Busted Halo
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November 1st, 2003
Especially if a Juror Has a Plane to Catch

The big red stripe ran the length of the white envelope proclaiming, Juror Summons Enclosed.
Jury duty.
I decided to take a positive attitude. Why not? They do pay forty bucks a day; it’s a good way to get a view of the justice system; and if I don’t do it, how can I expect anybody else to?
What I didn’t plan on was the weird community that develops in a group with a shared secret—the details of the case—nor on the visceral nature of jury deliberations. Not to mention the huge brass letters on the wall above the judge’s head, “In God We Trust.“
Be careful what you wish for…
I was selected for a jury on a mugging trial my first day. Getting home late that night I caught the last…

October 31st, 2003
Halloween Origins and Current Practices

Ever wonder where Halloween traditions came from? Are they evil? Pagan? Holy?
Fire FestivalsThe ancient Celts celebrated seasonal feasts to honor the gods of nature. Halloween’s pagan origin was a fire festival known as Samhain . It took place from Oct. 31 – Nov. 2 and marked the end of summer, the beginning of winter, and a new year.
Being “in-between” seasons, Samhain was a time of “no time”—chaos reigned. People did crazy things, pulled pranks, and disguised themselves. It was considered “a magical time when the dead walked among the living and veils of past and present were lifted.”
Along come the Christians…
The word Halloween, however, is derived…

October 26th, 2003
Big Moral Issues for the ‘04 Election

I might as well admit it, the words “presidential election” cause me to fantasize about moving to a desert island where all the mind-numbing nonsense that passes for campaigning will be unable to reach me.
W.W.G.D.?Then I remember “Gilligan’s Island ” and that issues of “who’s in charge and how do we do this?” raised their ugly head even there.
Humans live in society, and we need to decide things together—the alternative of a totalitarian regime certainly not being on my list of favorite things. So, let’s grit our teeth and push forward, let’s talk about the upcoming 2004 elections.
All in this togetherThe most important aspect of an election…

October 20th, 2003
The Word from the Weekend Anti-War Rally in NYC

February 16, 2003, New York…—Maybe the best makeshift protest sign came as we rounded the corner on to the demonstration site on First Avenue. Someone—we couldn’t see the bearer—had duct-taped a large padded manila envelope on a stick and printed across the envelope, “Stolen Office Supplies for Peace.” In the canyons formed by midtown Manhattan’s apartment buildings and office towers, it seemed like a perfect protest for the place.
The shadows at dawn
This was not a rally with auspicious beginnings. We wanted to march past the United Nations, but the city said found this altogether too dangerous a possibility in these days of orange alerts. Instead the New York Police Department

October 1st, 2003
A Last Blast of Joy Over the Fiestas Patrias in Chile

The sheer amount of food is nauseating—a typical plate consists of beef, pork, chicken, sausage, potato salad, rice, corn salad, tomato salad, and a glass of wine. After an extensive grilling process, the traditional Chilean celebration of Independence Days is a vegetarian nightmare and a steak lover`s dream.
In order to properly demonstrate their patriotism, Chileans take two holidays (as well as spending the previous days in work parties) to bring the family together, eat obscenely large meals, and celebrate Chilean music, customs, and ideals.
The holidays naturally led me to reflect on the meaning of my two years as a Jesuit Volunteer here in Arica, as those years draw to a close. But I get ahead of myself……

September 26th, 2003
Finding the Divine Through Loving What We Do

My neighbor owns two tanker trucks and supplies water to houses that don’t get a regular supply. He’s constantly working on the tankers with his helpers, opening up the tanker’s parts, and usually getting his hands dirty.
It’s hard, physical labor and it’s blue-collar work. But you can see that he loves what he does for a living.
Following your bliss or bitterness
If you love what you do, chances are you’ve experienced the sense of goodness and joy when you work. It’s like when you feel close to God, a feeling of peace.
About three years ago, when I was working late, two janitors came in to clean the office. Both of them were so cheerful, it was infectious. I felt that it was…

September 12th, 2003

Entire wars have been fought over it, British lords beheaded, Spanish mystics incarcerated, principalities set on fire, and now it travels the internet in search of friendships to destroy.
It is religion.
And then there’s something about e-mail that sometimes erases our better judgment from our brains, we automatically copy and paste and hit send… and sometimes, just sometimes, what we have just catapulted into cyberspace could be…
even more destructive than a virus…
So forwarding an e-mail that deals with religion could forever change our relationships with those on the other end of our electronic tethers.
And in real time…So… just in case this happens to you……

