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February 28th, 2013

With Pope Benedict XVI’s papal resignation, many Catholics and non-Catholics the world over will be asking a lot of questions about what happens next. How do they elect the pope (again)? Who are these cardinals? What’s with the smoke? Watch our short video answering all your papal election questions, and share it with friends.

February 27th, 2013

The next few months are anxiety-filled times not only for students but for parents and high school educators as well, as they begin finding out about college acceptances, financial aid packages, and everything else surrounding the move from high school to college. As the authors of a book about how to make a smooth transition to college life, we have become intimately aware of how stressful and exciting (and all the emotions in between) these next few months can be.

When The Freshman Survival Guide was first published in April 2011, we were confident that — after years of research and feedback from the online versions we’d posted on Busted Halo — the information, insights, advice and real-world on-campus experience found in these pages would prove to be helpful to students heading off to college. Two years and tens of thousands of copies later, that initial confidence has been validated many times over.

We hadn’t anticipated, however, the audiences beyond the students themselves that also found the book helpful. The fact is there’s a small army of people helping students make the transition to college — parents, high school guidance counselors, teachers, freshman orientation and first year experience staffs, residence life staffs and RAs, college administrators, campus ministers, on-campus counseling services, etc. — all of whom have a deep interest in the tools and information that The Freshman Survival Guide offers.

Over the past two years, we’ve visited numerous high school and college campuses around the United States and worked with the full range of those helpers to adapt our book’s resources to their specific community’s needs. There’s a tremendous amount of information in the book, but not all of it is relevant to everyone.

Below you’ll find some suggestions for how The Freshman Survival Guide can act as a toolbox that you and your community can use for programming, classroom discussion, or for when specific issues arise. We also encourage you to download and distribute a PDF version of our free one-page condensed Freshman Survival Guide.

We’ve helped …

February 25th, 2013

lent-bubblegum-large-imageWhen I was growing up, the divide between Catholics and Protestants seemed greater than it does now. I’m not sure the word “ecumenical” had even been invented yet. But be that as it may, I remember being baffled by my Catholic friends, who on regular school days seemed, well — regular. But drive by a church, and there was this sudden flurry of unexplained activity, which I thought might denote some scratching but which turned out to be my friends crossing themselves. I hadn’t a clue what that meant. I think I’d heard the name “Jesus” by then, maybe at 11 years old, but I certainly had no real idea who he was or that he was to play such an enormous part in my life when I became an adult.

Lent was another occasion for religious bafflement and for a certain amount of envy on my part.

Catholic girls got to wear amazing dresses with skirts out to… there. They had little hats, which were too cunning to contemplate. They had small patent leather purses that swung from their wrists by neat little chains. And they wore white ankle socks with dressy shoes, which I coveted.

Being the child of atheists and political radicals, I did not go to church. Not ever. I had no dressy shoes, no frilly dresses out to there, and if you’d told me that believing in Jesus and becoming a Catholic would translate into frilly dresses, patent leather shoes, an Easter bonnet and a cool purse, I would have converted in a moment, no questions asked!

It wasn’t until I was 16 and went to a sunrise service with my best friend that I had a glimmer of what Easter was about… when I came back to my house, the light in the hallway glittered with such intensity and such a fierce joy that I didn’t understand it. I only knew that my heart leapt up, and if I was unsure about this Jesus guy, my heart knew that the light was meant for me.

But even before …

February 21st, 2013

Copies of the February 11 Italian edition of the Vatican's L'Osservatore Romano newspaper on a news stand near the Vatican. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)Every day when I wake up, I fumble for my phone right from bed so I can check The New York Times and get a grip on reality. When I woke up last week and saw that the pope was resigning, I thought I’d lost that grip. Everything I thought I knew about Catholicism — where tradition is tradition is tradition — was upended.

It didn’t take long to tumble down the endless chute that is the papal succession obsession. What did it mean that the pope would resign at such a tumultuous point? Who would be the next pope? What country would he be from? What kind of changes would he make? …

February 19th, 2013

desert-large-imageWhere would you want the love of your life to take you on a romantic getaway? Hawaii? Paris? Camping? Did you ever wonder what God’s idea of a romantic getaway is? One thing is for sure — it is not a cruise. No, God wants to take you to the… desert!

