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April 10th, 2014

Want to know why Catholics wave palms on Palm Sunday; wash each other’s feet on Holy Thursday; or kiss the cross on Good Friday? Look no further than Busted Halo’s® two-minute video that describes the final week of Lent we spend preparing for Easter.

April 8th, 2014

Godsvoice-1A few years ago, I was rushing to catch the Staten Island Ferry. Missing the ferry could mean a 30- or 60-minute wait for the next one. I had minutes until the next departure. Nothing else was on my mind.

A man stood at the top of the stairs asking for money. I had seen him several times before. But wouldn’t you know it, of all times, this was the moment that he approached me. My response? “I don’t have any money on me, but I will pray for you.” Little did I know that this was the beginning of one of those unforgettable moments when God breaks through the hustle of everyday life.

“You will?” he asked me.

“Yes, I will,” I responded while at the same time the tension in me was mounting because I HAD TO CATCH THE FERRY.

“Will you pray for me right now?”

Something in his voice made me realize how important my offer was to him.

“Yes,” I responded. “What would you like me to pray for?”

“I want to hear God’s voice.”

“I want to hear God’s voice.” Doesn’t that capture the longing present in each one of our hearts? The reality is that God does speak, but that we have a hard time hearing. God says as much in Deuteronomy: “Surely, this commandment that I am commanding you today is not too hard for you, nor is it too far away. It is not in heaven, that you should say, ‘Who will go up to heaven for us, and get it for us so that we may hear it and observe it?’ Neither is it beyond the sea, that you should say, ‘Who will cross to the other side of the sea for us, and get it for us so that we may hear it and observe it?’ No, the word is very near to you; it is in your mouth and in your heart for you to observe.” Deuteronomy 30:11-14

“What would you like me to pray for?”

“I want to hear God’s voice.”

“I want to hear God’s

April 7th, 2014

CRS Rice Bowl. You might read those words, click on the link, and think that you’re headed toward a tasty recipe on Pinterest. Or a trendy new restaurant. No, not quite.

CRS stands for Catholic Relief Services, an international humanitarian agency of the Catholic community in the United States. CRS Rice Bowl is a way to dedicate Lenten prayer, fasting and almsgiving to help those in need. A CRS Rice Bowl is actually a small cardboard box (rice bowl) where you collect your gifts. Through giving, daily reflections, weekly prayers, meatless recipes, a mobile app and stories of hope from around the world, CRS Rice Bowl engages people — body, mind and soul — in Lenten sacrifice.

This year, CRS Rice Bowl has invited college students to reflect on their Lenten journeys in short videos. A new video is being posted every day of Lent. You can take a look at all of the videos here.

Below are some of the videos and written reflections from the young adults about Lent. See how their spiritual practices are bringing them closer to God and creating a greater awareness of the needs of others.

It’s not too late to use CRS Rice Bowl as part of your Lenten practice! Go to the CRS Rice Bowl website for details.

Breaking a habit 

crs-despina“I have learned that Lent is about conversion rather than just giving something up. Lent is about rejecting our desires and becoming closer to God just as Jesus does when he was tempted by the devil in the wilderness. 

“I chose to give up biting my nails for Lent: A habit I have attempted to break many times in my life but have failed each time. It may be silly, but biting my nails is an unhealthy way for me to deal with my stress. Instead of praying, reflection or reading the Bible, I zone out and bite my nails. I bite my nails when I am bored, I bite my nails when I

April 1st, 2014

It’s April already and though the first day of the month is a time for practical jokes, things get a little more solemn later on as we head into Holy Week. Also, spring is finally here and if you’re looking for a good way to celebrate Earth Day on the 22nd, look no further than the Busted Halo® Virtual Retreat.

April 1st, 2014

The news straight from the Vatican earlier this morning is that Busted Halo’s® own Fr. Steven Bell, CSP, has been named a Roman Catholic cardinal. While it’s rare in modern times for a priest who is not a bishop to become a cardinal, it’s not unheard of. Asked how he felt about this great honor, newly named Steven Cardinal Bell exclaimed, “Amen!”

March 31st, 2014

SpiritualIntrigueLike the dark smudge on your forehead, Lent is something that has already disappeared for many in today’s stressful world. However, observing Lent can alter our perceptions and how we view the world can be greatly transformed. So, while there is still time during this season, all is not lost.

