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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November 17th, 2009

In this video, Walter talks about his love for creating music.

In video 4, Walter talks about how soccer has helped him cope with his immigration issues.

In video 3, Walter talks about the difficulties of facing an uncertain future.

In video 2, Walter talks more about how he did not know he was undocumented until he was applying for college.

In video 1, Walter explains how he was caught by ICE and detained for twenty day.

November 17th, 2009

rendezvous_tout-flashIn Rendezvous with G-d, twentysomething blogger and journalist Monica Rozenfeld explores what it actually means as a young Jewish woman in New York City to have a relationship with G-d.

From sitting at dinner tables with the ultra-Orthodox, non-believers and everything in-between, Monica asks herself tough questions about religion and spirituality. What does it mean? Does it matter? And where can I find some?

In her new blog Rozenfeld explores the issues of faith, religion and spirituality, and invites readers on her Jewish journey to the random places she meets G-d.

Starting now, you can find this new Busted Blog at bustedhalo.com/rendezvouswithg-d, and on the Busted Halo homepage.

November 13th, 2009


For Christmas one year, when I was in high school, my grandpa gave me the video of The Sound of Music. I was thrilled: my favorite movie, the one I’d loved since childhood, was mine to watch at will.

My cousin Mark, in his early twenties at the time, regarded my new tape with good-natured disdain. “That’s such a corny movie,” he said.

I froze in horror. “It is not corny!” I answered vehemently. Not my finest comeback, but outrage was making me inarticulate. We went a few rounds. Neither of us conceded any turf, so we left it at that. It was Christmas, after all.

But here’s the thing: in some deep secret part of myself, I knew that Mark was right. And now, twenty years later, I will freely admit it to the world. Yes, The Sound of Music is a very corny movie.

But it’s a corny movie that has profoundly shaped my life.

This year marks the fiftieth birthday of The Sound of Music. In November of 1959, the play opened on Broadway; six years later, the film version was released, to immense popular acclaim. My own acquaintance with the musical came in 1977, when I was four. That was the year that my mom took my sister Amy and me, along with our neighbors Becky and Doug and their mom, to see the film when it came to the local theatre.

A deep impression

The movie impressed us kids deeply. Back at home, Amy and Becky ran across the lawn twirling like juvenile Marias. I, by virtue of my age, had to be a Nazi storm trooper with Doug. We rode our Big Wheels ferociously down the sidewalk, on the hunt for imaginary von Trapps cowering in graveyards. We were too young to know that you never, under any circumstances, want to be a Nazi. In fact, we did not even know what a Nazi was, except that they were the only ones in the movie who got to drive really fast.

As the years rolled along, The Sound of Musicwas

November 11th, 2009

In this video, Walter talks about how soccer has helped him cope with his immigration issues.

In video 3, Walter talks about the difficulties of facing an uncertain future.

In video 2, Walter talks more about how he did not know he was undocumented until he was applying for college.

In video 1, Walter explains how he was caught by ICE and detained for twenty day.

November 9th, 2009

kicking_tout-flashAs a Paulist seminarian Tom Gibbons has spent the past three years immersed in the academic study required of any man who will be ordained a Roman Catholic priest. During that time, Gibbons has written a lot about the experience, and his new blog, Kicking and Screaming is an intimate look at the questions and doubts he’s struggled with over the past few years while studying for the priesthood, as well some of the answers he’s come up with along the way.

Now at the halfway point in his formation process, Tom’s blog will also be a window into what his life is like now that he’s outside the seminary classrooms doing hands-on ministry work at a parish in Austin, Texas. Gibbons’ blend of honesty and humor offers readers a rare glimpse into the deeply personal nature of what the question of “vocation” is really all about, and how discovering one’s true vocation — religious or otherwise — is a universal journey we are all called to go on — even if we sometimes can only do so Kicking and Screaming.

Starting now, you can find this first of the new Busted Blogs at bustedhalo.com/kickingandscreaming, and on the Busted Halo homepage.

Stay tuned for the launch of Monica Rozenfeld’s new blog Rendezvous with G-d next week.

November 9th, 2009


As a young professor at a big university, I’m able to talk to my students about rather personal issues like hooking up, relationships and sex. In one class, I asked students to diagram, on a large whiteboard, the evolution of a relationship — from first meeting to marriage. This was a fascinating exercise, and highlighted one key challenge in the dating game for young adults: “Hook-ups” are very common, but no group of college students can agree on exactly what the term means.

