Busted Halo
Features : Religion & Spirituality
January 17th, 2007
Revisiting the faith of my father

It was a cold day in October, and I was walking down a street on New York’s Lower East Side, toward a small wooden building with a flight of steps at the front. Built in 1820 as a synagogue, it had only recently been reconsecrated and put back into use as a place of worship. At the doorway stood members of the congregation, welcoming the small stream of worshipers climbing the stairs. “Come in, welcome, join us,” they said, and I could feel my heart beating faster. I was excited but frightened. It was Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement—the holiest day of the Jewish calendar—and I was about to step into a synagogue for the first time in more than fifty years.
I am 72 years old, and though I was born…

January 12th, 2007
An American Saint

“The world is all messed up, the nation is sick, trouble is in the land, confusion all around.”
As the scourges of a never-ending war continue to dominate our national debate, division trumps common ground in the public square, and our leaders play political games while the marginalized continue to suffer in society’s shadows, it would be hard to find a truer sentiment than the one above to describe the American situation today.
In reality, though, these were the words of Martin Luther King, Jr., spoken in Memphis the night before he died nearly 40 years ago. But sickness, confusion and trouble, weren’t all he saw.
“But I know somehow,” Dr. King went on, “that only…

January 10th, 2007
An experienced capital defender makes the case against Saddam's execution

The morning Saddam Hussein was executed, my wife warned me not to go on the internet. Of course, I soon went online, but instantly knew I should have heeded her advice. Pictures of Saddam’s execution were everywhere. The images depressed and profoundly saddened me. The emotions were no surprise, but their depth and duration were. I have wondered since that morning why I remain so troubled by the execution of a man who unquestionably was a thug, a mass murderer and a war criminal.
I have spent the past sixteen years representing people on death row and teaching students about the death penalty. My opposition to the death penalty stems, in large part, from my Catholic belief in the sanctity of human life. Of course…

January 5th, 2007
Battling for the heart of Jewish mysticism, Hollywood and the Hasidim offer different paths

One rabbi who studied it grew crazy, one died and another became so bewildered that he lost his faith. According to Jewish tradition, the study of the Kabbalah or Jewish mysticism is not only powerful but also downright dangerous.
“Woe to the person who says that the Torah shares with us plain stories and mundane matters,” says the Zohar (Radiance), the traditional text of the Kabbalah, “…. rather all the matters in the Torah are supernal matters and supernal secrets.”
For centuries the study of the Kabbalah was forbidden, reserved only for Jewish males over 40, who were well-versed in Torah, but since its recent adoption by Hollywood celebrities, there has been a battle raging…

January 3rd, 2007
Once sentenced to 20 years in prison for soliciting her husband's murder, a Chicago woman now helps former female inmates start over

Edith Hoskins knows exactly the point in her life when she turned to drugs.
From the age of eight until she was 11, she watched her stepfather beat her mother and brothers “time after time.” When she was 11, she finally confronted the man and threatened to kill him if he didn’t stop the beatings. Instead of being grateful for her daughter’s defense, Hoskins’ mother responded by turning her over to the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services.
Once in the DCFS system, Hoskins bounced from family to family and at 15, she saw her mother for the last time.
“When my mom turned me over to DCFS, that was my beginning for using drugs. I started with marijuana, then went to crack…

December 23rd, 2006

Paulist Father Dave Dwyer, CSP will be the host and on-air commentator for this year’s Midnight Mass from St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York. Dwyer, who is the publisher of BustedHalo.com, also hosts a daily radio show on Sirius Satellite Radio weekdays 7-9pm EST. The Mass is being broadcast by WPIX, Ch 11 in NYC, but it will also be carried by selected affiliates throughout the country.
Check your local listings.…

December 13th, 2006
Ten Tips for finally Making the Holidays Happy

The catalogs and television commercials are full of smiling families greeting each other with holiday joy- gleeful reunions full of peace and goodwill. What they don’t show is the screaming match that took place in the kitchen just before the guests arrived or the eye rolling during dinner when dad launches into his favorite diatribe. They don’t have any pictures of your drunken uncle passed out on the couch or your backbiting sister-in-law picking fights. If your family is more “Dealing with Difficult People” than “It’s a Wonderful Life” read on. Here are ten tips for keeping your own sanity this holiday season, even if you’re surrounded by nuts.

