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June 29th, 2009
Talking with a modern day Irish mystic

What if your closest friends were angels from Heaven? For one Irish mystic, that has been the truth since birth. Lorna Byrne describes a life filled with heavenly beings in the book Angels in My Hair…, which has spent many weeks atop the bestseller lists of the United Kingdom and Ireland.
In her memoir — recently released in America — Byrne lays bare her experiences of modest beginnings in rural Ireland and living in a marriage that she knew would be cut brief by illness. All the while, she believes angels are guiding her and others in her life to live to their full potential. Interestingly, though parts of Byrne’s story are sad, the main message is hope — rather than “Believe me I am telling the truth!”

June 21st, 2009
Get outdoors this summer and experience God's wondrous creation

Summer is upon us, and the other day when I read Therese Borchard’s post on Beliefnet about how lack of sun exposure has led to a Vitamin D deficiency crisis across this country, it struck me: Our bodies are designed to need sun. Is that a hint or what? We are built to be outside.

As I write this just before Father’s Day, I am reminded that my atheist dad gave me my first spiritual experiences by sharing his love of natural wonders. Despite growing up in New York City, I saw Yellowstone and the Grand Canyon, Banff and the Redwoods, the Smoky Mountains and the Rockies; flash floods in the Western deserts, a hurricane on Cape Hatteras.

I didn’t know it at the time, and my father wouldn’t have thought about it in these terms, but I was being introduced to the wonder of God. While it’s more important to see that of God in the everyday, it helps to be hit over the head every once in a while with the awesomeness of Creation. [...]

June 16th, 2009
Chemical reactions and Eucharistic reconciliation

A friend once told me, with a girlish smile, that when she receives Communion, she is so moved by the thought that our Lord gave his life for her, “Sometimes, I kiss him.”
I’ll admit: the idea of kissing the Eucharist struck me as a little… weird. Still, I envied my friend her intimacy with the Real Presence of Christ. My own feeling at taking Communion is closer to my feeling toward wave-particle duality theory. I don’t disbelieve; I don’t understand enough to disbelieve. I don’t get it at all.
It’s not as if the Church has ever had any doubts on where she stood. Writing around 150 AD, sainted convert Justin Martyr declared: “For not as common bread nor as common…

June 8th, 2009
Becoming free from alcoholism and addiction requires spiritual help, not self-help

If you are an alcoholic or addict, being spiritually unfit can be fatal. If not literally fatal then, as in my case, a living death — one definition of Hell is being alive and active in this world, feeling separated from God. And I spent years there. But today I live — and have for some time now — free, awake, fully alive, vital.
My earlier What Works column on alcoholism and addiction focused on self-diagnosis, and I could easily explain my own alcoholism by pointing to genetics and circumstances; but the root cause is spiritual — that God-shaped hole, that feeling of brokenness and alienation I was trying to assuage. I’ve met other alcoholics who had no obvious “causes”…

May 27th, 2009
Let your yes mean yes and your no mean no

I always considered myself honest, and I had a lot of pride attached to that. I had a boss once who would stare you in the eye and just flat-out lie — I mean on the level of “The sky is green.” — daring you to challenge him. No one would, and we’d move forward as a company based on the sky being green. I was never that kind of liar.
As a teenager, when my friends snuck out at night or created cover stories of sleepovers and studying, I simply disobeyed my parents and accepted the consequences.
But there are other kinds of lies.
Let’s say you invited me to a dinner party and I had no intention of going. Odds are I’d say, “I’ll try to make it.” You’d get enough…

May 11th, 2009
It's hard to be spiritually fit when you're running on fumes

I was up late but had agreed to an early brunch with friends, so after about five hours of sleep I’m on my way to meet people I love and I am feeling decidedly unloving. In the bustle of the train, I can feel myself getting irritated by every little thing. I don’t love the world right now. Which is another way of saying I’m not in conscious contact with God.
Once, in a discussion group, a minister asked the Dalai Lama how he could be more effective spiritually; the Dalai Lama smiled and said, “Get more sleep.” (He reportedly gets eight to nine hours each night.)
Though few people go to bed early, most agree it’s a good idea. But when it comes to getting enough… sleep, it seems like our nation’s

