Busted Halo
Features : Religion & Spirituality
June 2nd, 2005
Moving beyond simplistic assumptions First in a Three-Part Series

Last Wednesday, Paul Wolfowitz, a former Bush Administration official who was one of the chief architects of the Iraq war, assumed the Presidency of the World Bank. In his opening address to his staff and the press, Wolfowitz singled out the continent of Africa to be the central focus of his work at the Bank, expressing his wish to transform it “from a continent of despair, to a continent of hope.”
Given his political background and the malevolent effect many feel the World Bank and its sister institution the International Monetary Fund (IMF) have had in the developing world, there are many doubts about whether Wolfowitz will be able to engineer such a transformation. One thing is certain though; the…

June 1st, 2005
The garden isn't the only area of my life that needs constant attention

A little over a year and a half ago my husband and I moved into our first house. As I walked around the wintry backyard, with its tired shrubs and empty flowerbeds, I planned my dream garden. Where there were weeds, there would be flowers; where there was bare fence, a jasmine trellis. I didn’t know much about gardening, but I did know what I liked.
When spring arrived, I enlisted the help of my mother and got to
work. Many weeks later, the garden was transformed; flowers bloomed brightly and vines were poised to climb up the new trellis. Secure in the triumph of my green thumb I hung up my gardening gloves, ready to relax and enjoy my new backyard.
In reality, though, my work was only beginning.
It’s amazing how…

May 17th, 2005
Finding God through rewinding

For years my mother has been dealing with a host of medical problems. Since I was 9 years old, I can’t remember a time when she wasn’t sick. Often I’ve sat by her hospital bedside comforting her while I was falling apart inside. When the depression that accompanies pain and illness enveloped her, my father and sister would grow increasingly depressed as well. As a teenager and throughout my young adulthood, I have usually been the one who has talked my family off of the proverbial ledge.
But in helping to guide my family through their dark moments I have sometimes felt that—though both my mother and father are still alive—I have lost my parents. I have become the grown-up now, the parent of my…

May 13th, 2005
The Vatican vs. Fr. Reese and The Questioning Jesuits

Peter said to Him, “Lord, if it is You, command me to come to You on the water.” And He said, “Come!” And Peter got out of the boat, and walked on the water and came toward Jesus. But seeing the wind, he became frightened, and beginning to sink, he cried out, “Lord, save me!” Immediately Jesus stretched out His hand and took hold of him, and said to him, “You of little faith, why did you doubt?” When they got into the boat, the wind stopped. MT 14: 28-32
When I feel myself beginning to sink under the weight of disturbing news like the recent removal of America… magazine’s editor, Fr. Tom Reese, the faith of the ex-fisherman from Capharnaum who became a “fisher

May 10th, 2005
Fact, fiction and fantasy regarding Mary Magdalene

The Da Vinci Code purports to tell us a lot of things about various subjects: Renaissance art, the ministry of Jesus, the Emperor Constantine and geography of Paris, among others.
It is, of course, wrong about most of these things, as it is deeply wrong about one of the figures central to the novel’s plot: Mary Magdalene.
Novel Assertions
According to The Da Vinci Code, Mary Magdalene was:
-the consort of Jesus,
-his chosen successor,
-the mother of his child,
-the real Holy Grail (because she literally carries the “blood” of Jesus within her in the form of that child),
-an embodiment of the “sacred feminine” and
-a goddess of some sort.
Further, the novel asserts that Christianity…

May 3rd, 2005
Epiphanies in an Auto Repair Shop

An auto repair shop is an unlikely place to have a profound moment, yet I’ve had two. And with the same person. Is God trying to tell me something? The first time was because of a flat tire. Alex, the shop manager, had a brusque attitude that rubbed me the wrong way and I was preparing to respond to his attitude with a smart remark. Then somehow the subject of church came up. And with the conversation that ensued, I discovered that underneath his curt exterior Alex was a pretty neat guy.
Fast forward one year
I recently went back in the same auto shop to get an oil change. Standing in front of the counter to pay my bill, I recognized Alex. However, he apparently had no memory of our talk because I saw not a flicker of recognition.…

April 27th, 2005
Reconstruction and Debt in Iraq

The following is a reflection written by Sheila Provencher, 32, who lives and works in Baghdad, Iraq, with Christian Peacemaker Teams (CPT). CPT is an ecumenical organization that works with local people in areas of violence (including the West Bank, Colombia and Iraq) to seek nonviolent solutions to situations of injustice and oppression. Sheila, who holds degrees from Harvard and Notre Dame, joined CPT in Baghdad in December, 2003. She is showm at left wearing a red cap.
BustedHalo.com will feature Sheila’s occasional reflections on daily life in Iraq, the Iraqi people and the challenges they face during the American occupation.