We can take a page from a Jewish rabbi on this. On Yom Kippur he gave out to each member of his congregation a small piece of paper. On one side of it was written: “It’s later than you think!” On the other side, it said, “It’s never too late!” What he was speaking about is a sense of mindful prayerfulness — being in the now with our eyes wide open to the presence of God in so many different and wondrous ways. And, fortunately this Lent, we still have time if we take it now. So, why not reflect on the following four ways Lent can change you?

Simply read and reread the following four ways in the morning during the remainder of Lent. During the day, over lunch or a break, skim through them again, and finally, before you go to bed, give them a final check. In doing this, avoid judging yourself as to how Lent and your life is going. Catch yourself if something spurs the blaming game in which you find yourself thinking negatively of others. And finally, don’t get discouraged if your Lent seems to be less than you want it to be. Just seek to be intrigued with how God is working in your life.

Remember the ashes: The message of “from dust to dust we shall

March 26th, 2014

Pope Francis embraces a patient at St. Francis of Assisi Hospital in Rio de Janeiro. (CNS photo/Reuters ) Pope Francis embraces a patient at St. Francis of Assisi Hospital in Rio de Janeiro. (CNS photo/Reuters )

Recently, I’ve been rereading selections from Henri Nouwen’s writings in the bathroom, as they are short, to the point, and open into deeper reflections. Some may protest at the idea of doing spiritual reading in the bathroom, but I find it a perfect place. No one bothers you. Your cell phone cannot buzz or twitch at you. For just a while you are protected from real life, all except the parents of toddlers who do not respect any kind of doors.

Henri Nouwen was a Dutch priest and theologian of enormous output. He wrote many books, lectured widely, inspired thousands in their spiritual journeys, and wound up living his later years in a L’Arche community in Canada, which pairs mentally abled adults with mentally disabled adults, and both benefit from shared work and connection. His book, The Wounded Healer has influenced countless people, and the way he drew on his own darkness, his sense of unworthiness, makes him a good spiritual companion for someone like me.

During a recent reading in the blessed silence of our necessary, I came across something I’d never realized before — the difference between empathy and compassion. Henri speaks eloquently of how we spend our emotional energy sympathizing with our needy friends, reaching out to troubled ones, and identifying with their situations. We almost see ourselves in their shoes. You know how this goes. We all have friends who have used up our empathy meters. We keep putting in coins — praying, looking around for resources to help them, talking way too long on the phone to help support their shaky selves — and then we collapse because the meter has run out.

When we pray for God’s guidance and open our hands to the startling possibility that maybe — just maybe — we cannot fix the situation but

March 24th, 2014

When I was in grade school I bought two goldfish and named them Calvin and Hobbes, after the beloved comic strip characters. I looked forward to years of watching these small orange creatures swim laps above the neon rocks that lined the bottom of their bowl. Three days later I found Hobbes floating at the top of the tank. Crushed, I scooped him out and placed him on a cotton bed in a small cardboard jewelry box. Determined not to let his short life go unnoticed, I recruited a friend and my younger sister to join in a mid-afternoon funeral procession. Singing “On Eagles Wings,” we marched into the woods behind our house where I had dug a shallow grave (about six inches, rather than feet), and I covered the tiny box with soft earth. I would later mark the spot with a smooth rock on which I had painted the fish’s name in puffy fabric paint.

Anyone who happened upon these proceedings might have viewed them as sweet and childlike, or possibly insane, but generous souls might also label the actions a Corporal Work of Mercy.

The seven Corporal Works of Mercy include feeding the hungry, giving drink to the thirsty, clothing the naked, sheltering the homeless, visiting the sick, visiting the imprisoned and burying the dead. These actions connect us with God by connecting us with each other. They allow us to see Christ in our neighbors. The corporal works of mercy are rooted in the Gospel of Matthew, in which Jesus says, “For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, a stranger and you welcomed me, naked and you clothed me, ill and you cared for me, in prison and you visited me.” Of course the folks listening to Jesus wonder when, exactly, they did these things for him. “Whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me.” These are strong, unambiguous words. We are called to serve God through these acts. But that doesn’t mean …

March 20th, 2014

Georgetown basketball player blocks a shot during a regional final game in 2007. (CNS photo/Mike Segar, Reuters) Georgetown basketball player blocks a shot during a regional final game in 2007. (CNS photo/Mike Segar, Reuters)

As the Madness of March and college basketball descend upon the sporting world, once again there are many Catholic colleges in the mix. Over the years, Georgetown, Marquette, Gonzaga, Notre Dame and many other Catholic schools have been a part of the landscape that is men’s and women’s college basketball. Of the more than 350 schools that compete in Division 1 NCAA basketball, about 10 percent of them are affiliated with or classified as Catholic schools. And year after year, the presence of Catholic schools in the NCAA tournament stays true to the 10 percent, or more often exceeds it. This year, nine of the 68 teams in the men’s bracket are Catholic schools (13 percent) and seven of the 64 teams in the women’s bracket are Catholic schools (11 percent).

