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December 6th, 2003
Catholics and the Complications of U.S. Immigration Policy

“There’s so many of them,” the septuagenarian remarked to a large gathering of us over dinner that night. “With all the people coming here from everywhere, can New York City really make room, come up with an apartment for every new immigrant family?” There was a clear note of doubt in his voice. I wanted to speak, but one of his contemporaries did instead: “Didn’t New York City have enough room for your parents when they came here from Eastern Europe?”
I suppose there is something natural about wanting to shut the door behind us, fearful there won’t be enough for everyone?enough jobs, enough wealth, enough housing. Here in New York City, enough simple…

December 4th, 2003
Celebrating the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe, December 12

It was just a regular day in the desert outside
of Mexico City in 1531 when Aztec Indian Juan Diego heard a woman’s voice call out to him. Entranced, he followed the sweet sound to a hill called Tepeyac where he found the beautiful, glowing apparition of a woman wearing a rose-colored gown and a star-spangled blue satin cloak.
In Juan Diego’s native language of Nahuatl, she told him that she was the Virgin Mary. She also asked him for his help: she needed Juan Diego to go to the bishop, Juan de Zumarriga, to ask for a temple to be built in the place where she appeared in order for her message of love to be known to many.
So, with doubt in his heart, the humble man set off to visit the bishop. After a long wait, Juan Diego…

December 4th, 2003
The Lost Art of Appreciating Who We Are

I’m the Thanksgiving Day Scrooge. I truly think that Thanksgiving is simply a sham, a humbug, if you will. It’s a day that makes us all feel a little better about ourselves for thanking God that we have enough.
As if God had anything to do with our good fortune.
If God is for us….My mom taught me that Thanksgiving is a day to count your blessings, to thank God for all that he has given us.
But doesn’t that also make God a God of exclusivity? Does God look on me more favorably than those children I met at an orphanage in Nicaragua or the inner-city family that lives in a housing project? What about those poor slobs in Somalia?
Should Thanksgiving simply entail wiping the sweat from my brow and being glad that…

December 3rd, 2003
Unlikely Ways Home: Real-Life Spiritual Detours

It’s not often that a sexy cocktail waitress inspires a Catholic priest to write a book about faith journeys, but such is the case with Fr. Edward Beck’s Unlikely Ways Home: Real-Life Spiritual Detours. Story has it that Fr. Beck was having a drink in a Manhattan bar when a friend of his complained that priests only see spirituality in people who are praying in church. Like all great theological discussions that start in a bar, the conversation segued toward a waitress in a “barely legal mini-skirt.” Fr. Beck’s friend observed that he believed this waitress was a spiritual person. Incredulous, Fr. Beck asked how he came to that conclusion.
The friend said it was because of the way…

December 2nd, 2003
The Repercussions of Natal Timing

Hey, are you like me? You know?screwed?
I am one of those poor unfortunate souls born in that ungodly space between Thanksgiving and Martin Luther King Day. Jesus picked a terrible birthday for Himself.
If you love your future children, please don’t conceive them in March or April. They will be forever doomed to combination gifts, a double load of thank-you notes, and the occasional feeble, “Oh yeah, happy birthday,” tossed over the eggnog.
And if you think December’s bad, try having a party after the party’s over. In January, all the world’s in various stages of exhaustion, bankruptcy, hangover, and sugar shock. My birthday karma is perfectly wretched. The bulk of my…

December 2nd, 2003
A Four Alarm Make-Up Disaster Story

Show me a woman who is happy with her looks, and I’ll show you a woman who thinks denial?badaboom!?is a river in Egypt.
The cosmetic-industrial complex
It’s true though. We are always seeking the secret formula that will unmask our “hidden” beauty. Each year women spend thousands of hard-earned dollars on cosmetics, hair products, tummy smoothers and fanny shapers. Maybe our eyebrows aren’t shaped right, or we’re wearing the wrong shade of lipstick. Maybe if we didn’t have that darned bump on our nose, or have one front tooth bigger than the other, we too could be as striking as the models that grace magazine covers.
And I’m as guilty as my sisters. Is this as…

December 1st, 2003
The Holidays

Forget Survivor Thailand. One of the most challenging, daunting threats to modern mankind’s survival (and our sanity) is The Holidays . Now that they’re over, it’s time to assess the damage, see where our resources have been depleted, and concentrate on recovering enough so we can face another year of living in the jungle.
Not supposed to be like this…I’m not sure where things changed. I think it was somewhere between the time I got my driver’s license and when I became a parent. Somehow, the holidays, specifically Christmas , went from being a time I greatly anticipated to a time where I now have to psyche myself up, train, and strategize just to make it through in one piece.…