Studies tell us that more than half of college relationships begin with a hook-up. Translation: Before two college students have a dinner date, a meaningful conversation or even exchange phone numbers, there’s a good chance of a hook-up.

But what is a hook-up?

Does hooking up mean smooching? Some intense making-out? Maybe some hands wandering? Or does it mean sex? And what are the emotional expectations surrounding a hook-up?

Back in my day (I graduated from college in 1999, so a while ago, but not eons in social change terms), if a friend told me she’d hooked up with a cute guy the night before, I’d have assumed they made-out, maybe a bit more, but certainly not had sexual intercourse. Today, some of my students tell me that hooking up usually means sex — or “at least” oral sex — while others say just kissing can be considered a “hook-up” as well.

And it’s this ambiguity that causes problems.

False information

If you hear tales of many friends “hooking up” and you assume that it’s sex, then you would also assume that everyone else is having a lot more sex than you are. Then, when you’re in an intimate situation, you might go farther sexually than you might otherwise feel comfortable doing, because you think that “everyone’s doing it.”

But everyone isn’t doing “it”: Repeated surveys of college students find that the average undergrad has one or fewer sexual partners in a year.

Think of it this way: If the reality is that hook-ups are more innocent — passionate kissing, for example

November 4th, 2009


Thousands of you read, responded to and shared my August piece about the health care debate and Catholicism. We are now in the final phase of the Congressional process and some things are clearer than they were then. Catholic Church leaders wanted undocumented immigrants included in the bill. They are not. Sadly, the Church stands almost alone among organizations in this country in its concern for the undocumented. They wanted universal coverage, and to the surprise of many, it looks like it will happen.

But, though the House bill does not fund or encourage abortion services, the bishops and most Catholics wanted specific language keeping abortion out of the bill entirely, and making it impossible for a future administrative action to change this, effectively bringing the Hyde Amendment into the bill and codifying it in a way that is stronger than its current status. This still could happen, as pro-life Democrats take up the cause. But what if it doesn’t?

The US bishops have a clear answer: Kill the bill. The US Conference of Catholic Bishops began a massive final push on health care this past weekend, hitting 17,000 parishes with a bulletin insert and email campaign to be distributed over the next few weeks. The bishops’ final stand on the absence of strong enough pro-life language: “If these serious concerns are not addressed, the final bill should be opposed.”

But what of universal coverage? What of help for the uninsured, some of whom die and suffer for lack of medical care?

In September, Cardinal Renato Martino, head of the Vatican’s Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, expressed a very different view, equally grounded in Catholic teaching. Having lived for 16 years in the US, Cardinal Martino said he “could never explain” the fact that a large number of Americans lacked health care assistance, something every other developed nation provides for its citizens, concluding, about President Obama’s efforts for health care reform, “So I cannot but applaud this initiative.”

As I said in my earlier piece,

November 3rd, 2009


If you were able to conduct a free association exercise among Catholics, the term “Jesuit” would most likely evoke responses like “educators,” “intelligent,” “worldly” and perhaps even “liberal.” But as the largest male religious order in the Catholic church, the Society of Jesus—as the Jesuits are officially known—has nearly 20,000 members spread out across 112 nations around the globe who are involved in an endless variety of work ranging from education and pastoral ministry to medicine, the law, social justice etc. The one common bond that ties this diverse international group together however is their experience of the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius.

Formulated in the early 16th century after Ignatius of Loyola’s conversion, the Spiritual Exercises represent Ignatius’ gradual understanding—through prayer—of how God worked in his daily life. It is a powerful tradition that enables people to understand their relationship with the divine through their own unique experiences in the world. While all Jesuits are required to do the Exercises in a 30-day silent retreat at the beginning of their formation, countless others—religious and lay alike—feel drawn to Ignatius’ spiritual insights and do the Exercises as well. The Jesuit Collaborative is a an East coast organization, headed by Jim Conroy SJ, whose mission is to promote the Spiritual Exercises outside the Society of Jesus. In the following interview, Fr. Conroy discusses the origins of Ignatius’ approach to prayer and why young seekers looking to make sense of their world are often drawn to it.

Busted Halo: Can you tell me what exactly the Spiritual Exercises are?

Jim Conroy: Sure. The Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius is a 500-year-old tradition of prayer based on the experiences of Ignatius of Loyola, who was a 16th century solider, courtier of the Spanish court. He was wounded in a battle in Pamplona as this massive conversion experience, and then begins to go more deeply into his relationship with God. And it’s really out of those experiences — a reflection on life and how God was present within

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November 3rd, 2009

In this video, Walter talks about the difficulties of facing an uncertain future.

