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March 21st, 2008
Dark, noisy and nearly forgotten, a 20-something makes a case for reviving Tenebrae

It is the great peculiarity of the Church of Rome, that it presents to its worshipers an extraordinary variety of services, each of which has a special significance and fitness for the period of the year in which it is celebrated. Among the most beautiful of these offices are those which are celebrated during Holy Week, and which are called Tenebrae.
The notice above entitled “Tenebrae Services in the Roman Catholic Church” and published in the New York Times…, on March 27th, 1872, sounds a little antiquated (when was the last time anybody said “Church of Rome?”), but it none the less rings true for me. Though it might be an odd choice, Tenebrae has long been my favorite service of the liturgical

March 19th, 2008
Holy Thursday and the washing of the feet

Holy Thursday begins what has been traditionally called the Sacred Triduum in Holy Week. It is the time in the Church’s calendar in which we liturgically commemorate the Passion, Death and Resurrection of Jesus. The significance of Holy Thursday is found at the Passover celebration of the Last Supper during which Jesus instituted the Sacraments of the Eucharist and Holy Orders. Though the conventional thinking is that the Chrism Mass—generally held earlier in Holy Week—celebrates the gift of Holy Orders and the liturgy for Holy Thursday focuses on the gift of the Eucharist, there is another form of priesthood that is commemorated on Holy Thursday that is often overlooked.
It would make…

March 14th, 2008
An American nun sees the Iraqi refugee crisis up close

Shame and sorrow—those were the two words Sister Anne Curtis uses to describe how she felt after meeting face-to-face with Iraqi refugees. “The feelings were very intense,” she recalls. “As a citizen of the United States, seeing before me the suffering of Iraqis as a result of our government’s war against their country, I was personally stricken.” Sister Anne is part of the Sisters of Mercy of the Americas Leadership Team. In January, she was amongst a delegation of women religious traveling to the Middle East to meet with Iraqi refugees. The trip, sponsored by Catholic Relief Services, took them to Lebanon and Syria, where significant numbers of displaced Iraqis are…

March 14th, 2008
Asking ancient questions in Africa

For years before I actually traveled there, I dreamed of Africa. Elephants and gazelle and women with long necks infiltrated the landscape of my sleep. When I say that I dreamed of Africa, I mean that I actually… did, but I also mean that I longed for it. So when I was accepted to a study abroad program in Kenya during my junior year in college, it seemed that the planets had finally aligned. I had the distinctive feeling that I was standing at a threshold.
But, when friends and acquaintances asked “Why Africa?” I had no good answer. All I knew was that this need to travel to this distant continent had bubbled up in me in a way that could no longer be contained. Maybe it was curiosity, maybe it was restlessness or

March 13th, 2008
Searching for the "right place"

For years I felt a gap between my parents and me—a gap of time and geography. When they were young, their social lives revolved around church; few of my good friends regularly attend. They’ve always urged me to “find a good church” where I could become part of a community. I’d patiently tell them that I have to make my own way; that I have friends; that I’m doing just fine, thank you very much. I knew they just wanted me to be happy—wanted me to find the security in the church that they had found growing up in the Midwest in the 50′s and 60′s.
But I live in Manhattan, I’d tell them, and we’re in the 80′s, the 90′s, the 00′s.
I grew up…

March 12th, 2008

Before I went to bed, I made sure I was clean. I purified the tub with all the soap in the tiny shampoo bottle. Immersed myself in steaming water. Held my nose. Submerged. I envisioned the ritual baths called mikvehs… that we had read about in a Judaism class I had taken in college. The class had been offended by the idea of women having to purify themselves monthly. But I no longer saw it that way. I scrubbed at my feet and my hands to make sure that they were unsoiled. Clean and pure: I made up a pallet of blankets from the second bed on the floor. Faced my sandals toward the east. I slept without dreams.
I woke at midnight and ripped the sheets from the unused bed, wrapped them around me. Kind of like my fourth grade attempt at being

