Busted Halo
Features : Religion & Spirituality
September 22nd, 2011

Let’s get one thing clear: I like the taste of meat. I like double bacon cheeseburgers. I like steak so rare it moos. On Thanksgiving I want turkey, on Christmas I want ham, and on my father’s birthday I want meatballs made from my family’s off-the-boat-from-Sicily recipe, so good they take five hours to make and five minutes to eat. So imagine my family’s reaction when I came home for Mardi Gras break my freshman year of college and announced that I was giving up meat for Lent and possibly forever.
“Oh, God,… Beth,” said my mom.
“More veal for me!” said my younger brother.
“[Expletive],” said my older brother.
“What are they teaching you at that school?” said my dad.
“That school” was a Jesuit

September 21st, 2011

As a recent college graduate, I know a thing or 12 about doubt.
There are plenty of reasons for that. I spent the last four years working toward a degree in theological studies. I don’t know if I’m looking at the wrong numbers, but statistics seem to indicate that theologians are prone to reaping spiritual and intellectual rewards far more often than they are financial gains. Which is great, but still.
I’m also weeks away from embarking on a six-month trip to Vietnam, something that was inspired by a three-week trip I took there last summer with a group from school. On paper, it’s totally the kind of thing that makes me swoon — one of my friends and I will spend six months hopping around Southeast Asia, relying…

September 15th, 2011

My last column, about waiting patiently for a late bus, provoked some interesting comments and reactions (on the site and directly) that tease out the bigger issues involved. While I wrote about waiting for someone who’s late, two commenters brought up the flipside of the same time management coin — what to do when you’re going to be late yourself through no fault of your own. Fellow Busted Halo contributor Ginny Moyer wrote…

September 13th, 2011

The poet W.H. Auden said, “Civilizations should be measured by the degree of diversity attained and the degree of unity retained.”
Indeed, civilizations are made or lost based on the amount of togetherness people work at having and keeping. Unity is a quality we all desire — especially in the church. But even there, with a God who wants us all to be unified, it doesn’t stick around very long.
The simple definition of unity is “the state of being one; oneness; the state of being of one mind or feeling, as in harmony or agreement.” We’ve grown up with the image of the ideal, thinking when we find the perfect mate, elect the perfect official, or do the best for our community everyone will be happy and content.…

September 12th, 2011

Mary was very perplexing to me before I became a Catholic. She was like some unnamed bird that I could not see and did not know, perching in a tree nearby. I knew she was there — I also knew she was important to some people, but I had no idea why.
Even after coming into the Church, I struggled with my beliefs about Mary: Did I believe in the Virgin Birth? Was that even important? Wasn’t it odd that the Church insisted on Mary’s continued virginity (poor Joseph!) when the Bible clearly represents Jesus as having brothers and sisters? Was she some kind of holy gal I could never emulate or was she more powerful, more funky and more earthy than I could possibly imagine?
I didn’t come to Mary until the tires…

September 2nd, 2011
A Prayer for Labor Day

Lord, we see our neighbors hurting as they lose their jobs to layoffs and plant closings and their homes to foreclosure. We pray that in the midst of turmoil, they feel your presence.
Lord of compassion, hear our prayer
Lord, our elected officials are seeking solutions to this economic crisis; let them not forget workers, who through the sweat of their brows, keep this country going.
Lord of compassion, hear our prayer
Lord, as we face the uncertain future, give us the spirit of integrity, that we would hold up those who are in severe distress, as we are all your children and made in the image of God.
Lord of compassion, hear our prayer
Lord, we pray for employers that they would not bow to idols in the worship of wealth,

August 29th, 2011
Developing a Spirit-centered approach to service

For my first few years as a librarian, I felt richly rewarded, a shining star of helpfulness. In a nutshell, I get paid to give people advice when they ask me for help, and then they thank me. Smart! Altruistic! Serving the public! What’s not to love? As my younger brother said when I first got the job, “Well, Anne, you do love to tell people what to do.” But after a few years, the unrewarding aspects of the work began to overshadow the more enjoyable ones.
Some people dismissed my advice. Some were rude. Troubled souls came to me with problems a librarian couldn’t solve. At times, I felt like the public wanted to tear me into pieces and chew me up. I had panic attacks and migraines. I took a lot of sick…

August 18th, 2011
Busted Halo sits down with the new youth catechism's publisher

Everyone registered for World Youth Day is getting a free copy of YouCat in their native language as part of their registration packet, as it is officially introduced in Madrid. When YouCat was launched back in April, we talked with its publisher. Here’s that discussion.

