Busted Halo
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January 12th, 2007
An American Saint

“The world is all messed up, the nation is sick, trouble is in the land, confusion all around.”
As the scourges of a never-ending war continue to dominate our national debate, division trumps common ground in the public square, and our leaders play political games while the marginalized continue to suffer in society’s shadows, it would be hard to find a truer sentiment than the one above to describe the American situation today.
In reality, though, these were the words of Martin Luther King, Jr., spoken in Memphis the night before he died nearly 40 years ago. But sickness, confusion and trouble, weren’t all he saw.
“But I know somehow,” Dr. King went on, “that only…

January 10th, 2007
An experienced capital defender makes the case against Saddam's execution

The morning Saddam Hussein was executed, my wife warned me not to go on the internet. Of course, I soon went online, but instantly knew I should have heeded her advice. Pictures of Saddam’s execution were everywhere. The images depressed and profoundly saddened me. The emotions were no surprise, but their depth and duration were. I have wondered since that morning why I remain so troubled by the execution of a man who unquestionably was a thug, a mass murderer and a war criminal.
I have spent the past sixteen years representing people on death row and teaching students about the death penalty. My opposition to the death penalty stems, in large part, from my Catholic belief in the sanctity of human life. Of course…

January 9th, 2007
The real-life team chaplain remembers the tragedy depicted in the film We Are Marshall

In 1970, Marshall University in Huntington, West Virginia, faced a tragedy of epic proportions when it lost its entire football squad, along with coaching staff, boosters and family members in a plane crash. The recently released film, We Are Marshall tells the story of how this tiny steel town coped with the loss of loved ones, and how Jack Lengyel (played by Matthew McConaughey) took the coaching reigns and tried not only to rebuild an athletic team, but also a community.
Paulist Father Bob Scott—who was the campus minister and chaplain for Marshall University’s football team at the time—would’ve perished along with everyone else had he not stayed behind to work on campus that weekend.…

January 5th, 2007
Battling for the heart of Jewish mysticism, Hollywood and the Hasidim offer different paths

One rabbi who studied it grew crazy, one died and another became so bewildered that he lost his faith. According to Jewish tradition, the study of the Kabbalah or Jewish mysticism is not only powerful but also downright dangerous.
“Woe to the person who says that the Torah shares with us plain stories and mundane matters,” says the Zohar (Radiance), the traditional text of the Kabbalah, “…. rather all the matters in the Torah are supernal matters and supernal secrets.”
For centuries the study of the Kabbalah was forbidden, reserved only for Jewish males over 40, who were well-versed in Torah, but since its recent adoption by Hollywood celebrities, there has been a battle raging…

January 3rd, 2007
Once sentenced to 20 years in prison for soliciting her husband's murder, a Chicago woman now helps former female inmates start over

Edith Hoskins knows exactly the point in her life when she turned to drugs.
From the age of eight until she was 11, she watched her stepfather beat her mother and brothers “time after time.” When she was 11, she finally confronted the man and threatened to kill him if he didn’t stop the beatings. Instead of being grateful for her daughter’s defense, Hoskins’ mother responded by turning her over to the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services.
Once in the DCFS system, Hoskins bounced from family to family and at 15, she saw her mother for the last time.
“When my mom turned me over to DCFS, that was my beginning for using drugs. I started with marijuana, then went to crack…

December 19th, 2006
Five gifts that will always be remembered, never be returned and won't cost you a dime

What’s the best gift you’ve ever received? Classic big-ticket items like cars, jewelry, or expensive electronics might be hard to top but I’d be willing to wager that most of us can vividly recall a seemingly insignificant gift or small gesture from someone that touched us much more deeply. When I moved to a new house, my sisters each gave me perennials from their gardens to put in the bare patch of ground in front of my new digs. It didn’t cost them anything but every spring when the hardy geraniums come up I think of Jeanne and in the summer when the deep pink bee balm blooms I smile when I think of Karen uprooting them from her garden to transfer to mine. If there’s a key to gift giving, maybe…

December 19th, 2006
The Arizona Cardinals QB is no fair-weather follower

Perhaps best-known as the man with the Cinderella story who catapulted the St. Louis Rams to a win in Super Bowl XXXIV, Arizona Cardinals quarterback Kurt Warner is also noted for wearing his faith on his jersey sleeve. But it’s not the kind of display we often see, like players pointing to the heavens or kneeling in prayer in the end zone after winning a game. These rituals have become so much a part of the show in professional sports that at times the gestures seem like odd forms of spiritual showboating.
Warner’s Christian faith manifests itself in a different way on the field. Since winning the Super Bowl and being a two-time league MVP very early on in his career, Warner has struggled since 2003 to get…

