Busted Halo
Features : Religion & Spirituality
December 12th, 2010
The only gift we can all afford this holiday season

We look to the holiday season to lift our spirits and yet come January we are sometimes utterly depressed because our expectations were not met. There is reason to hope despite our engagement in two wars (or, to be more exact, one war and one occupation); facing global financial insecurity because of corporate greed; people losing their homes to foreclosure; millions of others who have no medical safety net; still more who are homeless, hungry or living under brutal and repressive regimes in Africa and around the world. Despite all this and more, there is reason to hope as we embark on the holiday season. In the center of all of this, in the center of our lives as families, faith communities, neighborhoods —…

December 9th, 2010
The author of Full of Grace reflects on the many ways Mary is relevant in our lives today

A while ago, just as summer was ending, I went to an art opening at Yale University. I met a student, a young girl about 18 years old, who possessed the kind of guileless beauty that needs no embellishment. As we talked in the heat of the crowded galleries, she took off her jacket, revealing to my surprise that she was covered, neck to wrist, with tattoos. Inscribed into her body were beautiful, artful images of flowers and storybook characters — several of Maurice Sendak’s Wild Things crept along her upper arm, Ariel from the Little Mermaid swam cunningly on her forearm, the rag woman Sally in Tim Burton’s Nightmare Before Christmas peeked from behind her elbow. These characters were the ones she loved best from childhood, she said, inflecting her words as though her youth were decades past.

We continued to make small talk, and eventually drifted off into conversations with others, but the memory of her painted skin and quiet beauty stayed with me. I was overwhelmed by the feeling I had been looking at the Virgin Mary, who bore the wounds of the world as her own.

November 29th, 2010
A daily review can help you stay on the path

It’s remarkable (though not really) how easily we can forget the emotionally charged things that happen in a day. The problem is that if we aren’t resolving them we aren’t really forgetting them. Take this example: a few weeks ago, I was having a delightful weekend day in the country. After brunch with a friend and an invigorating hike in the multi-hued autumn woods, followed by a relaxing evening preparing a home-cooked meal and curling up with a fun movie, I prepared to do the examen thinking it would be awfully quick, since it had been such an uneventful and pleasant day. Five minutes later, I found myself immersed in the recollection of a phone call I had gotten but not picked up during brunch,…

November 27th, 2010

Advent is a precious time in the Christian calendar. The four weeks leading up to December 25 are meant to be a period of expectant waiting, as we prepare ourselves for the miraculous arrival of our Savior, in the form of a vulnerable infant born to humble parents.

The reality for most of us, though, is that these are anxious weeks of shopping and holiday planning leading up to a hectic Christmas Day. In the bustle of the holiday season, it’s hard to remember what we’re waiting for.

Completely avoiding the Christmas onslaught may be impossible, but we can make an effort to maintain some connection to the spiritual foundation of this season. Busted Halo’s 2010 Advent Surprise Calendar is here to help a little with that.

In traditional Advent calendars, children open different windows throughout the season to reveal special surprises. Busted Halo’s Advent calendar brings its sense of surprise by showing you the whole calendar, but not letting you open each day and find out what’s behind the picture until that day comes along.

November 24th, 2010
The Saint John's Bible — sacred art and contemplative tool

As I sit before the illustration accompanying the story of creation in The Saint John’s Bible, I see representations that are obvious — the seven days; Adam, Eve and the serpent; land and sea. And I see many that are less so — little gold boxes, a bird. My mind plays at filling in the gaps. The person next to me is doing the same. After a few minutes, we turn to each other and share what we saw. Within moments, this sharing has turned into an excited discussion of the creation stories and the symbolism involved, referencing back to the illustration again and again. In the final phase of the exercise, our facilitator calls on people and we hear all the things they saw and how they interpreted them — some quite surprising. Now, this is fun bible study.