In video 2, Walter talks more about how he did not know he was undocumented until he was applying for college.

In video 1, Walter explains how he was caught by ICE and detained for twenty day.

November 2nd, 2009


I want to share with you a little method with a big impact: the Welcoming Prayer. This unassuming little method has helped me many times. What’s your first impulse when you have a “bad” feeling? If you’re like me, it’s usually to suppress it. But we all know that doesn’t work. What you focus on sticks around. This is one of the big lessons you learn through meditation. If you try to suppress a thought, it becomes your entire focus. Worse than before.

But while a regular meditation practice can inculcate a balanced relationship with your feelings and emotions, with the serenity that comes from that, sometimes you need help now, in the field. You can’t exactly sit down on the sidewalk and start meditating. (Though there may very well be a church nearby.)

And sometimes, you’re too caught up in the thoughts that are swirling around a negative emotion, and meditation just seems impossible. I encourage you to meditate anyway in those situations, but if you want some extra help, the Welcoming Prayer might help.

Palmer: How do you do it — block out fear?
Gibbs: You don’t. It’s what you do with it.

You’ve heard all the axioms about going through rather than around problems. Well, the Welcoming Prayer is a method for doing this with bad feelings. The basic idea is that when you are experiencing a negative feeling, you don’t pray for it to go away, you welcome it. Let’s say you are feeling fearful. You literally say to yourself, “Welcome, fear.”

You don’t detach from it. You get to know it.

October 30th, 2009


Tom Cornwell had a secret stashed in the ottoman of his Savannah, Georgia, home. A former Jehovah’s Witness elder and minister for 20 years, he worshipped the Egyptian goddess Isis. Cornwell, 62, thought his secret was safe — until his devout Jehovah’s Witness wife announced she’d found his cache of witchcraft books.

Cornwell (not his real name) came out of the pagan closet to her that night, and says she took it better than expected. “I think the Goddess was watching over me,” he says.

A year later, he studies with a Wiccan coven and is a member of Savannah Pagan Meetup. Cornwell, who still hasn’t come out publicly about his beliefs, says he joins a growing number of pagans in the South peeking out of the broom closet.

Three years ago, only one pagan group reigned in Savannah; today nine exist, says Stevie Kirby, organizer of Savannah Witches and assistant organizer of Savannah Pagan. “It’s not easy being a pagan or a witch,” says Kirby. “And it doesn’t help if you’re in the Bible Belt,” he sighs.

Kirby says members of his group have lost their jobs, had their cars and homes vandalized, and been beaten and chased out of their residences because of their religious beliefs.

October 27th, 2009


The sudden death of Michael Jackson this past summer took the world by surprise and led to spontaneous fan tributes around the globe and countless conversations about the King of Pop’s place in popular culture. Many of those conversations are bound to be revisited with the release this week of This Is It, a film that promises behind the scenes footage of Jackson’s final days as he was preparing for sold out London concerts. While many of the discussions sparked by his passing have dealt with his enormous talent (and his equally enormous strangeness), his ever-shifting appearance, the charges of pedophilia and the issue of race, we are fairly certain that the conversation that erupted in the Busted Halo® office, is unique. Over the course of the following exchange between Tom Gibbons — a white thirtysomething seminarian studying to be a Paulist priest — and Mirlande Jeanlouis — a young, black Haitian-American — the conversation shifted from topics on many people’s minds, such as Jackson’s status as a role model, race in America and pedophilia allegations, to a much more unusual one on how charges of child molestation and the Church’s sex abuse scandal affect someone studying for the priesthood.

Mirlande Jeanlouis: Our original conversation was sparked over the idea of Michael Jackson being a role model. What did you think of that when you first heard people saying it?

Tom Gibbons: I remember watching the news and finding out he had died. Everyone was gathering at the Apollo Theater and there were a few people there who said he was a role model. At that moment I thought to myself, “I have never in my life thought of Michael Jackson as a role model.”

I was always able to appreciate that he was an amazingly talented person and that he brought a lot to the music community and to pop culture… but when someone said “role model” it was hard for me to forget all the other stuff that went along with Michael Jackson — the

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October 25th, 2009


What would you do for spiritual enlightenment and personal success? Would you agree to spend 36 hours alone in the desert without food or water to help clear your mind and find your true potential? Would you follow a trusted leader into a dark, hot tent to experience a version of a centuries-old Native American sweat lodge ritual? History shows that in the name of self-help, many people will do just that — and more.

