Busted Halo
October 28th, 2011
Spooky Saints No More
Learning to love, not fear, the people in the stained glass windows

Lately, I’ve been considering teaching my son Matthew about the saints. At the big-boy age of 5, he’s surely old enough to become captivated by their stories. But then I realized that when you talk about the lives of the saints, you also have to talk about their deaths.

Therein lies the problem.

Not every saint had a gruesome death, of course, but quite a few of them did. And for a kid whose imaginative diet consists of nothing more sinister than the dragon that Harold draws with his magic purple crayon, I can hardly fathom telling him about St. Agnes, whose head was cut off, or St. Lawrence, who was literally grilled alive. My child already has an innate fear of the dark; I don’t need to tell him stories that will encourage it.

October 20th, 2011
The Way: A Pilgrimage Worth Taking
Now available on DVD

The Way, written and directed by Emilio Estevez (Bobby) and starring his father, Martin Sheen (Apocalypse Now, The West Wing, The Departed), is rather obviously about the spiritual journey. The Camino de Santiago, called “The Way,” is a literal spiritual journey, a 1,000-year-old 500-mile pilgrimage route across the Pyrenees. The lead character Tom (Sheen) takes a physical journey to Spain and eventually on the Camino while also taking a spiritual journey starting with word that his son (Estevez) has died. Many of the other characters Tom meets along the way are on their own spiritual journeys, whether they are Camino pilgrims or not. 

Despite being built around a religious pilgrimage, however, The Way is not a “faith-based” film; rather, it is a movie about a human story, and the human story. There is no preaching; there are no soppy scenes meant to tug at the spiritual heartstrings. Estevez’s writing reveals a sophisticated understanding of the beautiful brokenness of people, the glorious absurdity of it all. One of the overarching themes is how Tom gets thrown together with other pilgrims. Not only was it his intent to travel alone, but if he were to travel with others, these are definitely not the others he would choose. But it is precisely through struggling with each other’s imperfections that we are challenged, pushed outside our comfort zone, and, sometimes, forced to grow spiritually whether we like it or not.

September 29th, 2011
What Works: Cultivating presence

I often hear people talking about living in the present moment as if it is a struggle, some cosmic game of attempting to grasp something that is fleeting, illusory. They say things like, “the moment I have it, it’s gone.” While this is true and can be frustrating, the last thing present moment awareness is about is grabbing serenity. I have always liked the metaphor of the river (borrowed from my Christian contemplative practice of centering prayer) in talking of the flow of thoughts. Imagine the stream of consciousness as a river, with boats and debris representing thoughts. You’re sitting on the bank of the river watching it. Normal awareness has you looking at each individual boat-thought, following it down the river with your eyes — and to strain the metaphor, getting on it and opening hatches — then suddenly shifting your awareness to another boat and so on. If your mind is particularly cluttered, you can feel overwhelmed by all the boats you have to look at and it can feel like that classic I Love Lucy skit with the conveyor belt at the chocolate factory, like you’re falling behind and they start slipping by. There can be a sense of panic that a thought that’s getting past you without attention is important and you’re missing it.

Present moment awareness is simply sitting on the bank and watching the river, not the boats. Boats cross your field of vision and you do see them, but you don’t follow them with your eyes or get on them. They’re not out of focus, but you don’t focus on them.

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