I have been in Iraq now about a year and a half. When I arrived in Baghdad…

April 19th, 2005
Coming to terms with Benedict's papacy

As the Papal conclave closed, fear crept into my heart. “Anybody but Ratzinger,” I prayed. Moments before the announcement of who was to succeed Pope John Paul II I even said to myself, “If it’s Ratzinger, I’m becoming an Episcopalian.” After my fears were confirmed, I cringed as the white-haired German whom many liberal Catholics have come to despise emerged on the balcony at St. Peter’s.
In his former job, as the head of the Congregation for the Propagation of the Faith, the Cardinal Ratzinger was tenacious. He abhorred relativism, silenced liberal theologians, and published a document called Dominus Iesus, that stated that religions other than Catholicism…

April 3rd, 2005
Dan Brown's The Da Vinci Code receives a cold cut

What fascinated me about the hugely popular novel The Da Vinci Code was not whether Dan Brown’s gargantuan best-seller had a shred of truth in it but rather that so many people found it to be plausible. Brown cleverly took some alleged rumors and wove them together to try to create a tale that people would find spellbinding and maybe even a bit controversial. My own thought after reading the book was:
“Could people really be this stupid?”
If the New York Times… best seller list is any indication, they are. Fortunately, Davis Sweet’s parody, entitled

April 3rd, 2005
Two perspectives on how to interpret young adults' commitment to Catholicism

More and more seek a robust orthodoxy
by Colleen Carroll Campbell
Conventional wisdom among America’s chattering classes has long held that the Catholic Church’s teachings are too tough and countercultural to appeal to the next generation. But two months ago young adults from around the world defied that conventional wisdom by pouring into Rome to bid farewell to Pope John Paul II. Gathering some 4 million strong for his funeral, an overwhelmingly young crowd packed every inch of St. Peter’s Square to pray for the pope and celebrate the traditional Catholic faith that he had taught them to love.
Their reverence and enthusiasm for the church and its leader surprised many that day, but their…

March 24th, 2005
Journeying to the third world to meet my sponsored child.

“Noticeably fuller, sexier lips in 90 seconds,” read the subject line of the spam email. Interesting news, but not something I could focus on. I was leaving the next day for Guatemala, on a week-long “Mission Awareness Trip” to see the 12-year-old girl I’ve sponsored there for two years. The packing list suggested bug spray (to fend off malaria), Dramamine (the roads in Guatemala are windy and bumpy), and bottled water (Montezuma remains hostile). Sexier lip concoctions–and other must-have products the American media urged upon me–would have to take a back seat to the necessities of life. Nevertheless, I managed to stuff two bags full of clothes and goodies for…

February 18th, 2005
or Saint Jude, the sock drawer and me

When I was very young, I spied an advertisement in a magazine for a statue of Saint Jude. I can’t begin to imagine which magazine this might have been, since my parents weren’t in the habit of leaving Catholic publications lying around the house, but, apparently, the photo of the statue was sufficiently appealing to convince me to drop $3.50 in an envelope.
Truth be told, I also can’t imagine what led me to focus my childish desires on Saint Jude and spend in excess of three weeks’ allowance on a plastic statue rather than, say, another Archie comic book. My only other obsession at that time, as I recall, was a green pup tent I had spotted in the Sears catalogue, but this too was thrown over in favor…

January 7th, 2005
A young adult perspective on cancer

Mary Donovan-Kansora was thirty-four years old when she was diagnosed with uterine cancer. Shortly before the chemotherapy treatments began, she approached a friend from her church and asked him to pray that she be completely healed. He hesitated before responding. “I’m not sure I can pray for healing,” he finally said, “but I’ll pray that God’s will be done.”
Mary Donovan-Kansora during her treatment for cancer. “I just didn’t know how to connect with God in a way that comforted me.”…
“I was so shocked when he said that to me,” recalls Donovan-Kansora. “That hurt me a lot.” All the same, his suggestion that God might

