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April 23rd, 2010
Real life super heroes on the streets of NYC

They call me the “Comic Book Rabbi.” Given the chance to choose my own “superhero” nickname, I’d have picked something more dynamic, like “Super Jew” or simply “The Rabbi.” (Imagine The Thing, but with a kippah.) I come by my humble nickname honestly, though. My first book was called, Up Up and Oy Vey : How Jewish History, Culture and Values Shaped the Comic Book Superhero…. Not surprisingly, I quickly came to be seen as an expert about the Jewish influence on American popular culture.
Most of the time, I study these matters at arm’s length — literally, with a well-thumbed issue of the Fantastic Four circa 1964 in hand. However, I confess (and

April 22nd, 2010
An Earth Day reflection on the link between environmentalism and faith

One of the first and key places I encountered the spiritual ideas that eventually led to my baptism was Estes Park, high in the Rockies, amidst Birkenstock-wearing radical environmentalists. It was an interesting time for politics in the late 80s and early 90s and I was looking for new ideas. So were lots of people, and they were talking with each other and reading each other’s books despite divergent backgrounds. Some were grassroots activists, some academics; some were pragmatic, some utopian. There were communitarians and Greens, libertarians and socialists.
I came upon something new (to me) there, something I’d never heard of before with my atheist/Protestant upbringing: natural law.…

April 21st, 2010
A message for those feeling the weight of the ongoing crisis in the Church

The following reflection was adapted from a homily given on the second Sunday of Easter April 11, 2009.…
Last Sunday there were around 3,000 people in our church to celebrate Easter. My question a week later is, “Where did they all go?” It’s too easy to simply say that the 2000 people who did not return a week later and may not return again until Christmas are “Christmas and Easter Catholics.” Is a once-or-twice visit to Church enough to satisfy one’s spiritual or ritual needs, that someone can say, “That’s enough for me”?
As a parish that tries very hard to create an environment of inclusion and acceptance where faith and beauty are interwoven, we can ask

April 20th, 2010
Busted Halo contests keep on giving

We know, we know, it’s been a couple weeks. Lent has passed, Easter is here, and we never formally announced the end of our Fast Pray Give contest or its winner. Ok, we’re sorry. We certainly didn’t intend for this to slip through the cracks but in the midst of covering everything else going on in the world of spiritual seekers it unfortunately did. (We ARE proud to note, however, that we actually picked the grand prize winner and sent the prize out right on time…we just forgot to tell the rest of you.)
So finally, at long last…
Congratulations to the Grand Prize winner, Kim Dousette of Hopkinsville, KY, who received an Easter Basket with a custom Fast Pray Give Flip Video Camera, candy, books,…

April 20th, 2010
Pulling Together After a Missed Teachable Moment

Gratitude and gloom colored my view of the debate over health care reform.
On St. Patrick’s Day 2009, I learned that my chronic leukemia had morphed into a much more formidable lymphoma. It was not, statistically speaking, the cancer one would choose, especially as a husband and a father with two teenaged sons and a 20-year-old daughter. But I had sound health insurance, which allowed me the best treatment at one of the nation’s best hospitals. I was, therefore, especially grateful when reminded about the tens of millions of other Americans who lack medical insurance altogether.
The gloom descended when legislative dynamics seemed to pit the demands of Social Justice against the rights of the Unborn.…

April 19th, 2010
Women aren't the only ones wondering whether their date is really "into" them

I recently received this note from long-time Pure Sex, Pure Love reader, Phil, a 26-year-old in Iowa. In a previous column, I’d suggested to readers that simple body language is a good way to tell if someone is interested in you. Phil took that test to the next level and asked: If a woman refuses to let me pay for her coffee on a first date, is she sending me a signal that she’s not interested?
Hi Dr. Whelan,
I think that I have found a variant of the salt shaker test. As you have written in your column, that is when you are on a first date and you put a salt shaker (or something like that) on your date’s side of the table. From what I recall, how they react is suppose to indicate whether they are into you.
If they…

April 15th, 2010
The former Pedro the Lion leader talks about reactions to recent work and his current take on faith and his role as an artist

Last week, we published a piece by Matt Fink about former Pedro the Lion leader David Bazan’s career and latest album. After a four-year hiatus following struggles with alcoholism and his faith — including being kicked off the main stage of a major Christian music festival — Bazan returned in 2009 with a new autobiographical and starkly agnostic album.
In the following interview, Fink talks with Bazan about his return to the Cornerstone Festival last summer, the latest album, the reactions to recent work, and his current take on faith and his role as an artist.