December 14th, 2006
How I learned to love Hanukkah by celebrating Christmas

My family has a problem with presents. They make us nervous. Because of some inexplicable guilt or money-related anxiety, receiving gifts makes us feel uncomfortable and ashamed. Ask a Parker what they want for any gift-related holiday and we draw a blank, we have no idea. The holiday season is especially difficult as all of us have to know what we want all at once. To add another layer of problems: my mother doesn’t like to shop in stores that are crowded or drive in parking lots that are full. When we were little, she used to ask my sister and me what we wanted for Hanukkah in September and then would buy it and hide it until December. When you’re six, you don’t know in September what you’re going…

December 13th, 2006
Ten Tips for finally Making the Holidays Happy

The catalogs and television commercials are full of smiling families greeting each other with holiday joy- gleeful reunions full of peace and goodwill. What they don’t show is the screaming match that took place in the kitchen just before the guests arrived or the eye rolling during dinner when dad launches into his favorite diatribe. They don’t have any pictures of your drunken uncle passed out on the couch or your backbiting sister-in-law picking fights. If your family is more “Dealing with Difficult People” than “It’s a Wonderful Life” read on. Here are ten tips for keeping your own sanity this holiday season, even if you’re surrounded by nuts.

THEY WON’T…

December 11th, 2006
A young journalist's reflections on a nation of contrasts and contradictions

As Cambodians visited temples and gave alms on their ancient day of the dead in September 2004, I was holding a diaperless newborn.
I had been working for a newspaper in the county’s capital Phnom Penh for nearly all of 2004, when a colleague, Kuch Naren, invited me to her hometown for a weekend. The child was thrust into my arms by its grinning mother—Naren’s cousin—almost as soon as we entered the woman’s hut.
Before moving to Phnom Penh, all I knew of Cambodia was from the film, The Killing Fields, which depicted the country’s genocide under the communist Khmer Rouge regime in the mid 1970s. This fall, a United Nations war crimes tribunal finally began investigating the…

December 7th, 2006
All I want for Christmas

I don’t really know what I want for Christmas.
Sure, I want to have my Christmas cards done by my traditional (but never-heeded) deadline of December 10th. I’d like to be able to wave my hand and find my bedroom and office— which, as always, look as if they’ve been bomb-struck—looking somewhat sane. And, of course, a bit more security in terms of my professional situation would be nice…
But that’s not what I’m talking about.
They say this time of year is blessed and special but the older we get it becomes harder to see that amidst our frenzied gift-buying, the drama, or the pain of loss or loneliness that the holidays often bring hauntingly back. These days, with…

December 4th, 2006
The Bad News About Unwed Mothers

Keisha Castle-Hughes, the 16-year-old unmarried actress who plays the Virgin Mary in the new movie, The Nativity Story, is pregnant by her 19-year-old boyfriend. Last week CNN could talk about nothing else: Amazing the coincidence, the announcers said, of this woman getting pregnant when she was playing the role of the most famous unmarried mother in history. And would you believe, the commentators crooned, her boyfriend is even a carpenter, just like Joseph.
Listen. It takes a lot of anti-Catholic sentiment to rile me these days, but after two days of hearing about the “miracle” and “wondrous news” of this young actress’s pregnancy while playing the role of the Blessed Virgin;…

December 1st, 2006
The former Bush staffer discusses his book Tempting Faith and the mutually seductive (and destructive) relationship between faith and politics

By the age of thirty, David Kuo was already a seasoned veteran in the highly specialized political warfare that takes place inside the beltway. First as an assistant to Bill Bennett and then later as a policy adviser to John Ashcroft and speechwriter for Ralph Reed, Pat Robertson, and Bob Dole, Kuo, a committed Christian, helped to articulate the vision and values that were at the core of the Religious Right’s agenda. But his devotion to politics took its toll and by the late 90s Kuo’s life began unraveling. His marriage had ended and he had left politics.
After a detour working for a dot.com and an unsuccessful attempt to start a charity to help the poor, Kuo was contacted to write speeches for then Governor…

November 30th, 2006
It Feels What You Feel (And Not Much Else)