Three people died and more than a dozen others were injured as a result of an Oct. 8 retreat in Sedona, Arizona, led by James Arthur Ray, a nationally known self-help guru. According to interviews with participants and their family members, more than 50 people — within hours of returning from a desert “vision quest,” and dehydrated from lack of food and water in the previous day and a half — followed Ray into a 20-by-20-foot makeshift sweat lodge of wood, plastic tarps and blankets. It was the surprise culmination of his “Spiritual Warrior” event, for which participants had paid as much as $9,695 per person.

For nearly two hours, Ray sat at the only exit of the small lodge, encouraging the group to “go full-on” and “push past your self-imposed and conditioned borders.” Periodically, he brought in glowing red rocks to intensify the heat inside the dark structure, where men and women sat or lay down in meditation. At the ritual’s conclusion, seemingly unaware of the bodies of the unconscious lying around him, Ray emerged triumphantly, witnesses said, pumping his fist in the air because he had passed his own endurance test.
Part of America’s self-reliant culture

Ray and many gurus like him motivate thousands of smart, accomplished adults by borrowing from two very powerful thought traditions — modern psychology and esoteric spirituality — creating a one-two punch that’s nearly impossible to resist. If you had been there, you might be dead, too.

What happened in Sedona is not an unfortunate coda to a crazy, fringe event. We have a long history of self-help in America, and to …

October 21st, 2009


Throughout the side chapels and the interior of St. Paul the Apostle Church in the Hell’s Kitchen neighborhood of Manhattan, the historically significant artwork on permanent display now shares space with a compelling and eclectic mix of contemporary pieces. God Doesn’t Like Ugly, as the exhibition is titled, is the third major group exhibition presented by Openings, an international art movement based out of New York — and sponsored by the Paulist Fathers — in which artists explore the connection between their creativity and spirituality. This year’s exhibition, which is free and runs until October 30, represents the work of fifteen artists, who were invited to address the show’s title theme in painting, drawing, mixed media, installation, sculpture and photography. The show’s opening on September 21 attracted more than 500 visitors and drew praise from the Village Voice, which named it one of their Voice Choices, calling it “dazzling” and “twisted” and declaring “there’s not an ugly piece in the bunch.

In one of the world’s great art capitals, overflowing with museums, galleries and artist spaces God Doesn’t Like Ugly is a rare and challenging event. If the juxtaposition of contemporary, non-sacred art with the Catholic church it’s displayed in is provocative, the questions about creativity and belief that the Openings movement invites artists to explore are extraordinary, because they deal with distinct areas of human experience that are frequently viewed as separate from — if not hostile to — one another. Busted Halo® asked the artists to discuss these questions in the context of the work they are displaying.

Photographs by Andrew T. Foster.

Robert Aitchison

How do your pieces relate to the religious space in which they are displayed?

Has religion influenced your art?

The artworks I am presenting explore themes of sacrifice, surrender and transformation; characteristics of Saint Paul, to whom my designated chapel space is dedicated.

Religion offers a framework upon which I can explore my spiritual path towards greater awareness of God. Making art provides a similar framework by constructing an

October 20th, 2009

In this final episode, Prerna talks about the repercussions of leaving Fiji and why she continues to stay and work in the U.S.

In video six, Prerna discusses the fallout with her family, community and school as a result of her new relationship.

In video five, Prerna discusses her first love while growing up in Fiji.

In video four, Prerna talks about her experience biking from Los Angeles to Berkeley, CA.

In video three, Prerna’s family is trying to avoid foreclosure on their home.

In video two, Prerna becomes an activist, a blogger and a volunteer.

In video one, we learn how Prerna, Fijian student, who was applying for residential paperwork, became the only undocumented member of her family.

October 20th, 2009

In this sixth video, Prerna discusses the fallout with her family, community and school as a result of her new relationship.

In video five, Prerna discusses her first love while growing up in Fiji.

In video four, Prerna talks about her experience biking from Los Angeles to Berkeley, CA.

In video three, Prerna’s family is trying to avoid foreclosure on their home.

In video two, Prerna becomes an activist, a blogger and a volunteer.

In video one, we learn how Prerna, Fijian student, who was applying for residential paperwork, became the only undocumented member of her family.