When you think of a good read, the Catechism of the Catholic Church probably doesn’t come to mind. That’s why YouCat is exciting — it presents the Catechism in a compelling and engaging way. YouCat is the official new “Youth Catechism of the Catholic Church.” But its potential value goes well beyond this definition.

Today, Fr. Joseph Fessio, S. J., founder and editor of Ignatius Press, U.S. publisher of YouCat, is in Rome for the presentation of YouCat to Pope Benedict XVI. We sat down with Fr. Fessio last week to discuss why this book is needed, who can benefit from it and how it came to be made.

August 11th, 2011

You have just enough time left if you act now to join me in the Million PALA Challenge — a national campaign to get people active. (Sign up and join us at “Team Busted Halo” or group #935845.) This challenge has been going on for a year, and I’m sorry about the last minute notice, but you still have time. I learned about it just recently from Kevin Sorbo, whose organization, A World Fit For Kids, is an official partner of the presidential program responsible for the challenge, and signed up myself….
To complete the Presidential Active Lifestyle Award (PALA) challenge and receive an (emailed) PALA certificate “signed” by co-chairs Drew Brees and Dominique Dawes, you have until

August 10th, 2011

Busted Halo contributor Carolyn Martone goes on silent retreat. Find out what happens during the final days of her eight days in silence and reflection at Linwood Spiritual Center in Rhinebeck, N.Y. What happened days one through four? Read Part 1.
Day five
“Why don’t you go and rest by the pool?” my spiritual director Elizabeth Anne suggested. I was floored. The pool? Was it really okay to sit by a pool? This wasn’t spring break in Cancun or an episode of The Love Boat… after all. Ninety degree heat or not, this was a serious week of making a serious commitment to begin the very serious Spiritual Exercises.
Didn’t Ignatius suffer in the desert of Manresa for a month in order to grow worthy of hearing the voice

August 3rd, 2011

Ten years ago, if anyone told me I would attend a silent retreat to start the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius, I would have thought it more likely that I run naked through the Mission in San Francisco, where I lived. Back then I was in my twenties, performing in theaters and comedy clubs. The opening line of my act was, “I was in a cult for 13 years; other people called it Catholic school.”… One word could describe my feeling about my Catholic upbringing: embarrassment. A life that centered on the philosophy of “finding God in all things” conflicted with my preference to find humor in all things.
I extricated myself from the church before it could extricate me.
An unexpected phone call from my father would change

July 18th, 2011
Meet Busted Halo’s new editor-in-chief

I remember my first post-college work experience, which took me from my hometown in rural Pennsylvania to Jackson, Mississippi. I was a full-time volunteer in a faith-based service learning and social justice program. Through that experience I began to encounter a new side to my faith, seeing distinct links between my personal spiritual growth and social justice, which turned into service and action.
Working at a community center, I did everything from coordinate volunteers to publish the donor newsletter to teach an after-school class of kindergarten and first graders. The community center was in a low-income neighborhood. Poverty and economic hardships were all around. I led an assistance program at…

July 14th, 2011

One of the things I notice whenever I spend time on retreat at a monastery (as I did a few weeks ago) is how much I enjoy the regular meal times, with some of the same food choices day after day. This is not… the way I live my life. Which makes me wonder: Why don’t I do the same thing at home?
At the monastery, breakfast is one hour after I wake up — 1 hard-boiled egg, 2 slices of toast with orange marmalade. Lunch is four hours later; dinner, five hours after that. The food for lunch and dinner varies, but it is what it is. You eat what you are offered.
Here’s how I eat at home a lot of days: I’m running late in the morning, so I leave the house without breakfast. Sometimes I eat a fruit and nut bar on the way to work,

July 13th, 2011

When I came into the Catholic Church nine years ago, the farthest thing from my mind was how its rituals and liturgy might mesh so stunningly with my random-thoughts-a-flying mind. I was just attracted to the beauty of the rituals, the reassuring repetition of ancient prayers, the words rising to the rafters of the great church, and the profound meaning in the Eucharist.
But when I look at the special accommodations that were made during elementary school for my two ADHD kids, I see how Catholicism is perfect for us folks. To wit: both my kids had “movement breaks” as part of their education plans. My daughter used to invent various ailments so she could march down the hall to visit the school nurse, thus…

June 10th, 2011
Why doesn't the Church sell this?