March 11th, 2008

“Do you believe in love at first sight?”…

March 10th, 2008
Box, Wine and Love Letter

In the living room of my next-door neighbors’ house is a wooden crate. It’s nothing fancy, just pieces of plywood nailed together, but Kim and Matt keep the box in a place of honor by the fireplace as a constant reminder of their commitment to each other.
When Kim and Matt took their vows of marriage four years ago, they incorporated a new twist into their celebration: It’s called the box, wine and love-letter ceremony, and I wanted to share this beautiful idea with Busted Halo…® readers.
Kim and Matt found a strong wooden box to hold two bottles of wine and two wine glasses. Each of them wrote a love-letter to the other, expressing their feelings, why and how they fell in love and their hopes for

March 7th, 2008
Excerpted from Mary and Me: Catholic Women Reflect on the Mother of God

For many Catholics, Marian apparition sites are tightly linked to the idea of healing. The places where Mary came to Earth are usually viewed as holy ground, charged with the promise of heavenly power and divine intervention. Nowhere is this more true than at Lourdes, France, where in 1858 Mary appeared repeatedly to Bernadette Soubirous, a young peasant girl. At Mary’s instruction, Bernadette dug in the dirt, uncovering a spring. Thousands of medical miracles have since been attributed to the spring’s healing waters; of these cures, sixty-seven have been officially recognized as miracles by the church. With 5 million visitors a year, Lourdes is one of the largest pilgrimage sites in the world.…

March 6th, 2008
A Reform Jew Explores Her Fear of Orthodoxy

We see Rabbi X. walking down the streets of our small Southern city, and we see others staring at him. He wears the outfit of a Jew from Eastern Europe, circa1800—a long black wool coat, a fur hat—and it looks hot in the middle of a sunny North Carolina day. In October, we see him striding down the street carrying the lulav, the palm stalk that Jews wave in the direction of Jerusalem to celebrate Sukko…t, the Jewish harvest festival. There is something strange and touching about him, one of a handful of Chasidic Jews in our city, a town with nothing but a small number of Jews in it, spread among the denominations of Reform, Conservative and Orthodox.

It is moving at first to see Rabbi X. I feel a sort of nostalgic

March 5th, 2008

I grew up with the accoutrements of pipe organs
filling our garage, some as small as piccolos,
some arriving like giants in rough-hewn crates.
On occasional Saturdays, I helped my father tune
what he had built inside quiet churches, each dim
as an underwater scene, each cool as a cave
no matter what season. I preferred the older
sanctuaries with their faint smell of damp,
with their dark mahogany pews and marble floors
that would clack beneath women’s Sunday heels.
I walked with my father the length of the nave
toward where a crucifix hung like a compass,
then veered right or left toward the organ’s console.
Before he disappeared down some dark hallway
like he would one day disappear forever, my father…

March 3rd, 2008
A Jewish Mother Considers Family, Tradition and the Pain of Belonging

Eight days after birth, a Jewish male infant is circumcised in a ceremony called the bris milah (bris means “covenant” in Hebrew). It’s a party: relatives and friends gather to watch; the baby gets a drop of wine to dull the pain and then sits on his grandfather’s lap; his grandfather holds him steady. The mohel…—a specialist trained in both the Jewish ritual and medical procedure of circumcision—says the prayers and then quickly cuts off the baby’s foreskin. The whole thing is done in less than a minute, and then the guests talk and eat while the infant, after a storm of crying, usually falls asleep, exhausted by the commotion.

Bris Milah is the oldest ritual in Judaism,

March 2nd, 2008
BustedHalo columnist and contributing editor Christine Whelan receives the prestigious Templeton-Cambridge Journalism Fellowship

It is with enormous pleasure and pride that we announce contributing editor and columnist Dr. Christine B. Whelan’s selection for a Templeton-Cambridge Journalism Fellowship in Science & Religion—one of the youngest journalists to ever receive that honor. Christine will spend the summer at the University of Cambridge, England, engaged in research and study on the ways in which science and religion affect each other in contemporary society.
Since the fellowship began in 2004, Pulitzer Prize finalists, bestselling authors and other prominent journalists have received the award. Christine will be joined in Cambridge this year by journalists from the Washington Post, Los Angeles Times,…

