Busted Halo

Busted Halo distributed Flip videocameras to undocumented individuals and agencies and asked them to start videoblogging. We hope Busted Borders gives a personal glimpse into the humanity of these strangers in our midst.

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February 12th, 2010

In this episode, Rishi discusses his family’s move back to Trinidad.

In episode one, Rishi talked about his family’s move to Canada from Trinidad.

February 9th, 2010


Conservatives have long criticized the lingering effects of the 1960s, and not without reason. The legacy of the “Love Generation” — or, as renamed by some disaffected ex-members, the “Destructive Generation” — is decidedly ambiguous. Not unlike Woodstock itself — “three days of peace and music” which turned Yasgur’s farm into a 600-acre latrine — the era’s idealistic youth, having rocked the world with some positive transformations (particularly in civil rights), left a cultural morass for future generations to clean up. Among the era’s gifts to posterity is the continued popularity of the in-your-face tactics that Saul Alinsky promoted in his cult classic Rules for Radicals, which begins with an “acknowledgment” giving props to “the very first radical… Lucifer.”

When purported revelations emerged during the 2008 campaign which were held to show that Barack Obama was in some way influenced by the Chicago organizer (and which were somewhat verified, oddly, by Alinsky’s son), opponents of The One fell over themselves to denounce  Rules for Radicals.

But a curious thing happened along the way of exposing the alleged Alinsky-like tactics of the modern Left: Some conservatives became Alinskyites themselves.

Case in point: the recent arrest of James O’Keefe, who shot to fame last September after he and a female undergrad, Hannah Giles, dressed as a pimp and prostitute to secretly videotape ACORN employees who seemed eager to aid their purported illegal activities. As the 25-year-old self-described “investigative journalist” began to make national news (in stories featuring photos and video of the barely legal Giles in her “hooker” garb), he boasted to the New York Post  that he was using Alinsky’s tactics against the Left to beat them at their own game. When posting his ACORN videos on the Big Government blog, he often pointed out which of Alinsky’s rules he used to make the clips.

The future of conservative activism?

O’Keefe’s contention that his

February 5th, 2010

Rev. Frank Desiderio, CSP, facilitates forgiveness retreats throughout the United States (forgivenessretreats.org), featuring the award-winning documentary The Big Question: A Film About Forgiveness, which he executive-produced while president of Paulist Productions. The film tells dramatic stories of astonishing acts of forgiveness, courage and grace, and features psychologists and scientists who study the impact of forgiveness on the human condition, and some of the greatest spiritual leaders of our time including Nobel Laureate Archbishop Desmond Tutu, The Venerable Thich Nhat Hanh, Sr. Helen Prejean, Dr. Deepak Chopra and Rev. Joseph Lowery.

“How to Let Go of a Grudge” forgiveness retreats (forgivenessretreats.org) will be held at religious and holistic centers throughout the United States and have been booked already in Michigan, the Washington, D.C. area and Los Angeles for late 2009 and 2010. Rev. Desiderio will also be presenting at the Religious Education Congress of the Catholic Archdiocese of Los Angeles in March.

Starting this month The Big Question: A Film About Forgiveness will be available to the public at Vision Video. It is available for individual or group purchase through the Vision Video catalog and online.

February 4th, 2010


Job takes a look in the mirror. He brushes his teeth and slaps his face, trying to wake up for his first day on the job as a maintenance man at the local zoo. Staring back at him is a man with a blonde mullet and a face full of stubble, a beer gut contained only by a stained white tank top and sweatpants.

He lives in a one-bedroom home. His moods determine the wallpaper, decorations and furniture in the house. Something seems to be missing; he can’t get his comfort level back into the green.

He is lonely because he has no friends. He cries upward, out beyond his world, for assistance, for a salvation that never comes. He feels abandoned by his creator, his father, his God.

In the computer game, The Sims, you create a man or a woman, then monitor your creation through various meters that dictate the amount of assistance needed to help the virtual being live a digital life — with dangers and comforts found in reality, including death. I made Job. I helped him through the tough times by forcing him to read books and watch TV. But it wasn’t enough. His happiness plummeted after about two months of living alone. So I created a family and moved them into a home I built next door. Their last name was Beelzebub.