And that’s page one. The immensity of The Saint John’s Bible project is hard to convey. It’s been over half a millennium since a completely handmade illuminated bible has been produced, and this project has been 12 years in the making, combining the production, theological guidance and financial commitment of Saint John’s Abbey in Minnesota with the artistic direction of the Queen’s scribe, Donald Jackson — whose life dream this has been since 1970 — and his calligraphy team in Monmouth, Wales.

October 17th, 2010
Letting go of the desire to be God's enforcer

Recently, I sat next to a woman on the long bus rise to the country who spent an hour on the phone tracking down the owner of the hair salon she’d been at earlier that day. (We’ll put aside for this discussion that you are asked not to use your cell phone on the bus unless it’s an emergency, out of consideration to your fellow passengers.) Once she got the owner, she launched into a detailed complaint about the service she’d received from a stylist, firmly suggesting that the stylist needed to change her approach to customer relations and that the owner needed to appreciate the importance of good customer service in retaining clients. But instead of the thirty-odd words I just used, she lectured…

October 14th, 2010
The final part in a series of conversations with influential author Brian McLaren

In more than a dozen highly influential books, evangelical pastor Brian McLaren has championed a progressive approach to evangelical Christianity, stressing issues of social justice and rejecting the traditionally conservative politics of the mainstream evangelical movement. But McLaren’s politics are best understood as an outgrowth of his religious thinking. His most recent book, A New Kind of Christianity, published in early 2010, sets out to reread the Bible from a 21st century perspective, deconstructing its Greco-Roman narrative, emphasizing the Jewish context of early Christian belief, and proposing a more open-ended view of Christianity’s sacred text as “an inspired…

October 7th, 2010
Third in a series of conversations with influential author Brian McLaren

In more than a dozen highly influential books, evangelical pastor Brian McLaren has championed a progressive approach to evangelical Christianity, stressing issues of social justice and rejecting the traditionally conservative politics of the mainstream evangelical movement. But McLaren’s politics are best understood as an outgrowth of his religious thinking. His most recent book, A New Kind of Christianity, published in early 2010, sets out to reread the Bible from a 21st century perspective, deconstructing its Greco-Roman narrative, emphasizing the Jewish context of early Christian belief, and proposing a more open-ended view of Christianity’s sacred text as “an inspired…

September 29th, 2010
Second in a series of conversations with influential author Brian McLaren

Novelist Clyde Edgerton and Rev. Eric Porterfield, pastor of Winter Park Baptist Church in Wilmington, North Carolina, went to speak with McLaren at his home in Maryland. In this, the second in a series of excerpts from their conversation, they talk with him about his belief that our concept of God continues to evolve over time.

September 26th, 2010
A simple prayer with a powerful message

“God, grant me the serenity…” You’ve probably heard the Serenity Prayer, whether while attending a 12-Step meeting as a member or guest, or from watching a movie or TV show with a representation of one. Recited by Christians, non-Christians and “spiritual-but-not-religious” seekers alike, the Serenity Prayer is part of our culture. This is due in large part to its adoption by Alcoholics Anonymous, from there spilling over into many recovery and self-improvement activities. Its genius is its brevity — how it says so much that is important in so few words.
But it can also become meaningless through repetition, so I want to devote a column to sharing this wonderful…

September 23rd, 2010
First in a series of conversations with influential author Brian McLaren

Brian McLaren, Protestant pastor, author and theological gadfly is one of the most influential figures associated with the Emerging Church movement, a loosely defined network made up in large part of younger evangelical Christians seeking to reinterpret traditional beliefs and practices for the 21st century. Movement participants, stressing their intellectual and spiritual diversity, think of themselves as engaged in an open-ended “dialogue” or “conversation,” much of which takes place on the internet at sites such as emergentvillage.com, where McLaren’s podcasts help set the tone.