December 1st, 2003
My Love-Hate Affair with the Winter

I am standing at my kitchen sink, gazing out the window as the afternoon sun dissolves into the sky. I am supposed to be peeling potatoes for supper but I can’t stop watching the sunset—or the way there is no sunset, really, but only a dreary washing out of color, daylight fading into grayness. So why am I transfixed?
It seems it’s been this way for months, dark at five p.m., the ground covered in a tired layer of snow, though it’s only November.
F.S.C.S.—Future Snowbirds of Canada SocietyI have no patience for winter anymore. I’m so tired of slipping on sidewalks, of bundling kids into parkas and listening to weather forecasters go on about how exposed skin will freeze in thirty seconds.…

November 29th, 2003
A 1980's AIDS Volunteer and Activist on Angels in America

Separating life from art can be impossible in some cases; Angels in America is the most painful instance I know.
Now that the award-winning Broadway play has been superbly translated to TV by the playwright, Tony Kushner, and director Michael Nichols, that work of separation has become even more difficult for me, and will be for others. (Angels is running on HBO in two
parts: Sunday, December 7 and the following Sunday, December 14.) I recommend it heartily to viewers, not only as a great work of art but as an introduction to a time just passed in which people fought for survival and for justice on the streets and in the places in which now another generation lives—sometimes unaware of what went on there not so long…

November 29th, 2003
A Stowaway Computer and the Mellower Me

My computer died, taking my last article—a tirade on the prevalence of thongs and stilettos in everyday women’s wear—with it.
The PC that came to dinnerIt’s a good thing I’ve been storing a friend’s computer and stand in my apartment for almost the past year. It wasn’t supposed to be for that long but one month led to two, then to four and six and now eleven.
It sits in the bedroom of my crowded Manhattan apartment, and I alternatively forget it’s there and then notice it, cursing it’s owner for dumping it on me with a year’s worth of promises of its eventual removal. Finally it’s come in handy.
But I’m still pissed off that it’s here at all.…

November 29th, 2003
Depression and Its Bleak, Sometimes Even Suicidal Perspectives

During September and October of 2003 three different NYU students committed suicide, all by jumping from upper floors. Here in Bangalore in November, a fifteen year-old girl killed herself.
Most of us probably know someone who’s taken his or her own life. And we’ve all heard of high-profile artists and performers committing suicide, people like the rocker Kurt Cobain or the American poet Sylvia Plath.
Why would anyone want to take their own life? It’s a difficult question to answer. Yet maybe you would too, if you felt compelled to end the unbearable pain and anguish you were suffering. These feelings (pain, anguish, and despair) in unbearable proportions are usually associated with people…

November 26th, 2003
Being with Child, and Not, During the Holidays

Fluffy polyester snow, a cardboard stable, and plastic people tell me that Christmas is coming. As kids, my sister and I would set out our family manger scene early in the Advent season. Each day our mouths watered as we moved our plastic shepherds, kings, and animals closer to the stable where Mary and Joseph knelt sans Jesus. The closer those figurines got to the Holy Parents, the closer we were to presents and our post-Christmas Eve Mass treats of chocolate-covered almonds.
It didn’t occur to me what might be going through the heads of the waiting Mary and Joseph figurines.
In May 2002 I put myself in Mary’s place, kneeling there in the straw. My husband and I learned in late spring that I was expecting…

November 23rd, 2003
In Maine with the National Theatre Workshop of the Handicapped

Gather forty strangers in one house and give them ten days to three weeks to learn music, dance routines, scenes, and monologues for a show open to the public.
Is this reality TV? No, it’s just reality, spending the summer with cool and talented people in coastal Maine, as a student at NTWH, the National Theatre Workshop of the Handicapped.
Those people.That’s of the disabled, not
for . My fellow students came from all over the country and all over the world with their wheelchairs, crutches, scooters, guide dogs, and personal care attendants (PCAs) in tow. The Maine campus is fully accessible but what we do there isn’t about rehab, charity, or pity. Pity connotes something weak or someone inferior.…

November 19th, 2003
If you think working out rivals a trip to the dentist, read on...