When I ordered Job to start playing chess with Lucifer, his oldest son, he began to find happiness through this new relationship, but his health dropped because he had troubles in the kitchen, always burning his food and starting grease fires. He could use the microwave successfully, but his energy level was not augmented by the microwave meals. He had to learn to prepare something more substantial, so I bought him a cookbook and he finally got the hang of things.

I kept him in shape by adding an indoor gym to the home. I also had him find a job in the newspaper as a zoo maintenance man. He read mechanics

February 2nd, 2010

FPG2010tout-inside1Last year’s FastPrayGive Lent calendar was an enormous success.  The idea behind it was that we wanted people to look at the Lenten season as more than just a time to give up chocolate.

Every day we offered readers a Daily Jolt moment of inspiration and contemplation as well as opportunities to practice in simple useful ways the ancient Lenten traditions of fasting, prayer and almsgiving.

We also peppered the calendar with incentives throughout and a grand prize right before Easter.  We’re giving away even more incentives this year but we want our readers to help us build the new edition of our calendar!  Send us your ideas for a Daily Jolt (see examples below) and, if we use yours, we’ll send you some Busted Halo® Swedish Fish. Remember, like the Daily Jolt, entries don’t have to be simply text, they can be video, audio or some combination as well. Submissions do, however, need to be brief, surprising and provocative to be chosen. Send submissions to dailyjolt@bustedhalo.com.

Some examples of our FastPrayGive Daily Jolts are listed below:

“To be a Christian without prayer is no more possible than to be alive without breathing.”
–Martin Luther King, Jr.

Fast from thoughtlessness.
Pray for one minute on the gifts or the people in your life you have been given that you sometimes take for granted.
Give by going out of your way to offer a genuine compliment to someone you encounter and perform one small act of kindness.

“There are many things that are essential to arriving at true peace of mind, and one of the most important is faith, which cannot be acquired without prayer.”
–John Wooden, UCLA Coach

Fast from breakfast and dinner today.
Pray for those who miss breakfast and dinner every day.
Give the cost of those two meals (at least $10) to your FastPrayGive Bowl.  (Your FastPrayGive Bowl is a container you’ve set aside to hold the money saved from various fasting challenges, to be used for whatever charity you choose at the end of Lent.)

“We make a living by what we get, …

February 1st, 2010


I know where I’ll be every Monday and Tuesday evening, and on Sunday mornings. And I know what I’ll be doing first thing every day. This is in stark contrast to a half dozen years ago. Then, the only thing you could count on from me was that I’d probably be alone in my apartment, though I probably wouldn’t answer the phone. I had no regular weekly commitments. Not a one. When I was invited to social events, I didn’t RSVP; I’d just show up or not — that way I could decide at the last minute. My decision was usually no. This change happened gradually, but it is the result of two large events — renewed sobriety and a radical deepening of my spiritual life — and one simple tool that I learned along the way: making commitments nonnegotiable.

Being unwaveringly faithful to commitments is seen today as quaint, almost anachronistic. Obedience and discipline are not very popular words. I want you to consider increasing the number of commitments in your life. Having nonnegotiable appointments gives life structure, gives you comfort, reduces anxiety, raises the esteem in which you’re held, and simply makes life easier to manage. It also guarantees you do some things that are good for you that might not otherwise get done.

Our society tells us we can have, and should want to have, whatever we want whenever we want it. We’re told that “The Man” — our boss, parents, religion, government — wants to limit us, and that the true American spirit, the true “modern” spirit, is “free.” We might nominally remain members of families, companies, communities and religions, but don’t tell us we have to do something we don’t agree with or we shed those obligations in a flash.

But that rugged-individualist freedom is an illusion. It exists in denial of the fact that there are trade-offs when choices are made, that we can’t just do whatever we want whenever we want without consequences. We want no commitments and no consequences. But as Scott Peck says in

January 29th, 2010

Benita describes how a routine traffic stop has turned her life upside down.