THEY WON’T…

December 11th, 2006
A young journalist's reflections on a nation of contrasts and contradictions

As Cambodians visited temples and gave alms on their ancient day of the dead in September 2004, I was holding a diaperless newborn.
I had been working for a newspaper in the county’s capital Phnom Penh for nearly all of 2004, when a colleague, Kuch Naren, invited me to her hometown for a weekend. The child was thrust into my arms by its grinning mother—Naren’s cousin—almost as soon as we entered the woman’s hut.
Before moving to Phnom Penh, all I knew of Cambodia was from the film, The Killing Fields, which depicted the country’s genocide under the communist Khmer Rouge regime in the mid 1970s. This fall, a United Nations war crimes tribunal finally began investigating the…

November 29th, 2006
Fr. Dave Dwyer CSP goes from website to satellite

Howard Stern, Martha Stewart, Eminem and now Father Dave? Beginning on Monday December 4, Paulist Father Dave Dwyer will join Sirius satellite radio’s growing roster of on-air talent when he launches “The Busted Halo Show” on the satellite radio network’s new Catholic Channel. Dwyer, who produced and directed television for MTV and Comedy Central before entering the priesthood, has been the Publisher of BustedHalo.com for over two years and co-founded the BustedHalo podcast with Managing Editor Mike Hayes one year ago today.
The process that led to the creation of the Sirius show began back in May, when the Archdiocese of New York officially announced plans for a 24-hour Catholic…

November 28th, 2006
The Tulip & the Pope by Deborah Larsen (Vintage)

In high school my best friend, Cathy, who went to an all-girl’s Catholic school kept telling me, “The nuns say I have a calling.” We used to crack up laughing. After all, it was Cathy who swiped her father’s cans of beer from the fridge and her mother’s Kools from her pocketbook, and hung out with hoods. “No way am I going to a Catholic college,” she’d insisted, and we made plans to go away to a state school together and be roommates and have love affairs. But, to my shock, Cathy entered a convent after high school and cut herself off from me completely.
That’s why I leaned forward in my chair, gripping the book hard, as I read Deborah Larsen’s spiritual…

November 17th, 2006
A brief guide to understanding meal blessings this Thanksgiving

In uncertain times, we are invariably drawn to absolute truths that help us make sense of the world. One such immutable verity is the ancient Thanksgiving Law: there can be NO turkey until we say grace. But in a pluralistic society such as ours how are we to know what is the appropriate expression of thanks?
What if you were actually charged with offering grace this year? When the moment of truth arrived would you stand there frozen while the host stares impatiently at you holding a carving knife and fork ready to be given the final dispensation to go ahead slice up the bird?
Fear not. After exhaustive research, BustedHalo offers these 7 tips for how to recognize and participate in the most common Thanksgiving blessings…

November 15th, 2006
Daniel Ellsberg

Most of us can identify certain teachers or mentors who have had a profound impact on our lives. The same can be said for particular books that have shaped our view of the world. With that in mind, BustedHalo asks the question:
“What books have helped you on your spiritual journey?”
Daniel Ellsberg was the source of “The Pentagon Papers,” the leak that exposed the deliberate deception that several presidents had engaged in regarding America’s involvement in Vietnam. Ellsberg’s actions made him a target of Nixon’s “plumbers” whose later arrest for breaking into Democratic headquarters at the Watergate Hotel set President Nixon’s demise…

November 14th, 2006
Making the case for my sainthood with High School English students

“You can’t be a saint,” one of my students told me, matter-of-factly.
I was a bit troubled by this, as I had just told my class at an all-girls Catholic high school that I wanted to be a saint. I asked if there were anything I could do to boost my chances.
“No,” another one said. “You have to be dead to be a saint. And you’re not dead.”
It seemed like pretty solid logic. I pointed out that a person probably had to do something in life, however, to wind up a saint in heaven. My students paused, contemplating this.
“I guess people can be saints in real life,” one of them said. “Like priests or nuns.”
“Not all nuns are saints!” another…

November 13th, 2006
Sacha Baron Cohen's hilarious new film cuts uncomfortably close to the bone

