Busted Halo
Features : Religion & Spirituality
October 7th, 2011

I probably should have had an obit for Steve Jobs ready to run. We had a dry run when he resigned as head of Apple a few months ago. But I didn’t, and many others have accurately chronicled the facts, so instead, for my regular personal spirituality column, I’m going to look at a few things we can learn from him.
Though I never had the pleasure of meeting the man, Steve Jobs’ work and influence affected my life often. At different times, I came close to working for both Apple and Pixar, the latter before he took it over. The first personal computer I ever bought was a Mac 512, no hard drive, for $2,600 (in 1984 money; that’s the equivalent of $5,400 today). Compared to my current MacBook, it had 1/800th…

October 6th, 2011

Do you have trouble forgiving? Well, I hope I don’t shatter anyone’s image of nuns, but I do, too.
Some of the sayings connected with forgiveness don’t help. You know, sayings like Alexander Pope’s “To err is human, to forgive is divine” and Jesus’ command that we forgive 77 times (or 70 times seven times) sends the subliminal message that forgiveness is impossible. Then we have the phrase “forgive and forget” — where in the world did that come from? So many people let these words glide glibly from their tongues. It makes it seem that forgiveness is easy and adds a guilt trip besides.
Well, I was in the category of believing that forgiving was next to impossible. I sat in prayer I don’t know…

September 29th, 2011

I often hear people talking about living in the present moment as if it is a struggle, some cosmic game of attempting to grasp something that is fleeting, illusory. They say things like, “the moment I have it, it’s gone.” While this is true and can be frustrating, the last thing present moment awareness is about is grabbing serenity. I have always liked the metaphor of the river (borrowed from my Christian contemplative practice of centering prayer) in talking of the flow of thoughts. Imagine the stream of consciousness as a river, with boats and debris representing thoughts. You’re sitting on the bank of the river watching it. Normal awareness has you looking at each individual boat-thought, following it down the river with your eyes — and to strain the metaphor, getting on it and opening hatches — then suddenly shifting your awareness to another boat and so on. If your mind is particularly cluttered, you can feel overwhelmed by all the boats you have to look at and it can feel like that classic I Love Lucy skit with the conveyor belt at the chocolate factory, like you’re falling behind and they start slipping by. There can be a sense of panic that a thought that’s getting past you without attention is important and you’re missing it.

Present moment awareness is simply sitting on the bank and watching the river, not the boats. Boats cross your field of vision and you do see them, but you don’t follow them with your eyes or get on them. They’re not out of focus, but you don’t focus on them.

September 28th, 2011
Reconciling prayers of petition with the idea of God's Will

When we speak to God are we affecting His plans? Are we influencing the future? And if not, why do we persist in asking God to listen to our wishes? The most thoughtful people I know can’t help wondering.
Jesus taught his disciples to ask in prayer for specific blessings: for our daily bread; to forgive our transgressions; to help us in some way against temptation; and to deliver us from evil. But it feels less appropriate to turn our prayers into a wish list of our own desires, or a memo to God on improving his management style. Asking God to bring about something specific for me — a new job, acceptance to a school, approval for a mortgage – seems downright cheesy.
Even asking for good things to happen for other…

September 26th, 2011

Tekiah Shevarim Teruah…
It was a Saturday morning in New York City, in a class taught by Rebbetzin Harris, that the meaning of Rosh Hashanah became so extraordinary to me. I always remembered Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, as a holiday that my Russian Jewish family celebrated with a sense of patriotism, if one could have patriotism for a religion. The cognac and the dancing till the wee hours of the night contributed to the joy of this day. But that’s how us Russian Jews do it. Ignore the shrimp and lobster on the table or the dirty Russian jokes and Rosh Hashanah was, and will always be, a very special day in our family and in our hearts, even if we don’t know what it is we’re celebrating.
In Judaism, Rosh Hashanah

September 22nd, 2011

Let’s get one thing clear: I like the taste of meat. I like double bacon cheeseburgers. I like steak so rare it moos. On Thanksgiving I want turkey, on Christmas I want ham, and on my father’s birthday I want meatballs made from my family’s off-the-boat-from-Sicily recipe, so good they take five hours to make and five minutes to eat. So imagine my family’s reaction when I came home for Mardi Gras break my freshman year of college and announced that I was giving up meat for Lent and possibly forever.
“Oh, God,… Beth,” said my mom.
“More veal for me!” said my younger brother.
“[Expletive],” said my older brother.
“What are they teaching you at that school?” said my dad.
“That school” was a Jesuit