April 22nd, 2009
Using the economic downturn to reevaluate your life's choices

Nancy’s whole career has been in pharmaceutical communications. After watching round after round of layoffs at her firm over the past two years, her ticket finally came up in February. She went from a high level, lucrative management position to unemployment overnight. Stories like this are playing out across the country by the thousands. Good skilled workers lose their jobs and find strong competition for lesser positions. Seemingly secure financial futures based on real estate and stock investments disappear overnight, leaving uncertainty and worry.
But listen to Nancy:
“Ironically, this may be one of the greatest gifts I have received in my life — not because unemployment is a gift but…

April 16th, 2009
Meeting the incorruptible saints whose bodies seem to defy decay

One evening last month, while surfing YouTube, I stumbled across a five-part slideshow on the incorrupt bodies of saints. Having once been a soul mate to television’s ghoulish Wednesday Addams, I launched “Part One,” expecting to get halfway through before my maturing tastes demanded I resume searching for the clip where Triumph, the Insult Comic Dog, humiliates the geeks at the Star Wars premier.
To my surprise, the spectacle held me in thrall. In every dead face, sanctity intersected with human nature in some unique and memorable way. St. Jean-Marie Vianney’s fine features hinted at a painful sensitivity. With her mouth half open, St. Veronica Giuliani looked as though she were…

April 9th, 2009
The challenge of Good Friday

I love rocking chairs. Whenever I go on retreat, as I did last week, I hope that they have a rocking chair at the retreat house. Generally, when I am rocking away I do not have a care in the world. But during my recent retreat my soothing rocking chair experience was ruined when I began contemplating Good Friday.
Quite frankly, I hate Good Friday. It’s dreary and dark. There’s the cross and the blood and the whipping and the people calling for Jesus to die. There’s the lance through Jesus’ side and the falling on the road and the Pietà, where Jesus’ body is handed over to his mother, Mary — what torture for any mother to see her son like that!
No, Good Friday is not a comfortable…

March 30th, 2009
It isn't boring, it isn't non-Christian and you do have the time for it

ww2-meditation-insideThe promise of meditation is not the 20 minutes of refuge from an otherwise insane day, wonderful as that may be. The promise is to gradually cultivate a way of living that is less insane. I’ve noticed over and over: People struggling with anxiety over things they’re powerless to affect rarely have a daily prayer and meditation practice.

March 11th, 2009
Our inaugural What Works column tackles the toughest question some people ever face

“Am I an alcoholic?” “Am I an addict?” At some point, many of us look back on our drinking or using and question it: question whether it’s sustainable; question whether it’s getting in the way of our life; question whether we’re becoming who we want to be. This happened for me at 23. I’d made quite a mess already in ten years. Some come to these questions even younger. Whenever it happens, we become spiritual seekers. We open to deeper questions of meaning that had been obscured. I’ve met countless others over the years who have come up against this or some other crisis and found that, rather than the end, it was the beginning of their journey.
In this new column,…

February 26th, 2009
...and we love you for it

We asked for your ash shots and you didn’t disappoint!
We may not have the sophisticated technology necessary to determine our readership demographics as precisely as we’d like, but at least we know you love your ash. Among the pics we received — the best of which are posted here — we found big ashes, small ashes, cockeyed ashes and perfect ashes. We got first time ash recipients and people who hadn’t received ashes in decades. Thanks to all those who hauled their ashes online and sent in their pics.
And the response to our Fast Pray Give Lent Calendar has been tremendous! The first few days have broken single day traffic records for Busted Halo and people seem to be telling their friends…

February 24th, 2009
Busted Halo's Ash Wednesday Challenge

It’s an experience that any Catholic will understand. You decide that you’d like to stop by church on Ash Wednesday to get the obligatory ashes on your forehead and you get in line with everyone else who has had the same idea. While waiting, your mind begins to wander and you’re oblivious to all the people passing you by as they return from the altar. Eventually you get to be second or third in line and notice that the people just ahead of you are sporting ashes the size of billboards on their foreheads. Enormous, indeterminate blobs of soot now decorate their once spotless noggins as they return to their pews. Your heart begins to sink as you realize that you’re going to be forced to return to…

February 24th, 2009
besides giving up chocolate

Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of Lent, the 40 days of preparation for the Easter season when Christians are called to renew their commitments to spiritual practices like Fasting, Prayer, and Almsgiving…. The season is intended as a time for personal conversion leading up to Easter. The belief is that our consistent participation in these practices — like exercise we do for our physical health — is a form of purification that improves our spiritual well-being by stripping away all that is unnecessary and by becoming more mindful of our ultimate dependence on God in our lives. Lent is an annual opportunity to grow in our faith, which means it’s about much more than giving up unhealthy foods