Many Catholic schools even gain national recognition through their basketball teams. Without any understanding of Catholic or Jesuit higher education, I remember growing up in the 80s hearing all about Georgetown basketball. And later on, as a cheerleader at University of San Diego, I discovered the collegiality with other schools in the West Coast Conference that came through shared opposition to our communal rival, Gonzaga.

Why are so many Catholic schools good at basketball?

Some conferences have many Catholic schools. My own Fordham Rams and University of San Diego Toreros are in such conferences. Putting aside conference composition, I would like to focus on the particular characteristics and spirituality of Catholic higher education.

Catholic education is holistic; it focuses on developing the whole person. When an athlete comes to one of these schools, it is not only their athletic skill that is fostered, developed and cared for. Athletes in Catholic colleges are developed intellectually, spiritually and ethically. That is not to say that these places are free from imperfection. But the …

March 18th, 2014

"The Glory of Christ" by Stephen B. Whatley (CNS photo/Stephen B. Whatley) “The Glory of Christ” by Stephen B. Whatley (CNS photo/Stephen B. Whatley)You might have heard the phrase during a typical Catholic high school dance. The chaperone would diligently separate hormonal teenagers on the dance floor by yelling, “Make room for Jesus!”

Now, I’ve never experienced this firsthand, but the stories from my friends have stuck with me. And it has occurred to me that this phrase might help challenge us during our Lenten journeys.

A typical question this time of year is “What did you give up for Lent?” Loosely translated: “How will you be depriving yourself this season?”

Unless there is real meaning behind what we’re doing, it can just sound silly. The purpose of Lent is not to further our fitness goals with Hail Mary sit-ups or to lose weight by giving up pastries.

Fr. Miguel Marie Soeherman MFVA, describes Lenten fasting as “a way of preparation or as a means to deny ourselves or to decrease our selfish will so that the will of Christ may grow within.” We typically do this by abstaining from certain foods. It’s a simple way to offer up suffering because we need food, but we can do without varieties of food like chocolate or chips (as much as we try to convince ourselves). To fast from something is to willingly deny ourselves earthly pleasures to, you guessed it, “make room for Jesus.”

In the absence of something sweet, we are made more aware of our bitterness, and turn to God for guidance. It’s like cleaning your room and discovering how much dirt is actually on the floor, and having a friend around to help you sweep up the mess. But we don’t have to take the approach of self-mortification like Saint John of the Cross or Saint Theresa of Avila to get the full picture.

March 13th, 2014
Marcee Treadway Hinds

Mobile, Alabama

marcee-1

I actually met with my parish priest about entering RCIA classes and having my daughter baptized just weeks after Pope Francis was elected. As someone who longed to fully enter the Church, in a way I feel like I was called back at an amazing time.

Pope Francis has, for me, been a guiding light in this journey. Every morning on my way to work I listen to the Catholic Channel’s broadcast of daily Mass from St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York City. On most days, Mass is followed by a segment that features an English translation of Pope Francis’ homily. When Pope Francis speaks, I carry his message with me throughout the day.

As someone with a semi-Catholic upbringing (I was baptized Catholic but my family was not practicing), I always had an interest in the Church. I was always nervous about pursuing my faith because I wasn’t sure where I fit in. Pope Francis has made me feel welcome, as if I am a part of the family now.

I am so thankful that we have an amazing pope who exemplifies Jesus’ teachings. One example is a recent video of Pope Francis, which was presented to a Pentecostal convention. In the video the pope addresses the issue of disunity between different Christian denominations. As I watched, I was brought to tears. As a child, I attended many different Christian churches with friends and families. One thing that always struck me as odd was the aversion among the congregations toward other Christian denominations. Throughout the Gospels, Jesus tells us to love our neighbor as we love ourselves. Here, Pope Francis exemplifies this by reaching out, not as the leader of the Catholic faith, but as a fellow Christian who longs for peace and unity among the followers of our one Lord, Jesus Christ. We might all practice our faith differently, but we are all united by our love for Christ.