February 29th, 2008

“A recent study found that 44% of American adults have changed their faith from when they were children. Have you changed your own personal faith, and if so, why?”…

February 28th, 2008
The Mormon Church is busy growing (and challenging misconceptions)

“You’re not true Christians,” shouts the barrel-chested 43-year-old Lonie Pursifull to a group of Mormons passing through Temple Square, the world headquarters for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, in Salt Lake City, Utah. “You’re not following the true gospel of Jesus Christ. You’re liars. You’re of your father—the devil.”
Pursifull pastors the Wildness Bible Church in Duchesne, about 90 miles outside of Salt Lake City. He says off and on for the last 13 years—despite being hit 16 times in the face and receiving 23 death threats—he’s come to Temple Square to preach to Mormons.
Ryan Sanchez listens not too far…

February 27th, 2008
BYU students are proud of their faith but it doesn't mean they're all the same

Bushy haired, scruffy and wild-eyed, a punk-rock singer bellows out the words to an irksome tune. Blaring throughout the campus, the singer’s lyrics laud the virtues of environmentalism. Students stop to enjoy the music and many even dance, punk-style, in front of the singer’s stage. The event could easily have taken place at UCLA or the University of Florida, but believe it or not, it took place at Brigham Young University (BYU). “Yeah, we can get a little wild here,” a passing student admits. “But who ever said you can’t be loud and still be a Mormon?”
With over 30,000 students, BYU in Provo, Utah is the largest privately owned university in the United States. Acknowledged…

February 26th, 2008
Young Catholics might be more serious about marriage than they are about the Church

Catholic young adults place great importance on marriage but have turned away from church-based ideas of how to make it work, according to a study released last week by the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate at Georgetown University.

For Catholic members of the “millennial generation,” men and women born between 1982 and 1989, marriage is not to be undertaken lightly. Some 82% of these teens and 20-somethings report that they believe marriage is a lifelong commitment, compared with only 56% of Catholics age 47 to 64—approximately their parents’ generation. Moreover, 84% of these young Catholic adults report concern that “couples don’t take marriage seriously…

February 25th, 2008
The head of Catholic Charities teams up with other organizations in trying to convince the President to redeem his administration’s policies

The clock may be ticking on the Bush White House, but a group of religious leaders claims it’s not too late for George W. Bush to redeem what they call his ‘shameful’ legacy. Last month, the leader of Catholic Charities USA, the Reverend Larry Snyder, joined other Catholic and evangelical Christian social justice advocates in urging the President to right the wrongs of his administration. Catholic Charities USA, is the national membership association of more than 1,500 Catholic agencies and institutions that serve approximately 7.5 million people a year. Fr. Snyder oversees the organization’s Campaign to Reduce Poverty in America, a multi-year, multi-faceted initiative that…

February 22nd, 2008
Fr. William Byron helps move prayer beyond our own desires

For many people, prayer is a private matter. Most of us prefer to pray alone and often squirm uncomfortably when someone suggests saying grace in a public place. We don’t often consider it proper to vocalize a prayer aloud.
But as William J. Byron, SJ points out, “The entire Christian world knows that when Jesus taught his followers how to pray he did not tell them to say ‘My Father.’ Rather, he instructed them to say ‘Our Father.’” We are often so preoccupied with our own day to day needs that the needs of others take second place—or perhaps even a distant third or fourth. Making time to pray simply for ourselves is a challenge in our culture, and our forgetfulness…

February 19th, 2008
A new survey reveals significant generational differences in Catholic attitudes toward marriage

Do you believe that your spouse should be your soul mate first and foremost? Do you agree that marriage should be whatever two people want it to be? Do you believe that living together decreases the chances of divorce? Depending on your age, you’ll probably have very different answers to these questions.
A new study released last week by the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate (CARA) at Georgetown University found significant generational differences in attitudes about marriage, daily married life and the role of the Catholic Church in the sacrament of marriage.
Relationship Goldmine
All you regular readers of Pure Sex, Pure Love …know how I adore studies, surveys and statistics about what young-adults

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