I, along with millions of others signed up for a gym membership last January.
I’m also a health and fitness writer , though you’d never know it from the way I whine about that whole “no pain, no gain” clich. I guess it’s partly because it stinks to feel pressured into anything, and boy, is the pressure on to get into shape.
Exercise lowers stress, but I’m stressed about exercising…
As recently as two weeks ago a report was released that stated the more vigorous the exercise you do, the more you lower your stress level . Now, I don’t know about you, but I’m terrified of going to a spinning class , not coordinated enough for a step class, and too easily bored by the treadmill.

November 19th, 2003

My Mom, my sister, and I settled in at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Portland, Maine, for the annual Chrism Mass. Even half an hour before the start of the mass the church was filling up with people from all over the diocese. Representatives from every parish in the state were there for the annual blessing of the holy oils used in the sacraments of baptism, confirmation, holy orders, and anointing of the sick. We were lucky to find a pew at all as we claimed our space right by the east side door, just off the parking lot.
The Bishop began his homily, centered on one of the Pope’s many letters to the faithful. He reminded us of Christ’s love in dying for us while we were still sinners and of our own…

November 18th, 2003
Joan of Arcadia Brings Divine Sneakiness (and Teenage Angst) to CBS

We’ve been Touched by an Angel and even walked the Highway to Heaven. Yes, folks, divine intervention has found its way into prime time television in the past, but hold on to your haloes, the newest addition to spiritual programming does more than send winged friends to earth.
The Big Cheese Himself—or in some cases, Herself—steps into the spotlight in CBS’s new Friday night show Joan of Arcadia (8 p.m. ET/PT, premiered Sept. 26). Wait, before you picture a glowing light or a grandfatherly-looking dude with a booming voice, prepare to be surprised.
God’s kinda…hot?Joan Girardi, our protagonist, has recently moved to the town of Arcadia with her family. While not drama-free, the Girardis…

November 17th, 2003
Matrix Revolutions: All Action No Personality Makes Neo… a Video Game

What I call the “Matrix phenomenon” is something I wanted to believe in and tried to understand.
For a split second, this phenomenon allowed me to believe in a force greater than myself that was not necessarily tied to my Christian notion of God. It gave me a savior, made me believe that I had purpose, and it asked me to find my path and follow it—although I may not have fully understood.
Pity the theatrical release of Matrix: Revolutions on November 5 ruined it all for me.
Yes, Revolutions completes the story of The Matrix, but it also digresses to a predictable
video-game action movie, garnished with a little cheesy, clichéd dialogue, topped off with a vague ending that mocks the integrity of Matrices…

November 13th, 2003
House Hunting and the Complications of Compromise

I. Java Goddess and Garage Man
Renée: With our house-hunting completed, I can now list yet another way in which Jim and I are different.
Those comments I made during our early blissful engaged months about our similarities and compatibilities?
Whatever. I feel like tossing them out the window. Whether that particular window is block glass, facing south, or fuel efficient, I do not care.
A domestic goddess I am not—I care more about the neighborhood than the house itself. My primary requirement for any potential house was that it be within walking distance of a coffee shop, preferably locally-owned and non-chain.
Jim: I don’t drink the java, so what do I care about coffee shops? My primary requirement…

November 2nd, 2003
Nagging Doubts about Latin America's Famous Revolutionary

Does Cuba’s revolutionary and pop icon Ernesto “Che” Guevara truly inspire those of us working for peace and justice in the 21st century?
A recent photo exhibit in East Los Angeles suggests yes, but I’ve got nagging doubts.
The photos depict moments from those historic heady days when Fidel Castro, Che, and a small army of Cuban revolutionaries overthrew corrupt (and U.S.-backed) dictator Fulgencio Batista and installed Cuban-style communism on the tiny island.
The Argentine Robin Hood
For many Latinos in North and South America guerilla leader Che is a symbol of fighting Yanqui Imperialism and winning. He represents Latin America’s Robin Hood, overthrowing the rich to…

November 2nd, 2003
Peter Steinfels' - A People Adrift: The Crisis of the Roman Catholic Church in America

Let’s not talk about sex
Though the clergy sex abuse scandal garners its own chapter in this nearly 400-page tome, the crisis Peter Steinfels describes is not limited to priest pedophiles, hush money, or locked legal file drawers.
According to Steinfels, a larger, more encompassing Church crisis stems from a lack of energetic leadership by bishops and priests, and as a result the institutional Church in the United States teeters on the verge of irrelevance.
“Not that Catholics will suddenly flee from the Church,” writes Steinfels, “?but their faith will be come an increasingly marginal or superficial part of their identity, bearing less and less on the important choices of their…

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