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December 15th, 2011
Helpful terms of engagement to maintain holiday cheer

Hollywood families (at least in their writers’ imagination) seem to have warm and fuzzy family Christmas dinners. Mine are more complex. Somehow, the relative morality of another family member invariably becomes a topic of conversation. Over the years, I have developed terms of engagement I consider essential to a healthy, productive holiday conversation about morality. For those of you determined to maintain your own Christmas cheer at the family dinner table this year, I will relay what I have learned. Consider it a “Christmas Spirit Survival Guide.”
Working with Catholic religious communities has taught me two ways to encounter others: I can espouse core Christian beliefs in a welcoming…

November 22nd, 2011
Tips to slow down and be grateful

“Thanksgiving Day is coming; gobble, gobble, gobble. Lets give thanks for this day!”
These words are a remnant of the only song about Thanksgiving I remember from my childhood. My family had the main Thanksgiving meal at one grandma’s house in a New Jersey city, then we would pile into my dad’s big Chevy and rumble across the swamps and oil refinery fields to my other grandma’s for dessert. Thanksgiving was a moderately fun holiday. We’d watch football games. My teenage cousin would impress me and disgust everyone else with his uncanny ability to chug… creamed corn. Yet Thanksgiving is the single event where I rack up the greatest number of deadly sins: gluttony, sloth, envy

July 7th, 2011

As a girl growing up in Alabama, I thought I knew tornadoes. Drills in the school hallway were routine. Standard protocol at the sound of sirens was to grab a pillow before huddling in the hall bathroom at my family’s home. I have seen their devastating damage firsthand, but witnessing the aftermath of the destruction that swept through Joplin, Missouri, in late May was utterly unfamiliar.

Leveled neighborhoods as far as you could see were indescribable. Trees stripped of their familiar bark now had steel contortioned among their limbs like pipe cleaners. There was the occasional semblance of “what once was” among the destruction — kitchen tables still poised without kitchen walls, children’s toys strewn on debris-cluttered lawns, the nativity set salvaged from the vestry. These are the physical marks that comingle with the grief and mourning for the shared loss of the tornado’s death toll, the stories of miraculous survival, and the superhuman acts of rescue.

June 22nd, 2011
The downside of all the non-consumption advice

Blogs on “minimalist living” clutter the internet these days with suggestions on how to pare down one’s possessions, work commitments and daily routines. The minimalist motto? Thoreau’s famous quip: “Simplify, simplify.” Like the 19th-century American minimalist, these bloggers praise a life stripped to its essentials — but in a kind of modernized, Mac-friendly fashion. From Leo Babauta’s blog Zen Habits, one of Time Magazine’s Best Blogs of 2010, to Miss Minimalist, whose owner boasts an eBook ranked among Best Books of 2010 by Amazon.com’s editors, minimalist bloggers often scoff at collections of fancy cars and cavernous homes…

June 19th, 2011
A Father's Day Reflection

In that cosmically complex and fun butterfly effect way of looking at the world, we may never have been born if it wasn’t for Thomas Merton, the world’s most prominent Catholic monk and prolific author. Besides being a father himself before entering the monastery and Catholic priesthood (thank God Catholics and spiritual seekers everywhere have such a wild and real role model to look to), Merton has always played a huge role in the mythology and background story of our own father and was always the subject of many memories shared in the evenings over family dinners.

In the early 1960s, inspired by The Seven Storey Mountain, our dad decided to follow what he thought was his calling and go join the Trappist monks at the Abbey of Gethsemani, the Kentucky monastery made famous by Merton.

June 6th, 2011
Taken from The Freshman Survival Guide

So you’ve just graduated high school. Congratulations! When people ask you, “So what are you doing in the fall?” you know the answer. Maybe you’ve chosen a major already. You might even know who your roommate is. You’ve got the world by the tail. Right? Or maybe you’ve already started to lie awake at night wondering and worrying about life at college. What if you get homesick (you probably will) or have a hard time making friends (you probably won’t)? What if the work is too hard or the food is lousy or your professors are mean (they might be)?
We have just the thing to keep you worry-free and sleeping peacefully during this beautiful golden season between the end of high school…

May 24th, 2011
A questioning look at this strange Catholic tradition

Is anyone else as creeped out by martyrs as I am? As a Catholic convert, I still find parts of the church strange and alien, and martyrs are right at the top of “strange and alien” for me.
Maybe it’s because I love my life so much. Maybe it’s because I cannot understand a God who would require that kind of bloody sacrifice. Maybe it’s the idea of people singing (hopefully in key) as they go to a gory death. There’s Maximillian, an early Christian who refused to fight in the Roman army of Diocletian (who was famous for his widespread slaughter of Christians), saying, “I serve in God’s army and will not fight in this one.” Something to that effect. I like that; I just…