Busted Halo: I saw that you went back and played Cornerstone this year. What was that like?
David Bazan:… It was actually great. I had said

April 13th, 2010
The world's last three Shakers stand strong, proud and hopeful

Strolling along a quiet farm road, flanked by 19th-century white clapboard buildings, Frances Carr is an endangered species in a threatened habitat.
She is one of the world’s last Shakers, a member of a pious separatist community that boasted 6,000 members and 19 settlements in the 1800s. But today only three believers remain at the last active settlement, Sabbathday Lake Shaker Village, nestled in a wooded, lake-fringed and white pine-perfumed swath of southern Maine.
Though she rarely grants interviews, the oldest living Shaker speaks now.
Easing her cushioned frame onto an antique bench in the waiting room of the 125-year-old brick Dwelling House, the soft-faced Carr, 82, tenderly sings an old…

April 13th, 2010
My visit to Mumbai's red light district

So this is where my work for Catholic Relief Services had led me: to a brothel. I was in the middle of a red light district in the go-go city of Mumbai on India’s west coast. The social worker we were with strolled casually into a shed-like doorway and starting chatting with one of the women. I stood tensely, aware that in the metal cubby right behind me a young woman in a spangled sari was sleeping soundly.

It was midday and there was no “activity” going on. But the tiny, sardine-tin brothel — its walls painted an incongruous robin’s egg blue — was appalling enough. Each woman slept and worked in a metal room that was perhaps eight feet by six feet, far smaller than walk-in closets I’ve seen in America. A footlocker was on a shelf above the narrow plank-like bed. Sometimes, my guide told me, the women’s children were kept under the bed at night — occasionally drugged so as not to make noise that would disturb clients.

When the social worker — a Catholic Relief Services partner — walks through this neighborhood, she’s focused on how to get the women’s kids in school. She’d seen it all. I hadn’t. It was unnerving to think how many women were in the brothels that honeycombed these alleys.

Worst of all was thinking how many were there against their will. My guides and I walked out of the brothel quietly — it seemed easy enough. A few children and older women on the side street stared at us. We kept on for a few blocks until we reached our car.

Hundreds of young women can’t walk away. “There are henchmen hanging around to catch any prostitute who tries to escape,” says Priti Patkar matter-of-factly. For twenty-five years, Priti and her husband have worked to save the thousands of teenage girls who are brought to the red-light district under duress, often tricked by acquaintances or even family members. The girls are held for years, working as unpaid prostitutes to make money for owners who buy and sell them. The Patkars head up Prerana — “Inspiration” — a CRS partner that helps girls who are rescued.

April 12th, 2010
What Works columnist Phil Fox Rose is interviewed about being on time on NET TV and responds to reader comments

Recently, I was interviewed for the show Currents on the NET TV network about the spirituality of being on time. Watch the video right here on this page; I’ve queued it up to my segment in the show. So that seems like a good enough reason to revisit my column, “Being On Time.” I was surprised (though I shouldn’t have been) when this became one of the most popular What Works columns.

It was a delight to do the interview with Nathalia Ortiz, and to see the co-anchors discussing the subject with her afterwards. Their comments, her questions to me, and the popularity of this column all underscore that so many of us struggle with being on time, and we want help!

Much of the feedback has been about realizing you are bothering others. So let me focus a little more sharply on the issue of selfishness. But before I do, let me stress that I’m not encouraging you to beat up on yourself. We are all selfish a lot of the time. What I’m encouraging is greater awareness.

Selfishness can take several forms. Many people who are late have a mixture of them.

Self-seeking is when you choose your own gain over the interests of others. It’s self-seeking behavior to maximize the productivity or convenience of your own time at the expense of other people’s schedules. Doctors, for example, do this on purpose, because their time has so much monetary value, and, well, they don’t care about yours — and, as with the chronically late, typically they get more and more behind schedule as the day progresses. (If you haven’t already figured this out, book doctor’s appointments in the morning, when they still might be close to their schedule.)

April 9th, 2010
A 103-year-old woman, a therapy dog and a friendship

My dog Jessie is a therapy dog — meaning she is trained to bring comfort and companionship to those who need it. We visit a lot of nursing homes and hospitals in our mountainous part of western North Carolina, and also, sometimes, homebound individuals. At one point I was bringing Jessie once a week to the home of a woman known as Granny.
Granny was 103 years old when we met her. Despite that, she got around well with a walker. She was always groomed, dressed, and seated at the table eating something — often ice cream — or sitting in front of the TV watching cooking shows. She was pretty bright. She seemed to digest both food and information well.
I’ve learned a lot about life and living from all the…

April 8th, 2010
Former Pedro the Lion frontman's Curse Your Branches

In the spring of 2007, I was asked as an alumnus of Geneva College (a small Reformed Presbyterian liberal arts college 30 minutes northwest of Pittsburgh, PA) to attend a few planning sessions for that semester’s annual music event. Knowing Geneva’s conservative stance on nearly every theological or cultural issue, from the prohibition of instruments in their church services to the ban on all dancing (save square dancing) on campus, the challenge was selecting an artist who would be edgy enough to attract the interest of the students while being safe enough not to draw the ire of the school’s administration. Half-jokingly, I suggested that David Bazan might be an interesting choice for…

April 7th, 2010
Emilio Estevez discusses his new film on The Busted Halo Show with Fr. Dave

When The Busted Halo Show with Father Dave broadcast a week of our Sirius XM radio show from Los Angeles, actor/director Emilio Estevez dropped by our studio to talk about his career and his new movie, The Way. Son of iconic Catholic actor Martin Sheen, and brother of actor Charlie Sheen, Emilio Estevez might best be remembered from his stand-out roles in the classic ’80s films The Outsiders, The Breakfast Club, St. Elmo’s Fire, and Young Guns, or as Coach Gordon Bombay from The Mighty Ducks series. But since then, he has had quite an accomplished career behind the camera, directing films like Men at Work and the award-winning Bobby, about the life of Robert F. Kennedy.