In more than a dozen highly influential books, McLaren has championed a progressive approach to evangelicism, stressing social justice and rejecting the traditionally conservative politics of the mainstream evangelical movement. McLaren told an interviewer in 2006, “When we present Jesus as a pro-war, anti-poor, anti-homosexual, anti-environment, pro-nuclear weapons authority figure draped in an American flag, I think we are making a travesty of the portrait of Jesus we find in the Gospels.” He has worked closely with the evangelical anti-poverty activist Jim Wallis, whose Busted Halo interview can be read here.

McLaren’s politics are best understood as an outgrowth of his religious thinking. His most recent book, A New Kind of Christianity, published in early 2010, sets out to reread the Bible from a 21st-century perspective, deconstructing the book’s Greco-Roman narrative, emphasizing the Jewish context of early Christian belief, and proposing a more open-ended view of Christianity’s sacred text as “an inspired library” rather than a “constitution.”

Novelist Clyde Edgerton and Reverend Eric Porterfield, pastor of Winter Park Baptist Church in Wilmington, North Carolina, went to speak with McLaren at his home in Maryland. This is the first of a series of excerpts from their conversation; it focuses on McLaren’s idea of “prophetic confrontation” and the difficulty of promoting social change. The entire interview can be found here.

September 7th, 2010
Get to know the Word of God

The other day I was reading in Acts 8 about Philip the Evangelist, my namesake, along with some study bible commentary on his history. Even though I was named after him, I have never read these passages before. I finally did because recently I began using a plan to read through the entire Bible in a year. 
I’ve led Bible studies, attended college-level classes on scripture, and heard hundreds of sermons about Bible passages. But until now I’ve never read it all — only the “popular bits.” Of course, I’d heard a sermon or two about Philip’s meeting a eunuch on the road to Gaza and baptizing him, but until now I’d never read about the rest of his travels or learned about…

August 22nd, 2010
Phil Fox Rose responds to readers’ questions and comments sparked by his column about gossip

My last column, about gossip, seems to have struck a nerve and inspired a lot of discussion. Since I assume that for every reader who leaves a comment or writes an email, another bunch have that same issue but don’t say anything, I decided to devote another column to the subject, highlighting questions and comments some of you raised.
Several readers asked variations on a very important question: Yes, but is this… gossip…? followed by some scenario. Let me start by reiterating something: there are situations in which it’s appropriate to talk with someone about a third person. Deciding which situations those are is where we must use discernment.
Here’s what reader Frances said by email

August 13th, 2010
Praying the Rosary Rarely, Not Regularly

August 15 is the feast of the Assumption. According to Catholic tradition, at the end of Mary’s earthly life, she was assumed body and soul into heaven. In the spirit of the day, this article looks at a form of prayer traditionally associated with Mary.…
Many people find comfort in praying a daily rosary. No matter what else changes in their lives, that circle of beads is a regular, dependable, soothing part of their normal routine.
I am not one of those people.
It’s not that I dislike the rosary. On the contrary, it’s been the catalyst for some of the most powerful spiritual experiences of my adult life. But though I’ve tried to make it part of my regular routine, somehow I can never quite keep it going. That could

July 25th, 2010
Can the concept of affirmations be reconciled with radical honesty?

A reader, Janice J. Holladay, LPC, raised a great point the other day after reading my old column on radical honesty. She had just read a book about affirmations and said:
“It seems that trying to fight a self-defeating belief system with something one knows is just a lie is not the way to go. The book suggests that you say/believe it anyway even though it’s “not yet” true. I just don’t see that lying to oneself ever serves any purpose, and we all do it enough anyway.”
I have been asked variations of the “Are affirmations lying?” question many times, and it is a common source of confusion for people new to spiritual and self-improvement work.
My answer is: It depends.…

July 6th, 2010
Currents tapes a segment with Busted Halo columnist Phil Fox Rose's Centering Prayer group in New York

Watch the video from when Currents visited the Centering Prayer group facilitated by Busted Halo columnist Phil Fox Rose, then read on for helpful tips about Centeering Prayer and meditation.