September 12th, 2003
From Tourist to Journalist on the Caribbean Island of Antigua

Recently I took a trip I approached with both anticipation and dread .
The marrying kind “We’re getting married,” my friend Kay had said when I picked up the phone. Before I could utter a word, I found out the location was Antigua . And any thought of
begging off and just sending an extravagant gift to compensate immediately vanished.
Lately burn out and health issues had taken me out of the realm of the harried frequent flyer. The Caribbean was the perfect destination get me to shed my new land-lover ways. My fascination with the West Indies goes way back. Unlike other places I’ve traveled, the ease and familiarity I feel there is wondrous to me.
I like to think it’s my ancestors welcoming…

September 11th, 2003
Giving Birth on September 11th

I’m an optimist. I can find a positive spin in any situation. I’ll admit, though, my gift of optimism failed me last year on Tuesday, September 10, a day shy of the one-year anniversary of September 11, 2001 . I was in charge of leading the opening prayer at our staff meeting that week, which I dreaded. I tried to remind myself and my colleagues of God’s presence even in the day ahead by saying, “This is the day that the Lord has made, let us rejoice and be glad in it.”
But I didn’t feel like rejoicing. I was hoping to somehow not have to enter into the sadness of the day. I didn’t want to be reminded of the pain, suffering and darkness of a day that I associated with death. A knot was…

September 11th, 2003
Visiting the 9/11 Memorial at Shanksville, PA

Shanksville, PA, Sept. 7, 2003—About ten miles off the Pennsylvania Turnpike (about 80 miles before you get to Pittsburgh), Shanksville is small town America incarnate. It must be the mostly unlikely place imaginable for the U.S. to come face-to-face with Al Qaeda.
But that happened here on September 11, 2001, when United Flight 93, angling down at high speed, turned and hit a field outside town with such force that there was no piece left of it larger than the cab of a pickup truck. A plume of black smoke hung over the town. Pieces of the aircraft were thrown back into the air, some landing as far away as the other side of the mountain.
Tending to the memoryLocal people told me this when I came to visit the temporary memorial…

September 1st, 2003
A Journey to Italy, a Reminder of Catholic Roots

They say you can’t go home again. In my case, its usually because someone has changed the locks on the door—so that I, literally, can’t go home again.
And being the transient that I occasionally find myself being, I got a chance to go to Italy this summer and visit my ancestral home—a tiny city in the Abruzzo region called Villa San Angelo; population 500.
There’s a little house there, among a bunch of other little houses (villas, by definition, have lots of little houses). And it’s such a cool connection to the past.
Before moving to America, nearly everyone in my family had been born in this house. My aunts and uncles, my grandpa, my great-grandpa, you get the idea. Just standing outside…

August 29th, 2003
Nothing to Do During the Blackout, New Yorkers Did Well

The power actually browned out—gradually—in our section of midtown Manhattan on August 14 at 4:10 p.m. But before ten full minutes had elapsed, everything was completely gone.
Like for most of those affected, the information came in slowly. We assumed it was just our immediate neighborhood. Then we heard it was the whole City. Then: New Jersey and Connecticut too.
Soon we got our ‘D’ batteries from the local newstand and got the full report off the radio—fifty million people across the Eastern Seaboard up to Toronto and Ottawa in Canada.
New Yorkers, of course, remember the infamous Blackout of 1977, when looting caused panic and millions of dollars in damage. No one knew if a similar fate awaited…

August 22nd, 2003
Finding Marguerite's Dream in the Red Rock Desert

Ash Wednesday, 1932
An art student stands on the avenue in New York City in 1932, looking up at the Empire State Building, recently completed.
Most people from around the world have been impressed by the mammoth structure, awed by its ramrod straightness. Inevitably some visitors think of King Kong.
But on that day Marguerite Brunswig, en route home from Ash Wednesday mass, saw in the building’s art decco structure something unusual—the bulging form of a Cross. And it spun in her head the idea of a cruciform, almost-Gothic church built in the manner of these massive modern buildings (she passed Rockefeller Center on the way to her 85th St. apartment).
Seventy plus years later I—adopted New Yorker, priest,…

August 17th, 2003
Canada Brings Gay Marriage to the World - Is the World Ready?