April 6th, 2010
Accompanying undocumented immigrants who are in prison

On a recent Saturday morning a minivan weaves through the warehouse district of Elizabeth, New Jersey, a port city an hour south of New York. It pulls to a stop beside a nondescript building where the Corrections Corporation of America — a private company — holds hundreds of immigrants in prison conditions. The firm is one of seven nationwide that contract with the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency (ICE) to house immigrants awaiting deportation or applying for asylum. ICE also operates eight facilities itself and contracts with 300 county and state jails to hold immigrants. For the tens of thousands of detainees nationwide, time in immigrant detention is lonely and frightening.…

April 5th, 2010
A reader asks whether she should become Catholic for her boyfriend

A few weeks back, a reader wrote in with a powerful question: She had been drawn to the Catholic Church because of her boyfriend. Should she convert without a promise of marriage?
Rakti has been dating her boyfriend for five years, since she was 19 and he was 21. Rakti is Hindu, and her boyfriend, Mark, is Catholic. While Rakti was in college, she began to question elements of her Hindu faith. “After a lot of reading, research, investigation and time I knew in my heart that what I had been raised in wasn’t the truth,” she writes.
From the start of their relationship, Rakti and Mark had discussed religion at length. She even started attending Mass with him, but after a certain point, both she and Mark…

March 31st, 2010
A Good Friday Reflection

Though Good Friday is the most solemn day on the liturgical calendar, for much of my early life it was difficult for me to connect to Jesus and his experience, until my brother was diagnosed with cancer back when I was 19. My faith went through a wringer. All I could ask God was, why? I could no longer pray. Every time I tried, I would just cry. Through the wisdom of my spiritual director at the time, I was able to see that my tears, being the expression of my inner anguish, were probably the most honest prayer that I had yet uttered. I was in touch with my pain, and I was sharing it with God.
This experience helped me realize that where I can connect most intimately with Jesus is through my own human experience. I do not know his experience.…

March 31st, 2010
After our Lent Calendar is finished you can still count on us for daily reflection and prayer

Thanks to tremendous word of mouth from you, our readers — not to mention great coverage from USA Today and other national media and the hundreds of widgets we’ve given out to websites and bloggers around the globe — this year’s FastPrayGive… Lenten Calendar has been an enormous success.  Beginning with “Show Us Your Ash” on Ash Wednesday, continuing on through our Lenten Laptop Pilgrimage on the Camino up through these final days of Holy Week, we’ve set site records in terms of traffic and reader participation.
Thousands of you are checking back each day for a little piece of inspiration as well as a small spiritual challenge. The feature’s popularity

March 30th, 2010
A Lenten Lament

I’ve never been to an AA meeting, but feel like the mantra is appropriate here in admitting to the world, “My name is Carolyn and I am a recovering Oprah-holic.” Though I was able to put the brakes on my problem before it became an addiction, I was headed in that direction two years ago during Lent, when I sought solace in self-help and self-pity. I was one of thousands of people who joined Oprah’s Book Club featuring A New Earth: Awakening to your Life’s Purpose… by Eckhart Tolle. I joined for a couple of reasons. One, I was experiencing a particularly brutal winter of Seasonal Affective Disorder while editing a book of Iraq War narratives and living in my hometown in the aftermath of my

March 29th, 2010
Devoting a day to faith, family, friends and food

When I was growing up, Sunday was a day for leisure and family. My atheist father did his version of worship: reading the Sunday New York Times from cover to cover while listening to classical music. We had special breakfast meals. (My favorite was ham and cheese pancakes.) In the afternoon there was sports on TV or tinkering at hobbies, and then at night we watched classic Sunday night TV together — especially Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom and The Wonderful World of Disney. Sometimes, when my older siblings were still around, we played family board games.
A day of rest has been part of the human routine since, perhaps, its beginning. You need look no further than Genesis 2:3, where God takes a deserved…

March 24th, 2010
Travel along the Camino de Santiago with our Busted Halo pilgrims without leaving your home

Day #5: Journey’s End
The pilgrims complete their Camino and arrive at the 11th century St. James Cathedral, burial site of St. James the Apostle, to place their hands on the left foot of the statue depicting the Trinity, the traditional end-point of the Camino. Hear final thoughts and reflections from Fr. Larry, Erin, Stephen, Sam, Amy, and Mary…
Click here to listen further to the pilgrims’ final group discussion of the last day of the pilgrimage.

Day #4:
Reflections on “Waking”
A poem by Theodore Roethke
From Arzua, the pilgrims head to Arca. They will cross a number of bridges built by local farmers over the centuries to accommodate feeding their growing flocks of livestock.…

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