Busted Halo
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February 8th, 2004
Making sense of a milestone

On a recent Saturday night, my husband and I went to a concert for an Irish punk band he had been following for over half a decade. We arrived at Columbus ‘ PromoWest Pavilion at 10:15pm, a deliberate move to bypass the opening acts. I stood on a bench behind Jim in the back of the dark, cavernous room, quietly grooving as I looked out over the luminous mass of sweating, moshing, grinding twentysomethings. As I checked out the shoulder tats and lingerie-and-jeans ensembles, with absolutely no desire to be a part of the action, I came to a realization.
I am old. Or at least semi-old. I have just turned 30, and this milestone birthday has caused me to reflect on such things. Yes, I know that 30 is not pass-the-Ensure or…

February 7th, 2004
The Working Poor: Invisible in America

In the midst of a contentious election year and on the heels of Barbara Ehrenreich’s acclaimed bestseller Nickel and Dimed comes a new book about real life on the poverty line in America. In David Shipler’s The Working Poor: Invisible in America , the Pulitzer Prize-winning author provides powerful testimony to the realities of poverty in the United States from those who experience it first hand. His subjects discuss their lives with an honesty and frankness that are surprisingly free of harsh denunciations or bitter accusations; rather than indict, their poignant stories move us to examine our own lives and the values of the culture we live in.
Putting a face on povertyThe Working Poor is filled…

February 3rd, 2004
Celebrity and the Search for Decent Political Advice

My name is Tony Rossi and I’m a registered Republican.
There, I admit it.
I don’t remember what year I registered, but it was before I started paying much attention to politics. The GOP seemed to share my moral values so I signed up.
Leaning GOP but not a sealed deal
In the ensuing years, I’ve become more interested in the workings of government, our political system, and the people we elect to serve the public interest.
While I still lean conservative, I won’t automatically vote for the Republican on the ballot. And since I disagree strongly with Democrats on certain issues, they can’t count on my vote either. So in a big election year like 2004, where can I?and all those questioning…

January 20th, 2004
Sport for Its Own Sake Despite the Hype

It rumbles near. The playoffs have ended, and the “Event,” the “All” soon arrives, on February 1st, only the second time the Super Bowl has been played outside of January.
Why so late?
Hard to say. The NFL season expanded to sixteen games back in 1978, and the NFL added a “bye” week in the 1980s, thus expanding the season. Those might be partial reasons.
And, of course: There’s a two week delay this year between the conference championships and the Super Bowl.
More hypeActually for years the NFL had a two-week delay before the Super Bowl, then it went to one week. I don’t know why it switched back to two weeks:

Some of my friends speculate that it’s scheduling…

January 8th, 2004
A Graffiti-Writing Ten-Year-Old Fixes His Mistake

Rushing out the door on my way to work, I was stopped cold by large yellow spray-painted letters: F-U-C-K. The word screamed from the white fence separating my apartment building from my neighbor’s home.
Worse yet, my car didn’t escape the graffiti. The trunk of my red Mazda now sported a couple yellow streaks.
The child villain?Occasionally, events happen to remind me I live in a big, scary, urban area. Unknown villains, who could care less about me, make their chilling presence felt.
But a couple days later my neighbor said she knew the identity of my city rogue. Rumors pointed to 10-year-old Stephen some five houses down.
What do I do now? I felt angry some punk kid could scar up my car and scare me with…

January 2nd, 2004
A GenX Spiritual Guru Looks at the Meaning of Integrating Who We Are With What We Buy.

In “Consuming Faith: Integrating Who We Are With
What We Buy,” Tom Beaudoin focuses on what he calls “economic spirituality.”
Branding ourselvesBeaudoin, who explored “the irreverent spiritual quest of Generation X” in his previous book, “Virtual Faith,” put off his doctoral dissertation in theology to embark on a self-reflective study of a “branding” economy. He wanted to examine how the goods we purchase have a personality all their own that we buy into.
He noticed that both men and women were attracted to certain brands, or perhaps more importantly the brand’s persona. Some wear baggy jeans associated with a tough streetwise…

December 25th, 2003
Celebrating Christmas Polish-American style

It’s not Mary giving birth or the baby Jesus Himself that brings it to mind, but standing in the window watching for the first star to appear in the sky so that we can commence Wigilia, the Polish Christmas vigil and meal.

Just my jobIt’s the job of the youngest child to watch for the first star, and, sans procreation, thirty years later that is still my role in the process. One generation removed from the “old country” my aunt keeps up the Wigilia meal tradition and cooks the meatless dinner.
The meal begins with the breaking and sharing of the oplatek, a rectangular wafer of much the same consistency as the host in church, with an image or scene of the Baby Jesus imprinted on it. There’s…

December 25th, 2003
Midnight Mass at St. Mary's... Hyderabad

In my family, we have a tradition of eating my Mom’s excellent fruitcake after Midnight Mass. It’s a sweet end to the wonderful experience of the evening.
I’m sure Masses in other places around the world are equally spectacular. But, for me, nothing beats Midnight Mass at St. Mary’s Church. If you’re ever in Hyderabad during Christmas time, be sure to check it out.
The night is usually cloudless and stars are visible in the sky. To me, it always seems that on this night, there is one star shining brighter than the rest. And every year it is cold. The men are handsomely dressed in suits and the women in sarees, salwaar kameezes, or dresses, covering themselves with shawls. Everyone wears…

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
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 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 1st, 2003
Especially if a Juror Has a Plane to Catch

