Busted Halo
Features : Religion & Spirituality
April 30th, 2008
Benedict XVI in America

In the days leading up to the arrival of Pope Benedict in the United States, a number of media outlets contacted BustedHalo.com to get “our take” on the papal visit. During the interviews I did, I discovered a few themes developing that generally went something like: “Why isn’t Pope Benedict’s pending trip to America not a bigger deal?” or “Don’t the statistics about Catholic practice among young adults in the United States indicate that the pope is out of touch with the reality of American life?” There seemed to be some real skepticism about just how relevant Pope Benedict was and how much his trip to the United States truly mattered.
In an age where media…

April 22nd, 2008
Spirituality for the Sleep-Deprived

Lately I feel like my brain is on holiday. I find myself wandering the supermarket unable to remember exactly what I’m supposed to be shopping for, reaching the end of a newspaper article and having no idea what I’ve just read.
It has to be the sleep deprivation. A few happy, isolated incidents aside, I haven’t had more than five hours of uninterrupted shut-eye since my daughter was born six months ago. Maybe once she gets the hang of not waking me up at three in the morning I’ll get back to some good, serious thinking. For now my brain’s stuck on diaper rash remedies, dirty laundry, the absolute adorableness of little baby toes.
My previous multisyllabic lifeI used to be a lot deeper.…

April 17th, 2008
Covering Pope Benedict's visit to the United States

Yankee Pope …
Constantly Alert
“Praying fervently for the coming of the Kingdom also means being constantly alert for the signs of its presence, and working for its growth in every sector of society. It means facing the challenges of present and future with confidence in Christ’s victory and a commitment to extending his reign. It means not losing heart in the face of resistance, adversity and scandal. It means overcoming every separation between faith and life, and countering false gospels of freedom and happiness. It also means rejecting a false dichotomy between faith and political life, since, as the Second Vatican Council put it, “there is no human activity – even in secular affairs

April 11th, 2008
Seekers find salvation in New Age capital of America

Yvonne Draper came to Sedona to kill herself. With a ruptured disc in her back, a hip that slid out of the socket, knees and ankles that constantly went out, Draper was in chronic pain. Also burdened by personal and financial setbacks, Draper was ready to give it up in the place voted by USA Weekend as the most beautiful in America.
“But then,” she says, “something got in the way—Sedona.” Draper said when she arrived in Sedona in 2002 she was seduced by it natural beauty: towering red monoliths, wind-chiseled canyons and breathtaking crimson vistas.
Yet, it wasn’t Sedona’s scenic charm alone that saved her, but it’s spiritual energy. “The vortexes helped…

March 30th, 2008
Controversial Catholic youth minister Justin Fatica is tough and bruised, but soft-hearted, and few dispute he has a knack for reaching troubled kids

The children who show up for Kids ALIVE in Burlington’s Old North End number between 40 and 50, and most range in age from about 8 to 16. Many live nearby, in poverty. On a grey, snowy Saturday morning in February, they trudge in from the cold, filling a small, blue-and-white room in an old building on Elmwood Avenue, and shed their coats, hats and snow boots. The younger kids are shepherded to an adjacent playroom; the rest linger and chatter until a pastor, who oversees the weekly, nondenominational outreach program, leads them in some opening music. They sing: “Jesus loves me, this I know…”
The crowd is larger than usual today, and the reason for this is a young man named Justin Fatica, who…

March 27th, 2008

A fourteen-year-old girl—
on tip-toe in the attic—
saw the huge horse-chestnut,
Westerkerk tower, and the random
flight of gulls. “Our tree
is in full blossom . . . even
more beautiful than last year,”
she wrote, on May 13th,
1944.
A nightingale once built
her nest beside the house
of a poet. He was ill.
He sat beneath a plum
one day, and when he returned,
his hands were filled with the scraps
of stanzas. Here is the plum:
I know I shouldn’t, but
I pluck one leaf, I crush it,
place it beneath my tongue,
releasing its bitter mint.
Praise to the angel’s wordless
gaze—her angled cut,
the balm of moss—who coaxes
the root, who stakes the shoot
of the chestnut and the plum.…

