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January 27th, 2012

“We Need to Talk About Kevin” is already playing in NYC; it opens today in LA, Chicago, Houston and Phoenix and is rolling out nationwide.

Sometimes Zuzu’s petals are all you have to hold onto. That’s the underlying message of We Need to Talk about Kevin, Lynne Ramsey’s remarkable allegory on the transcendent nature of relationships. At first glance, it would seem that Kevin is yet another installment in the pantheon of post-modern films intent upon assaulting the human desire to give meaning to the world. Indeed, Kevin is a relentless film that gives its audience few opportunities to come up for air from the depths of anguish to which it plummets.

Yet it is in those infrequent instances of relief, conversion and mercy that the film finds its identity and direction. Kevin is a story of hope for a new millennium, an It’s a Wonderful Life in the age of school shootings and planes crashing into buildings — a world-weary world that has been bombarded by nihilistic themes in their narratives for the better part of a century. It is a world where any attempts to offer a message of mercy, conversion and redemption must be done deftly and authentically, because at the end of the day, sometimes the community won’t rally around you and more often than not Mr. Potter carries the day.

January 25th, 2012

[The Tree of Life… was a surprise nominee for Best Picture in the 2012 Academy Awards nominations on January 24. This is our review of the film originally published on June 20, 2011. For full Oscars coverage and commentary, visit our special

January 23rd, 2012

We all know the drill. We should go to Mass on Sunday. We should go to Mass on Holy Days. And really, in general, we should worship God more in our daily lives.
Now, consider this: stop “shoulding on yourself.” In a recent column Fr. Jim Martin, SJ, wrote that if we are too busy focusing on what we “should” do, then we miss out. When we are too busy worrying about whether we should be in the pew — we are actually missing out on engaging in the worship experience. So skip the “shoulds” and get right to worship. Don’t just think you should go to Mass more. Don’t just try to go to Mass more, be more involved in the worship experience.
Ways to worship well
Here are three ways to help you stick to worship:
Find your…

January 19th, 2012

It was all of 13 minutes after midnight on Tuesday night when I went to look up something in Wikipedia… even though I knew the blackout protest was coming and had posted about it. If you didn’t know what was going on or would like to learn a little more about SOPA and PIPA, with hopefully a slightly spiritual angle, read on. But I want to stress, this is not a partisan issue. As I’ll explain later, the line between supporters and opponents has little to do with party affiliation. As Wikipedia said, in its message about participating in the blackout:
It is the opinion of the English Wikipedia community that both of these bills, if passed, would be devastating to the free and open web… although Wikipedia’s…

January 18th, 2012
Hearing God's call and trusting where it leads

Let’s talk about the New Year. If you’re like me, you picked up a few magazines with promising headlines like “Finding the New You in 2012: Your Easy Guide to a Physical and Emotional Makeover!” at the grocery store, wrote some resolutions on a piece of paper you might be lucky enough to find if you happen to be moving, and checked out the “Year in Photos” feature of a news website for good measure. If you’re really serious, you might have even gone… to the gym. Twice.
But now that all the newness has worn off, it’s time to revisit the New Year. What makes it so attractive, anyway?
Can’t explain? It’s probably God
Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about new things, particularly new beginnings. There

January 16th, 2012

Since I wrote for Busted Halo about Mitt Romney’s first run for president in 2008, much has changed in the public landscape regarding knowledge and perceptions of Mormonism. Americans today find themselves swept up in a “Mormon Moment,” thanks to Romney’s second run, Jon Huntsman Jr.’s candidacy, and popular media coverage of The Book of Mormon musical. Rather than depending on Big Love for their (inaccurate) understanding of this world religion, Americans can now find informed reports in sources from the Washington Post… to NPR. Still, persistent myths and misperceptions blight even the most well-intentioned reporters’ pieces. The following will help give Busted

January 11th, 2012
One woman's work to end human trafficking led her but first to prayer

Today is Human Trafficking Awareness Day. If you’re Joy Brooks, every day is a chance to raise awareness about the horror of modern-day slavery and trafficking. She started the organization Prayer For Freedom to call people to greater awareness and encourage prayer for change.
Human trafficking includes sex trafficking and labor trafficking. It’s estimated that 27 million people live in slavery today. Countries around the world, including the United States, are sites of origin, transit, destination and/or internal trafficking.
Joy spent several years working internationally with different mission and church organizations. In 2009, when she was living in Romania and teaching English…