The Hebrew word for desert, midbar, has significance beyond the images of isolation, barrenness and death that we conjure up when we hear it. The root word is dabar, which means word. So, the literal meaning of desert in Hebrew is the place of the word, making the desert a place of encounter, communication, relationship; a place where one hears the voice of God. This sums up the experience of the Israelites in the book of Exodus in company with God — in the desert.

It is in the desert that God “proposes” to the Israelites to take him as their only God after spectacularly freeing them from slavery in Egypt. In Deuteronomy 30:20, God begs the Israelites to choose life and blessing, “that you may love the Lord your God, that you may obey His voice, and that you may cling to Him, for He is your life” (emphasis added). The same Hebrew word used in this passage for “cling” appears in Genesis 2:24 to describe marriage. Therefore, God is basically on his knees in front of his people begging them to marry him. The desert is also where God wants to take the Israelites to rekindle the “romance” — “I am going to seduce her and lead her into the desert and speak to her heart… There she will respond as when she was young, as on the day when she came up from Egypt.” (Hosea 2:14)

I remember once, on a plane from Cleveland to Boston, the passenger next to me spilled out his whole life’s story at warp speed. As we were getting ready to land I found out it was because he was scared of flying. “If we go down when we land,” he said …

February 18th, 2013

Traditionally, Lent was a time for personal conversion leading up to Easter, during which Christians practiced the spiritual disciplines of fasting, praying and almsgiving to strip away all that is unnecessary and become more mindful of their ultimate dependence on God. Let’s recapture the true meaning of Lent in ways that are actually relevant to your life. Each day throughout Lent, starting on Ash Wednesday, the calendar’s link for that day will become active, revealing a Daily Jolt for spiritual contemplation relating to Lent, and new and practical ideas for fasting, prayer and almsgiving.

February 17th, 2013

You sent us your ash photos and you voted for your favorites!

So, after 112 photos and hundreds of votes, without further ado, check out the winning 2013 Best Ash, as voted by you, and a slide show of the other prize categories awarded by the editors of Busted Halo.

February 12th, 2013

I often run into people who, upon finding out that I’m a lay minister in the Catholic Church, inform me that they’ve been away from church for some time. Many aren’t angry with the church (though some are and often have good reason for being so!), rather they’ve simply fallen out of practice. Many tell me that they’d really like to return but they’re “afraid the roof will cave in.” It can be quite anxiety provoking to come back to church. Who knows what kind of feelings this might stir up? The truth is that relief, not anxiety, is the central emotion that many people feel upon “coming home” to the Catholic Church.

But how does one “come home”? Do you need a formal invitation? Is there a need to announce one’s absence and return? Here are three initial steps to take when you’ve made the decision to attend church once again.

#1 Show Up: Start by talking with your Catholic friends who attend church regularly. Back when I was in radio, many people I worked with knew I was a churchgoer and would tell me that they were looking for a place to attend but were too afraid to walk in on their own. I would always offer the invitation to attend with me. So ask around! Find someone you’d like to go to church with and then make a “church date” and attend with them. If you can’t find a person willing to invite you to their parish, check out Busted Halo’s® Church Search where we tout churches that are welcoming to the twenty- and thirtysomething crowd. You can also investigate a local parish if you’re there for a wedding, baptism, funeral or other event. You might take some extra time to pray and seek out the pastor or associate pastor afterwards for confession.

February 12th, 2013

Question: So what’s up with Valentine’s Day? I’ve been dating my girlfriend for two years, and she wants me to go all out with gifts and an expensive night out, but it feels phony. Wouldn’t a box of chocolates be ok? I never knew what to do on Valentine’s Day even when we first started dating. What does the church say about Valentine’s Day, and why does it matter?
Answer: I have to admit, I’m not a huge fan of Valentine’s Day either. I love romance as much as the next girl, but if you are married or dating, it can feel like a Hallmark holiday. When I was single, it felt like a reminder that I was not in a couple, even if other days I was totally OK with my status. But before we dismiss it entirely, we should understand what Valentine’s Day is meant to symbolize.

