World Youth Day. It was a vibrant mass with superb music and great preaching by the Cardinal-Archbishop of Chicago Francis Cardinal George, who is also the President of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. Since I’m traveling with Chicagoians I got to meet the Cardinal after mass and gave him a copy of my book, Googling God. He was a very gracious man and spent a good deal of time with the folks from his Archdiocese and engaged almost all of us in conversation. Considering that he’s still recovering from cancer and that his legs aren’t strong to begin with (he had polio as a child) this was no small task for him. He looks a bit weary from the travel but is plugging along nonetheless.

We then hiked from the Domain to Randwick Racetrack for a few miles where the evening vigil was to be held with the Pope. Young people sleep out under the stars after a prayer service with Pope Benedict and then they awaken to celebrate mass with the Pope the next morning. The place is jammed. It’s difficult to step in and out without trampling some poor teen-ager in a sleeping bag or kicking someone in the skull accidentally.

Here’s a bit of the set up for tonight:

Lauren Gaffey from Charis Ministries in Chicago discusses the good and badapsects of her World Youth Day experience:

This was usually Pope John Paul II’s “rock star” moment at past World Youth Days. Even more than when he celebrated mass, the evening vigil would be a huge opportunity for him to connect with all the different cultures of the world and give a brief spiritual message alongside playing up to the crowd with the various chants. Lexi, a young woman I’m traveling with recalled the chants of “JP2—We …

July 19th, 2008

An on the spot report to start:

A consistent theme I’m finding among young adults here—and one that’s also been heralded by many members of the clergy here at World Youth Day—is the struggle of being embarrassed of being Catholic.  In secular society, religion is often a taboo subject, relegated to “a private matter” for most people. In other segments of the world, religion is a nuisance, at best, or a complete farce—something that is overly restrictive, or a fantasy that one tells themselves out of comfort. At World Youth Day those pressures simply disappear.

Below are interviews with some young adults who talk very openly about their struggles with being Catholic here in Australia.  As the week goes on, we’ll talk with people from other countries about their experience of faith—how do they pray?  Where do they most feel God’s presence in their lives?  Where do they struggle?  What big questions are they asking today and how are they navigating the secular world they live in with their faith and what role has their family and heritage played in that?

Spending some time with these young adults today made me see that they are very typical young adults who have had some influence by the practice of their families faith and while some seem to be going to church for the sake of their families, many have found great meaning in their spiritual lives. Some clearly struggle with regular practice, while others find that even being a typical college student who hangs out in pubs on the weekend but longs to have a deeper connection with the divine, but finds it difficult to fit into the normal church structures.

Tomorrow: The Pope arrives.

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