January 2nd, 2012

As we look back over 2011 we’re reminded of all the great stories, columns, blog posts and videos. Here’s a list of the most popular stories on bustedhalo.com this year…

January 1st, 2012
(1915-2011)

“Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God.” (Matthew 5:9)
Lately I’ve been thinking about the Beatitudes, as well as the Corporal Works of Mercy, thinking that if I could just grasp and follow these fundamentals of the faith, I could actually live the Christian life and truly do what Jesus asks of us. It should be simple enough to care for those less fortunate, but it always seems so difficult when you get down to the practicalities of it: I work 40 hours a week, my commute to and from work takes a lot of time, I need to keep up my social life, friend and family time, my movie watching, and I should probably try and fit exercise somewhere in there — so where’s the time to try to take

December 31st, 2011
(1942 – 2011)

When Clarence Clemons joined the E Street Band in October 1972, I was six months old. He was just beginning his musical partnership in a New Jersey shore town that was recovering from a race riot that had destroyed the city and I was just beginning my life in a suburban New Jersey town 60 miles away, whose last major disturbance was the arrival of George Washington’s troops at Jockey Hollow. For the most part, the major shocks of the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s were settling down into a very long hangover in which the following generations — mine included — would have to learn how to bridge the divides and the injustices of the past by simply learning how to live with one another.
But growing up…

December 30th, 2011

For most of the public history of alcoholism and drug addiction all the way back to Noah, the general impression has been that it is something that happens to men. Women might have gotten “in trouble” with prescription drugs or white wine, but it was men who were drunks. Men were sent to prison; women were sent to mental hospitals. Of course women were drinking and drugging and some of them were getting in serious trouble, just like men. But mostly it was happening behind closed doors. It just wasn’t proper.
In a groundbreaking 1954 article in Good Housekeeping…, “Letter To A Woman Alcoholic,” writer Margaret Lee Runbeck appealed to female readers who were struggling with addiction

December 28th, 2011
(1955-2011)

Steve Jobs was never a corporate man. The early personal computer industry was an outgrowth of the radical back-to-the-land ethos and even the name “Apple” was intentionally folksy and home-brewed. For Jobs, the personal computer wasn’t a way to bring work home or improve the productivity and accountability of employees. His goal was always computer as appliance, computer as an empowering tool for regular people. He pointed to Stewart Brand and the Whole Earth Catalog…, which I grew up poring through, as a key inspiration. The story of Apple’s products is a story of getting closer and closer to that vision. The infamous 1984 Superbowl ad set up Apple as the opposite of IBM’s (Microsoft’s)

December 27th, 2011
(1932-2011)

Could there have been anyone more gorgeous, more sumptuous, and more glamorous to a girl growing up in the ‘50s and 60s than Elizabeth Taylor, or “Liz,” as we called her? The very shortening of her name to “Liz” is a clue to how we took her to our hearts. She wasn’t distant or far away; she was approachable, loveable. From the fresh young girl with the impossible violet eyes in National Velvet, to the sultry woman attired only in a slip in Butterfield 8, to the raucous and angry wife in Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf…, Liz never played it safe. She took risks.
Her wide-eyed stare into the loving eye of the camera did not just spell out her beauty; it announced, “I am who I am —

December 26th, 2011

As the year draws to a close, we’re reminded of many significant endings in 2011. Here’s a short list of what got our (and the world’s) attention. What would you add to the list?
U.S. Military Operations in Iraq — …After nine years, the Iraq War (also referred to as the Occupation of Iraq, the Second Gulf War, or Operation Iraqi Freedom by the U.S. military) is over. U.S. troops returned home earlier this month, just in time for the holidays. By the numbers: Almost 4,500 U.S. soldiers were killed, more than 32,500 were wounded with thousands more suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder. An estimated 110,000 Iraqi civilians were killed during the war. Here’s a link to a photo

December 23rd, 2011
A closer look at how several women break the pattern of male ancestors in the Gospel's account of Jesus' genealogy

A defining Gospel passage during Advent is the genealogy text from Matthew’s Gospel (1:1-17). At first glance, these verses simply appear to be a collection of names, and therefore incapable of producing any meaning other than the obvious — this is Jesus’ family tree. After a closer look at this passage, it became apparent to me that these verses, like Mary, are pregnant with hidden treasure.
The list of names produces a pattern: one man fathers another; one generation follows another; and every 14 generations an event important to the history of the chosen people takes place. Not only does the pattern create an expectation, it also becomes predictable. This pattern, however, is randomly…