The history of Saint Valentine is murky, at best. There are at least three different legends of a man named Valentine, which honor acts defending Christians against Roman persecution and, to a lesser degree, the virtue of romantic love. One of the Valentines was likely martyred. Pope Gelasius declared February 14 as St. Valentine’s Day around 500 A.D., possibly as a way to “Christianize” a pagan fertility festival. The Roman Catholic Church dropped St. Valentine from the calendar of official, worldwide Catholic feasts in 1969, likely due to the unclear origins of the holiday.

The spirit of Valentine’s Day is much more clear. In American culture, it is a day meant to honor romantic love, and has expanded to include friendships and close family. But what are we talking about when we say “love?” Is it simply a feeling of affection? And how do we “honor” love?

Valentine’s Day and healthy relationships are not about being forced to show your affection… Grand gestures will not be able to replace emotional intimacy if the security of your bond is in question.

Feeling “in love” is where we start our journey,

February 12th, 2013

Fat Tuesday, the day before Lent begins, has long been one of my favorite days of the year. Mostly because, for all of my childhood, the day before Ash Wednesday (when I went to church and had some weird, dark substance smudged on my forehead) was dedicated to eating delicious, fattening food.

On Fat Tuesday the pink- and white-speckled countertops in the kitchen I grew up in were loaded with my (unhealthy) favorites: Spinach dip loaded with fresh artichokes and spinach, teeming with globs of sour cream, Parmesan and mozzarella cheeses. Rotel dip with ground beef swimming in canned Campbell’s cheese soup and Rotel diced tomatoes. Red velvet cookies topped with syrupy, sweet cream cheese frosting. Hot wings so spicy they burned your lips and tingled all the way down.

For my family, namely my mother, this spread was designed to get “it” out of our systems. “It” meaning the tendency to give in to gluttony and succumb to all the food that’s bad for you. Lent would be a time to change, to sacrifice these mouth-watering foods. As a child, most of my Lenten sacrifices were food-related, such as depriving myself of the cakes, pies, cookies and sodas I loved.

For my family, namely my mother, the Fat Tuesday spread was designed to get “it” out of our systems. “It” meaning the tendency to give in to gluttony and succumb to all the food that’s bad for you. Lent would be a time to change, to sacrifice these mouth-watering foods.

Fat Tuesday is that one last day to indulge before becoming more mentally and spiritually attuned to God. Also known as Mardi Gras. Fat Tuesday coincides with the Carnival season within the Catholic tradition, which begins with the Feast of Epiphany (January 6). Epiphany celebrates the arrival of the wise men bringing gifts to the infant Jesus. It’s also linked to the famed King Cake, a sugary pastry tradition that started in 12th-century France and is enjoyed throughout Carnival. Over the years, the French in New Orleans modified …

February 11th, 2013

My first reaction? I looked at the date to make sure it was not April 1. My second reaction? Good for him.

February 11th, 2013

I set out not long ago in a search of the way of traveling what Jesus calls “real life” or “life to the fullest.” This nomadic expedition toward a life of joy (which I describe in my book Holy Nomad) led me to my own backyard, where I stumbled onto the divine teaching of an apple tree. As Lent approaches, here in the belly of a lifeless, ashen, Midwestern February, I wish for the world to blossom. The start of the Lenten season is always marked by my anticipation of the world’s slow emergence from hibernation, when the russets of winter lawns yield to lush green blankets of grass, the naked trees sprout their first buds of growth, folks wear brighter smiles and move at a quicker pace.

The apple tree in my backyard blooms stunningly each spring around Easter. I recall the first year in our home, I was rather proud of the bounty of edible apples it produced. The following year, the tree sprouted hundreds of new limbs; but when it finally began to bear fruit, we were left with only a handful of decent apples. I did some research and discovered that our tree desperately needed to be pruned. After my own failed attempt at the task, I decided to have an expert come to the house and show me how to properly care for the tree. The arborist was in his 70s and had managed his own orchard. He climbed into the small tree and began to intentionally chop away branches and limbs. With each cut, it seemed, he would share another fascinating story of his days running the orchard. This man had won awards for his apples.