Not only am …

March 7th, 2014

Thank you for entering your photos in the Show Us Your Ash Photo Contest! Here are the winners — selected from the photos that received the most votes in the contest:

March 4th, 2014

 

Traditionally, Lent was a time for personal conversion leading up to Easter, during which Christians practiced the spiritual disciplines of fasting, praying and almsgiving to strip away all that is unnecessary and become more mindful of their ultimate dependence on God. Let’s recapture the true meaning of Lent in ways that are actually relevant to your life. Each day throughout Lent, starting on Ash Wednesday, the calendar’s link for that day will become active, revealing a Daily Jolt for spiritual contemplation relating to Lent, and new and practical ideas for fasting, prayer and almsgiving.

This year you can enter our Lent Contest EVERY DAY and be placed in a random drawing to …

March 4th, 2014

If you’re up on all those Catholic trends, this scenario has probably played out during the last couple Lents: You turn down a beer or dessert, explaining that you’ve given it up for these next 40 days. Your Catholic friend smiles tolerantly. “Oh, that’s nice,” she says. “Instead of giving something up, I’m actually adding a daily Bible reading.”

“Adding something” has been the new approach to the old Lenten tradition, and it’s not hard to understand why. For too long, many Catholics have sacrificed something easy or gone through the motions. Worse, some give up things more for self-improvement or dieting purposes than spiritual ones. The motto of those dessert-skippers might as well be “Skinny for God!”

So last year, after decades of giving something up (including, yes, desserts), I decided to try adding something. It was a daily reading. Embarrassingly, I can’t even remember whether it was from the Bible or a devotional. That’s because it didn’t work. As strict as I always was about avoiding a sacrificed treat or activity, I did not manage to get the extra reading done. Ever overscheduled, I seemed to be getting up early and going to bed late enough as it was.

And that is part of why I think old-fashioned sacrifice works better for Lent. Particularly for Americans, it’s countercultural. We constantly take on more — more clubs, commitments and responsibilities. Rarely, if ever, are we asked to sacrifice anything, even in times of duress. During World War II, there were war rations and victory gardens. Infamously, the post-9/11 directive was to go shopping.

March 3rd, 2014

Looking for a quick way to explain Ash Wednesday to your friends? Look no further than Busted Halo’s® two-minute video that describes the day which begins the season of Lent, and why Catholics and many Christians receive ashes on their foreheads.

March 1st, 2014
February 28th, 2014

A scene from Ash Wednesday at Holy Angels Cathedral in Gary, Indiana. (CNS file photo by Karen Callaway, Northwest Indiana Catholic) A scene from Ash Wednesday at Holy Angels Cathedral in Gary, Indiana. (CNS file photo by Karen Callaway, Northwest Indiana Catholic)

We are a few short weeks away from the beginning of Lent — a time when we’ve seen people in their 20s–30s pay particular attention to their spiritual lives. On Ash Wednesday, tens of thousands of young adults who do not regularly attend church will come to receive ashes and take a step toward deepening their faith.

What happens to them the following Sunday? And the weeks after that?

As young adults make a turn in their spiritual journey toward your church on Ash Wednesday, download, print and share this invitation (PDF below) to deepen their relationship with God. We’ve made a color and a black and white version available below for downloading. You can personalize the sheet with your parish information at the bottom and invite people to volunteer to distribute it on Ash Wednesday.

This year, Busted Halo® will feature a wealth of Lenten resources specifically designed to engage, enrich and enlighten young adult spiritual seekers. One of our most popular Lenten offerings is or FAST PRAY GIVE Lenten Calendar (like an Advent calendar — for Lent!). The calendar features daily quotes, along with meaningful and doable daily challenges for fasting, praying and almsgiving. This is just one of the many ways Busted Halo® is working to reach out to people in their 20s–30s — more and more of whom are identifying as “nones” or have no religious affiliation.