March 25th, 2008
A pilgrimage to Flannery O’Connor's Georgia home

You’ll find her along the fence line of Memory Hill Cemetery, to the left. The grave sits in a family plot. There are Treanors and Clines—relations of her mother’s—and then, finally at the edge, O’Connors. A low, flat, plain marble gravestone, next to two just like it belonging to her parents. The etching, too, is plain: a cross, trimmed with “IHS,” and beneath it her full Christian name, Mary Flannery O’Connor, the day she died (August 3, 1964), and the day, only 39 years earlier, when she was born: March 25, 1925.
It was tempting, when I was a pilgrim in Flannery O’Connor’s hometown, to think of what might have been for her. And it is tempting now,…

March 21st, 2008
Dark, noisy and nearly forgotten, a 20-something makes a case for reviving Tenebrae

It is the great peculiarity of the Church of Rome, that it presents to its worshipers an extraordinary variety of services, each of which has a special significance and fitness for the period of the year in which it is celebrated. Among the most beautiful of these offices are those which are celebrated during Holy Week, and which are called Tenebrae.
The notice above entitled “Tenebrae Services in the Roman Catholic Church” and published in the New York Times…, on March 27th, 1872, sounds a little antiquated (when was the last time anybody said “Church of Rome?”), but it none the less rings true for me. Though it might be an odd choice, Tenebrae has long been my favorite service of the liturgical

March 19th, 2008
Holy Thursday and the washing of the feet

Holy Thursday begins what has been traditionally called the Sacred Triduum in Holy Week. It is the time in the Church’s calendar in which we liturgically commemorate the Passion, Death and Resurrection of Jesus. The significance of Holy Thursday is found at the Passover celebration of the Last Supper during which Jesus instituted the Sacraments of the Eucharist and Holy Orders. Though the conventional thinking is that the Chrism Mass—generally held earlier in Holy Week—celebrates the gift of Holy Orders and the liturgy for Holy Thursday focuses on the gift of the Eucharist, there is another form of priesthood that is commemorated on Holy Thursday that is often overlooked.
It would make…

March 14th, 2008
An American nun sees the Iraqi refugee crisis up close

Shame and sorrow—those were the two words Sister Anne Curtis uses to describe how she felt after meeting face-to-face with Iraqi refugees. “The feelings were very intense,” she recalls. “As a citizen of the United States, seeing before me the suffering of Iraqis as a result of our government’s war against their country, I was personally stricken.” Sister Anne is part of the Sisters of Mercy of the Americas Leadership Team. In January, she was amongst a delegation of women religious traveling to the Middle East to meet with Iraqi refugees. The trip, sponsored by Catholic Relief Services, took them to Lebanon and Syria, where significant numbers of displaced Iraqis are…

March 13th, 2008
Searching for the "right place"

For years I felt a gap between my parents and me—a gap of time and geography. When they were young, their social lives revolved around church; few of my good friends regularly attend. They’ve always urged me to “find a good church” where I could become part of a community. I’d patiently tell them that I have to make my own way; that I have friends; that I’m doing just fine, thank you very much. I knew they just wanted me to be happy—wanted me to find the security in the church that they had found growing up in the Midwest in the 50′s and 60′s.
But I live in Manhattan, I’d tell them, and we’re in the 80′s, the 90′s, the 00′s.
I grew up…

March 12th, 2008

Before I went to bed, I made sure I was clean. I purified the tub with all the soap in the tiny shampoo bottle. Immersed myself in steaming water. Held my nose. Submerged. I envisioned the ritual baths called mikvehs… that we had read about in a Judaism class I had taken in college. The class had been offended by the idea of women having to purify themselves monthly. But I no longer saw it that way. I scrubbed at my feet and my hands to make sure that they were unsoiled. Clean and pure: I made up a pallet of blankets from the second bed on the floor. Faced my sandals toward the east. I slept without dreams.
I woke at midnight and ripped the sheets from the unused bed, wrapped them around me. Kind of like my fourth grade attempt at being

March 10th, 2008
Box, Wine and Love Letter

In the living room of my next-door neighbors’ house is a wooden crate. It’s nothing fancy, just pieces of plywood nailed together, but Kim and Matt keep the box in a place of honor by the fireplace as a constant reminder of their commitment to each other.
When Kim and Matt took their vows of marriage four years ago, they incorporated a new twist into their celebration: It’s called the box, wine and love-letter ceremony, and I wanted to share this beautiful idea with Busted Halo…® readers.
Kim and Matt found a strong wooden box to hold two bottles of wine and two wine glasses. Each of them wrote a love-letter to the other, expressing their feelings, why and how they fell in love and their hopes for

March 6th, 2008
A Reform Jew Explores Her Fear of Orthodoxy

We see Rabbi X. walking down the streets of our small Southern city, and we see others staring at him. He wears the outfit of a Jew from Eastern Europe, circa1800—a long black wool coat, a fur hat—and it looks hot in the middle of a sunny North Carolina day. In October, we see him striding down the street carrying the lulav, the palm stalk that Jews wave in the direction of Jerusalem to celebrate Sukko…t, the Jewish harvest festival. There is something strange and touching about him, one of a handful of Chasidic Jews in our city, a town with nothing but a small number of Jews in it, spread among the denominations of Reform, Conservative and Orthodox.