September 21st, 2011

As a recent college graduate, I know a thing or 12 about doubt.
There are plenty of reasons for that. I spent the last four years working toward a degree in theological studies. I don’t know if I’m looking at the wrong numbers, but statistics seem to indicate that theologians are prone to reaping spiritual and intellectual rewards far more often than they are financial gains. Which is great, but still.
I’m also weeks away from embarking on a six-month trip to Vietnam, something that was inspired by a three-week trip I took there last summer with a group from school. On paper, it’s totally the kind of thing that makes me swoon — one of my friends and I will spend six months hopping around Southeast Asia, relying…

September 15th, 2011

My last column, about waiting patiently for a late bus, provoked some interesting comments and reactions (on the site and directly) that tease out the bigger issues involved. While I wrote about waiting for someone who’s late, two commenters brought up the flipside of the same time management coin — what to do when you’re going to be late yourself through no fault of your own. Fellow Busted Halo contributor Ginny Moyer wrote…

September 13th, 2011

The poet W.H. Auden said, “Civilizations should be measured by the degree of diversity attained and the degree of unity retained.”
Indeed, civilizations are made or lost based on the amount of togetherness people work at having and keeping. Unity is a quality we all desire — especially in the church. But even there, with a God who wants us all to be unified, it doesn’t stick around very long.
The simple definition of unity is “the state of being one; oneness; the state of being of one mind or feeling, as in harmony or agreement.” We’ve grown up with the image of the ideal, thinking when we find the perfect mate, elect the perfect official, or do the best for our community everyone will be happy and content.…

September 12th, 2011

Mary was very perplexing to me before I became a Catholic. She was like some unnamed bird that I could not see and did not know, perching in a tree nearby. I knew she was there — I also knew she was important to some people, but I had no idea why.
Even after coming into the Church, I struggled with my beliefs about Mary: Did I believe in the Virgin Birth? Was that even important? Wasn’t it odd that the Church insisted on Mary’s continued virginity (poor Joseph!) when the Bible clearly represents Jesus as having brothers and sisters? Was she some kind of holy gal I could never emulate or was she more powerful, more funky and more earthy than I could possibly imagine?
I didn’t come to Mary until the tires…

September 2nd, 2011
A Prayer for Labor Day

Lord, we see our neighbors hurting as they lose their jobs to layoffs and plant closings and their homes to foreclosure. We pray that in the midst of turmoil, they feel your presence.
Lord of compassion, hear our prayer
Lord, our elected officials are seeking solutions to this economic crisis; let them not forget workers, who through the sweat of their brows, keep this country going.
Lord of compassion, hear our prayer
Lord, as we face the uncertain future, give us the spirit of integrity, that we would hold up those who are in severe distress, as we are all your children and made in the image of God.
Lord of compassion, hear our prayer
Lord, we pray for employers that they would not bow to idols in the worship of wealth,

August 29th, 2011
Developing a Spirit-centered approach to service

For my first few years as a librarian, I felt richly rewarded, a shining star of helpfulness. In a nutshell, I get paid to give people advice when they ask me for help, and then they thank me. Smart! Altruistic! Serving the public! What’s not to love? As my younger brother said when I first got the job, “Well, Anne, you do love to tell people what to do.” But after a few years, the unrewarding aspects of the work began to overshadow the more enjoyable ones.
Some people dismissed my advice. Some were rude. Troubled souls came to me with problems a librarian couldn’t solve. At times, I felt like the public wanted to tear me into pieces and chew me up. I had panic attacks and migraines. I took a lot of sick…

August 18th, 2011
Busted Halo sits down with the new youth catechism's publisher

Everyone registered for World Youth Day is getting a free copy of YouCat in their native language as part of their registration packet, as it is officially introduced in Madrid. When YouCat was launched back in April, we talked with its publisher. Here’s that discussion.

When you think of a good read, the Catechism of the Catholic Church probably doesn’t come to mind. That’s why YouCat is exciting — it presents the Catechism in a compelling and engaging way. YouCat is the official new “Youth Catechism of the Catholic Church.” But its potential value goes well beyond this definition.

Today, Fr. Joseph Fessio, S. J., founder and editor of Ignatius Press, U.S. publisher of YouCat, is in Rome for the presentation of YouCat to Pope Benedict XVI. We sat down with Fr. Fessio last week to discuss why this book is needed, who can benefit from it and how it came to be made.