Busted Halo® is an online ministry. Your parish is the place they can turn to for an in-person encounter with their faith. We hope you’ll use this invitation as part of your ministry to young adults. If you know someone who works or volunteers in a church, share this invitation with them. We know that many young adults are seeking a spiritual home and don’t …

February 24th, 2014

Photo Credit: CNS file photo/Jon L. Hendricks Photo Credit: CNS file photo/Jon L. Hendricks

There are few years in one’s life that are more exciting (and sometimes more hectic) than an engagement year. After the proposal begins a slew of preparation activities. Book the church, find the reception venue, select your wedding party, decide on wedding attire, choose flowers, select music… “I could never plan a wedding in only a year!” a co-worker once told me. The truth is, a wedding can be planned in a few months if you really have to. All that stuff, while important to making the wedding day memorable, is — in the words of my future father-in-law — “fluff.”

The truly important stuff of a wedding is the growth and preparation of the couple themselves, so that the many years following their few hours of public celebration will be strong and joyful. This means making certain decisions intentionally, long before the wedding day. One of these decisions is selecting a marriage preparation program.

The Catholic Church has a lot to offer when it comes to marriage prep, but as far as I know, no pre-engagement programs. Since marriage prep programs are typically designed to prepare you for the marriage, not discern it, it’s a good idea to go through your own prayer and discernment even before getting engaged. The last thing you want is to put lots of money down on a reception venue — let alone get married — later to discover that your union with Mister or Miss Right was not meant to be.

The priest or deacon presiding at your wedding may recommend a particular program, …

February 13th, 2014

Mass is celebrated in the grotto at the Shrine of Our Lady of Lourdes in France. (CNS photo/Nancy Wiechec) Mass is celebrated in the grotto at the Shrine of Our Lady of Lourdes in France. (CNS photo/Nancy Wiechec)Last fall, needing a break from the regular distractions and hustle of daily life, I jumped on a plane and hightailed it to Paris with a fabulous friend. I was excited about the trip. However, I remembered thinking that I hadn’t been on a religious retreat in more than seven years. I had gone through a lot of transition — multiple cross-country moves, new jobs, earning my graduate degree, and lots of love gained and lost. So, clearly, I was overdue. When I discovered how easy it was to get to Lourdes from Paris, I decided that it would be great to get some QT at a place where the Blessed Mother had been — where she appeared to St. Bernadette and where miracles have officially been recognized by the Catholic Church by praying “ad Jesum per Mariam” (to Jesus through Mary).

Getting to Lourdes from Paris by train was easy. But as a type A extrovert who had never traveled alone, my mind went a mile a minute and I was nervous. Who would I talk to? What would I do? And, what if some crazy person decided to mug me? It was at that moment I realized — I was on a retreat. And, it was time to let go and let God do His work. As soon as I finally did just that, the Blessed Mother provided for me in so many ways — from caring for the silly minutiae that made traveling by myself in a foreign country uncomfortable to the big details that I was discerning. During this time, and even today, I referred to our Blessed Mother as the most awesome micromanager.

When I walked onto the grounds at the Sanctuary of Our Lady of Lourdes, I was struck by how lovely everything …

February 12th, 2014

10commandments-loveOne of my new “guilty pleasures” is grabbing the Magazine section of the Sunday Boston Globe and going straight to “Dinner With Cupid,” which my husband has rechristened, “Dinner with Stupid.”

It is a microcosm of the dating game. For those of you who are unfamiliar with the Globe, this feature pairs people (mostly young, mostly straight), matching up their list of attributes and interests in the hopes that they might promote a match of some sort, or at the very least, an enjoyable blind date.

Contestants fill out forms stating what they like to do on a Saturday night, who would play them in a movie, what is their favorite way to spend downtime, and more. The magazine shows pictures of the two people, usually a man and a woman, with their descriptions on the side. Then — and I’m not quite sure how they do this — there is a narrative of the blind date with both parties talking about how comfortable they were, times when the conversation flagged, when it took off, and at what point either of them knew they would want to date again or conversely knew that this blind date would be flushed down the toilet. (They must be running off to the restrooms to take notes on their smartphones.)

How do you know there is no spark there based on perhaps two hours of contact over a dinner in a crowded restaurant at the end of a long work day? What happened to the idea of actually getting to know someone?

What continues to astonish me is how quickly we make judgments about prospective dating partners, and how those judgments are based on fairly shallow things. Some typical examples of comments I’ve seen in “Dinner With Cupid” include: “He didn’t seem interested in me.” “She didn’t get my sense of humor.” “I didn’t like his manners.” “She seemed pretty and well-dressed, but there was no spark there.”

That’s the crushing blow, the decisive comment: There was no spark there; even worse than, “I didn’t like his hair.”

Excuse …

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