In episode one, Benita discusses her background and the difficulties she faced growing up.

January 27th, 2010


No good deed goes unpunished.

How many of us have used that phrase at one time or another? Sometimes it means that we secretly wanted more gratitude than we got in return for our trouble. Sometimes it’s a preemptive excuse for not going to the trouble in the first place. In general, it is a lousy phrase, and I hate it when I hear myself using it.

Nevertheless, I have learned that there are genuine risks to trying to help others, and it is best to stop and anticipate those risks before leaping into situations we may not fully understand. Otherwise, the results can be the very opposite of what we intended to achieve.

I think of Jack Henry Abbott, the self-educated career criminal whose book on life behind bars, In the Belly of the Beast, came to the attention of the writer Norman Mailer in 1981. Impressed with Abbott’s talent, Mailer involved a number of other literary figures in a successful effort to get Abbott paroled, and for a brief while Abbott became a sort of poster child for redemption through literature — until, just a few months out of prison and living in a halfway house on New York’s Lower East Side, Abbott stabbed and killed an unarmed stranger over a trivial misunderstanding outside a restaurant. Ironically, the young man he killed, Richard Adan, was also a writer, an aspiring actor and playwright in his twenties who had just gotten married.

In the aftermath of the killing, it became clear that no one involved in gaining parole for Abbott understood the extent of his pathology, or the difficulty of taking a man who had spent almost his entire life behind bars and reintroducing him to civil society. Yet the warning signs had been there for anyone who took the time to stop and look: Abbott had grown up in a series of foster homes and juvenile reformatories, and had spent most of his adult life in high-security prisons, with frequent intervals in solitary confinement for violent behavior. His skillfully written memoir described …

January 26th, 2010


Having spent more than three decades chronicling Catholic life as an author of novels, short stories, essays, memoirs and biographies, Mary Gordon decided to take what some might consider a radical leap for a Catholic: she actually read the bible. In Reading Jesus, Gordon attempts to understand the rise of fundamentalism by engaging the Gospels herself as a reader. The volume that resulted from this challenge is a compelling blend of meditations, reflections and memories on her own faith life and the evolution of her belief. In the interview that follows, the Barnard professor reflects on the experience of truly reading — for the first time — stories she has heard her entire life, as well as her complicated — and often strained — relationship with the institutional Catholic Church.

Busted Halo: As an English professor as well as a long-time reader and writer, was this the first time you approached the Bible as text?

Mary Gordon: Oh yeah, absolutely. One of the things I had to come to terms with was that this was the first time I really read it, because the kind of Catholic I was brought up, we really didn’t read it. It was a big difference after Vatican II but I was brought up pre-Vatican II. I had never read the Gospels straight through. I’m sixty and I’ve never read them straight through, so for me it was as much a reading as a religious experience.

BH: I like the scene at the beginning when you were in a cab and you became really frustrated at the Pentecostal Christian preacher on the radio talking about hating gays and divorcees and immigrants, etc., and you became fired up about it. Is that really what started all of this?

MG: It was a metaphor for it. It was a metonymy for it. I’m just very upset about the fundamentalist agenda, which is so heavily sexualized, and one of the things that is absolutely the case in the New Testament is that Jesus doesn’t seem very interested

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January 25th, 2010

Want to see more? Watch other episodes of “The Princess, The Priest and the War for the Perfect Wedding”.

Dr. Christine B. Whelan, is an Iowa-based social historian, professor, journalist and author. She is the author of Marry Smart: The Intelligent Woman’s Guide to True Love, and Why Smart Men Marry Smart Women.

Fr. Eric Andrews CSP is the President of Paulist Productions, the film and television ministry of the Paulist Fathers, located in Los Angeles, California. Prior to entering the priesthood, he worked for Jim Henson and the Muppets on a variety of television productions.

January 22nd, 2010

Giselle discusses the incident that forced her to look at the immigration issue.

January 21st, 2010

Check the map for Brittany, Samuel and Shiloh’s route!

#16 Meet Deacon Jack Orlandi

The gang stop by Penn State University before Kate and Sam fight it out.