Near the end of The Nativity Story, the manger scene is as still and precisely framed as the crèches children play with under Christmas trees. The crib is illuminated from above by a beam of starlight so tight and focused it should be coming from a nearby klieg light, rather than the North Star. The villain Herod has shown himself to be perhaps the dumbest man alive, wondering where the Messiah is while from a hundred miles away Mary’s parents gaze knowingly on the ultra highbeam light that practically screams out “Jesus the Christ, this way” like roving spotlights advertising an ancient camel dealership. Mary and Joseph have just completed their very own quiet birthing, Scientology-style,…

November 29th, 2006
Fr. Dave Dwyer CSP goes from website to satellite

Howard Stern, Martha Stewart, Eminem and now Father Dave? Beginning on Monday December 4, Paulist Father Dave Dwyer will join Sirius satellite radio’s growing roster of on-air talent when he launches “The Busted Halo Show” on the satellite radio network’s new Catholic Channel. Dwyer, who produced and directed television for MTV and Comedy Central before entering the priesthood, has been the Publisher of BustedHalo.com for over two years and co-founded the BustedHalo podcast with Managing Editor Mike Hayes one year ago today.
The process that led to the creation of the Sirius show began back in May, when the Archdiocese of New York officially announced plans for a 24-hour Catholic…

November 28th, 2006
The Tulip & the Pope by Deborah Larsen (Vintage)

In high school my best friend, Cathy, who went to an all-girl’s Catholic school kept telling me, “The nuns say I have a calling.” We used to crack up laughing. After all, it was Cathy who swiped her father’s cans of beer from the fridge and her mother’s Kools from her pocketbook, and hung out with hoods. “No way am I going to a Catholic college,” she’d insisted, and we made plans to go away to a state school together and be roommates and have love affairs. But, to my shock, Cathy entered a convent after high school and cut herself off from me completely.
That’s why I leaned forward in my chair, gripping the book hard, as I read Deborah Larsen’s spiritual…

November 27th, 2006
Of High Priests and Universal Language

At the time, Rice’s much-anticipated second album was still in production. Ironically, last week, while spending time with high priests of a different sort, Rice’s new album, 9, was released. I got my first impressions of it while heading to a Baltimore hotel to attend the annual November meeting of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops – which, in my world, is something akin to DisneyWorld, Xanadu, Ibiza… or whatever else you’d call “paradise.”
Almighty O
After a hiatus of four years since the debut of the almighty O–a widely acclaimed album whose beautiful, soul-rattling material felt as if it were written with the finger of God—it’s hard…

November 17th, 2006
A brief guide to understanding meal blessings this Thanksgiving

In uncertain times, we are invariably drawn to absolute truths that help us make sense of the world. One such immutable verity is the ancient Thanksgiving Law: there can be NO turkey until we say grace. But in a pluralistic society such as ours how are we to know what is the appropriate expression of thanks?
What if you were actually charged with offering grace this year? When the moment of truth arrived would you stand there frozen while the host stares impatiently at you holding a carving knife and fork ready to be given the final dispensation to go ahead slice up the bird?
Fear not. After exhaustive research, BustedHalo offers these 7 tips for how to recognize and participate in the most common Thanksgiving blessings…

November 16th, 2006
A candid conversation about the papacy with the author of The Rule of Benedict

In the wake of the midterm elections that created such a seismic shift in the American political landscape it is easy to forget that, not long ago, the entire world waited anxiously to hear the results of a very different balloting. Though the choice to make Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger the next pope was only decided on by a small group of cardinals and not a popular vote, the impact of that decision has been enormous.
Following in the footsteps of Pope John Paul II—one of the most significant world figures of the past 50 years—is not an enviable task. But as David Gibson’s insightful new book The Rule of Benedict makes clear, Pope Benedict XVI’s pontificate will not simply be a transitional…

November 15th, 2006
Daniel Ellsberg

Most of us can identify certain teachers or mentors who have had a profound impact on our lives. The same can be said for particular books that have shaped our view of the world. With that in mind, BustedHalo asks the question:
“What books have helped you on your spiritual journey?”
Daniel Ellsberg was the source of “The Pentagon Papers,” the leak that exposed the deliberate deception that several presidents had engaged in regarding America’s involvement in Vietnam. Ellsberg’s actions made him a target of Nixon’s “plumbers” whose later arrest for breaking into Democratic headquarters at the Watergate Hotel set President Nixon’s demise…

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