The big red stripe ran the length of the white envelope proclaiming, Juror Summons Enclosed.
Jury duty.
I decided to take a positive attitude. Why not? They do pay forty bucks a day; it’s a good way to get a view of the justice system; and if I don’t do it, how can I expect anybody else to?
What I didn’t plan on was the weird community that develops in a group with a shared secret—the details of the case—nor on the visceral nature of jury deliberations. Not to mention the huge brass letters on the wall above the judge’s head, “In God We Trust.“
Be careful what you wish for…
I was selected for a jury on a mugging trial my first day. Getting home late that night I caught the last…

October 31st, 2003
Halloween Origins and Current Practices

Ever wonder where Halloween traditions came from? Are they evil? Pagan? Holy?
Fire FestivalsThe ancient Celts celebrated seasonal feasts to honor the gods of nature. Halloween’s pagan origin was a fire festival known as Samhain . It took place from Oct. 31 – Nov. 2 and marked the end of summer, the beginning of winter, and a new year.
Being “in-between” seasons, Samhain was a time of “no time”—chaos reigned. People did crazy things, pulled pranks, and disguised themselves. It was considered “a magical time when the dead walked among the living and veils of past and present were lifted.”
Along come the Christians…
The word Halloween, however, is derived…

October 26th, 2003
Big Moral Issues for the ‘04 Election

I might as well admit it, the words “presidential election” cause me to fantasize about moving to a desert island where all the mind-numbing nonsense that passes for campaigning will be unable to reach me.
W.W.G.D.?Then I remember “Gilligan’s Island ” and that issues of “who’s in charge and how do we do this?” raised their ugly head even there.
Humans live in society, and we need to decide things together—the alternative of a totalitarian regime certainly not being on my list of favorite things. So, let’s grit our teeth and push forward, let’s talk about the upcoming 2004 elections.
All in this togetherThe most important aspect of an election…

October 20th, 2003
The Word from the Weekend Anti-War Rally in NYC

February 16, 2003, New York…—Maybe the best makeshift protest sign came as we rounded the corner on to the demonstration site on First Avenue. Someone—we couldn’t see the bearer—had duct-taped a large padded manila envelope on a stick and printed across the envelope, “Stolen Office Supplies for Peace.” In the canyons formed by midtown Manhattan’s apartment buildings and office towers, it seemed like a perfect protest for the place.
The shadows at dawn
This was not a rally with auspicious beginnings. We wanted to march past the United Nations, but the city said found this altogether too dangerous a possibility in these days of orange alerts. Instead the New York Police Department

October 1st, 2003
A Last Blast of Joy Over the Fiestas Patrias in Chile

The sheer amount of food is nauseating—a typical plate consists of beef, pork, chicken, sausage, potato salad, rice, corn salad, tomato salad, and a glass of wine. After an extensive grilling process, the traditional Chilean celebration of Independence Days is a vegetarian nightmare and a steak lover`s dream.
In order to properly demonstrate their patriotism, Chileans take two holidays (as well as spending the previous days in work parties) to bring the family together, eat obscenely large meals, and celebrate Chilean music, customs, and ideals.
The holidays naturally led me to reflect on the meaning of my two years as a Jesuit Volunteer here in Arica, as those years draw to a close. But I get ahead of myself……

September 26th, 2003
Finding the Divine Through Loving What We Do

My neighbor owns two tanker trucks and supplies water to houses that don’t get a regular supply. He’s constantly working on the tankers with his helpers, opening up the tanker’s parts, and usually getting his hands dirty.
It’s hard, physical labor and it’s blue-collar work. But you can see that he loves what he does for a living.
Following your bliss or bitterness
If you love what you do, chances are you’ve experienced the sense of goodness and joy when you work. It’s like when you feel close to God, a feeling of peace.
About three years ago, when I was working late, two janitors came in to clean the office. Both of them were so cheerful, it was infectious. I felt that it was…

September 12th, 2003

Entire wars have been fought over it, British lords beheaded, Spanish mystics incarcerated, principalities set on fire, and now it travels the internet in search of friendships to destroy.
It is religion.
And then there’s something about e-mail that sometimes erases our better judgment from our brains, we automatically copy and paste and hit send… and sometimes, just sometimes, what we have just catapulted into cyberspace could be…
even more destructive than a virus…
So forwarding an e-mail that deals with religion could forever change our relationships with those on the other end of our electronic tethers.
And in real time…So… just in case this happens to you……

September 12th, 2003
From Tourist to Journalist on the Caribbean Island of Antigua

Recently I took a trip I approached with both anticipation and dread .
The marrying kind “We’re getting married,” my friend Kay had said when I picked up the phone. Before I could utter a word, I found out the location was Antigua . And any thought of
begging off and just sending an extravagant gift to compensate immediately vanished.
Lately burn out and health issues had taken me out of the realm of the harried frequent flyer. The Caribbean was the perfect destination get me to shed my new land-lover ways. My fascination with the West Indies goes way back. Unlike other places I’ve traveled, the ease and familiarity I feel there is wondrous to me.
I like to think it’s my ancestors welcoming…

September 11th, 2003
Giving Birth on September 11th

I’m an optimist. I can find a positive spin in any situation. I’ll admit, though, my gift of optimism failed me last year on Tuesday, September 10, a day shy of the one-year anniversary of September 11, 2001 . I was in charge of leading the opening prayer at our staff meeting that week, which I dreaded. I tried to remind myself and my colleagues of God’s presence even in the day ahead by saying, “This is the day that the Lord has made, let us rejoice and be glad in it.”
But I didn’t feel like rejoicing. I was hoping to somehow not have to enter into the sadness of the day. I didn’t want to be reminded of the pain, suffering and darkness of a day that I associated with death. A knot was…

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