Trying to explain Confession (the Sacrament of Reconciliation) to non-Catholics reminds me of that old cartoon by James Thurber where a woman is in the middle of a room, nervously expecting electricity to leak out of the sockets. She knows it’s there — she realizes it “works” — but she can’t explain it, and it is also a tad frightening.
Before my conversion I heard vague rumors about confessing with a priest. I wondered, “What an odd thing! What do they do? What do they say…?” (Those strange Catholic people…) I didn’t experience Reconciliation until just before the Easter Vigil on the year I was officially welcomed into the church.
All of my old sins

June 2nd, 2011
Reviving an abstinence tradition that never really went away

A few weeks ago, when the bishops of England and Wales decided to reestablish the practice of abstaining from meat on Fridays, I had been thinking about the issue already after seeing friends struggle with the few Fridays of Lent. I have abstained from “meat” on Fridays since becoming Catholic. (I put meat in quotes because seafood is allowed.) Since Vatican II, this practice hasn’t been required — one well-meaning friend even suggested I was being disobedient by doing it — but when I discovered during my conversion that the tradition was not eliminated but just made non-mandatory, I said to myself, “I think I’d like to do that anyway.”

Meat-free Fridays were a given from at least the ninth century, but it seems that when things were loosened in the 1960s, Catholics said a collective sigh of, “Well, glad that nuisance is over,” and started eating meat seven days a week. The Church never removed the requirement that one do something penitential every Friday (abstinence being one option), but many Catholics I talk to don’t even know this. I’d like to join with the English and Welsh bishops in suggesting a return to the tradition of meat-free Fridays.

May 26th, 2011
Spending time outside is nurturing for you spiritually and physically

Making sure to fit nature into my life, and encouraging others to do to the same, is a passion of mine. As a writer, it’s easy enough to stay holed up indoors in a room in front of my computer all day, but my encounters with the divine in nature helped form — and, it would be the right word choice to say, nurture — my spiritual path. Nature continues to ground me in my connection to the spiritual dimension of reality.

The fact that I live in a city, without any outdoor space of my own — no backyard or balcony — doesn’t mean it’s difficult to make this happen. There are parks all around, and just a walk in the sun down city streets can be enriching. For example, after working in the office, I often go to a park and spent a little time birdwatching or just strolling.

And contrary to all the neo-Luddite moaning out there, technology is now making it easier to stay connected with the non-technological world. Many of the advances in recent years have focused on untethering people from their desks. I am writing this column on my iPad; not only can I write it but even file it while sitting on a log in the middle of the woods, or on the grass in a city park. (OK, well, as long as there’s an AT&T signal.)

May 5th, 2011
The construction of the Mormon temple in Rome and the role of temples in worship

There was tenderness and reverence in his voice as Thomas S. Monson, president of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormons), said the Mormon temple being built in Rome, Italy, “uniquely, is being built in one of the most historic locations in the world, a city where the ancient apostles Peter and Paul preached the gospel of Christ and where each was martyred.”

Monson, considered a prophet by Mormons, addressed millions of members around the world in a biannual satellite broadcast in April. Recalling the Rome groundbreaking on an overcast day in October 2010, attended by Italian senator Lucio Malan and Rome’s vice-mayor Giuseppe Ciardi along with many Italian members of the LDS church, he said that as the choir sang, “one felt as though heaven and earth were joined in a glorious hymn of praise and gratitude to Almighty God. Tears could not be restrained.”

Why was this occasion so special in the heart of the Church’s leader? What is it about a temple — any Mormon temple and specifically the Rome temple — that causes Mormons from around the world to celebrate its construction?

May 4th, 2011
A look at the responses to bin Laden's death

I was going to stay quiet on the whole issue of the public reaction to bin Laden’s killing, but after an hour or so of Facebook chatter on Sunday night, I put up a post on my wall expressing my frustration that people were gloating and cheering, reminding them that the issue is not whether he deserved punishment — I had no doubt that he was an evil man who had done unspeakable harm to the world; I lived in lower Manhattan on 9/11 and saw the attack and inhaled the smoke for weeks and lived with its aftermath — I just asked people to reconsider cheering over a death, any death. I had intended that this brief remark be my only statement on the issue. But the reaction to my post and those of other friends caught me…

May 3rd, 2011
The man who plays St. Josemaria Escrivá in the upcoming There Be Dragons talks about forgiveness, Opus Dei and how playing a saint has affected him

When I talked last week with Charlie Cox about his role as St. Josemaria Escrivá in the movie There Be Dragons (written and directed by Roland Joffe (The Killing Fields and The Mission…), to be released this Friday, May 6), Osama bin Laden’s death and the public reaction to it had yet to occur, and while Blessed John Paul II’s beatification was on the calendar, it was not a topic in our interview. It’s interesting then that we spoke of the central role of forgiveness in Christianity. This should not be surprising however, since, as Charlie Cox said in referring to the film, forgiveness is “always going to be key when you’re talking about Christianity at all, especially if you’re

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