Busted Halo
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February 21st, 2007
A brief checklist to make sure your resolutions make sense

As a child, Lent represented a springtime of denial leading up to the chocolate-filled celebration of Easter, but as an adult I now understand a bit more why Christians have traditionally embraced the threefold Lenten discipline of prayer, fasting and almsgiving. Simply put, we are creatures of habit and Lent gives us a reason each year to look at our habits and to see which ones draw us closer to God and which ones drive us further away from Him.
Having had too many New Year’s resolutions derailed by trying to fix everything at once, I’ve developed a brief discernment process regarding Lenten resolutions that has borne fruit for me in years past. Typically, I start thinking about the whole topic in the…

February 20th, 2007
The spiritual death of Anna Nicole Smith

“Like My Body?” she slurs, lacing her fingers up her voluptuous figure and then throwing them up in the air. Introducing Kanye West at the 2004 American Music Awards, Anna Nicole Smith, high on drugs, spreads her arms saying, “If ever I make an album, I want this guy to make my make me beautiful duet!” As she lowers her head and claps, the crowd roars its approval.
But the scene is eerie, the sound of her voice alluding to the TrimSpa ad campaign for which she was the spokeswoman is almost haunting after her death. Her tottering appearance drew much publicity and comic fodder throughout the rest of the program, and her representatives, of course, scrambled to cover it up saying Anna’s…

February 12th, 2007
Happy Valentine's Day! Is Love Dead?

You can feel it in the air—the mad rush on Tiffany’s, restaurants booked-up for prix fixe dinners, store shelves cleared of teddy bears, chocolate and flowers. (And if you’re waiting until now to pick up any of these, good luck.)
Valentine’s Day—”Lovers’ Day,” as it’s called in the Romance languages—is right around the corner. It’s been celebrated for centuries, but these days, for my generation, I can’t help but wonder sometimes what February 14th means to us… and what it doesn’t.
Not-So-Inner
My inner amateur sociologist has long maintained a particular curiosity about relationships, partly because mine…

February 7th, 2007
The painfully amusing genius of HBO's "Extras"

Andy Millman is the patron saint of resentment. The perpetually put-upon actor has love handles but no love life, recently landed a role in a sitcom that has been generously described as a “sh*tcom,” and retains the professional services of the worst talent agent in the United Kingdom. Yet in the hands of Ricky Gervais, the star and co-creator of the HBO series “Extras,” (Sunday nights on HBO at 10pm) Andy Millman’s unending misery is comic delight.
“Extras,” which centers on the awful travails of Millman’s bizarre career, is the funniest and cleverest show on TV. Now in its second season, it is yet another reason to buy a subscription to HBO. (In addition to…

January 26th, 2007
Siblings Clare and Mary Byrne combine music and dance into something sacred

As the children of two academics who met while studying theology, growing up in the Byrne clan meant that religion was always about more than simply going to church on Sunday.
It still is. Now adults, Mary Byrne, a rock guitarist and Clare Byrne, a modern dancer, say Catholicism, the search for God and a sense of enacting holy rituals infuses their art. The rest of the family is similarly engaged with faith. One sister is a writer and comedian, their brother—who is also a musician—and father are starting an organic farm and intentional community in North Carolina. The oldest sister is the chair of Catholic Studies at Hofstra University.
Sense of Celebration
“We definitely grew up with a lot of…

January 23rd, 2007
Meditations for Finding Peace by Nicole Sotelo

“Your faith has made you well,” Jesus says to a woman who seeks out his healing presence. “Go in peace, and be healed…” (Mark 5:34). Many people who have suffered as a result of disease, divorce, death or other tragedies speak to faith’s capacity to heal and comfort. In her first book, Women Healing from Abuse: Meditations for Finding Peace, Nicole Sotelo highlights resources from the Christian tradition with the hope that they may provide spiritual healing to women who have suffered from different forms of abuse, whether they be economic, emotional, physical, and/or sexual.
Sotelo—who also serves as a contributing editor for BustedHalo.com— reports…

January 19th, 2007
BustedHalo discusses life in the spotlight with the most high-profile Christian band in the post-hardcore rock scene.

Though self-identified Christian bands have been slowly breaking down the distinctions between the music that appears on the mainstream music charts and the albums that are normally trapped in the Christian music ghetto, the morning of June 20, 2006 marked a watershed moment with the release of Underoath’s Define the Great Line. One week and 98,000 copies later, they occupied the #2 album slot on the Billboard Top 200 chart. If Christian bands were supposed to only sell records to the converted, someone forgot to tell the legion of kids across the country that went to their local music store and plopped down $18 for Underoath’s latest assessment of the contemporary Christian life.
This was Underoath—a…

January 17th, 2007
Revisiting the faith of my father

It was a cold day in October, and I was walking down a street on New York’s Lower East Side, toward a small wooden building with a flight of steps at the front. Built in 1820 as a synagogue, it had only recently been reconsecrated and put back into use as a place of worship. At the doorway stood members of the congregation, welcoming the small stream of worshipers climbing the stairs. “Come in, welcome, join us,” they said, and I could feel my heart beating faster. I was excited but frightened. It was Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement—the holiest day of the Jewish calendar—and I was about to step into a synagogue for the first time in more than fifty years.
I am 72 years old, and though I was born…

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;…

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