May 16th, 2011
The challenging implications of seeing Osama as a fellow child of God

When I learned of Osama bin Laden’s death, my immediate reaction was indifference. I didn’t share the jubilant response that seemed to be sweeping the nation, and I didn’t feel much of a sense of relief, either. Then, for a very superficial reason, I realized I was called to more than indifference: I looked at a picture of bin Laden and for a split second I thought, “Jesus Christ probably looked a little bit like that.” It doesn’t seem very spiritually meaningful, but this moment made me think about what it truly means to see Christ in everyone.
Jesus Christ suffered and died for everyone. He freely offers salvation for all who accept it. He shares in our joys and sufferings, and provides…

May 12th, 2011
Staying true to my faith despite human error

God save my Franciscan education, but there has been a distressing trend in the history of our Church. Various popes in our nearly 2,000-year history have been, shall we say, far, far less than admirable? I suppose it’s a mere statistical matter that out of 265 successors to Saint Peter at least a handful would be indefensibly terrible. From the Inquisitions to burnings and the Crusades, the papacy has sponsored some of the most disgusting acts of human cruelty in recorded history.
As a recovering history major, I spend hours of my free time reading books that reflect my studies. This winter, I completed a 1969 work by historian E. R. Chamberlin entitled The Bad Popes. …The book is made up of brief biographical

May 5th, 2011
...without a trip to Taco Bell

I’ve never celebrated Cinco de Mayo. Granted, I didn’t know too much about the holiday, even while growing up in Texas. But I knew that getting drunk on Dos Equis and Corona didn’t seem to celebrate anything but ridiculous excessiveness. I just assumed it was Mexico’s version of St. Patrick’s Day.
So when I met and married my wife, who was born in Mexico, I decided to take a more proactive approach about Mexico and its history. First and foremost, I asked what Cinco de Mayo meant to her.
“We never celebrated Cinco de Mayo.”
Jackpot! I knew I married the right girl! But digging deeper into its history and observance brought up a few very interesting things. Like my wife,…

May 4th, 2011
A look at the responses to bin Laden's death

I was going to stay quiet on the whole issue of the public reaction to bin Laden’s killing, but after an hour or so of Facebook chatter on Sunday night, I put up a post on my wall expressing my frustration that people were gloating and cheering, reminding them that the issue is not whether he deserved punishment — I had no doubt that he was an evil man who had done unspeakable harm to the world; I lived in lower Manhattan on 9/11 and saw the attack and inhaled the smoke for weeks and lived with its aftermath — I just asked people to reconsider cheering over a death, any death. I had intended that this brief remark be my only statement on the issue. But the reaction to my post and those of other friends caught me…

April 12th, 2011
How the Freshman Survival Guide came to be

On the eve of the publication of their book, co-authors Nora Bradbury-Haehl and Bill McGarvey discuss how, over the course of six years, an evening of candid conversations between college students and high school seniors grew into The Freshman Survival Guide: Soulful Advice for Studying, Socializing and Everything In Between.

Bill McGarvey: Do you remember when this all began to take root at Busted Halo?
Nora Bradbury-Haehl:… There were two transition points. One summer six years ago we were talking about what stories we should do for fall and I said, “Well, I do this retreat with my high school seniors where we have them talk with college students — current college students — and get a chance

March 24th, 2011
Does Just War apply?

Bombs came raining down; the night sky was punctuated with the light of streams of bullets; over 110 Tomahawk cruise missiles were launched from U.S. warships; and French jets were actively taking out tanks and supply vehicles. Eerily eight years to the day the Iraq War started, a whole new international war was beginning. This time in Libya. But can it be termed “just”?
There seems to be a consensus among advocates of the intervention that it is a battle of necessity to save countless lives from the brutality of a dictator. I would certainly count myself as one of the many convinced that Colonel Muammar Gaddafi would “show no mercy” to rebels and protesters by committing murder on a massive scale. And yet,…

March 15th, 2011
A St. Patrick's Day reflection

It’s not easy being green
It seems you blend in with so many other ordinary things
And people tend to pass you over ’cause you’re
Not standing out like flashy sparkles in the water
Or stars in the sky
But green’s the color of spring
And green can be cool and friendly-like
And green can be big like an ocean, or important
Like a mountain, or tall like a tree
When green is all there is to be
It could make you wonder why, but why wonder why
Wonder, I am green and it’ll do fine, it’s beautiful
And I think it’s what I want to be…