June 21st, 2010
Deepening your personal relationship with God through conversational prayer

I had always been fine with the “God is everything” and “There is that of God in each of us” kinds of conceptions of God, but I was finding it hard to turn my will and my life over to a concept or The Universe; and I was being told that it would really help if I could learn to relate to God in a more personal way. I’d always struggled with the idea of a God personal to me. I’d always rejected anthropomorphizations as childish.

Then a wise spiritual friend I admired, Shana, made a suggestion. She came from a rural area where people drive everywhere, and she told me how, when she was learning this herself, she’d buckle the passenger seat of the car and talk to God as if he was sitting there. Though I lived in the city without a car, I’d spent plenty of years in car culture and this visual helped me with imagining how to approach praying in a conversational way.

And praying conversationally changed my conception of God. They fed each other. As I prayed “as if” God was a person in the room with me, I found it easier to feel comforted by God’s presence. As I felt comforted by God’s presence, it became easier to relate to God any time, anywhere — to just stop in the midst of a situation and have a few words with God.

Of course, Christians have always had the person of Jesus to pray to, but I wasn’t raised with any teaching in this area, so that idea was foreign to me. It may be easier to imagine for some. But even if you can easily relate to the idea of praying to God as a person, praying conversationally, and out loud, can still seem strange or silly.

June 7th, 2010
Protect the silence in your day and consider a silent retreat this summer

“Words are very
Unnecessary.”
— Depeche Mode

There is not enough silence in the world. More than ever before, daily life consists of a near-constant bombardment of noise and messaging.

When I am introducing people to Centering Prayer meditation, the first challenge for many is the simple weirdness for them of being silent and in silence, “alone” with their thoughts, for more than a few minutes. Between cell phones, iPods, the radio on at work or in the car, and the TV flipped on the moment they walk in their door, they manage to keep background noise going all day.

The paradox with meditation and other forms of silent prayer, and especially with silent retreats, is that even though they are formless and goalless, they achieve something wonderful — something potentially transformative: they create space, physical and mental space, to become more open.

That space, made most apparent by silence, can be an uncomfortable place to be. Why is this? Why is the weirdness threatening for some? One answer is that offered by Fr. Jim Martin in his latest book, The Jesuit Guide to (Almost) Anything:

We may fear silence because we fear what we might hear from the deepest parts of ourselves. We may be afraid to hear that ‘still small’ voice. What might it say?

Might it ask us to change?

This is the great power and the great challenge of silence: it can reveal truth. Or more accurately, it takes away our ability to run from Truth.

May 18th, 2010
Busted Halo newest podcast presents anything and everything you ever wanted to know about Catholicism

Interested in learning about the Vatican secret archives? Want to know a little bit more about Catholic superheroes? Never knew what “Diet of Worms” really referred to? Then you won’t want to miss Busted Halo’s latest addition to its podcast lineup — Facts of Faith.
Facts of Faith — available every Tuesday and Thursday, both on our homepage and through iTunes — is the fourth separate podcast we offer each week to Busted Halo visitors, joining the Busted Halo Cast, excerpts from the Sirius XM Radio Show and Fr. Dave’s Homilies.
Facts of Faith episodes are short (five to ten minute) discussions between Fr. Dave Dwyer and Fr. Larry Rice about everything and anything…

May 12th, 2010
...or how I lost my war with the Holy Days of Obligation

There’s a great scene from The Simpsons… that sums up my childhood view of church perfectly. Bart, Lisa and Homer all run out of church triumphantly on a Sunday after services have finished, shouting — and I paraphrase — Hurray! It’s the time of the week that is the longest time before we have to go to church again!
And that’s how I felt when I was younger. Once Mass was over on Sunday, that was it. I was done. I was no longer a prisoner of the Liturgy and Eucharist, tradition and ritual, dressing up and sitting up. For an entire week I had nothing to look forward to but no church.
And then a Holy Day of Obligation would roll around in the middle of the week, ruining everything.
As a kid, not only

powered by the Paulists