#15 Meet Steve Bauer and Dustin Rhodes

Steve and Dustin discuss their love for Busted Halo and where Steve finds God.

>#14 Shiloh smells bears.

The gang encounter a bump in the road and bears near their campsite.

#13 Busted Halo cofounder Fr. Brett Hoover, CSP

Fr. Brett fills us in on what he’s up to.

#12 Meet Fr. Al Moser, CSP

Father Al discusses what drew him to become a priest after serving in WWII.

#11 Meet Jack Liu

Jack shows Brittany around UC Berkeley’s campus and talks about being Catholic in Taiwan and where he finds God.

#10 Two words: clown motel

Brittany and the gang get lost in Nevada and pass by the pure nightmare of a clown motel.

#9 Meet Gina Zaccagnini

A FOCUS missionary talks about the challenges she faces as a young adult returning to her faith.

#8 Meet Adam Rose

Brittany talks with Adam Rose about where he finds God and how he found Busted Halo.

#7 Story vs. Reality

Samuel struggles with false advertising. And driving, always with the driving!

#6 – Meet Jacob Laskowski

A FOCUS minister at Bradley University talks about his progression as a Catholic and the Joy of his life.

#5 – Supermarket stray

Brittany and Samuel debate what to do with a stray dog in Indiana.

#4 – Yom Kippur and action figures

Samuel’s mom talks about her personal experience with the Day of Atonement. Brittany searches for Father

January 20th, 2010


This past January 22 was the 36th anniversary of Roe v. Wade and the legalization of abortion in the United States. There aren’t very many other days in the United States that manifest such division. I can’t think of any other anniversary that has consistently been celebrated with public demonstrations of opposing beliefs and emotions. Some, including such high profile figures as Alan Keyes, have compared the abortion debate in this country to the debate regarding slavery in the 19th century. That’s a pretty serious comparison considering that that debate was resolved by a civil war.

The latest Gallup Poll conducted between May 7 and May 10, 2009, found that for the first time since this question was first posed in a Gallup Poll in 1995 more Americans (51 percent) consider themselves to be “pro-life” than “pro-choice” (42 percent) with respect to the abortion issue. While I am heartened by the information, I don’t have the same optimism that some pro-life groups have that this will suddenly change the law. And, whether it’s rooted in my own cynicism or in my basic distrust of politics, I don’t think that simply “voting pro-life” will do the trick either.

Before I go any further, let me insert a disclaimer. I personally can never vote for a pro-choice candidate when a comparable pro-life candidate is also running. However, I have lived through the presidency of three pro-life presidents, as well as a Republican-led Congress. As far as abortion is concerned, not much has changed. With a track record like that, I can understand my peers who don’t get the logic behind voting for pro-life candidates as the answer to the abortion debate.
Changing the reality regardless of Roe v. Wade

Most women must pass a church on their way to have their abortion. I wonder what the symbol of that church building is communicating to each of those women?

While Catholics receive information from their bishops urging them to vote pro-life, I don’t ever remember hearing with as much emphasis other ways that we can …

January 19th, 2010


A ventriloquist’s cartoonish dummy can vocalize insults that would earn the ventriloquist himself a punch in the nose. In much the same way, on “harmless looking” adult animated comedy shows humorists can get away with things they never could on a live-action program.

As a rabbi with a lifelong passion for comedy, I often find myself torn between my love of a good (or even a bad!) joke, and reverence for my religious beliefs. The TV program that challenges my sensibilities the most is probably The Family Guy.

A recent episode of the notorious and unfailingly offensive show — called “Family Goy” — skewered a host of clichés with even more blatant disregard for propriety than usual.

In that episode, Lois, the mom on the show, discovers that her mother, Barbara Pewterschmidt, is a Holocaust survivor who had later renounced her Judaism — to help her husband get into country clubs. (“It was the right thing to do, dear,” says Mrs. Pewterschmidt ).

“So Grandma Hebrewberg is actually Jewish?!” exclaims Lois.