As the many diehard fans of British comedian Sacha Baron Cohen had hoped, Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan includes sixty minutes of the most amusing comic stylings to hit the big screen this year. Unfortunately, the movie is a half-hour longer than that delightful hour, and at both its entrance and exit stumbles badly. When departing the theater, many viewers will be asking two questions: the expected “Didn’t you think that was hilariously funny?” and the more troublesome “Didn’t you think that was impossibly offensive?” Alas, Borat is both, with the latter failing to contribute to the former in the ways likely intended…

November 9th, 2006
Catholic NO-It-Alls

I don’t often show it, but I’m a bit of a political animal.
In college, I majored in political science with a primary concentration in American politics alongside an independent study of the internal machinery of the church. For a long time, campaign season meant high-gear; I worked on races at all levels and on both sides of the aisle, ending up as a mix of strategist, spokesman or campaign manager on a smattering of local contests.
But somewhere along the way, something changed. I became frustrated with the guts of the process: the wordy statements that really said nothing, the ceaseless clawing of fund-raising and, most of all, the hollow superficiality, depraved tactics and poisonous polarization…

November 8th, 2006
Pure Sex, Pure Love

I’ve been really busy recently. I’ve been dashing into church 10 minutes late because I had to send “just one more email.” During Mass, I’ve been thinking about work rather than paying attention to the homilies. And back home in the evenings, I haven’t been writing in my journal—my most precious form of prayer—because I’m working up until the last possible moment when I have to finally go to sleep.
With good things happening in my career and personal life, this is one of the most exciting and successful times I’ve ever experienced. Yet I feel very far away from God.
Do prayer, meditation and conversation with God fall by the wayside as we go-go-go…

November 1st, 2006
On All Saints Day, prayers for every need, including scarce parking spaces, lost iPods and hard-to-find husbands

Complete this sentence:
“St. Anthony, St. Anthony…”
Don’t know it?
Then you’re not a real Catholic. At least not yet.
The one thing that connects the astoundingly diverse communion of saints with one another—besides their love of God and devotion to Jesus—is the fact that most have weird rhyming prayers in their honor. Certainly the most popular is the one to St. Anthony, the 13th-century Portuguese Franciscan saint best known not for his real-life devotion to the poor, but for helping you find your keys, your wallet and your Blackberry.

Here is the prayer in full: “St. Anthony, St. Anthony, please come around. Something is lost but cannot be found.”…

October 30th, 2006
This Halloween Modern Satanists are just asking for a little understanding

Syn Holliday is a family man with three young children, a loving wife and a suburban home next door to a devout Mormon family his children regularly play with. He’s also a Satanist.
Holliday leads one of the largest satanic covens in the Los Angeles area, the Syndicate of the Five Points. Donning dark clothing and an inverted pentagram around his neck, Holliday explains in his comfortable tract-home living room, not too far from his satanic altar, that a lot of the religious parents in his conservative community even allow their children to spend the night with his children in his home. “We respect their beliefs, and they respect ours,” says Holliday. (Like most of the Modern Satanists interviewed…

October 26th, 2006
A Catholic Ride Through America's Evangelical Landscape: by Peter Feuerherd

Visit Jerusalem in Orlando! Journey into the Sinai Wilderness! Expect to be inspired! These are some of the many exclamations splashed across the Web site for The Holy Land Experience, a Florida theme park advertised as “Orlando’s most inspiring destination.” This Holy Land facsimile, dotted with such sites as “The Dead Sea Qumran Caves,” “Calvary’s Garden Tomb” and the “Jerusalem Street Market,” is the locus, literally and figuratively, for author Peter Feuerherd’s introduction to the growing public influence of two religious groups in America: Catholics and Evangelicals. “This center of evangelical kitsch next to…

October 19th, 2006
Some of the Church's very best people did some very bad things. A conversation with author Thomas J. Craughwell.

Many Christians are familiar with the virtues of St. Mary of Egypt, who lived in the desert as a hermit for 47 years, devoting herself to God in prayer and meditation. But even the most devout Catholic might be forgiven for not knowing that, before her conversion, Mary had a wild hare that would make even Paris Hilton and Lindsay Lohan blush.

Mary was a seductress extraordinaire, who spent 17 years insatiably prowling the streets for sexual conquests. One day, she spotted a crowd of men—pilgrims, it turned out—waiting to board a ship bound for the Holy Land, where they planned to celebrate the Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross in Jerusalem. Mary knew a party when she saw one, so she joined the voyage,…

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