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The Busted Halo Question Box
Ask our spiritual experts virtually anything!
This is the place where you can ask all of those burning questions that you wouldn't dare ask in person. We will post questions here (using your byline only with permission); we guarantee an answer to everyone.

Have your own question? Then pitch it to us!

Caitlin Kennell Kim
Fr. Rick Malloy, SJ
General Questions
Fr. Tom Ryan, CSP
Ecumenical, Interfaith
Neela Kale
Culture, Moral Theology
Ann Naffziger, M.A., M.Div.
Mike Hayes
January 4th, 2011

St. Peter Canisius, a Dutchman known as the second apostle of Germany, was a 16th century Jesuit in the forefront of the effort to respond to the critiques of the Catholic church being made by protestant reformers in Germany, Switzerland and other parts of Europe. His pastoral strategies were built on the Jesuit idea of trying to see the good in the ideas and opinions…

January 3rd, 2011

Your question goes right to the heart of a crucial point about Mary: she was human, not divine. Being human, she did not have knowledge of the future in the way that God does. The message given by the angel during the Annunciation lets Mary know that her child will be the Son of God, so she knew that much, certainly. But there’s no evidence that she knew the details…

January 2nd, 2011

The Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God is a liturgical celebration observed on January 1st.  It is a holy day of obligation for Catholics, meaning that Mass attendance is required (though the Mass obligation is sometimes waived by the bishop for various reasons; when in doubt, check with your parish.)
The use of the word “Solemnity” here is not a statement…

December 31st, 2010

Why not?  There’s nothing that requires us to make resolutions at the start of the new year as Catholics, however, we do seem to be a religion that holds this practice in high regard.
Each time we go to confession we “firmly resolve with the help of God’s grace” not to sin again.  We renew the promises we made at baptism during the Easter…

December 30th, 2010

Historically the most significant religious violence in India has involved its two largest religious groups, Hindus and Muslims. Christians in India (the majority of whom are Catholic) make up scarcely 2% of the population, and thus for many years they have remained largely on the sidelines of the conflict between these larger groups. However, high-profile…

December 27th, 2010

“The Joy of All Who Sorrow” is an Orthodox icon which depicts Mary standing below Jesus, who is in heaven. Mary is shown in the center of the icon, holding out her arms to the many suffering people around her, who are asking for her intercession. There are different variations of the icon, but all feature the same general subject and depict Mary’s loving prayers.…

December 27th, 2010

The stole is a scarf that was used as a symbol of authority for Roman officials. It would be something like the badge that a police or fire official wears today. The Catholic Church, when part of the Roman Empire, adopted the stole to indicate when a priest is engaged in his role as presider during the celebration of a Sacrament.
The colors for the vestments used in…

December 24th, 2010

The custom of eating fish for Christmas is more a practice in certain ethnic communities rather than a mandate by the Catholic Church. The roots for the particular instance you mention lie in southern Italy-some say Sicily, others say Naples, and yet others say it goes from Rome on down, especially in the coastal towns.
Early Christians used to fast all day Christmas…

December 20th, 2010

Some of Mary’s apparitions have involved messages or visions that have a prophetic character. In 1982, the visionaries of Our Lady of Kibeho in Rwanda saw a frightening image of rivers of blood and massacred bodies. This is commonly interpreted to be a prophecy of the Rwandan genocide (many people were massacred in Kibeho in the 1990s). In La Salette, France…

December 19th, 2010

The lyrics of “Mary, Did You Know?”, a popular Christmas carol, were written by Protestant songwriter Mark Lowry. It’s a beautiful song that wonders whether Mary knew in advance about the way that her son’s life would unfold. The only part that could possibly be construed as “un-Catholic” is the verse that asks Mary:
“Did you know that your baby…

December 16th, 2010

Once a couple has been properly prepared for a Catholic marriage, the actual celebration of the sacrament is extremely simple: all that is required is the presence of the couple, a priest or deacon who is the official witness of the Church, and two other witnesses. The couple express consent in the exchange their vows and then the priest or deacon gives them a nuptial…

December 14th, 2010

St. Edmund Campion was born in 1540 and rose to great political, ecclesiastical and academic prominence in Elizabethan England. The Queen (the daughter of Henry VIII) and others recognized Campion’s talents and many spoke of him as a future Archbishop of Canterbury in the young Anglican church. To be a Roman Catholic in Elizabethan England was a crime punishable…

December 13th, 2010

In 1981, at a high school in Kibeho, Rwanda, a teenager named Alphonsine Mumureke had a vision of the Virgin Mary. Mary identified herself to Alphonsine as “the Mother of the Word.” When Alphonsine’s story was mocked by other students, she asked Mary to appear to others, so that they might believe. In January of 1982, Mary appeared to a girl named Anathalie…

December 9th, 2010

Exact statistics are elusive, but according to a survey by Forbes.com, an estimated 20 million pilgrims visit the shrine to Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico City every year. (By comparison, visitors to the Vatican number approximately 18 million.) The shrine houses the cloak of St. Juan Diego Cuauhtlatoatzin, to whom Mary appeared on the hill of Tepeyac in 1531.…

December 8th, 2010

The Catechism of the Catholic Church explains that the state known as original sin began with Adam and Eve, and has defined human nature ever since. “By his sin Adam, as the first man, lost the original holiness and justice he had received from God, not only for himself but for all human beings.” (CCC 416) The Church isn’t saying that original sin is genetic,…

December 7th, 2010

“The mandatum is fundamentally an acknowledgment by Church authority that a Catholic professor of a theological discipline is a teacher within the full communion of the Catholic Church” (http://www.usccb.org/bishops/guidelines.shtml ). The mandatum is a relational reality between a Bishop and a Catholic person teaching Catholic theology within…

December 6th, 2010

St. Nicholas, upon whom the figure of Santa Claus is based, was the bishop of Myra (today called Demre), on the Mediterranean coast of modern-day Turkey. He lived from 270-346. Nicholas was renowned for his generosity and also revered as a miracle worker, although little is known about his life. According to legend, Nicholas secretly tossed bags of gold into…

December 1st, 2010

Catholics liked him…a lot. And rightfully so since, even though he was a Hindu and not a Christian, he embodied much about what the Church stands for in her moral teaching. As the Second Vatican Council said in Nostra Aetate, the Declaration on the Relation of the Church to Non-Christian Religions:
“The Catholic Church rejects nothing that is true and holy…

November 30th, 2010

Tell them the church is a hospital for sinners, not a showcase for saints. The transformation that begins at our Baptism is, for most of us, an affair of one step forward, three steps sideways, two steps back, and two steps forward. The human condition is characterized by original sin, the truth that things are not as they should be. The good news is that God comes…

November 29th, 2010

To recap the story from Matthew’s Gospel:
When Mary and Joseph were betrothed, but had not yet lived together as man and wife, Joseph learned that she was with child. (At this time, according to the Jewish marriage customs, a couple was betrothed for several months before moving in together and having marital relations.) Naturally, he assumed that she…

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