“Yes,” her mother explains. “When she moved to America, her family changed their name. It was originally Hebrewbergmoneygrabber.”

“Family Goy” includes the return of Jewish accountant Max Weinstein, the popular mensch character from a well-known earlier episode called “When You Wish Upon a Weinstein.”

The newer script, written by Mark Hentemann, takes a few dark, mean-spirited turns.

At first, Peter embraces his wife’s Jewish heritage, going so far as donning a tallit, kippah and Star of David necklace (chest hair included). He even adopts a Hebrew name that is nothing more than a long guttural “chchchchchch” sound.

When Lois objects, Peter kvetches: “Leave it to a Jew to take all the fun out of being a Jew.”

A dark, mean-spirited turn

Peter is then visited by the ghost of his father Francis, who warns him that he will go to hell for renouncing his (nominal) Catholicism. Sure enough, the next day, Peter turns anti-Semitic. That is, he attempts to shoot Lois with a sniper rifle!

Incredibly, Peter is purposely emulating Amon Leopold Göth, the Plaszów concentration camp commandant featured

January 18th, 2010

Fra Angelico's The Conversion of St. Augustine (my patron saint)

I’ve been taken aback these last few weeks by all the retrospectives and their universal declaration that the “aughts” were an awful decade. Objectively, it’s hard to argue as they trot out disaster after disaster, setback after setback. And when pressed, I recall that as the decade began I had a six-figure salary at a high-flying dot-com, millions to come with the genuinely likely public offering, and a beautiful girlfriend. I had none of those things within a few years. But I need to be reminded of the losses and setbacks and derailed career, because my perception of the story line of the decade is entirely different. For me the aughts weren’t awful; they were awesome.

You see, for me the key events of the decade are: reclaiming my sobriety, my conversion and baptism, and feeling and answering the call to return to writing, with a new focus on spiritual work. The past decade has in many ways been the most joyous of my life. It has been a period of spiritual growth, of expanding community, and of a radically increased sense of usefulness and purpose.

There’s an obvious connection here. As I said in my column, “Losing your footing and finding the ground“, losing the material things that define our lives can shake us into adjusting our focus, our priorities.

But mine is not a neat and tidy conversion story of: “My life was pointless and painful, then I found God, and now everything is rosy.” For me, the life stripped away by the dot-com bubble burst and 9/11 did matter and, in many ways, was good. I looked forward to going to work every morning and figuring out how to bring more music into people’s lives. My work was both creative and challenging. I lost a good thing. And the same was certainly true of my relationship.

January 15th, 2010

haiti3-insideLast September my mother returned to Haiti after a seven-year absence from her home country. It was a brief trip involving minor family matters and she came back telling us how amazed she was at the economic growth she had seen. Many families had personal computers or cell phones. Some of the small villages had better roads and bridges. After the tragic events there this past week the country my mother visited just a few short months ago no longer exists. In the wake of the earthquake I keep thinking of the “what if’s:” What if my mother had traveled last week instead? What if I had gone to visit her? What if my sister had finally found the money to spend Christmas, New Year’s in Port-au-Prince? The “what if’s” are choking my family right now. Since Tuesday we don’t even know how sad to be.

There is a distinct difference between mourning for a country and mourning for a beloved niece or cousin, and in my family’s New York City home we’ve been vacillating between both of those states. My father, an emotional guy by nature, started crying Wednesday morning. We got an e-mail about the village he grew up in; it had a church with a kindergarten attached. Both structures collapsed killing everyone inside. His aunt with lung cancer was pulled out of the rubble of her home, with her life and not much else. My mother has a cousin and sister living in Port-au-Prince that she speaks to at least once a week. Both women have several children. She hasn’t heard anything. Over the past week my mother, who is a quiet person, has become even more silent. My siblings and I are worried.