By all accounts, Gay Pride Week in Toronto was different this year. Normally, the festivities draw thousands of tourists to the capital of Ontario and the annual parade?that took place on Sunday June 29?can attract hundreds of thousands. This year, however, tourism was down. SARS paranoia, it seems, still spooks Toronto’s image. Hotels normally filled with Gay Pride revelers remained half empty.
It’s not just SARS, though, that has changed Toronto’s Pride celebration: it’s marriage. On June 10, the Ontario Court of Appeals ruled that the province’s marriage laws were unconstitutional because they prevented same-sex partners from marrying. While the court’s…

August 1st, 2003
Resolving Dilemmas of Conscience at Work

My friend Smita (name changed) refuses to write brochures and marketing material for companies because she feels uncomfortable “bending the truth.”
It’s common knowledge that brochures sometimes misrepresent product features, but she won’t write brochures at all, even though it pays well. She’d rather struggle and earn much less writing freelance articles, than go against her value system. To me, she’s a great example of how you can find God in the choices you make at work. Ironically, she’s an atheist.
Integrity in the moment of choiceMost of us spend eight hours a day at work. We deal with people, we make decisions, and we do the tasks that are assigned to us.…

August 1st, 2003
From the Supreme Court to L.A.'s Inner-City Schools

This summer seeping through the quagmire of continuous news coverage of disappearing weapons of mass destruction in Iraq and the latest J.Lo and Ben antics was news on the ongoing skirmishes over affirmative action.
But lost in any discussion was one of the root causes of low minority educational achievement—the abysmal state of public education in the United States.
Split decision—splitting hairs?In late June the Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of affirmative action as applied to the University of Michigan law school admissions policy—but struck down its undergraduate policy.
Why the difference? Well the court reasoned that the undergraduate program used quotas in determining admission…

July 29th, 2003
A Perspective on the Cost of Denying Women Ordination

Nearly six years to the day that I received my first theology degree, I was back in Boston at an ordination (see box below).
I was at the Episcopal cathedral, not the Catholic one. Jen, a former roommate, asked me and two other women friends from divinity school—a Jew-nitarian (and Wicca-friendly) minister and an Episco-Lutheran postulant to participate in her “deaconing” (being ordained a deacon) as presenters.

Ordination
In Christian churches ordination is the ritual by which the Holy Spirit is called down upon leaders of the community. In the Catholic, Orthodox, and certain other Christian traditions ordination is reserved for men only, while in most Protestant denominations it is open…

July 29th, 2003
Christian Faith Comes Alive on Pilgrimage in El Salvador

Summertime…and the living is on the go. This summer I headed south to El Salvador in Central America.
It’s a breathtakingly beautiful land country, but with a turbulent history that includes many modern-day Christian martyrs. The capital city, San Salvador, is a major Latin American pilgrimage stop.
San Salvador is not exactly Cancún—it’s not a fun vacation. But it is a deeply moving one—you get to know about some of the most courageous and extraordinary Catholics and people of faith of the last 30 years.
A few must see sites:Monseñor Oscar Romero’s house, next to Hospitalito Divina Providencia: Archbishop Oscar Romero of San Salvador surprised the minority wealthy and the majority…

July 20th, 2003
Lament of a Student Loan Debtor

I’ll admit it-I’m a student loan debtor . Big time.
And like most of you I’m not expecting forgiveness anytime soon.
My loan woe
A few years ago I set out to improve myself as a writer. And what better way to do this but through a graduate program of well repute?
My troubles began when I was accepted into the graduate Dramatic Writing Program at NYU . Don’t get me wrong; this is and was a good thing. My taking out a huge student loan to finance it?that was a bad, bad thing.
And now I lie awake at night wishing I could scream. But I live in a multi-unit building with paper thin walls?all I can afford.
And to what end did I mortgage the rest of my life, you ask? To hone the hallowed and time-honored craft of screenwriting…

July 17th, 2003
Nickel and Dimed Chronicles the Hard Life of the Working Poor

Could you survive in a strange city on $7 an hour? This is the simple question that social critic and Ph.D. biologist Barbara Ehrenreich set out to answer. The 2001 bestseller Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting by in America chronicles her lived research with biting insight, engaging detail, and a welcome dose of humor.
I will survive (but not on Wal-Mart wages)Leaving her home in Key West, Ehrenreich tries on life at the bottom of the wage scale. Working as a waitress, a nursing home aide, a maid, and a Wal-Mart “associate,” she very quickly discovers that full-time work does not keep her out of poverty. In fact, it doesn’t even keep her in an apartment.
Some of the information Ehrenreich shares…

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