It is moving at first to see Rabbi X. I feel a sort of nostalgic

March 5th, 2008

I grew up with the accoutrements of pipe organs
filling our garage, some as small as piccolos,
some arriving like giants in rough-hewn crates.
On occasional Saturdays, I helped my father tune
what he had built inside quiet churches, each dim
as an underwater scene, each cool as a cave
no matter what season. I preferred the older
sanctuaries with their faint smell of damp,
with their dark mahogany pews and marble floors
that would clack beneath women’s Sunday heels.
I walked with my father the length of the nave
toward where a crucifix hung like a compass,
then veered right or left toward the organ’s console.
Before he disappeared down some dark hallway
like he would one day disappear forever, my father…

March 3rd, 2008
A Jewish Mother Considers Family, Tradition and the Pain of Belonging

Eight days after birth, a Jewish male infant is circumcised in a ceremony called the bris milah (bris means “covenant” in Hebrew). It’s a party: relatives and friends gather to watch; the baby gets a drop of wine to dull the pain and then sits on his grandfather’s lap; his grandfather holds him steady. The mohel…—a specialist trained in both the Jewish ritual and medical procedure of circumcision—says the prayers and then quickly cuts off the baby’s foreskin. The whole thing is done in less than a minute, and then the guests talk and eat while the infant, after a storm of crying, usually falls asleep, exhausted by the commotion.

Bris Milah is the oldest ritual in Judaism,

February 28th, 2008
The Mormon Church is busy growing (and challenging misconceptions)

“You’re not true Christians,” shouts the barrel-chested 43-year-old Lonie Pursifull to a group of Mormons passing through Temple Square, the world headquarters for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, in Salt Lake City, Utah. “You’re not following the true gospel of Jesus Christ. You’re liars. You’re of your father—the devil.”
Pursifull pastors the Wildness Bible Church in Duchesne, about 90 miles outside of Salt Lake City. He says off and on for the last 13 years—despite being hit 16 times in the face and receiving 23 death threats—he’s come to Temple Square to preach to Mormons.
Ryan Sanchez listens not too far…

February 26th, 2008
Young Catholics might be more serious about marriage than they are about the Church

Catholic young adults place great importance on marriage but have turned away from church-based ideas of how to make it work, according to a study released last week by the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate at Georgetown University.

For Catholic members of the “millennial generation,” men and women born between 1982 and 1989, marriage is not to be undertaken lightly. Some 82% of these teens and 20-somethings report that they believe marriage is a lifelong commitment, compared with only 56% of Catholics age 47 to 64—approximately their parents’ generation. Moreover, 84% of these young Catholic adults report concern that “couples don’t take marriage seriously…

February 15th, 2008
On being Black and Catholic in America

It was as if I was a kid again. The gospel choir numbering at least 30 strong lifted their voices to the rooftop. The pulse of the music, aided by drums, a saxophone, a bass, and a huge sound system, shook the rafters and rushed through my veins. My hands almost instinctively came together to clap as I joined in song. Praise and worship showered over the largely African American congregation with the joy-filled “Alleluia” and “Amen” bursting from every corner of the church. All the great memories of going to church with my dad came rushing back to me. The only difference was, instead of this being a Southern Baptist congregation like that of my father’s, the stations of the cross along…

February 13th, 2008
Rather than condemning The Vagina Monologues the Church should be listening to what it is telling us

“The split between the Gospel and culture is without a doubt the drama of our time,” wrote Pope Paul VI in 1975. Occasionally I am reminded of this “drama” when some Catholic group boycotts something. But nothing makes me more aware of how deep this split is than the debate over the performance of The Vagina Monologues …on Catholic college campuses.
The Cardinal Newman Society has waged the most aggressive and successful campaign to remove the play from these campuses. They claim that the number of performances has declined annually from a peak of 32 on Catholic campuses in 2003 to 19 performances this year. College presidents and bishops have also added to the drama. Some of the responses

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