Busted Halo
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September 14th, 2011

Imagine doing everything required to go back to school — buying books and school supplies, and signing up for classes — but instead of everything being a familiar routine, it’s all new because you’re in a new country where you don’t speak the language. Maybe you’ve never been to school. Sounds a little overwhelming, right? Well, that’s the experience of the 53,000 refugees that resettled in the United States in 2010.
For the past year I worked with refugees from Asia and Africa at Catholic Charities’ Immigration and Refugee Assistance Program in Buffalo, New York. Part of my job was to help refugees register their children for school because very few of them could speak, read, or write…

September 8th, 2011

At 13, I walked the halls of my middle school proudly as the smart Egyptian girl who brought in stuffed grape leaves for lunch and baklava for dessert. Like most teens, I was still trying to figure out what it meant to be “me” as I navigated the awkward early years of my teenage life.
I grew up in Deltona, Florida, where I was one of a handful of Muslims in the city. That being said, I was known as the “token Muslim.” I felt happy and comfortable being a commodity while most people were still just trying to fit in. At some point I realized I could never fully assimilate, no matter how many shirts I bought from Aéropostale or Limited Too. I would never be cool, but that was ok. I embraced my differences and tried to be a good…

September 7th, 2011

The first picture I ever saw of Father Mychal Judge was a photo of his dead body. In the days following 9/11, I was haunted by the image of four men carrying the New York City fire department chaplain away from the Twin Towers. With the firefighters he served, Judge answered the calls for help, only to lose his life at Ground Zero. He was the first registered death of 9/11.

At first, I saw him as a tragic figure, a searing example of this country’s wounds. Since learning about his life, though, my perspective has shifted. Now I see him as a symbol of compassion, a vivid example of what it means to heal and be healed.

September 1st, 2011
Standing With the Unemployed in Faith, Hope, and Solidarity

God calls us to announce the good news of God’s preferential option for the poor, for those who suffer the most among us. Indeed God’s love enfolds the entire human community equally and unceasingly, but it is with those who endure hardship that the Holy Spirit swells up foremost. And it is among them that we are called to stand in faith and solidarity.

July 29th, 2011

Ever since the Oslo attacks my heart has started racing a little faster every time I board the U-Bahn in the morning. It races even faster when I disembark and make the 10-minute walk through the incredibly tourist-dense section of Berlin where I work. Pushing past Gypsies, I scan German, American, and British tourists’ faces checking out the remains of the Berlin Wall and can’t help but wonder, could something like that ever happen here? Oslo is such a sleepy European city; surely Berlin has to be an even bigger target. Quite frankly, it scares me.

I try to quiet my racing thoughts when they start circling irrationally. I hate that when I am afraid I feel like I am letting the terrorists win.

July 27th, 2011

Fleeing war and famine, fighting off attacks from bandits and lions, thousands of refugees are flooding out of Somalia on foot each week. Busted Halo contributor Laura Sheahen, a communications officer with the humanitarian aid group Catholic Relief Services, looks back on her first days in some of the refugee camps that are receiving them. Let us remember our sisters and brothers in East Africa in our prayers.

Day one

Small plane to airstrip in Dadaab, a tiny, broken-down town in northeast Kenya. Blinding clouds of dust billow from the car in front of us as we make our way to our local partner’s compound. Dust instantly coats everything we carry. The same dust has swallowed up any hope of growing crops or raising livestock across the border in Somalia, where the drought and famine are worst.

July 22nd, 2011

“When our first child was born, my husband said, ‘Now I have a son to avenge my family.’ He named our baby boy Rambo.”

I usually associate the birth of a baby with fuzzy booties, not machine guns. But I was in a southern area of the Philippines called Mindanao, where vendettas out of Sylvester Stallone movies happen — a lot.

I was talking to a woman named May; she’d married into a family that was haunted by the years-old murder of a grandfather. May’s mother-in-law couldn’t read or write, but would send audiotapes to her son when the couple lived outside the country. “She’d say they needed money for guns. She’d say, ‘Come back to the Philippines and kill these people!’”

In Mindanao, three groups — Christians, Muslims, and indigenous people — have suffered for decades at each other’s hands. All three groups have valid grievances rooted in the area’s seriously troubled history. But at this point, learning to get along — to stop the massacres, abductions, bombs, and hijackings — is pretty much the only option.

July 20th, 2011
Hare Krishna old-timers keep the faith

Kusha Devidasi gaped in horror as her cat moved in for another kill. A vegetarian, Devidasi had tried everything to get him to stop devouring God’s feathered creatures, even putting a bell around his neck. Nothing worked.

As the latest victim struggled in her cat’s jaws, Devidasi — a recent Hare Krishna convert — turned to her budding faith for a miracle. She chanted, “Hare Krishna, Hare Krishna; Krishna Krishna…”

Suddenly, her cat let the bird go. “And he just flew away,” she says. “My cat never freed a bird before. Never.” Two months later, when she turned 18, Devidasi moved into the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON) ashram in Hawaii.

That was 1969. Wearing a colorful sari and swaying with the music at a recent festival at the Los Angeles ISKCON center, this self-described former “motley hippie” with nose ring says she still hasn’t lost her ’60s groove and passion for Krishna. “My body may be older, but my soul is still adventurous and young in Krishna.”

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.…

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