January 4th, 2005
An anorexic/bulimic finds nourishment and healing in her faith

Having just binged and purged, Kelly Raths remembers “literally pulling my head out of a toilet so I could go do youth group and be this vivacious person that people depended on for their kids.” Kelly, a former youth minister at her Montana Methodist Church, has lived a sacred struggle with food and faith for 12 years.
Kelly recalls months when she would spend Friday night in the local hospital on suicide watch only to force herself back to church on Sunday for her work with the youth group. Church, a place where the Last Supper is celebrated and communities share fellowship over cakes and cookies, can be a devastating place for women who struggle with disordered eating, commonly known as “eating…

January 2nd, 2005
A first-hand exploration of the conflict between Israel and Palestine

Editorial Note: Through Father Tom Ryan of the Paulist office for ecumenical and interfaith relations BustedHalo Editor, Bill McGarvey was asked to participate in a study mission to Israel from Jan 1-Jan 9. The purpose of the trip is to meet with both Israelis and Palestinians to get some sense of what this conflict–which we see constantly played out on our tv screens and the front page of our newspapers–is like firsthand.
The trip is being sponsored in part by a group called the American Israeli Friendship League (AIFL) and they are being led by Sister Carol Rittner who has written numerous books on genocide and the Holocaust and is a professor at Stockton State College. The rest of the group consists…

December 25th, 2004
The challenge of Christmas

It’s my job to put together the manger scene each year in my house. I get out the animals, and the 3 Kings (who don’t get to go into the manger until Epiphany), Joseph with his now broken hand and Mary, the heroine of the barn. Finally my favorite piece, the baby Jesus gets placed in the manger and all the statues stare and adore Baby-Lord.
God is exactly where I like Him—quiet and humble in a manger, lowly, unchallenging; easy to control. Seeing the Christ-child in the manger requires nothing on my part but the ability to sit, adore and presumably, convert oxygen into carbon dioxide.
There is comfort indeed in Jesus’ silence as an unspeakable baby. God empties Himself, as a vulnerable little baby,…

December 23rd, 2004
The difference between faith that is child-like and child- ish

Moving beyond the MangerIsn’t he cute? That chubby little baby, his golden curls enhanced by the glowing disc behind his head. His mother and father gaze on him lovingly, their halos match his. He’s the baby Jesus of the Christmas card. Let’s keep him there. He’s safe. He asks nothing of us but admiration. He demands nothing. We won’t need to change at all. It’s a great idea isn’t it? God on a greeting card – predictable, definable, containable.
What’s wrong with hanging onto the Jesus of our childhood? Well nothing really if you want to remain a child. But Jesus of the Christmas card, the Jesus we grew up with, is only a starting point. We limit ourselves…

November 25th, 2004
The elusive perfect holiday

Turkey perfect
We strive to make them happen, “perfect” holiday celebrations, but they often elude us. We build up our expectations but are often left feeling empty. Nothing seems as good as what we try to imagine; the better than we imagine arrives as a total surprise.
My best Thanksgiving Day arrived as a complete surprise to me.
My new tribeEleven months before that Thanksgiving I had left an alcoholism treatment center after five weeks in treatment on the ninth floor of Cabrini Hospital in Seattle. I had decided then and there that if I was going to be a recovering alcoholic, I wanted to be with the real hardcore members of Alcoholics Anonymous, which in my case meant attending meeting on skid row downtown.…

November 10th, 2004
An Adult Perspective on Catholic Guilt

I have many fond memories of growing up Catholic—May processions, church socials, and cherished gold-edged holy cards.
Unfortunately, there’s one aspect of my Catholic experience that has always been a real drag. Any guesses? It starts with “g” and rhymes with “built.”
You got it.
Two kinds
Guilt and I go way, way back. We’ve had an intimate relationship over the years, one that’s been lengthy, challenging and—ultimately—very enlightening.
It’s taken me years, but I finally learned that there are two kinds of guilt. There’s the good, useful guilt that liberates us, and the bad, useless guilt that limits us.
I’m an expert in the second…

November 3rd, 2004
A gay priest speaks out

In the wake of the scandals, some high-ranking officials in the Catholic church have lumped together pedophilia and homosexuality by suggesting that the presence of gay men in the priesthood is at the root of the sexual abuse crisis. Recently, there have been rumors that the Vatican is about to release a document that will either bar or seriously restrict the ordination of gay men to the priesthood. In an article that appeared in a recent issue of Commonweal, a magazine run by lay Catholics, a gay priest (writing under the pseudonym Fr. Gerard Thomas because he has been forbidden from speaking publicly about his sexual orientation) spoke out about why releasing this sort of document would constitute a serious moral…

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