When I lived in San Francisco in my twenties, I attended a St. Patrick’s party at a flat in the Mission District, a party hosted by someone I did not know.…

March 15th, 2011
on St. Patrick's Day

You have to hand it to the Irish. Every March 17th, they put on the party of the season. Celtic or not, everybody celebrates St. Patrick’s Day.
I am St. Patrick’s biggest fan. I love how popular piety, overpopulated parades and the free-flow of Guinness mix to form a rare and rowdy sense of universal goodwill. I know folks who can’t stand the commercial crush of the Christmas season, who loathe the anti-climactic hype of New Year’s and the synthetic amoré Hallmark cooks up every February 14th. But I’ve never met a soul who harbored any hostility toward the feast day of Patrick, patron saint of shamrock proliferation.
I have to admit though that St. Paddy’s popularity makes me a bit green with envy.…

February 28th, 2011
On the 50th anniversary of the organization, a returned volunteer's reflections

We were halfway through the hour-long walk back from a neighboring township to our village of Thembalethu, South Africa, when the dark, cloudy skies opened up and a torrential downpour fell upon us. We quickened our pace, attempting to flee the onslaught. The dirt road was quickly turning to mud; with each step our feet began sinking deeper into the swampy red earth.

We were only a month into our Peace Corps service at this point, in a strange part of the village where we had never been, and had little idea where to seek shelter. I was with Heather, who was not only the nearest American volunteer to me but would also become my closest friend over the next two years. We looked at each other anxiously, despair seeping into our hearts as we resigned ourselves to walk for the next half hour, though we could barely see 3 feet in front of us. Then, a small lone figure appeared under an umbrella…

February 12th, 2011
The viral uprising of Egypt

The revolution was televised — as well as tweeted, updated and blogged. It began nineteen days ago with the “day of anger“, as thousands of Egyptian protestors, young and old, took to the streets of their country calling for the ouster of the current regime; and culminated yesterday when Egyptian President, Hosni Mubarak, finally stepped down from office. Revolution had spread through the Middle East, with this uprising falling on the footsteps of those in Tunisia and Yemen — visible instantaneously for public view through Twitter, Facebook and YouTube, all ablaze with up-to-date news of the protests.
Frustrated with growing unemployment rates and dwindling financial resources,…

February 10th, 2011
The exorcist and Lila Rose

On February 1, Lila Rose’s Live Action organization debuted the first video of its biggest scoop yet — an undercover video “sting” allegedly revealing Planned Parenthood employees aiding a purported sex trafficker. That same day, Fr. Euteneuer, in response to online rumors, released a statement confessing that the real reason he left HLI was that he had admitted to “violating the boundaries of chastity” with an adult woman he was exorcising.

Judging by the reaction to these stories in the Catholic pro-life media, it seems many took these coinciding stories simply as an instance of “good news/bad news,” with Lila Rose a heroine and Fr. Euteneuer a tragic figure. Perhaps it would be wise for Catholics dedicated to defending life to pause and reflect upon the confluence of events, before the news cycle moves on. It may be that the Holy Spirit is trying to tell us something about what happens when good people, with the best of intentions, attempt to justify deception.

February 9th, 2011
Revolution from another perspective

I didn’t think Revolution would feel like this. John Lennon, Tracy Chapman and other artists have made it sound so upbeat, so sure of its legitimacy, and so containable in a three-minute music track. The reality is unsure, insecure, and very much “watch and wait.” There are the usual runs to the banks, the stocking up on four liters of milk and all of the rice that could possibly be eaten in a year. There was the filling of the bathtub with fresh water. The preparations — endless preparations — for that which we hoped would never come.
Except we did want it to come. Everyone did. Egyptians are starving and dying from preventable and treatable diseases. The trash here is literally smothering…

January 14th, 2011
A Jesuit comedian looks at reactions to the infamous Doritos ad

Sitting at the dinner table after Mass one evening in those incredibly dewy and pious days of Jesuit novitiate, my novice brother Gary mentioned through a mouthful of broccoli that he thought the best way to give the Church a better understanding of the divinity of the Eucharist would be by replacing the standard host with Krispy Kreme doughnuts, the incredibly glazed, sweet and greasy breakfast pastry that has become a symbol for excessive dietary habits in the U.S. The six of us seated at table with Gary concurred — all the while laughing at the absurdity of the suggestion — then went back to eating our broccoli.
Our Christian ancestors were eaten by lions; surely we can look a 30-second advertisement…

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