In my own endeavor days before, I had filled a meager garbage-bag full of branches. When the expert was finished pruning, we had packed the entire bed of his pick-up truck with unnecessary limbs. He stood back and gazed at the tree with a smile of satisfaction. I was a little unnerved; it was astonishing how …

February 6th, 2013

It’s that time of the year again. Most Christians have to face an important decision in their lives — what to “give up” for Lent. Last year I was invited to a Facebook page where people were posting the all-important decision they had made. I was fascinated that the trend hasn’t changed: no sweets and no coffee still are tops. There’s a new “tech” trend: no Internet. I couldn’t help posting on my own Facebook page, “So we’ll have a lot of unsweetened, decaffeinated, and dis-Interneted Christians on the planet again. But will we love each other any more for it?” To which my sister-in-law promptly commented, “No, it will make us grumpier! If the point of Lent was for us to love each other more… it would be 40 days of chocolate, coffee, and alcohol!”

February 1st, 2013

As a thank you for being a part of the Busted Halo® community, we’re offering our users something special today.

This is the first in what will be a continuing series of monthly wallpapers featuring a thematic image of the Church season along with important dates to keep in mind for the coming month.

Downloads are available in sizes that will fit both widescreen and full screen monitors, as well as mobile devices.

With Ash Wednesday just 13 days away, we thought the Lenten image of the desert was the obvious choice to begin this series. Remember, Lent is coming.

Download the files directly below, mark your calendar, and enjoy this easy way to stay aware of important feasts and holy days heading your way.

16:9 · 16:10 · 4:3  · mobile

January 29th, 2013

One thing that has stuck in my head since I was a child I learned from my mother who was a nurse. She came home from a continuing education class when I was about 12 years old with a tidbit that astounded me then and still astounds me today. The instructor communicated that researchers had discovered the frontal lobe of the brain, responsible for our creativity and imagination, is also activated when we pray.

Since learning that, I have always believed that there must be a profound connection between prayer and creativity. It also makes sense to me since prayer is the doorway to communicating with the Creator — me communicating with God and God communicating with me. One of the connections I have made is that being creative is a form of prayer. And that when I pray I am engaging in the height of creativity because in some mysterious way, both physically and spiritually, I am united with Creativity itself.

Mediators for the Divine

In Ancient Greece, the human author was simply an instrument — a mediator — between the divine and the human worlds. Other artists have also attested that their creative experience is one in which they are making external something that already exists, something created by someone else. Their work has been inspired. At the heart of this is the sense that human creativity is a participation in a world that we cannot see.

Creativity in the Greek culture was also understood in this way. The legendary Greek muses were thought to be goddesses and were considered to be the spring of all poetry, art and inspiration. They interacted with humanity by presenting before the mind of a chosen individual the poetry, the song, the music, the dance, the words, the images that they had created. In this way, the human author was simply an instrument — a mediator — between the divine and the human worlds. Other artists have also attested that their creative experience is one in which they are making external something that already exists, …

January 24th, 2013

Is anyone else out there as deeply disturbed by current events as I am right now? I know we’ve always had war in various places of the world, plus poor people shunted aside and ignored, plus victims of racism, homophobia, and violence to nature and humankind. But somehow, this year, these sad and bitter parts of human behavior feel like an iron cloak on my shoulders. I cannot even read about Syria anymore it is so upsetting, particularly after reading the luminous book, The Bread of Angels by Stephanie Soldana, which tells of the monastery outside of Damascus headed by an Italian priest who tried to stay neutral and provide sanctuary for both sides in the conflict. He has since had to leave the country.

Today I ran around the house, trying to find something that would make me feel not quite so like a blasted heath or the aftermath of a car crash. Called a friend. That kind of helped except she was decidedly needy at the time, and I was decidedly not in a place to nourish her. Walked the dog in the cold. Always good for a time, but somehow it wasn’t doing it for me. And straight gin at 2 in the afternoon simply isn’t an option.

I have no control over this, God. I cannot help the Syrians being killed in Damascus. I can’t help the Christians in Iraq. I can’t repair the European Union or help the enraged Greeks. But by God, I can make soup.