August 11th, 2011

You have just enough time left if you act now to join me in the Million PALA Challenge — a national campaign to get people active. (Sign up and join us at “Team Busted Halo” or group #935845.) This challenge has been going on for a year, and I’m sorry about the last minute notice, but you still have time. I learned about it just recently from Kevin Sorbo, whose organization, A World Fit For Kids, is an official partner of the presidential program responsible for the challenge, and signed up myself….
To complete the Presidential Active Lifestyle Award (PALA) challenge and receive an (emailed) PALA certificate “signed” by co-chairs Drew Brees and Dominique Dawes, you have until

August 10th, 2011

Busted Halo contributor Carolyn Martone goes on silent retreat. Find out what happens during the final days of her eight days in silence and reflection at Linwood Spiritual Center in Rhinebeck, N.Y. What happened days one through four? Read Part 1.
Day five
“Why don’t you go and rest by the pool?” my spiritual director Elizabeth Anne suggested. I was floored. The pool? Was it really okay to sit by a pool? This wasn’t spring break in Cancun or an episode of The Love Boat… after all. Ninety degree heat or not, this was a serious week of making a serious commitment to begin the very serious Spiritual Exercises.
Didn’t Ignatius suffer in the desert of Manresa for a month in order to grow worthy of hearing the voice

August 3rd, 2011

Ten years ago, if anyone told me I would attend a silent retreat to start the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius, I would have thought it more likely that I run naked through the Mission in San Francisco, where I lived. Back then I was in my twenties, performing in theaters and comedy clubs. The opening line of my act was, “I was in a cult for 13 years; other people called it Catholic school.”… One word could describe my feeling about my Catholic upbringing: embarrassment. A life that centered on the philosophy of “finding God in all things” conflicted with my preference to find humor in all things.
I extricated myself from the church before it could extricate me.
An unexpected phone call from my father would change

July 18th, 2011
Meet Busted Halo’s new editor-in-chief

I remember my first post-college work experience, which took me from my hometown in rural Pennsylvania to Jackson, Mississippi. I was a full-time volunteer in a faith-based service learning and social justice program. Through that experience I began to encounter a new side to my faith, seeing distinct links between my personal spiritual growth and social justice, which turned into service and action.
Working at a community center, I did everything from coordinate volunteers to publish the donor newsletter to teach an after-school class of kindergarten and first graders. The community center was in a low-income neighborhood. Poverty and economic hardships were all around. I led an assistance program at…

July 14th, 2011

One of the things I notice whenever I spend time on retreat at a monastery (as I did a few weeks ago) is how much I enjoy the regular meal times, with some of the same food choices day after day. This is not… the way I live my life. Which makes me wonder: Why don’t I do the same thing at home?
At the monastery, breakfast is one hour after I wake up — 1 hard-boiled egg, 2 slices of toast with orange marmalade. Lunch is four hours later; dinner, five hours after that. The food for lunch and dinner varies, but it is what it is. You eat what you are offered.
Here’s how I eat at home a lot of days: I’m running late in the morning, so I leave the house without breakfast. Sometimes I eat a fruit and nut bar on the way to work,

July 13th, 2011

When I came into the Catholic Church nine years ago, the farthest thing from my mind was how its rituals and liturgy might mesh so stunningly with my random-thoughts-a-flying mind. I was just attracted to the beauty of the rituals, the reassuring repetition of ancient prayers, the words rising to the rafters of the great church, and the profound meaning in the Eucharist.
But when I look at the special accommodations that were made during elementary school for my two ADHD kids, I see how Catholicism is perfect for us folks. To wit: both my kids had “movement breaks” as part of their education plans. My daughter used to invent various ailments so she could march down the hall to visit the school nurse, thus…

June 10th, 2011
Why doesn't the Church sell this?

Trying to explain Confession (the Sacrament of Reconciliation) to non-Catholics reminds me of that old cartoon by James Thurber where a woman is in the middle of a room, nervously expecting electricity to leak out of the sockets. She knows it’s there — she realizes it “works” — but she can’t explain it, and it is also a tad frightening.
Before my conversion I heard vague rumors about confessing with a priest. I wondered, “What an odd thing! What do they do? What do they say…?” (Those strange Catholic people…) I didn’t experience Reconciliation until just before the Easter Vigil on the year I was officially welcomed into the church.
All of my old sins

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