Busted Halo
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December 26th, 2011

As the year draws to a close, we’re reminded of many significant endings in 2011. Here’s a short list of what got our (and the world’s) attention. What would you add to the list?
U.S. Military Operations in Iraq — …After nine years, the Iraq War (also referred to as the Occupation of Iraq, the Second Gulf War, or Operation Iraqi Freedom by the U.S. military) is over. U.S. troops returned home earlier this month, just in time for the holidays. By the numbers: Almost 4,500 U.S. soldiers were killed, more than 32,500 were wounded with thousands more suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder. An estimated 110,000 Iraqi civilians were killed during the war. Here’s a link to a photo

December 20th, 2011
For families divided by politics or religion, gathering on the holidays provides both challenges and opportunities

My relatives are an eclectic bunch, pretty evenly split — to use crude and somewhat useless political labels — between Left and Right; our religious diversity includes Catholics, Mormons, evangelicals, United Church of Christ members and a few who are unaffiliated. Throw in my surrogate family (that’s a story for another time) and you add Presbyterians, Jews and Buddhists. As we gather around our family table and share letters and cards this holiday season, I will be looking for opportunities to be a healing force.

My family is like millions of others in the United States who come together this time of year for the holidays and struggle to put their passionate differences aside for a few hours. Of course, these divides always existed, but recent years have been different for two reasons. First, major shifts — generationally and ideologically — have left many feeling left out of the party, so to speak. Second, politics is the ugliest it’s been in modern history. There are plenty of hurt feelings all around. A lot of fear gets stirred up.

In couples counseling, it’s an axiom that the most toxic thing to a relationship is not when the partners disagree, or even fight, but when they stop respecting each other. For several generations now, there has been little trust and respect in the political sphere. Both sides have demonized the other, have assumed ill motives on their opponents’ parts.

But of all relationships, the deepest and oldest, next to our relationship with God, is family. So, how sad when distrust and lack of respect attacks relationships with literal brothers and sisters.

December 15th, 2011
Helpful terms of engagement to maintain holiday cheer

Hollywood families (at least in their writers’ imagination) seem to have warm and fuzzy family Christmas dinners. Mine are more complex. Somehow, the relative morality of another family member invariably becomes a topic of conversation. Over the years, I have developed terms of engagement I consider essential to a healthy, productive holiday conversation about morality. For those of you determined to maintain your own Christmas cheer at the family dinner table this year, I will relay what I have learned. Consider it a “Christmas Spirit Survival Guide.”
Working with Catholic religious communities has taught me two ways to encounter others: I can espouse core Christian beliefs in a welcoming…

December 1st, 2011

Poverty is affecting more and more people in today’s distressed economy. And young adults are volunteering to work with the poor to help alleviate the imposing challenges they face.

Some turn to formal volunteer service organizations (think Catholic Volunteer Network or Jesuit Volunteer Corps). Leah M. Nusse, recruitment and marketing manager for Jesuit Volunteer Corps Northwest, said that groups like hers play a role in addressing the need that comes with rising poverty levels. (Statistics from the U.S. Census Bureau show 46.2 million people or 1 in 6 Americans living in poverty.)

“With an increased need for services and a diminished level of giving and support of the organizations responding to the need, Jesuit Volunteers can help fill a critical void and increase the capacity of our partner organizations to provide their much needed services,” she said.

November 22nd, 2011
Tips to slow down and be grateful

“Thanksgiving Day is coming; gobble, gobble, gobble. Lets give thanks for this day!”
These words are a remnant of the only song about Thanksgiving I remember from my childhood. My family had the main Thanksgiving meal at one grandma’s house in a New Jersey city, then we would pile into my dad’s big Chevy and rumble across the swamps and oil refinery fields to my other grandma’s for dessert. Thanksgiving was a moderately fun holiday. We’d watch football games. My teenage cousin would impress me and disgust everyone else with his uncanny ability to chug… creamed corn. Yet Thanksgiving is the single event where I rack up the greatest number of deadly sins: gluttony, sloth, envy

November 11th, 2011

In response to a Massachusetts ballot question that would legalize physician-assisted suicide, Boston’s Cardinal Seán O’Malley has encouraged the Catholic legal community to uphold a “gospel of life.” In the past month, Cardinal O’Malley’s remarks have sparked discussion of this issue among laypeople. Some of this discussion has caught my attention, and it’s pretty clear that there are some serious widespread misconceptions — some of which I once held myself — both about physician-assisted suicide and about the nuances of the Catholic Church’s position.
In the minds of lay people, physician-assisted suicide often becomes…

November 8th, 2011
Therapy dogs help a range of people in nursing homes, schools, and even a Barnes & Noble bookstore

Therapy, it seems, has gone to the dogs.
Therapy dogs that visit and attend to patients in hospitals, nursing homes, and other places offer comfort and support to people.
What these dogs provide is as varied as each patient, according to Deanna Klingel, who lives in Sapphire, North Carolina, and has therapy dogs named Lily and Jessie.
“For many patients, seeing the dog, petting the dog, awakens memories,” she said. “For patients who lack motivation, ‘walking’ the dog, exercising with the dog, is needed motivation for mobility.”
Klingel, who suffered from Lyme disease, was assisted in her own healing by her golden retriever and wanted to share her experience with others.…

November 4th, 2011

As Occupy Wall Street (OWS) protests continue across the country, Busted Halo® went to visit the protest in Zuccotti Park in New York City to see what role people of faith are playing in the movement. While some say the OWS movement lacks a clear message, the message Christians standing with the movement share is straight from the Bible: God wants all of God’s children to have enough.
Faith Leaders at Multi-Faith Service
Each Sunday afternoon at 3:30 in Zuccotti Park, New York City faith leaders come together to bring a worship service to OWS. Speakers use a “human microphone” to share their message, shouting “Mic check,” and speaking in short sentences that are repeated by the…

October 13th, 2011
How a recent grad survived joblessness and found direction from a friend

After graduation, mascara barely dry from losing the remaining ties to my old life, I joined my former professor’s weekly networking group. I had been working a freelance job designing a website for the summer, but that had ended, and I’d just had my first job interview since graduation. They offered and I accepted without thinking. Before I knew it, I was sitting at a desk in an office caked with dust, repeating the copy/paste function for nine hours a day.
I sat in a local café, beer in hand, and explained the first days of work to the group. I tried so hard to sound excited. “How much are they paying you?” everyone asked. My answer left them cold. I tried to tell myself that they didn’t know how…

September 19th, 2011

“I actually enjoyed unemployment.”
I don’t remember who said this to me, but I do remember agreeing. It seems strange to enjoy an unwanted thing, but I agreed because not every part of it was unwanted.
I came to Chicago in 2007, fresh out of college and brimming with idealism. I was going to save the world and do two years of a faith-based service program, teaching high school English on the south side of Chicago. Sure, it wasn’t the most financially sound decision ($100/month really does mean another day another dollar — or three), but what did that matter? All I needed was a noble cause to feed my praxis-hungry undergraduate mind.
2010: I am very much in love with these teenage girls, even if my classroom…

September 16th, 2011

Here we go, it’s just about fall, and that means it’s football time. College football is quickly becoming the new religion in this country, and there are those who live and die by the success or failure of their beloved football teams. Thousands upon thousands of “parishioners” attend football services every Saturday during the fall, not to bow at the altar, but to stand in the bleachers and cheer on their personal saviors who believe they can lead their team to the promised land of a national championship. Having personally witnessed this strange worship as an alumnus and employee of the University of Notre Dame, I have become acutely aware of the mix of spirituality and college football that I believe…

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.

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