October 20th, 2009


In the white-hot glare of worldwide celebrity there are no shadows, there are only outsized figures of triumph or scorn. They are presented to us as fully formed creations, media amplified surfaces without depth who occupy our fantasies until something else inevitably takes their place. This strange and rare sort of fame — which basketball phenom LeBron James enjoys — generally obscures the flesh and blood reality behind the image. A great deal of the power behind Kristopher Belman’s documentary More Than a Game comes from its ability to trace James’ career back to the time when he was an 11-year-old AAU basketball player, back to the Salvation Army gym in Akron, Ohio, where he befriended three other young players: Sian Cotton, Willie McGee and Dru Joyce III. That “Fab 4″ soon moves way beyond being a talented basketball team. Along with their coach Dru Joyce II, they become a surrogate family whose deep bonds will eventually be sorely tested over a nine-year period by their enormous success as well as LeBron’s incredible talent and star power. Below, Coach Dru Joyce II shares some of the stories with Busted Halo that go beneath the surface, to add some shadow and depth to one of the planet’s most recognized faces.

Busted Halo: One of the things that struck me is that More Than a Game is a film about family and its many different forms. The original Fab Four, the nucleus of the team, got together when they were around eleven years, and LeBron, Sian, Willie and your son Dru very quickly become a family of sorts with you being sort of a father figure. What do you think it was that helped that familial bond to occur so strongly between them?

Coach Joyce: we kind of did this a little different than a lot of travel teams. A lot of travel teams might practice early when they put the team together, but then after they start travelling they stop practicing. But when the guys were

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October 19th, 2009


We’ve all heard the jokes. Ever since the term “baggage” entered popular use thanks to the 80s inner child movement, it’s been both a warning — “I have a lot of baggage” — and a punchline.

Example: A few weeks ago on Jay Mohr’s sitcom, Gary Unmarried, before he meets his ex-wife’s new boyfriend, she says: “And I really like him, so please don’t make that joke about how his strong grip will come in handy when he’s carrying all my baggage, OK?”

The broad definition of baggage is: something from the past that continues to weigh you down.

Christine used the word “fraught” in last week’s excellent column about toxic friends. I love the word fraught. It comes from the same root as freight and literally means “loaded down with baggage.” So many of us are loaded down with baggage from our past. So, literal and spiritual housecleanings are a necessary practice for everyone. And if your past regrets and scars are ruining your present, cleaning your spiritual house can transform your life.

The most common use of the term baggage is trauma or bad experiences from the past that taint your ability to face the present with trust. The most disturbing is child physical or sexual abuse, but many less severe forms come into play too. Typically, when past experience of dating jerks and deep unresolved issues with parents block us from being able to trust and be open with a partner.

October 16th, 2009


I’m an information officer for Catholic Relief Services in Asia. This past month, we’ve had our hands full keeping up with the string of natural disasters that has hit the region. From my home base in Cambodia, I was sent to the Philippines to cover our response to severe flooding; then an earthquake hit Sumatra — one of the islands that make up Indonesia, so I caught a plane to Padang, the city closet to the quake’s epicenter.

I was new to extreme quake damage — its dangers and surprises. The first week of any emergency is usually the toughest; I’ve recorded my impressions of the experience.

Day One
The first sign of trouble is at the airport in Padang, Indonesia: there’s no water in the bathrooms; only big trash cans full of water outside their doors. I skirt the pungent restrooms and grab a taxi.

Driving through the dark — most of the city doesn’t have electricity — it’s hard to tell that a 7.6-magnitude earthquake struck three days ago. The outlines of the buildings look pretty normal, except for, say, every tenth building, which has collapsed. But as we cross a bridge I see an unsettling gash in the pavement. My unspoken question — This thing is stable, right? — will occur with increasing frequency as the days pass.

I arrive at a makeshift compound used by Catholic Relief Services and its partners in Caritas, the worldwide network of Catholic aid agencies. This base for our relief operations is made up of two buildings loaned to us by the Diocese of Padang: one an old, wooden building that might have been used as a Sunday school, to judge from the child-size desks in it; the other a small concrete-and-bricks office building.

In the darkness, I fumble for my keychain flashlight and greet my colleagues — mostly Indonesian CRS staffers, with several Europeans from Caritas.

A young IT wiz named Feri has miraculously hooked us up with an internet connection. It’s late at night, but he’s still here. Turns out he’s staying: …

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October 15th, 2009

In this fifth video, Prerna discusses her first love while growing up in Fiji.

In video four, Prerna talks about her experience biking from Los Angeles to Berkeley, CA.

In video three, Prerna’s family is trying to avoid foreclosure on their home.

In video two, Prerna becomes an activist, a blogger and a volunteer.

In video one, we learn how Prerna, Fijian student, who was applying for residential paperwork, became the only undocumented member of her family.

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