February 11th, 2009
...on the Feast of Our Lady of Lourdes

On February 11, 1858, Saint Bernadette Soubirous of Lourdes ( January 7, 1844 – April 16, 1879) was gathering firewood when she had a vision of the Virgin Mary in a grotto near town. This was her first of 18 visions.
The miraculous healing power of Lourdes water, from a spring in the grotto, led to its and Bernadette’s recognition. Lourdes has become a place of mass pilgrimage for Catholics — with an estimated 200 million visitors to the shrine since 1860.
To commemorate the Feast of Our Lady of Lourdes we are offering readers this clip on St. Bernadette featuring commentary from James Martin, SJ.  The video is courtesy of Loyola Productions taken from their new DVD “Who Cares about the Saints?”…

February 9th, 2009
Inside a "voudou" village in South Carolina

He should have honored their ways.
When a county health inspector threatened to press charges against the members of Oyotunji African Village in South Carolina for scarring themselves in a tribal ritual, members of the village performed an ebo, or animal sacrifice, to one of their deities, asking for help. “The following week,” says Bale Oyewole, 63, one of the founders of the village, “the health inspector died of a heart attack; since then we’ve been left alone.”
It’s Voudou
Oyewole says they don’t call it voodoo in Oyotunji; they call it orisha voudou. The word voudou comes from the West African word for religion and the word orisha… means deities or spirits. The

February 5th, 2009
What to do with a husband who "isn't anything"

I had to explain it to the priest as I stood fidgeting with my cell phone antenna. No, my fiancee isn’t Catholic or Jewish, and he wasn’t baptized. I resisted the urge to holler, “YES, I am marrying a FILTHY heathen neener neener!” The priest told me curtly that he could not perform the marriage ceremony since my betrothed hadn’t been baptized. The job of blessing our union was passed to the deacon.
Husband isn’t…anything, really, religiously speaking. He is wickedly funny, always there to lend a hand when anybody needs it, he’s sweet and compassionate and very generous. What happens when a twenty-nine-year old Southern Catholic girl with Evangelical parents…

January 26th, 2009
An excerpt from Anne Rice's memoir on her spiritual journey back to faith

I came out of childhood with no sense of being a particular gender, and no sense of being handicapped by being a woman because I didn’t believe I was a woman or a man.
Let me say briefly, because it’s too painful to relate in any detail, that I learned all about gender in adolescence, even as I moved against gender distinctions and refused to accept gender limitations.
Plunged into a coeducational high school at fourteen, I soon caught on that there were tremendous liabilities to being a girl. There was no such thing as gender equality. No one had yet spoken the word “feminism,” and my view of life soon involved negotiating my way through a minefield in which “good girls” could…

January 22nd, 2009
A brief, mixed-media biography of Christianity's Great Communicator

On June 28, 2007 at the Basilica of Saint Paul Outside-the-Walls, Pope Benedict XVI announced officially that a special Jubilee Year dedicated to the Apostle Paul would take place from June 28, 2008 to June 29, 2009, on the occasion of the bimillenium of Paul’s birth, which historians have placed between the years 7 and 10 A.D.
As the Paulist Fathers—who sponsor Busted Halo—prepare to celebrate once again the feast of the Conversion of Paul on January 25, it is worthwhile recalling who this man was and why there is a year dedicated in his honor? First, Paul is responsible for a large part of the New Testament. The letters ascribed to him are about a quarter of the whole, and if you add the 17 chapters of Acts…

January 14th, 2009
XXXChurch is not a sex site (kinda)

A family member of mine recently said, “Shellie, I’ve accepted that you are working in the sex industry.”
My thought? “It’s about time.”

When I look at my life, even I must admit that it is really sex filled. I am a teen-mom coordinator for a local Nashville nonprofit. That pretty much consists of trying to encourage 13 to 19-year-old “grown-way-too-soon” young women to use biblical insights, my advice based on experience (I myself am a sex abuse survivor with a history of promiscuity) and a little common sense when it comes to making sexual choices. I speak pretty frequently on a book that I wrote in 2004, Inside of Me: Lessons of Lust, Love and Redemption …. (I

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