Meanwhile I’m supposed to be studying for a Neurology exam, working at my school’s library and finding bloggers for “Busted Borders.” Instead I’ve been watching CNN, MSNBC and the local news in hopes to see someone we know in the footage of a ruined hospital—it hasn’t happened. Somehow, I am supposed to be living life …

January 14th, 2010

Jean Montrevil and his family, from whom he is currently separated while in an ICE detention facility awaiting deportation to Haiti

Jonathan Freed hasn’t eaten since New Year’s Eve. The South Florida immigrants’ rights activist is one of six people who say they will not eat until President Obama puts a stop to deportations that separate immigrants from their American families. (Download the letter to the president.)

After a few days he stopped being hungry or thinking of food, he said. Instead he is consistently queasy, and his head is a little foggy.

The hunger strikers are part of a increasingly impatient immigrant movement that wants to see a moratorium on deportations until comprehensive immigration reform is enacted by Congress.

So Freed and his companions are camping on the grounds of St. Ann’s Mission in Naranja, Florida. Naranja is a community filled with Mexican, Guatemalan and Haitian immigrants, too many of whom, Freed said, are at risk of deportation either because they are in the country illegally or because they’ve committed crimes ICE (US Immigration and Customs Enforcement) deems worthy of exile.

“In our community the amount of enforcement is ripping families apart,” he said Wednesday. Freed, who is executive director of We Count!, a immigrant rights organization, acknowledges that the hunger strike is a dramatic step — and one that could fail. But more traditional forms of protest haven’t worked, he said.

“People have marched, written letters, held rallies and vigils. We’ve done all that. The situation has become so critical we felt we had to do something dramatic,” said Freed.

So for thirteen days now Freed and five others — among them undocumented immigrants with American children — have slept in a tent on the church grounds and spent their days explaining their action to visitors, keeping each other company and praying.

“It’s a political action, but it’s also a spiritual action that you try to get God to intercede and change the hearts of those in government,” Freed said.

A senseless policy — a family suffers

That is

January 14th, 2010

haiti-insideEarlier this week a devastating earthquake rocked Haiti and we are learning only now of the complete destruction that has fallen on the Haitians. Early estimates are putting the death toll at 50,000. Here are ways to help:

Follow the lastest developments on the Catholic Relief Services site and blog.
Catholic News Service has this list of ways to help.
Tips For Funding Haiti Earthquake Relief Efforts from Charity Navigator
You can even donate with your mobile phone via Red Cross, by txting “YELE” to 501501 for a donation of $5, or “HAITI” to 90999 to donate $10. The charge will show up on your cell phone bill.

May God comfort and be with the Haitians, and may He be merciful to us for the ways we have failed them and guide us in ways we can serve.

January 12th, 2010


As a natural healer, I noticed that some clients got well in a reasonable amount of time while others, even though they might have the same complaint and receive the same treatments, never improved. This was a conundrum for me until I met Don Elijio Panti. In 1982, my family moved to Belize and I began searching for a local healer to teach me about the medicinal plants of my new home. Everyone I asked said, “You have to go see Elijio Panti in San Antonio.”

Don Elijio, a traditional Mayan healer, was already ninety years old when we met. It took a full year of visits to his stick and thatch clinic in the Maya Mountains of Western Belize before he agreed to teach healing to a gringa. Over the next twelve years, he taught me the uses of more than five hundred medicinal plants, as well as folk massage, acupuncture with stingray spines, cupping, herbal baths and prayer. Prayer, he said, was the most important tool in his work. After a year as his apprentice, I saw that Don Elijio was much more than an herbalist. He was, in fact, one of the last living Maya shamans of Central America.

During this apprenticeship, two aspects of his ancient medical system impressed me the most. The first was his attention to women’s health. More than half of the one hundred patients who trekked on foot to his clinic each week were women with menstrual complaints or fertility problems. “The uterus is a woman’s center,” he told me. “If it is not in good health, then her life will be out of balance physically, emotionally and spiritually.” He treated these women with phenomenal success, using a five-thousand-year-old method of abdominal massage that repositions the woman’s uterus in its rightful place. Now I teach these Maya Abdominal Massage techniques all over the world.

The second was his emphasis on there being a spiritual dimension to many forms of illness. People came from all over Central America to consult with Don Elijio about matters of …

January 12th, 2010

Rishi talks about his family’s move to Canada from Trinidad.

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