December 20th, 2011
For families divided by politics or religion, gathering on the holidays provides both challenges and opportunities

My relatives are an eclectic bunch, pretty evenly split — to use crude and somewhat useless political labels — between Left and Right; our religious diversity includes Catholics, Mormons, evangelicals, United Church of Christ members and a few who are unaffiliated. Throw in my surrogate family (that’s a story for another time) and you add Presbyterians, Jews and Buddhists. As we gather around our family table and share letters and cards this holiday season, I will be looking for opportunities to be a healing force.

My family is like millions of others in the United States who come together this time of year for the holidays and struggle to put their passionate differences aside for a few hours. Of course, these divides always existed, but recent years have been different for two reasons. First, major shifts — generationally and ideologically — have left many feeling left out of the party, so to speak. Second, politics is the ugliest it’s been in modern history. There are plenty of hurt feelings all around. A lot of fear gets stirred up.

In couples counseling, it’s an axiom that the most toxic thing to a relationship is not when the partners disagree, or even fight, but when they stop respecting each other. For several generations now, there has been little trust and respect in the political sphere. Both sides have demonized the other, have assumed ill motives on their opponents’ parts.

But of all relationships, the deepest and oldest, next to our relationship with God, is family. So, how sad when distrust and lack of respect attacks relationships with literal brothers and sisters.

December 19th, 2011

The most exciting part of the holiday season, no matter your age, is that glorious image of waking up on Christmas day to find shiny gifts heaped beneath the tree. We antagonize for weeks about perfecting our wish lists and finding that ideal present for all our friends and family, but rarely do we take a step back to think about what exactly it is we are giving. This year, I’m going to try to give gifts that really give. Here’s my list of ideas for gifts that have lasting value, purpose, and meaning, so you and your loved ones can continue to experience the Christmas spirit for far longer than 12 days.
1. Give local gifts…
This is pretty easy to do in urban areas where you walk by neighborhood stores every day. But

December 15th, 2011
Helpful terms of engagement to maintain holiday cheer

Hollywood families (at least in their writers’ imagination) seem to have warm and fuzzy family Christmas dinners. Mine are more complex. Somehow, the relative morality of another family member invariably becomes a topic of conversation. Over the years, I have developed terms of engagement I consider essential to a healthy, productive holiday conversation about morality. For those of you determined to maintain your own Christmas cheer at the family dinner table this year, I will relay what I have learned. Consider it a “Christmas Spirit Survival Guide.”
Working with Catholic religious communities has taught me two ways to encounter others: I can espouse core Christian beliefs in a welcoming…

December 14th, 2011

In the back pew of the adoration chapel, I folded my arms and slouched before the God who wouldn’t talk to me. It was Advent, and I was wrenching in the throes of undergraduate existentialist angst. Prayer had once suffused my days with joy and meaning; the time I spent in the chapel had gone by quickly and pleasantly, and when I left I felt full to bursting with quiet elation. Now prayer was a process I dreaded: grueling, tedious, utterly devoid of consolation. I was in agony. I resented God’s silence and inactivity, and I told Him so. Repeatedly.
I glanced back at the clock on the wall. I’d been sitting in that chapel for three unproductive, spiritually arid quarters of an hour. I shifted in my seat,…

December 8th, 2011

Many “alternative” gift articles suggest non-gifts — things like giving to charity in the person’s name, or giving service rather than a thing — but choosing a present specifically for another person, wrapping it playfully and offering it to them can tap into love, charity, selflessness and hospitality. I refuse to let consumerism win by equating gift giving with money and greed. I want you to buy gifts, real physical gifts. So how do we choose gifts in a mass consumer culture?

There isn’t just one approach. You might choose items made locally; or by individuals; or from small manufacturers that treat their employees well. If you’re not buying directly from the supplier, you will be considering the retailer too. Let’s call it “conscious” gift shopping. The spiritual principle here is to consider the whole gift: what it will mean to the recipient; what it’s made of; how it was made; who made it; how it got to your hands. I think everyone can embrace supporting individual craftspeople and small businesses over multinational corporations. At least for Christmas.

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