Then, ex-hippie that I am, I ran out to the early winter garden (somehow rushing about when you feel terrible always seems to help), removed the mulch from the leeks and pulled them out, then found a few last carrots hiding under the leaves. They were huge and healthy looking, a bright, crisp orange. Inside I washed the veggies, chopped the leeks, and sliced the carrots, putting them into a big iron pot with sizzling olive oil. Then I added part of a sweet potato, a chopped apple, homemade …

January 22nd, 2013

We knew we were in trouble when the shoes floated down the hallway. My brother was the first to notice water leaking through the floor of our garage. He and my parents managed to heft the really valuable furniture, my deceased grandmother’s china closet and buffet, on top of my mattress, where they would be saved from the ravages of the flood. Even so, my family wasn’t prepared for how fast the water spread throughout the house, rising to six inches, enough to make buoys out of the sandals I kept under my bed.

January 21st, 2013

I received some great feedback on “A Cohabitation Conversation” published last fall, showing just how pertinent this topic is for couples. I was struck by the advice of one reader:

While I do agree that premarital cohabitation is not a good idea, it doesn’t always end up in divorce or unhappy marriages. My husband and I lived together for 6 years while we were in college. During those years of cohabitation we learned more about our Catholic faith we shared and grew stronger in that faith (understanding what the Church taught and why it taught it), we married, and have been very happily married for 23 years (with 4 children). While our situation was a bit different from the norm, I would NOT encourage couples to live together. I would encourage them to make their faith a VERY important part of their relationship from the very beginning, learning and growing together, and paying close attention to what the Church teaches.

I would agree. Cohabitation does not “always” end up in divorce or unhappy marriages. There is no silver bullet for the perfect marriage. You can do everything right, but still end up facing the challenges of a struggling marriage. And certainly there are strong marriages and great couples who do not live the teachings of the Catholic Church. But the significance of this reader’s comment is even though it worked out for her and her husband, she still would not recommend living together before marriage.

God gave us sexual desire to steer us toward each other, and towards marriage. Sex creates new people, and God loves new people. So God wants us to find someone that we can’t wait to jump into bed with! Don’t ever marry if you don’t burn with passion for that person.

Another reader asked, “What would you tell a couple that still wants to live together?” I would say, read this person’s comment. Her encouragement to grow together and deepen your understanding about what the Church teaches speaks to the valuable fruit found in living out our …

January 15th, 2013

One day while browsing Tumblr, I came across a blog post from Humans of New York, a website that showcases the daily lives of strangers around New York City via photograph. One of these pictures was especially striking; it was of an NYU student named Stella Boonshoft, posing in her underwear. The picture, taken from her personal blog, is a testament to self-love and body acceptance. Stella, standing proudly and smiling, is celebrating her body, the way God made it, imperfections and all. The picture garnered national attention, not just on social networking sites, but on national television news networks such as NBC, which aired a Today Show segment on Stella.

Body messages
As a young person admittedly influenced by the media, I understand the pressure out there. We are bombarded with billboards, commercials, and magazine covers advertising that thin is beautiful and the means to a happy and successful life. The media influence on body image is especially strong now, in the New Year, with gym membership deals and weight loss programs attacking consumers from every angle. As a communications major, I’ve been studying the effects of media on our country, and the media play a larger role in influencing consumers than I previously thought. The media don’t just persuade us to buy the latest fashions or try the newest diet pills, but they manipulate our confidence levels and allow us to become self-conscious and make us hyper-aware of our inadequacies.

It’s disturbing to see the media openly criticize people who are overweight. I’m tired of media outlets making fun of curvy women such as Christina Aguilera and Jessica Simpson, calling them “pigs” and “whales,” diminishing their accomplishments just because they are not a size zero. It sends a terrible message to consumers — if you do not fit the media stereotype, then you deserve to be ridiculed because you are a lesser human being.

Obviously, that’s not true. All people are equal and beloved in the eyes of God. In a world filled with uniqueness, it’s disheartening to …

January 11th, 2013

Q: Why is the church so focused on banning contraception when over-crowding and over population is greatly dwindling the earth’s resources?

A: The Church is not trying to “ban contraception” — though given some of the recently media coverage I can understand why someone might think that it is.

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